Thursday, April 1, 2010

Middle East: Are Europeans Thwarting Normalization?


by Khaled Abu Toameh

Like most of the Arab world, Fatah and Hamas are strongly opposed to any form of normalization with the Jewish state.

Ironically, the anti-normalization movement in Egypt and Jordan - the only two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel - is the strongest and most vocal.

Similarly, Fatah, whose leaders signed the Oslo Accords and supposedly recognized Israel's right to exist, has long been spearheading the anti-normalization campaign in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It is easy to understand why Hamas and Muslim fundamentalists are opposed not only to normalization with Israel, but to the very existence of the Jewish state. However, it's hard to see why the "moderates" in Ramallah, Cairo and Amman continue to call for the boycott of Israel.

It is even more difficult to understand why EU-funded NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Arab world are taking an active role in the anti-normalization campaign. Why are Dutch, Swedish, Danish and Belgian tax-payers funding organizations whose main goal is to widen the gap between Jews and Arabs instead of bringing them closer to each other?

Wouldn't be better and more beneficial if Europeans started investing their money in programs and seminars that promote coexistence and tolerance between Arabs and Jews? An organization that combats normalization with Israel is actually serving the interests of the extremists of the Arab world who want peace without  - and not with - Israel.

On the other hand, there's a large degree of hypocrisy in the fact that Fatah is opposed to normalization with Israel.

Many of the Palestinian faction's leaders hold Israeli-issued VIP cards that enable them to move around freely, a privilege denied to a majority of Palestinians. Some of these leaders use the cards to visit Tel Aviv's fine restaurants and hotels. Others use the VIP cards to travel abroad frequently, another privilege that many Palestinians do not enjoy.

Moreover, how can Fatah claim to be opposed to normalization with Israel while its security commanders are collaborating with the IDF and Shin Bet on a daily basis?

Why is it all right for Fatah officials to visit Tel Aviv and conduct security coordination with Israel and not all right for Palestinian journalists to see their Jewish colleagues? Why is it all right for representative of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments to meet with Israelis and not all right for their people to do the same?

Palestinian journalists who last week met with their Israeli colleagues and an Israeli army spokesman in Tel Aviv have come under fire from both Hamas and Fatah.

The journalists - Lana Shaheen, Mueen al-Hilu and Abdel Salam Abu Askar - may be expelled from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate on charges of promoting normalization with Israel.

The Palestinian journalists who visited Tel Aviv did not commit any crime - as claimed by Hamas and Fatah. These journalists did not make any attempt to keep the visit a secret because they did not feel that they were doing anything wrong or harmful to their people.

Despite the anti-normalization drive, many Palestinian journalists continue to cooperate with Israeli media on a daily basis. This type of cooperation has been going on since even before the peace process began in 1993.

Such meetings and cooperation are the best way to promote understanding and coexistence between Jews and Arabs in this part of the world. It is time to wage a counter-attack on those who are trying to foil any chance of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. The best way to confront the extremists  is by cutting off the funding to their organizations.



Khaled Abu Toameh

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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