Abdel Bari Atwan
The Arab League summit will begin tomorrow in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott. It will enter the history books for several reasons, not least because it is the first to be held in Mauritania and the first to be hosted in a tent.
Despite the fact that the Palestinian question is at the top of the agenda, it is rumoured that Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas, is not attending because he is mourning his brother. If this is true, it will be the first time since the establishment of the Arab League in 1964 that the leader of the Palestinians has not been present. This begs the question, which is more imperative for Abbas to attend – this summit (where he could revive the importance of the Palestinian cause) or his brother’s funeral?
The Mauritanian government happily volunteered to host this summit, after Morocco declined an invitation to do so saying – quite rightly – that the impression such meetings give, that the Arab world is stable and united, is ridiculous. The region’s strong leaders have all fallen or are embroiled in civil wars; those who remain are ill, or depressed, or too scared of assassination to venture out.
As of this writing, it is still not known who will attend the summit, and who would prefer to continue his summer vacation in European resorts. Nine leaders have said they might attend but only five have officially confirmed… maybe because they haven’t got anything better to do or to break the monotony of their days… we apologize to these leaders and will not dwell on the matter any longer to avoid wounded feelings.
We were saddened and angered by the decision of Mr. Tammam Salam – the representative of the “bourgeoisie” of Lebanon – not to stay overnight in the Mauritanian capital, but to spend the night in Rabat, in response to Lebanon’s Minister of health, Wael Abou Faour, comments that Nouakchott hotels are full of rats. This is a huge insult to Mauritania, which is keen to assert its Arab and Islamic identity.
The Mauritanian people are brothers to us; they expelled the Israeli ambassador from the capital seven years ago and this is significant at a time when other Arab nations are busy ‘normalising’ ties with the entity that has illegally occupied an Arab land (Palestine). The Mauritanians do not deserve to be looked down upon by fellow Arabs, whether they are coming from Bedouin tents, the heat of the desert, or air conditioned, modern capitals.
Mauritania is a poor country, it is true, but do not blame a people for not having oil or gold when they have a huge stock of dignity and patriotism, Arabism and self esteem.
We suspect that there is a sense of condescension that is keeping many Arab leaders from leaving their luxurious palaces and attending the conference.
Of course, the fact that the region is boiling with violence and wars, military interventions and assassinations, is also a contributing factor. As well as the fact that at least five Arab states can now be classed as failed states and are incubators for extremism and sectarian strife.
Terrorism is a number one item on the agenda for the summit, following a preparatory meeting of Foreign Ministers who vowed to ‘defeat terrorism’ as well as find ‘a definitive solution’ to the Arab-Israeli conflict. We find this deeply ironic because the most powerful Arab countries are engaging in rapprochement with Israel and have long been sponsors of terror and have invested billions of dollars in extremist groups, only for them to boomerang back with murderous intent, striking these same countries with suicide bombings and destruction.
The alleged rats in Mauritania’s hotels, if they do exist, are a great deal less harmful than a lot of the guests due to attend the summit. Rats have not killed, have not shed blood, have not destroyed whole countries by waging wars on them; rats do not know sectarianism, racism and class; rats are just looking for crumbs with which to assuage their hunger.
We sympathize with the rats because we cannot sympathize with those who are destroying countries, starting wars, displacing peoples, killing innocent people…
This is not an Arab summit in any true sense of the words, and Arab peoples these days deserve to be ignored and scorned as our once great nations collapse around our ears.
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