Saudi: Palestinians have sabotaged peace negotiations for 6 decades (& Bahraini: Jews are indigenous to Israel)

September 09, 2020

Israeli and Emirati officials greet each other in Abu Dhabi last week


* Saudi Gazette: Palestinian politicians have sabotaged negotiations and rejected all peace initiatives for six decades in order to keep the aid funds flowing to their private bank accounts.

* Bahraini activist: “There is growing awareness among many in the Arab world that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in the Land of Israel, they are part of this land, and part of our region… it’s a fact, and we can do many things together for prosperity, security and peace for the region.”

* The National newspaper (Abu Dhabi): “The UAE-Israel accord is a win for every Muslim… Since 9/11, Muslims across the world have been on the defensive. I saw the suspicion of Muslims in the eyes of American officials. It always boiled down to: show us peace in Islam. Now, with the visionary accord between the UAE and Israel, a new horizon is opening to reinstate Muslim dignity by showing peace between peoples. We can now say: ‘A new way of co-existence is achievable. We are not pawns for the mullahs of Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood. Look at the UAE.’”

* Arab researcher speaking on Russia Today TV: Iran - not Israel - is responsible for the deaths of millions of Arabs in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere.



[Notes by Tom Gross]

Below, I attach further Arab and Muslim media reaction in the wake of the UAE-Israel peace deal.

The signing ceremony of the Abraham Accord will take place on September 15 in Washington, the White House announced yesterday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will represent Israel, the Emirati Foreign Affairs Minister and the crown prince’s brother, Abdullah bin Zayed, will represent the UAE.



I try and pay tribute when long-standing subscribers to this Mideast dispatch email list pass away.

The screenwriter and playwright Ronnie Harwood, a subscriber to this list for the last 15 years, died yesterday aged 85.

He is perhaps best known internationally for winning an Oscar for writing the screenplay for Roman Polanski’s 2003 film The Pianist, which is generally regarded as one the best feature films ever made about the Holocaust. He was also awarded a knighthood for his service to theatre and cinema.

He was born Ronald Horwitz to a family of South African Jews and emigrated to London as young man.

He was also involved in human rights causes, and served as president of PEN International. From time to time, he wrote me interesting emails about these dispatches, and on one occasion he wrote to me that “your bulletins delight me”.

When my father John Gross died in 2011 he also sent an email saying he “loved his [my father’s] company and was always astonished by his knowledge, recall and gift for being able to bring to life books, plays, people. The tributes to him [my father] have been glorious. I can’t remember anyone being so affectionately treated in the columns of our newspapers.”

At the end of this dispatch, I attach the obituary of Ronnie Harwood published today in The Times of London.





When will the Palestinian man wake up?!
By Hani Al-Dahiri
Saudi Gazette
September 6, 2020!

It is regrettable to see the plight of Palestinian brothers whose politicians have traded their cause for more than 60 years. These politicians saw to that the issue remained alive and did not reach any settlement. They sabotaged negotiations and rejected all peace initiatives, whether those presented by the Israeli side or those by other international parties.

The Palestinian politicians did this at the expense of their cause and their people so as to gain from the situation, which has remained as is till date. The intransigent attitude that they pursued for decades was the only guarantee for their survival with donations pouring in and aid funds boosting their treasuries and accounts in the European banks from all sides, especially from the countries of the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Today, things have changed, and the peoples who used to sympathize with the Palestinian cause are fully aware of this game by people with vested interests. The Palestinian issue means the death of the issue in the minds of millions of people, because it is the inevitable result of six decades of lying, trickery and collection of money in the name of a crisis whose owners do not want it to be resolved.

A few days ago, the courageous Emirati step to normalize relations with Israel came and that delivered an explicit message to the Palestinian political leaders: “The time has come to confront between yourselves and those who are deceived by you... the time for playing and jumping the ropes as well as trafficking with the concerns of the Palestinian people is over.”

As for serving the interest of the Arab people in Gaza and the West Bank, it requires the intervention of rational Arabs to negotiate with the Israeli side and work to establish comprehensive peace in the region away from gangs who eye only political gain.

It is evident that it has become certain that other Arab countries will catch up with the United Arab Emirates, and this means that the last berry leaves will fall from the private parts of the thieves of the cause who have gone beyond history, and the curses of the Palestinians, who have traded in their pain since 1948, will follow them forever.

There is an eternal saying attributed to the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln, and I find it completely applicable to most of the Palestinian leaders who manipulated their people and their cause. Lincoln said: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

The truth is that there is nothing in the entire Palestinian issue that enables it to continue and remain dependent on the current situation, because it is an issue that has reached old age and after old age the only thing remaining is death. And hence, either it is to be resolved today or it would die as the Andalusian issue died as wise men realize that there is no difference between the two issues at all.

