Israeli-Arab Normalization Hits a Snag

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Daniel Barenboim (C) performs during the rehearsal of the West Eastern Divan in Salzburg. Barenboim attempts to cleverly clean up Israel’s image by accepting some Palestinian rights, but at the same time he repudiates the most significant of Palestinian rights. (Photo: AFP - Getty - K. Josch)

By: Omar Barghouti

Published Saturday, April 28, 2012

Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions activists pressured Qatar into canceling the Music and Dialogue Festival, scheduled for April 30 - May 4, marking another milestone for the growing anti-Apartheid movement.

News about Qatar’s cancellation of a visit planned by Israeli musicians due to “current political developments in the region” would be ordinary if not for the long history of overt Qatari-Israeli and Arab-Israeli normalization, even during the revolutions.

Nevertheless, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) welcomed the decision and urged Arab countries to make public their official position on supporting the Palestinian people and to end all forms of normalization with the occupation and apartheid state.

Qatar’s announcement that it would host Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim at the Doha Festival for Music and Dialogue in coordination with Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra did not come as a surprise.

The orchestra is proud to have both Israeli and Arab musicians and publicly aims to build bridges of normalization between them. But it does not recognize Palestinian rights or reject Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid.

It was the fourth time that Qatar had invited Barenboim in spite of his being a Zionist. Although he rejects the 1967 occupation, he also rejects the return of refugees to the homes they were thrown out of during the nakba [in 1948].

Barenboim attempts to cleverly clean up Israel’s image by accepting some Palestinian rights, but at the same time he repudiates the most significant of Palestinian rights.

How could an Arab country that proclaims its support for Palestinians welcome Zionist Israeli artists as brothers, while the Arab world is in the midst of popular Arab revolutions that some Arab countries claim to support, albeit with peculiar selectivity?

In 2010, PACBI criticized the Qatari authorities for hosting the Divan Orchestra on the first anniversary of the aggression on Gaza. But the issue does not stop with Qatar or artistic collaboration.

Since the Oslo agreement in 1993, Arab-Israeli normalization became “over the table” and proliferated in Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority, becoming almost a normal occurrence.

In the academic field and the midst of the “educational goldrush” of US-based universities to establish campuses in the Gulf, Egypt, and Jordan, the issue of normalization is not even subject to a debate.

Under pressure from Zionist movements in the US, branches of US universities in the Middle East have made commitments not to exclude Israeli academics and students.

For example, Georgetown University’s Center for International and Strategic Studies in Qatar’s Education City regularly hosts academics from Tel Aviv University.

In sports, the promotional film for the 2022 World Cup – which will be held in Doha – caused widespread outrage in Arab countries. It contained a segment in Hebrew expressing hope that Israel and an Arab country would reach the finals and play against each other with supporters of both teams cheering side by side “to get to know each other.”

The UAE heads the list of normalizing Arab countries in the sports field. It regularly welcomed Israeli athletes in international competitions held on its territories, unashamedly hoisting the Israeli flag.

At the end of 2011, the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee released a statement condemning the UAE swimming federation’s invitation to its Israeli counterpart to participate in an international competition in Dubai. The invitation was extended “with the aim of expanding collaboration with neighboring countries in the Middle East.”

It is not unusual for Dubai to host Israeli swimmers considering that it already hosts a branch of the Israeli-based diamonds company Leviev.

But we should not forget the tremendous efforts of anti-normalization activists in Arab countries and their achievements in Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, and others.

Algerian Judo champion Maryam Moussa boycotted a match with an Israeli wrestler in the world championships in Rome, thereby sacrificing her chances of competing in the 2012 London Olympics.

Academics at the American University of Cairo prevented the participation of Israelis in a conference at the university.

BDS activists in Kuwait stood against the infiltration of Israeli products into the market, supported by the official boycott office. In the past couple of months in Morocco, activists have succeeded in cancelling academic and cultural events that aim to promote normalization with Israel.

