COLUMN/ THE HOT POTATO
May 17, 2021: If you look at the map of West Asia, you’ll find that the Israel-Palestine flashpoint is surrounded by a handful of extremely wealthy Muslim-dominated countries.
Countries that are mostly oil-rich and proudly theocratic.
Countries that have pockets so deep that they routinely buy the costliest and most sophisticated military equipment.
Countries that are geographically close enough to lend a quick helping hand to the distressed Palestinians.
Yet, every single time the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank are attacked by Israeli forces, the so-called Muslim-sympathetic and almighty-fearing countries are only happy watching the action from the sidelines.
The only action that they take is to issue “sternly-worded” press statements, and that too only belatedly, calling on Israel to stop bulldozing poor Palestinians.
Just words. That’s it.
Gas, rather. Qatari gas, to turn it into a ‘crude’ joke.
This inexplicable inaction is like a repeat telecast of a sports game every few years whenever the Israeli government decides to unleash its military to unlawfully bombard Palestinian households.
RICH MUSLIM NEIGHBOURS
On the map of West Asia, right from the north, if you look at countries around Israel in a roughly clockwise fashion, the wealthy Muslim nations are:
Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Yemen are also in that arc, but can be left out of this discussion as they’re either not cash-rich and/or not internally stable enough to think about helping out neighbours in distress.
Iraq and Libya, too, should be kept out of scrutiny – despite being wealthy – because they’re too busy setting their own house in order.
The others, however, are phenomenally rich and resourceful, highly stable, and in pole position to use their oil-wealth clout to find ways to protect Palestinians from Israeli onslaughts.
But they never, ever do that.
MINI-EMPIRES OF CONVENIENCE
It’s not that these rich countries are dissociated from each other or that they don’t believe in neighbourhood bonhomie.
Rather, they’re pretty well interconnected.
They have their own ‘mini-empires’.
Exclusive clubs or cartels, with the member nations pompously meeting up routinely and discussing constructive issues – such as helping each other out as Islamic societies, and protecting distressed fellow Muslims.
One of the prominent cartels or mini-empires is the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), which comprises 57 Muslim-dominated countries.
With countries hailing from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America, the cartel is known to often brainstorm a lot on improving the conditions of distressed Muslim societies.
Then there’s the (in)famous GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), a mini-empire that comprises six ultra-rich Sunni oil kingdoms – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.
Their tin-pot dictatorships – some decent, some devious – believe they’re the guardians of Islam.
Among them, the Saudi ruling elite, in particular, feel they’re the purest form of all Muslims.
Then there’s the Cairo-based Arab League, which includes 22 governments of the Arab Muslim world, although many of its members are poor or unstable nations.
And then there’s the money-minded opportunistic mini-empire called OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), which comprises 13 highly influential oil-sellers from around the world.
It’s a kind of a legitimate mafia. Some of its members are from outside the Muslim world, such as Venezuela.
For decades, the OPEC’s contribution to humankind had been to sell oil-starved nations hyper-expensive oil and gas.
The systematic loot came undone after the oil price crash in 2014 and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
There are many other Muslim-centric international groupings or mini-empires of convenience, such as Arab Maghreb Union, Council of Arab Economic Unity, Economic Cooperation Organisation, West African Economic and Monetary Union, among others.
Point is, all of these mini-empires are well aware of the miseries of their so-called fellow Muslims in Palestine.
SILENT SPECTATORS OR ACTIVE CO-CONSPIRATORS?
Let’s come to the current Israeli-Palestine conflict now.
It’s been a long, hard week of escalating tensions between Israel and Gaza.
There’s been a lot of rocket fire in the skies above Israel. Lots of airstrikes. Hundreds of deaths. And unimaginable misery.
Both camps are suffering, with innocent Palestinians getting hit much more disproportionately than innocent Israelis.
It was only after seven long days of madness that the OIC decided to hold an online meeting and take things up.
And what was the outcome of the meeting?
The usual gas: “condemnation”, verbal volleys, and “stern” warnings to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Iron Domed Israel.
But there’s been no promise or roadmap of immediate concrete action. No plan to physically step in and stop the rot and rout.
They’re not just dumb witnesses. They’re party to the war crimes.
In fact, the OIC summit appears all the more out-of-place at a time like this since the West Asian Muslim nations have lately been cozying up to Israel diplomatically, one by one – goaded by the previous US government of Donald Trump.
That tilt of the so-called Muslim nations towards friendlier relations with their ideological arch-rival Israel is like a final nail on Palestine’s coffin.
PALESTINE, YEMEN: POOR MUSLIM NATIONS?
One wonders why is it that the rich Muslim countries, for all their big talk of upholding Islamic values, never come to the rescue of the Palestinians suffering right in their own neighbourhood.
Is it because the Palestinian Territories – if they were to be called a state – are not wealthy or moneyed enough to figure in the big league of rich Muslim countries?
After all, that’s the case with Yemen when it comes to the GCC.
Yemen is starving all the time. Forget natural resources, it doesn’t even have enough drinking water for all its civilians.
Despite being a Muslim country, it’s kept at an arm’s length by the ‘super six’ Gulf countries. Yemen is very much in the gulf geographically. Yet, it’s not a member of the GCC.
In fact, more than being ignored by its opulent neighbours, Yemen is the target of the most perverse form of constant military attacks in recent history – carried out by the Saudi kingdom with the logistical backing of some of the Western governments.
Why is Muslim-dominated Yemen targeted so brutally by the Saudis and yet royally ignored by the Qataris, the Kuwaitis, the Emiratis, the Turks, the Iranians, the Omanis, the Bahrainis, etc?
Because Yemen is a poor nation. Just like the desperately poor Palestinian Territories.
So what, if they’re Muslim nations or territories?
Do they have the wealth and financial stature of the sheikhdoms, the elitist Turks, the self-obsessed Iranian clergy?
Therefore, Palestinian lives, Yemeni lives – they don’t matter.
The message from the rich Muslim administrations in Gaza’s neighbourhood – as obnoxious and as unparliamentary as it may sound – is decidedly clear: “You are important to us only if you are as rich as we are.”
What are these two-faced governments, really?
Elitist, classist, opportunist mini-empires masquerading as guardians of Islam?
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