All that the Muslim countries could do after the latest round of killings of innocent Palestinians by brutal Israeli forces was to hold another ‘extraordinary summit’ of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that yielded a seven-page verbose communiqué, with nothing practical to address the Palestinian issue or to hold Israel accountable for what OIC leaders called “savage crimes”.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was among the leaders who assembled in Istanbul for the seventh summit of Islamic countries at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who currently holds the OIC chair.
The meeting was held to discuss the situation arising out of the killing of some 60 Palestinians, which included children, who were protesting against the shifting of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, which they and many other people around the world believe is central to any eventual settlement of the long-running dispute and that any move like what President Trump did would prejudge the matter.
The killings, on one of the deadliest days of violence, were not an isolated incident of Israeli troops resorting to excessive use of force against the protesters. There is little doubt that this has been the policy of Israel in complete disregard of the rights of Palestinians as human beings. The choice of ammunition used against protesters, which causes multiple internal organ damage, is in itself a proof of Israel’s intent.
Hosting the OIC summit on Palestinian cause helps Erdogan politically, especially when he is going in for elections next month
But, all that we could get from the summit was a communiqué filled with clichés – “Condemn in the strongest terms the criminal actions of Israeli forces”; “hold Israel, the occupying Power, fully accountable for the grave atrocities”; “the latest episode of wilful murder of at least 60 civilians”. It was as strongly worded as the statement that came out of the last such event held in December when President Trump had announced his plans to move the embassy to Jerusalem. But, neither did that statement force a rethink in Trump’s administration over the decision to relocate the embassy or prevent Israel from killing the protesting Palestinians, nor will the latest one deliver anything substantive.
Erdogan put it more appropriately, while addressing a rally ahead of the summit, where he noted that the Muslim countries had failed the “Jerusalem test.” He further criticised these countries for being “severe, intolerant and unconscientious” to each other and “toothless and cowardly” to unspecified enemies, while internally lacking unity.
This is what ails the OIC as an organisation and a major reason why it cannot do anything beyond issuing condemnation statements.
Before tackling the bigger issue of disunity in the ranks, OIC members need introspection as to what they are doing in their individual capacities. Erdogan’s harsh criticism and his rhetoric aside, the question remains that will Turkey permanently recall its envoy from Israel or severe trade ties with Israel, which was the 10th largest market for its exports in 2017?
A bill in the Turkish parliament, tabled by Turkey’s main opposition party seeking the annulment of economic, military and political agreements with Israel was voted down by Erdo?an’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Hosting the OIC summit on Palestinian cause helps Erdogan politically, especially when he is going in for elections next month and has to motivate his religious voter base.
It is not just Turkey. The OIC is a divided house and one cannot miss the Saudis siding with US and Israel to contain Iran or the aggression against Yemen or for that matter, the war in Syria and the divisions in the Gulf Cooperation Council. These splits are unlikely to end soon. They are rather going to aggravate with time.
Therefore, the positions taken by the Muslim leaders always carry a streak of hypocrisy within them and are hardly any effective.
One positive thing to happen in the latest communiqué was an insertion that emphasised on OIC members to honestly commit to the resolutions passed by the body.
“Insist on the OIC member states to be responsive to resolutions on the Palestinian cause and to commit to voting for our common cause and to taking actions that would contribute to defending this just cause and call for necessary action to be taken against those failing to comply,” it said.
The insertion may not deliver anything, but at least it is an official acknowledgment that some were being dishonest to the Muslim causes.
The writer is a free-lance journalist based in Islamabad