The Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit on 11 November 2023 was a rare show of unity among all Islamic and Arab leaders and states. Qatar’s Emir Al Thani gave a passionate speech condemning the hypocrisy of the West and its double standard regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict. This dual standard in applying international law and humanitarian values will lead to a rift in civilizations and cultures. During a virtual BRICS conference on 27 November 2023, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud demanded the establishment of a Palestinian state.
A Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit took place on 11 November in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Dozens of leaders took part, including Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It was the first time in 11 years that an Iranian President visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The final communique of the leaders and governments of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the League of Arab States called for an immediate end to Israel’s military operations in Gaza and rejected Israel’s justification of self-defense. The International Criminal Court (ICC) was called upon to investigate Israeli “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in the Palestinian territories, with the communique demanding “a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” based on the two-state solution and calling upon all countries “to stop exporting weapons and ammunition to the occupation authorities … their army and terrorist settlers.” The Summit warned of the “barbaric crimes committed also in the West Bank and Al-Quds Al-Sharif [Jerusalem]”.
The Emir’s statement at the Summit called on Israel to stop bombing Palestinians and on the international community to stop turning a blind eye to the civilian tragedy unfolding in Gaza. His bottom line: “I reiterate nothing justifies these crimes.” He calls out the hypocrisy of the West, which has been almost silent in the face of Israel’s indiscriminate killing of Gaza civilians. “Until when will the international community remain silent to deal with Israel and leave them above international law and allow them to violate all the international laws and turn a blind eye to all the human values in their belligerent war on the indigenous people of Palestine.”
Emir Al Thani goes on: “This Summit comes at a decisive moment in the history of our region [and] convenes as our fellow brothers in Gaza Strip go through what is unbearable under the Israeli killing machine. The international community has failed to live up to its ethical or legal responsibility or [do] what it takes to end war crimes, pogroms and violations committed under the pretext of self-defense. As our hearts are broken, as we witness women, children and elders [being] killed in masses amid this human suffering.”
Emir Al Thani calls out Israel for “targeting” Palestinian civilians and reminds the international community that it is unconscionable for Israel to target Palestinians because they have a different race, ethnicity and religion. “What is taking place in Gaza is a real threat at all levels. There are unprecedented events.” He goes on to question how the bombing of hospitals and schools has been accepted as the standard operating procedure and calls out the West for its double standard. “Many peoples and states worldwide who lecture on the abidance and compliance on international law and human values [are] standing silent amid all these atrocities against the Palestinians – women and children. Bombardment of hospitals and sheltering centers represents nothing to them. They remain silent to see the dead bodies, reeking, bloated and eaten by stray animals.”
Israel’s leadership is now openly calling for the permanent displacement of the Palestinians from Gaza and Likud Minister Avi Dichter has openly described what Israel is doing, namely, “we’re rolling out Nakba 2023”. As Emir Al Thani put it: “Total households, entire residential quarters being wiped off the face of the earth. Entire people being forced to depopulate and transfer out of their homeland. All of these unprecedented events take place under the nose and eyes of the whole world.” And still the West “justifies all these crimes committed by the Israelis”.
Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in a tweet on 27 November 2023: “I’m appalled to learn that in the middle of a war, the Israeli gov is poised to commit new funds to build more illegal settlements. This is not self-defense and will not make Israel safer. The settlements are grave IHL [international humanitarian law] breach, and they are Israel’s greatest security liability.”
On 10 November 2023, France’s President Emanuel Macron was the first western leader to call for the Israelis to stop killing innocent civilians and respect international law. Many other leaders including UNSG António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, have also said the Israeli attacks on Gaza are a violation of international law and have called for a stop to this aggression. Albanese has stated that Israel cannot claim the right of self-defense against a threat from a “territory that is kept under belligerent occupation”.
Qatar supports the Palestinian people and their “just cause”. It also continues to play a key role in the Middle East by serving as a mediator between Hamas and Israel in the hopes of achieving a lasting ceasefire and the release of all hostages. The four-(now six)-day truce from 24 to 29 November between Israel and Hamas, including the prisoner-hostage exchange, was achieved through the tireless efforts of Qatar, which led the negotiations between Hamas and Israel. In the past, Qatar has successfully mediated conflicts in Ukraine, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan and Hamas.
Emir Al Thani warns: “We should take deterring action to put an end to the belligerent war in Gaza … if Israel continues to violate international law this will not [only] cause damage to Arab and Muslim countries alone but the regional states as well.” Israel’s “belligerent war will allow [it] to continue to undermine all efforts aiming at establishing peace.”
Many Islamic states and others agree with Emir Al Thani, including Russia’s leader who recently stated that any further escalation of the crisis is “fraught with grave and extremely dangerous and destructive consequences. And not only for the Middle East region. It could spill over far beyond the borders of the Middle East.”
China continues to call for an international conference on Palestine. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that “China advocates for urgently convening a credible, large-scale and effective international peace conference so as to put the Palestine issue back on the track of a two-state solution”. On 27 November 2023, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, during a virtual BRICS summit, demanded the start of serious comprehensive negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Adding that this is the only way to achieve peace and security in Palestine.
The Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit called for the launch of “a serious peace process to establish a two-state solution that fulfils all legitimate rights of the Palestinian people”. The Emir and the Secretary General of OIC, H.E. Mr. Hissein Brahim Taha, call for a lasting peace under the Arab Peace Initiative “based on our conviction of the Palestinian people’s rightful right for peace, security and an independent state”. They call for the establishment an independent State of Palestine on the borders of 4 June 1967, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem) as its capital.
Only now, after over 16 400 people in Gaza have been killed and one and a half million Palestinians forcibly displaced from northern Gaza, many of whom are women, children and elderly, are some in the West looking at both sides of the conflict. As long as the West continues this double standard, it will continue to lose credibility and its leadership position
The final communique of the Summit “condemn[ed] the double standards in applying international law”. It warned that this “duality seriously undermines both the credibility of countries shielding Israel from international law and placing it above the law, as well as the credibility of multilateral action”. The Summit concluded that this crisis is exposing the “selectivity in applying the system of humanitarian values” which will ultimately cause a rift between civilizations and cultures.