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Quds Day 2017 defies Saudi bullying

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Interview with Eric Walberg Blackhouse.info

Do you think the Arab nations hold the same viewpoint with their countries' leaders and rulers on the issue of Palestine?


From my experience, all Muslims see justice for Palestinians as the most important international issue. That said, most Muslims are concerned with their own struggles for survival, both because of poor economies, corruption and in some cases, direct invasion and occupation of their countries  by the US.

So there is little room for the Palestinian issue as a priority in the struggle.

There is no room for independent grassroots activity in the Muslim world, as there is very weak civil society as yet, and a general understanding that the Palestine issue is one for the government to decide.

My experience as a journalist in Cairo showed me a range of opinions about Palestine, from passionate support to outright criticism of Palestinians, as poor cousins who demand support where there is little room for it, given the sorry state of Egypt, and the restrictions imposed by the Egypt-Israeli peace accord in 1979.

More than 90% of Egyptians see Israel as the enemy, and the weakness of Egypt in past confrontations with Israel makes Egyptians unwilling to provoke this formidable enemy. Egypt's el-Sisi's regime victimizes the Muslim Brotherhood and all other opponents mercilessly and accepts Saudi demands to keep Gaza isolated and to refuse to work with Hamas, the legitimate government in Gaza. Until Egypt returns to the path begun as a result of the Arab Spring, there is little hope for Gaza or the liberation of Palestine.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states provide the most financial support and provide a haven for Palestinians to teach and work, but this is more a stop-gap, intended to keep a lid on Palestinian unrest. Current Saudi policy of labelling  Hamas and Qatar as terrorists shows the Saudis' true colours.  It seems both Israel , the Saudis and the other conservative, rich Gulf city-states have an implicit understanding to maintain the status quo, which serves only Israel.

One of the conditions of Saudi Arabia for the restoration of relations with Qatar, is to cut ties with Hamas. How do you evaluate this issue?

Qatar and the United States signed a $12 billion deal in June 2017  for the sale of US-manufactured F-15 fighters. The sale comes after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar over its support for Islamist groups. The deal aims to “increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar,” the Pentagon said.

The hypocrisy of this is embarrassing. Trump's flip-flopping on crucial issues means he can please the Pentagon and the State Department, both supporting Qatari arms purchases and calling it a 'supporter of terrorism', and get away with it.

Qatar, for all its problems, is the only source the Middle East has for intelligent, unbiased reporting in the Arab world. Al-Jazeerah is the real reason the Saudis are so obsessed with undermining the Qatari government. This vendetta shows for the whole world how perfidious (and what bad political strategists) the Saudis are.

Hamas, for all its problems, is the most resolute voice politically speaking truth to Israel. It is not terrorist, operating according to accepted international rules about resisting illegal occupation.

Let us hope that Al-Quds Day 2017 (final jummah of Ramadan, June 23) will be remembered as a turning point away from Saudi bullying, and towards a renewed movement of liberation for Palestine.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html