As a human being, as a Muslim and as an Arab, I am saddened by the situation of the Palestinian man who was traded in by his political leaders. I wish him well, and hope that he would wake up from his coma and adopt what is good that serves his interest and his future.

However, his case in the property dispute with his opponents is not sacred to me, especially since the normalization of relations of some Arab countries with Israel will allow me and other Muslims to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and pray therein, which is the only thing that concerns us in this case.

As for other matters, the people of Palestine are more deserving of it, because in terms of logic, it is a first-degree “real estate dispute” and no one should be ashamed of acknowledging this fact.



The UAE-Israel accord is a win for every Muslim
Those exhausted by the anger and division that have been haunting the Islamic world can hold their heads higher now

By Ed Husain
The National newspaper (Abu Dhabi)
September 4, 2020

For almost twenty years, Muslims across the world have been on the defensive. Muslim identity has been largely under attack. The terrorist incidents of September 11, 2001 on New York and Washington DC cast – in many a popular imagination – every Muslim as suspect in some way. In almost every continent, a dark cloud hung over us. The security checks at airports are only a manifestation of that deep distrust.

Osama bin Laden and a range of extremist organisations hijacked the Palestinian cause: they created nothing but more loss, terrorism and humiliation for the noble Palestinian people. Now, with the visionary accord between the UAE and Israel, three new horizons open: reinstating Muslim dignity, reviving a two-state solution opportunity and creating regional economic prosperity.

I am a British Muslim. In my teens, I helped raise money in London for Hamas. My peers and I believed suicide bombers were martyrs heading for paradise. We were wrong.

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, 2,500 years ago taught that there is only one constant in life: change. Life flows ever onwards. After 9/11, I recognised the blunder of my beliefs. I changed. In my twenties, I lived in Damascus next to a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. In my thirties, I lived in New York and Washington where I advised the US government. I saw the suspicion of Muslims in the eyes of American officials. It always boiled down to something unspoken: show us peace in Islam; stop talking about it.

And that is exactly what the Abraham Accord is doing: showing peace between peoples, not only preaching it. The accord represents an important opportunity to further reject “Islamophobic” accusations of terrorism and anti-Semitism. We can say: “We believe in one God. Peace is possible. A new way of co-existence is achievable. We are not pawns for the mullahs of Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood. Look at the UAE.”

More than 70 countries have applauded the agreement with Israel and today, the UAE enjoys unprecedented support on both sides of the US political divide. The Pope’s visit to the Emirates in 2019 won the hearts of 2 billion Christians to the prospect of a pluralist, peaceful Middle East.

Islam-haters cannot say all Muslims cannot make peace with Jews. The natural choice for ordinary Muslims – 1.8bn people round the world – is: modernise, moderate and move with the times. The Quran calls upon Muslims to be rational. It confirms repeatedly that Jews and Christians are the children of Abraham. We are all followers of Jacob, Moses and Jesus. The Prophet Mohammed was a merchant, a member of the elite tribe of Quraysh. He engaged, dialogued, signed treaties and behaved rationally. Muslims are not victims, but victors.

Every time I visit Jerusalem, walking along the Roman cobblestone pavements, it pains me that Jerusalemites cannot visit Gaza. And Gazans cannot visit the West Bank. Terrorism causes this division. It pains me equally that the unemployment rate is 45 per cent in Gaza and 41 per cent for women in the West Bank; that Hamas have turned Gaza into a prison, killing any dissenters or peacemakers; that schools I visit in the West Bank do not even have Israel, their neighbour, on the map. This shows a leadership that is afraid of change and the future.

Hamas leaders cannot continue to visit Tehran and praise terrorists and murderers of Arabs, and then expect to be taken seriously as a state builder by the United Nations. The old tactics of terrorism, boycotting and resistance have not worked. A free, dignified state for the Palestinian people, beside a secure Israel, is now again on the table. The Palestinians have a sincere, transparent ally in the UAE.

We must never forget that the Romans expelled Jews from Jerusalem. After five hundred years of banishment it was the Caliph Omar, in the year 637, who invited Jews back to the holy city. Unlike others, Muslims have a long and honourable history of honouring Judaism. The great rabbi Maimonides was a physician to Muslim rulers.

