The Moslem world has blown yet another opportunity to offer the 1.5 million Gazan Arabs hope for a better life and future by once again showing its total disregard for their welfare - preferring to play the political rather than the humanitarian game with potentially disastrous consequences for the Gazans.
This follows the absence of any attempt by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to keep the border between Egypt and Gaza open after it had been demolished by Hamas. This had taken place using the pretext of ending what the Arab League had called “a humanitarian crisis” - the refusal of Israel to supply fuel to Gaza in retaliation for the continued barrage of rockets and mortars being fired into Israel’s civilian population centers.
Whilst the border’s demolition was intended to - and did - allow freedom of movement by terrorists and armaments into and out of Egypt - and possibly from there to Israel - it also had allowed Gaza’s 1.5 million residents freedom of movement as well. Approximately 750000 Gazans took advantage of that opportunity during the 11 days the border had remained opened and unsupervised by the Egyptians.
The border has now been hermetically sealed by Egypt without a whimper from the 57 member States of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) - which includes the 22 member States of the Arab League.
The OIC was founded in 1969. According to its Charter its foundation members declared that it was established because they were:
“ CONVINCED that their common belief constitutes a strong factor for rapprochement and solidarity among Islamic people" and that they were “RESOLVED to preserve Islamic spiritual, ethical, social and economic values, which will remain one of the important factors of achieving progress for mankind”
On Sunday 3 February, the Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki told an Expanded Extraordinary Session of the Executive Committee of OIC Foreign Ministers, being held at the headquarters of the OIC in Jeddah:
“These days a real slaughter is underway in the 1.5 million Gaza Prison and an oppressed nation is being subjected to massacre by repeated bombardments, helicopter and tank attacks and a simultaneous cut off of water electricity and foodstuff”
Not one Foreign Minister present appeared to take issue with this hyperbolic statement - but that might have been due to no-one believing whatever Iran says these days.
This is not to ignore the considerable hardship being suffered by Gazans whose suffering has greatly increased since Gaza was taken over by Hamas in June 2007 following a bitter internecine struggle with the Palestine Liberation Organisation for control of this tiny area.
Yet remarkably the only affirmative OIC response at Sunday’s meeting was to:
1. Task the Islamic Group at the UN to pursue necessary measures to secure an adequate action by the United Nations and
2. Urge the Member States, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), and private financial institutions to endeavour to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people in order to alleviate their suffering
Isn’t this a cop out? What humanitarian assistance should -and can - the Member States provide - not merely “endeavour to provide”?
What “Islamic spiritual, ethical, social and economic values” are being demonstrated by the decision to lock up the Gazans in their prison again?
Egypt is a member of the OIC. Surely the humanitarian message of the open border was clear - many Gazans relished the opportunity to escape - briefly or permanently - from what is no doubt a disastrous and oppressive environment.
Whilst hundreds of millions of Moslems in OIC member States enjoy the right to migrate, Gazans have now apparently been denied the same right by their own Moslem brethren
UNICEF states that 56 percent of Gazans are under the age of 18 years and that they are bearing the brunt of restrictions in the territory. How can the IOC actively countenance the continuation of this disgraceful situation and not seek to promote the opportunity for Gazans to choose a better life - either by resettlement in any of their 57 member states or elsewhere of their choosing?
Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak also took the opportunity to bluntly declare that Gaza will never be part of Egypt. Why not?
Apart from the fact that it was administered by Egypt from 1948-1967, what encouragement does the President’s spineless reaction give to Hamas in relation to its claim to continue to rule a strip of land just 25 miles long and 6 miles wide for the avowed purpose of destroying the State of Israel?
Does the OIC consider it an Islamic value to see 1.5 million Moslems subjected to continuous suffering because of the use of armed force and terror from Gaza against the Jewish State? Should the OIC not be pressing for those who are suffering to be given the opportunity of migrating to find a more peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their children? Isn’t this inflicting collective punishment on these people by denying them the right to emigrate through Egypt?
The OIC emergency meeting was only attended by a few of its members suggesting little desire among Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies to do anything about this shocking situation. Moslems surely have a religious and moral obligation to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of other Moslems - unreservedly and without regard to the political situation in which those suffering Moslems find themselves.
Allowing those 1.5 million Gazans to live out their lives as they presently do, does not represent “rapprochement and solidarity” among Islamic people but rather “conflict and disunity” - a gross betrayal of everything the OIC is supposed to represent.
It is time for the OIC to give priority to humanitarian values over political goals.
The Gazans - for the umpteenth time in their wretched history over the past 60 years - have been once again gazumped by their Moslem and Arab brothers. Will anything or anyone ever be able to save them?