Netherlands cuts aid to Palestinian Authority over terrorist salaries
The country had given about $1.6 million directly to the Palestinian Authority annually to pay the salaries of justice ministry employees.
The aid ministry said that talks with the Palestinian body “did not lead to the desired outcome.”
Boycotting Israel and its people has only strengthened both, while doing great harm to Arab countries, and not least to the Palestinians. For the sake of the region, it is long past time to move forward to a postboycott era.
That’s where the Arab Council for Regional Integration aims to go. The council formed this week in London and is made up of 32 civic actors from 15 Arab countries, including us. The council isn’t a government organization—members include heads of NGOs, prominent media figures, Muslim clerics, and even musicians. The only political figures who attended were a former Kuwaiti information minister and an Egyptian legislator who also heads a political party there. Regardless of profession, those gathered espoused a spirit of partnership that knows no borders and repudiates the culture of exclusion and demonization that has wreaked havoc across the Arab world. First on our list is the generations-old boycott of Israel and Israelis.
The boycott evolved in stages. In the mid-20th century, Arab elites enacted exclusionary policies against 900,000 Jews indigenous to Arab lands, culminating in their mass dispossession and forced migration. In the 1940s, the internal crackdown developed into an intergovernmental Arab effort to target the young country to which most of these Jews fled—Israel—through political, cultural and economic isolation. The goal was to uproot them and their European Jewish brethren from the area. Next came a ban on all civil engagement with Israelis, even and especially in countries nominally at peace with Israel.
The latest iteration is driven largely by foreigners: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aims to drive a wedge between Israelis and their global partners. Each boycott has failed to defeat Israelis. Instead, the economic pressure inspired innovative responses that invigorated their economy and society.
But let us count the ways the boycotts have harmed Arab societies. They lost the economic benefits of forming partnerships with Israelis. Trade could provide desalination technology for parched Yemen or more investment in Jordan where unemployment rates are overwhelming. The exclusionary movement impeded Arabs from resolving tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Hard-line “resistance” factions such as Hamas have enjoyed support from numerous powers, but those Palestinians striving justly and peacefully to build institutions for a future state can hardly find Arab partners. Nor have they been able to trade or form contracts with Israelis—which would have empowered them economically, and given them some leverage to move the area toward peace.
Worse still, the regional boycott of Israel became a template for excluding and marginalizing opposition in the Arab world. Ethnic and sectarian divisions hardened, hastening the disintegration of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
To rebuild the region, we must break with this tragic history. Much of the media and many of the political institutions in the Arab world are waging a rhetorical war against Israel’s legitimacy in the public’s mind. To end boycotts of Israel, those who believe in regional cooperation must challenge that perception with honesty about Israel and constructive ideas about our shared future.
There are people willing to do just that. At our gathering, Kuwait’s former Information Minister Sami al-Nisf called for an end to the zero-sum thinking that typifies public attitudes toward Israel in the region. Palestinian intellectual Mohammed Dajani proposed a pan-Arab graduate program in peace education. Sudan’s Ismail Sayyid Ahmed called for organized people-to-people dialogue ventures to bring Arabs and Israelis closer together. Emirati women’s activist Maryam al-Ahmedi and Saudi broadcaster Sakina Mushaykis urged pushing back against the demonization of Jews and Israel through media, education and cultural collaboration such as joint film productions or music festivals. Iraqi, Algerian and Tunisian delegates called for reconnecting with Israelis whose families came from those countries.
Alas, we felt the absence of those who were intimidated into not participating as strongly as the presence of those who joined us. Shortly before the conference, Egyptian officials warned several Arab Council members not to attend. That’s right: Egypt, a U.S. ally formally at peace with Israel, tried to block a step toward a broader peace. Contrast that with the courage of a Lebanese cleric from Tripoli, who braved Iranian hegemony and mass upheaval to join us, then went home and took the heat.
Two courageous Egyptian nationals ignored the threats and came too: Egyptian legislator Mohammed Anwar el-Sadat, a nephew of the late president who shared his name, and Ahmed Salim, director of political programming for the popular Egyptian TV channel Sada El-Balad. In a speech at the conference, Mr. Sadat called for the recovery of the lost promise of Egyptian-Israeli “peace between peoples.”
Peace has eluded the region for generations. But we’re determined to push for cooperation between the Arab world and Israel, firm in our belief that the benefits of partnership must replace the ravages of exclusion.
Mr. Dessouki is managing editor of the pan-Arab magazine Al-Majalla. Ms. Gheita is a lawyer. They are founding members of the Arab Council for Regional Integration.