Lebanon’s active BDS movement was successful in cancelling the entertainment events of Gad Elmaleh and Lara Fabian due to their support of Israel. In Palestine, activists of all factions, succeeded in stopping normalization events sponsored by Palestinian authorities.

Saudi Arabia also disqualified the French company Alstom from the project for the Haramain High Speed Rail Project for its involvement in Israeli projects aiming to Judaize Jerusalem.

In the meantime, the Mufti of Al-Azhar (actually the former court Mufti of Cairo) conducted a shameful and normalizing visit to Jerusalem. His excuse is that he was “visiting the prisoner.”

In this case, the Mufti may need to be reminded that solidarity with prisoners is through helping them break their chains, not by helping their jailers through normalization and covering for them.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Omar Barghouti studied in Israël and know, he asks the others to boycott israelian universities ? What kind of man is this guy ??? He is not credible !

Omat Barghuti - what about the fact you yourself studied in Tel Aviv University?

Sorry to say this is like the Bush-Manichean-type-of-thinking "you're either with us or against us"...Music however has no country, knows no boundaries even if it has been used, misused and abused for political propaganda and other political purposes.

An eye-opener is Mariam Said's bold and convincing defense as to why the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra does NOT promote "normalization" and why the BDS is WRONG in boycotting such an initiative:

Very good review of the real position of 'arab' regimes in face of the zionist regime. And remember that all these corrupt kingdoms and emirates who want 'reconciliation' with the Zionist Entity want to bring democracy to the Republic of Syria. Shame on them! And thanks to Al Akhbar and its courageous journalists.

Hilarious! Barenboim is as anti-Israel as you guys are and even he is boycotted! Love it. Now, he will only be able to play in the 150 other countries that welcome Israeli artists (and do not live in medieval times).
Historical footnote: The 1936 Arab boycott of Jewish businesses in Palestine led to an enormous self-sufficiency campaign that prepared the territory's 650,000 men, women and children to hold off the armies of six countries and double its territory in seven months.
Oh, you guys call it the Nakba.
Please continue the boycott. Israelis will be forced to keep dealing with the Free World. See how far that got them.

1) Barenboim rejects the right of return, and other issues, so he is a zionist.
2) You glorifying the military "self-sufficiency" of zionist murderers? Cool
3) We will continue the boycott, which has had a growing impact on the sale of israeli exports (even israeli sources admit this). And you will watch the events unfold until israel eventually collapses. Now behave like a good audience ;)

1. If this is your definition of Zionist, the world just gained a lot of Zionists. Almost every country involved in Middle East negotiations rejects this, including China! (it would mean a lot of problems for them, so they oppose it; just as they oppose intervention in Syria)
2. Yup, glorifying anyone who is self-sufficient is wonderful. You want to glorify regimes whose primary exports are misery and despair. Israel has a space program, the most dynamic high tech sector outside the US, a nuclear program and complete food self sufficiency; and they have a tenth of Egypt's population. Any country that can do this is worthy of praise.
2b. Syria killed more Arabs in the last year than Israel killed in its entire history, including 1967.
3. This is a complete lie. The Israeli economy is smoking hot, even as they downsize their defense sector and its related exports. You say that Israel will collapse? While the Arab world teeters? Are you kidding me?
I saw an interesting Algerian author say that Arabs are completely delusional about their status and power. He said most believe that their society outstrips anything that the US, Europe or Japan, let alone Israel, can muster. I believe him.

Mufti of Jerusalem has gone to visit Masjid Al Aqsa and that is not shameful he did not go there as a Athelte or a Lecturer for a University which is a huge Diffrence and his act is not Shameful.

Excellent article about satanic israel.

I am not a Muslim, neither am I an Arab, but Alakhbar is now my main source for news from the Middle East because the western press is not longer credible when it comes about the Middle East.

Well done Alakhbar!! Keep on the good work!

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