Palestinian American figures reject US-led Bahrain 'workshop'

Community leaders say the meeting is an attempt to give 'Arab cover' to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

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    US President Donald Trump has described his attempt to bring peace to the Middle East as the 'deal of the century' [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]
    US President Donald Trump has described his attempt to bring peace to the Middle East as the 'deal of the century' [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

    Several Palestinian American community organisations have denounced a planned United States-led "workshop" to encourage investments in the occupied Palestinian territories as "treason".

    The US is set to cohost an economic conference in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25 and 26, to encourage investment in the occupied Palestinian territories "that could be made possible by a peace agreement", the White House said last week.

    The meeting is supposed to bring together business, government and civic leaders from the region in order to facilitate discussions about bringing economic investments to the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

    Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is currently leading a US delegation in the Middle East seeking to boost support for the Bahrain "workshop", in which Kushner is expected to unveil the first stage of US President Donald Trump's Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

    A number of Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, will attend, but Palestinian American business and community leaders have expressed concern that the gathering is an attempt to give "Arab cover" to the maintenance of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

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    A joint statement released on Sunday by 14 Palestinian American community organisations described the conference as a "stab in the back of the Palestinian people" and a "violation of all of resolutions made at Arab and Islamic summits that prohibited normalizing Arab ties with Israel" before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

    Criticising the Arab states' planned participation in the gathering, the statement, signed by groups like the Palestinian-American Council, Ramallah Federation and the Palestinian American Center, warned that "Arab states might end up becoming platforms to launch the suspicious Trump deal."

    Palestinian American billionaire Farouq Shami also condemned the Bahrain "workshop", stating that any solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must put an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

    "Palestinians will not trade their homeland for money," Shami told Al Jazeera.

    "Once we have our own state and our freedom, we will build our own country by ourselves," the Houston- based businessman said.

    While some Arab states have announced their participation in the gathering, world powers China and Russia have said they would not take part, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Monday.

    "Boycotting the Bahrain conference comes within the framework of a bilateral Russian-Chinese agreement not to participate in it," Wafa quoted Chinese ambassador in Palestine, Guo Wei, as saying.

    Shadin Maali, a Palestinian American community activist based in Chicago, said that she supported the stance of Moscow and Beijing.

    "It is important to address the economic component of the solution of the Palestinian issue, however, it can't be dealt with independently of a comprehensive solution to the humanitarian situation on the ground for the Palestinian people," she told Al Jazeera.

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    "We must first deal with the occupation and respecting the United Nations resolutions and laws before we deal with economic proposals and investments in the occupied territories."

    The Race to Please Trump

    Basil al-Qudwa, a Palestinian American economist based in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera that the meeting provides an opportunity for countries to publicly "normalise their secret ties with Israel". 

    "The Saudi-UAE-Bahrain axis is eager to please Trump no matter what the price is," he said. 

    "US bias towards Israel is not new or shocking," al-Qudwa said. "What's shocking, however, is the race of some Arab Gulf states to sell the Palestinians down the river so they can please Trump and get his approval for their own aggressive domestic and regional policies."

    Rory Miller, a professor at Georgetown University in Doha, told Al Jazeera that if the meeting took place, it would break the mould of previous US-led attempts to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    "Its conceptual underpinning is designed to buy off one party - the Palestinians - so that they agree to a deal that does not meet their political demands."

    "This meeting clearly signals the willingness of the Saudi-UAE-Bahrain axis to fully embrace the Trump administration's regional vision even if it means the public abandonment of Palestinian interests," he said.

    Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News