In our time, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, has built a diplomatic corps that is sharp, serious, respected for achieving results and, above all, discrete. To have Emirati diplomacy at the service of the Palestinian people’s dream for statehood – now with direct, trusted and open access to American and Israeli political leaders – is a gift. The Saudi Arabian, Bahraini, Egyptian, Moroccan, Jordanian and other Arab and Muslim nations want to see this issue settled so that the Middle East can fulfil its true potential as a global hub of innovation, capital, finance, technology, health and tourism.

Can the Middle East dream again? No, rather, can it be its true self again? From algorithms to ophthalmology to medicine to naming the stars, much came from the early Muslims. Sometime in the 13th century, that desire to dream and understand the cosmos was lost. Philosophy was abandoned and – with it neglected – science and innovation became marginalised.

Among the greatest defenders of reason, if not the only champions of the time, were the Arab Muslims of Al Andalusia – descendants of the Umayyads from Makkah. There, it was Ibn Rushd in the 12th century who shone the light of reason.

That spirit shone again last month when the Emirates “Hope Probe” Mars mission launched. Just imagine the power of that Arab spirit of knowledge, inquiry and ambition coupled with Israeli advances in medical technology, software developments, agriculture and environment, navigation and road safety.

Youth aged 15-24 consist of 32 per cent of the Arab population. That’s 22 countries with a population of 300 million, of which 100m is under the age of 25, crying out for economic opportunities, houses, marriage, families, health care, cars, dignity and stability. This is evident to anyone taking a walk downtown and talking to the youth in Cairo, Amman, Tunis or Beirut.

As the world emerges from Covid-19, the old models of operation will be defunct. Why take a 20-hour flight to Silicon Valley when similarly bright tech minds are three hours away in Tel Aviv? Why seek investors in New York amid jet lag when similarly wealthy financiers are sat in Riyadh? How is it possible that youth in Egypt and Jordan are starved of investment capital and resources when Israel next door needs new markets? For how much longer will the Middle East tolerate a torn-apart Syria? Damascus – land of St Paul, home of the Umayyads and city of Nizar Qabbani – deserves to return to its Arabic regional allies.

Lebanon, pivot of private bankers, again next to Israel, was deprived of basic talent to manage its port and lost innocent lives in last month’s explosion. For how much longer? I could go on, but year after year, the UAE has been the prime destination of choice for youth across the region. The reason for that status is its entrepreneurial trading spirit.

The winds of change are blowing across the world again and, as the cradle of faiths and civilisations, what happens in the Middle East influences us all. “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” asked the beloved US president Abraham Lincoln. The Israeli-UAE accord opens new paths for all who seek a better future for their grandchildren: Muslims who seek to live in the modern world, a Palestinian-Israeli two-state solution and a more prosperous region for the youth of the Middle East.



Bahraini social media activist talks UAE deal, says Jews part of Middle East
Beyond praising the recent deal, Alshareef highlighted an important shift in perception among Arabs in the Middle East.
The Jerusalem Post
September 7, 2020

Loay Alshareef, a social media activist and linguist from Bahrain, was interviewed by i24NEWS on Sunday, in which he discussed the recent Israel-UAE normalization deal, Israel and the Jewish people’s role in the Middle East and the future of Arab-Israel ties.

Beyond praising the recent deal, Alshareef highlighted an important shift in perception among Middle East Arabs, particularly in the Gulf states, regarding perceptions toward Israel specifically and Jews in general. The activist noted that views among the populace of the UAE in regard to the agreement are rooted in stabilizing the Middle East, while adding that “now the awareness is becoming more clear to many people that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in the Land of Israel: They are part of this land, and they are part of our region.

He added that “the Jewish people belong here, they have nowhere else to go... so it’s really becoming very obvious that the existence of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel is not only historical, but it’s a fact – and we can do many things together for prosperity, security and peace for the region.”

When asked about the Bahraini position and the UAE, Alshareef said that the latter has taken a principled position of encouraging a stable Middle East, in addition to noting that those who don’t want a stable region are the ones opposed to an Arab-Israeli rapprochement.

In a clear reference to Iran, Alshareef said that “Israel is not a threat to its neighbors, but what is a threat to its neighbor is a country that writes in its constitution to export revolution, to exports its sect and to believe in what they believe in.” He also noted that Judaism itself is not a proselytizing religion, something that not so many people know in the Arab world.

Alshareef also criticized Qatar’s Al Jazeera news network for criticizing the UAE-Israel deal, suggesting that it is supporting anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism in the region. Attributing his personal change in perception toward Jews to his having lived with a Jewish family in France, Alshareef said that the importance of breaking down barriers and communicating in each other’s languages can help build peace.



