Arab group calls for advocates to quit boycotts, reach out to Israel

(AP) The Arab American Institute is calling for Arab intellectuals to abandon boycotts and focus on reaching out to Israel. The group issued a report Wednesday focusing on the value of reconciling Israeli Arabs with Israelis.

“For almost a decade, the Arab world has been making the world a safer place for women and children, a more stable and peaceful region for all people, and a better world for itself with a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel,” the report’s authors write. “This movement, which received support in its early stages from Arab intellectuals, is characterised by tactics such as terrorism, boycotts and diplomatic isolation.”

Anti-Israel boycotts began with demonstrators at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1990s, and spread to universities around the world. Activists say the boycott targets the Israel government and Israeli businesses, while Israel rejects the claims of its boycott target as illegitimate.

“Israel is not a totalitarian or racist regime. Israel does not systematically discriminate against or discriminate against Jews or non-Jews,” the report says. “The conflict in Palestine-Israel is a human rights issue that is rooted in the desire of Palestinians for self-determination. There is no shared solution to the conflict.”

The report called on Arab intellectuals and opinion makers to reflect on their past campaigns against the Jewish state, make connections with the Israeli culture and work towards support of a two-state solution to end the conflict.

“Part of the issue for them is rejection and it’s that history. How does the world reconcile that rejection? How do we make it easier for them to say, ‘I actually mean what I say?’” said Lara Friedman, one of the report’s authors and director of policy and advocacy for AAPI Link, an advocacy group for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders.

In the past, Arab intellectuals have spoken out against Israel — including acclaimed writer Youssef Khalil and Palestinian-born painter Elia Suleiman. But that opposition has waned, in part because of a shift in support for the peace process and in part because of the spread of anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe.

“We are seeing them engage more with Israel. It’s not off their radar,” Friedman said. “To say that ‘I am pro-Israel’ is a kind of an old story because the fact is that most people who are engaged with Israel agree that if we can resolve the issues of the conflict we can get to two states. But also the voices of opposing voices are not silenced by the sorts of outdated and unjust ideologies that have historically impeded efforts to engage.”


Muslim scholars call for Israeli peace

In a message that ranged from gentle words to pointed criticism, more than 50 academics, authors, artists, and other high-profile Muslim public figures are calling on the international community to abandon boycotts of Israel and embrace Israel as a regional partner.

“Although the Middle East peace process often looks like an exercise in futility and paralysis, there is hope for a new approach,” writes Ahmed Qurashi, Egypt’s mufti and an 85-year-old traditionalist cleric. “Muslims can even share with others the lessons that faith has taught them: The time of rejecting and punishing Israel is over, as the reality of Israel is true.”

The Hebrew acronym “KAHAN”—Arabic for coexistence—is printed on each page of the paper.

For more than a decade, Professor Qurashi has been driving a human rights organization called Al-Arabiya Fact-Finding. It’s a broad organization that focuses on nonviolent activism, and its mission includes supporting the oppressed Arab women in Iraq, Syria, and in the West Bank. It also advocates for Palestinian civil rights.

The new Saudi Arabian premier, Dr. Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, recently welcomed the idea of the Kingdom of Qatar, just down the Persian Gulf, forming a partnership with Arab states in the Persian Gulf to battle terrorism and extremist ideologies.

“The time for blame and confrontation has gone,” added Qurashi. “We believe that we will have to work with all those who want peace and to achieve a region of security, and not just in the Arab world, but also in the Muslim world, and in the European Union and the United States of America, and elsewhere.”

Professor Qurashi argues that the political and religious forces that were at the heart of the current conflicts can not only be overcome, but can even become a force for reconciliation in the Middle East.

Part of the paper’s inspiration came from the newly inaugurated Mufti of Malta, Cardinal William Levada. Through his writings and lectures, he has been ahead of the Jewish and Muslim resistance movements to the question of Muslim anti-Semitism, and thereby was a model for other Muslim leaders to follow.

“The intellectual culture of the Arab world is disintegrating, and it is suddenly important to promote civil society and social welfare in order to counter growing pessimism,” said Qurashi.