The conflict between Israel and Hamas – triggered by the bloody offensive of the radical group that controls the Strip which was followed by the military offensive in Gaza with the displacement of over 600 thousand Palestinians and thousands of victims on the two fronts – is ” a long history of political and social tensions,” Dr. Sultan Al Remeithi. Lecturaler and Islamic Scholar, underlines to AsiaNews.
The former general secretary of the Muslim Council of Elders and member of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, the interreligious dialogue body born from the historic declaration signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019 by Pope Francis and the imam of al Azhar Anhmed Al-Tayyeb maintains that “the escalation of violence in recent days was long awaited by all parties involved”.
As already stated by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, even for the Muslim leader and intellectual originally from the Emirates “it has been demonstrated” that the war between Israel and Palestine today is turning even more dangerously into “a war of religion” which “involves violence and hate speech.”
Interviewed thanks to the collaboration of Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, president of the Foundation for Human Brotherhood and the Child Jesus Association of Cairo, former secretary of Pope Francis, the Muslim intellectual underlines the effects of war on regional balances.
Starting from the diplomatic relations initiated by Israel with various Arab nations and which, according to declarations in the days preceding the Hamas offensive, would soon also involve Saudi Arabia while now the entire process seems frozen. Meanwhile, new tensions (read Iran) are emerging on the horizon, with the fear of an extension of the war.
The escalation between Israel and Hamas, with the humanitarian emergency that exploded in Gaza and the protests that were held over the weekend in various squares in the Arab and Middle Eastern world in support of the Palestinians could have “consequences on the Abraham Accords” admits Al Remeithi.
He continues that the accords “ormalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates. The UAE, along with other Arab states, has condemned the violence and called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict”, seeking to operate in a perspective of dialogue and coexistence as evidenced by the Abraham Family House in Abu Dhabi: a space of ‘harmony and interreligious coexistence’ which brings together mosque, synagogue and church in the same area”.
Sultan Al Remeithi served as secretary general of the Muslim Council of Elders, an authoritative institution based in Abu Dhabi presided over by the imam of al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyib.
Founded on 18 July 2014 to promote peace in Muslim communities and defuse conflicts, it brings together Muslim wise men, legal experts and dignitaries known for wisdom, justice and moderation.
Among the objectives is to counteract sectarian violence and sectarianism, although at this stage for the former secretary it is not up to the religious people to find a solution. “I don’t believe they can play a positive role in the current conflict”- he states referring to the leaders and heads of the different Muslim, Jewish or Christian faiths. “Because don’t have the ability to inspire and guide people towards peace, justice, and compassion.”
Asked about the age-old Palestinian issue, its relegation to the margins by the international community and the unresolved root of many problems in the area, the Muslim intellectual underlines how “some countries recognize Palestine as a sovereign state”. Others, however, “believe that it is led by terrorists” and this does not favor a diplomatic resolution of the issue.
“Ultimately – he warns – the decision lies with the international community. Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes and property, as recognized by the United Nations. Furthermore, the ability of Palestinian refugees to exercise these [legitimate] rights should not be limited by ongoing conflict, political divisions and opposition from Israel.”
Finally, Al Remeithi reflects on the dramatic images of civilians affected, violence that overwhelms innocent people on both fronts, mutual accusations of violations of international law: these are the “voices of war”, sometimes the result of propaganda, relaunched by the media as the news , filtered in these hours, of a possible truce in southern Gaza and denied by both Israel and Hamas.
Meanwhile the casualty count continues, with over 1400 Israeli dead (most of them killed in the early stages last week) and about 2700 on the Palestinian front, affected – mostly civilians – by bombings and air raids by the Israeli Army.
“Each site,” concludes the Muslim intellectual, “has its own stories that filter and spread in times of conflict” and “false information” chases each other destabilising the picture. “As happened in Iraq” in the days of Saddam Hussein, accused of possessing “weapons of mass destruction” to justify the subsequent invasion.