Amjad Taha speaking on RT (Russia Today) TV, August 27, 2020:

“Israel did not plant a bomb next to the Kaaba, nor did it target Mecca with missiles. Israel did not create militias that kill Lebanese, Iraqis, and Yemenis. The Palestinians were the ones who described… Qasem Soleimani – who killed Syrians, Iraqis, and others – as the ‘Martyr of Jerusalem.’

“Iran, which has killed more than four million Arabs, is today the one that has made an alliance with the militias in Gaza. Let us be honest and say that even viruses evolve, but the peddlers of the [Palestinian] cause do not. They have nothing to offer except for curses and recklessness.”


For further reaction to the UAE deal please see my conversations with former Israeli Deputy National Security Advisor Eran Lerman and Palestinian academic Mostafa Elostaz.




Sir Ronald Harwood
Civilised yet mischievous Oscar-winning screenwriter and playwright known for The Dresser and his passion for smoking and cricket
The Times (of London)
Wednesday September 9, 2020

In 1959 Ronald Harwood was an out-of-work actor, recently married and so impecunious that he was about to take a job as a labourer, helping to build the Hammersmith flyover. Then fate smiled upon him. His father-in-law, though reportedly less than happy that a daughter descended from Russian nobility was now the wife of a Jewish immigrant from South Africa, gave the 25-year-old a typewriter for Christmas. That gift launched the career that would win Harwood acclaim as a dramatist, an Oscar for his screenplay for The Pianist, and a knighthood.

Harwood’s best-known stage play remains The Dresser, based on the five years he spent in Sir Donald Wolfit’s theatre company. However, he saw more than 20 others staged, several dealing with the subjects that preoccupied him: Nazism and its aftermath, the choices open to those living under oppressive regimes, and the demands of morality more generally. An important task of drama, he said, was to confront audiences with a key question: how would I behave in dangerously testing circumstances?

That question was close to his heart since his father had fled Lithuania for South Africa as a young man when pogroms threatened his village: a place Ronald was to visit years later, seeing there a mass grave containing 1,800 victims of the Nazis.

He himself was born Ronald Horwitz in Cape Town in 1934, and, like his younger cousin and near-neighbour Antony Sher, wanted to become an actor from childhood, an interest he persued at Sea Point Boys’ High School in Cape Town. After the death in 1950 of his commercial-traveller father, Isaac Horwitz, his Polish-born mother, Isobel, told him: “Anybody can be a good actor in South Africa, so you’d better go to England, to find out if you are really any good.”

Aged 17 and changing his surname to Harwood, he won a place at Rada and, when his mother could no longer afford to support him there, earned money cleaning tables and doing other odd jobs. By his admission, he “wasn’t very good, a show-off, not an actor”.

In 1953, however, the intervention of a mutual friend brought him a successful interview with Wolfit. Initially Harwood was that great actor’s dresser – “I loved the job, was very good at it, and didn’t feel demeaned at all” – and then his business manager. After Wolfit’s death in 1968 Harwood discovered that he had left him his papers in his will, hoping that he would undertake his biography. Accordingly, he published Sir Donald Wolfit CBE: His Life and Work in the Unfashionable Theatre to general acclaim in 1971.

A year with the 59 Theatre Company at the Lyric, Hammersmith, followed his departure from Wolfit’s company in 1959, the year in which he married Natasha Riehle, whom he had met when she was a stage manager in Chesterfield. “She was divinely beautiful,” he said. “All the boys were after her, but I played a very cool waiting game.” One reason for their mutual attraction, he thought, was that both came from immigrant backgrounds – “there’s the same kind of insecurity”.

Actually, it was a socially improbable marriage, since she was the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Catherine the Great and he was on the dole, but it was a long and happy one. “I owe everything to her, she gave me stability,” Harwood said, claiming that they had had only one quarrel before her death in 2013, “about a plate of spaghetti”.

A chance meeting in 1959 with Harold Pinter, whom he knew as a fellow actor, had left Harwood thinking that, despite the recent failure of The Birthday Party, “if he could do it I could do it”. Yet it was that gift of a typewriter that started him writing. Deeply affected by the massacre of 69 black South Africans at Sharpeville in 1960, he tapped out his first novel, All the Same Shadows, seeing it published the next year. When he finished it, he found he could barely breathe: “I knew at that moment I was on to something in myself. It was an epiphany.”

Also in 1960, his play about a lonely bachelor, The Barber of Stamford Hill, was transmitted on television. Private Potter, starring Tom Courtenay as a soldier accused of cowardice during the Cyprus emergency, soon followed, as did other television plays and several novels, including The Girl in Melanie Klein. His first stage play, March Hares, was produced in Liverpool in 1964.

Though he went on to write or collaborate on successful film scripts, among them One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1970, the theatre was his principal outlet. As he said, he couldn’t ditch the snobbish belief that film was an inferior art form: “It’s what I grew up with. Novels were important. Plays were important. Films were . . . populist.” He also felt that the theatre, unlike the cinema, “was a marvellous arena for ideas and language, with proper arguments and emotions”.

In 1977 his adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold transferred from Manchester to the West End. A year later, A Family brought Paul Scofield to the Haymarket Theatre. Yet it was The Dresser in 1980, with Courtenay as the camp factotum of a “Sir” played by Freddie Jones, that gave Harwood his first big success. Next year the play moved successfully to Broadway and in 1983 became a film, with both Courtenay and Albert Finney, who played “Sir” to his Norman, nominated for Oscars. It continues to be regularly revived, with Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins playing the leads on television in 2015 and, in 2016, Reece Shearsmith and Ken Stott starring in the West End.

Harwood’s Deliberate Death of Polish Priest, based on the trial of the security police for the murder of the title-character, was staged at the Almeida Theatre in 1985, and Another Time, a semi-autobiographic piece with Finney and Janet Suzman as warring parents, at Wyndham’s in 1989. Some of the plays that followed were non-political – Poison Pen, about the mysterious death of the composer Peter Warlock, in 1993, and Quartet, a portrait of retired opera singers, in 1999 – but increasingly Harwood’s stage work involved the issues raised by antisemitism, Nazism and the Holocaust.

Taking Sides, about the relationship of the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler with the Hitler regime, had a long afterlife on both stage and screen after Pinter first directed it at Chichester in 1995. The Handyman, in which an elderly odd-job man of Ukrainian origin is accused of involvement in a wartime massacre of Jews, followed in 1996. Mahler’s Conversion, about the Jewish composer’s opportunist conversion to Catholicism in a bigoted Vienna, proved a failure in the West End in 2001. However, there were good reviews in 2008 for An English Tragedy, about John Amery, the fanatic fascist hanged for treason in 1945.

All these plays displayed not only Harwood’s dramatic energy, fairness and determination to enter the minds of deeply flawed people but the pessimism that, he said, he had never lost after learning about the death camps as an 11-year-old. “Civilisation is no defence against barbarism” he said. “Germany was the most cultured nation in Europe and look what happened.”

Despite the success of his screen adaptations, it wasn’t until Roman Polanski’s film The Pianist, about a Jewish musician’s precarious survival in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, that Harwood’s work achieved international renown. His screenplay won him an Oscar, though it did not lessen his scepticism about Hollywood, where, he said writers were “terribly treated” and “people read books only to see if they will make movies”. Ignored by the celebrities and clutching his statuette, he and Natasha fled Vanity Fair’s post-awards party, to sup chicken soup in bed at their hotel.

Harwood was a civilised man, with a love of music often reflected in his plays, but also modest, self-effacing, companionable and fun. In later years he took mischievous relish in being seen as politically incorrect, which perhaps explained why he was said to be Margaret Thatcher’s favourite playwright. Though a heart attack and radical surgery in 2013 forced him to give up cigarettes, he publicly battled the government’s prohibitions. As he told The Times in 2009, cricket and smoking were his passions: “My first cigarette in the morning with my coffee is my best. I look down and I’m shocked: 20 have gone already. How lovely!” In 2010 he inveighed against the cult of Brecht, calling him one of the most boring playwrights ever: “I only have to think of Mother Courage and, if I can’t sleep at night, I’m off.” And in 2016 the object of his exasperation was the fashion for casting women in male roles. This was not to happen in his plays until copyright lapsed 75 years after his death – “and then,” he added, “they can do what they f***ing well like”.

After the triumph of The Pianist offers of film work poured in, almost all of which he declined. A remake of Oliver Twist for Polanski in 2005 was no great success. Nor was Australia for Baz Luhrmann in 2008. However, the film of his Quartet in 2012 was well received and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in 2007 won him a Bafta award and an Oscar nomination for his extraordinary skill in finding a screen form for the predicament of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the paralysed stroke victim who learnt to communicate by blinking. Harwood was, he said, particularly attracted to situations displaying, as here, “triumph over adversity”.

He is survived by his three children: Antony, a literary agent, Alexandra, a composer for film and TV, and Deborah, a potter and artist.

Harwood was active in literary and human rights causes, including chairing the Royal Society of Literature and holding the presidency of PEN International. Although he had won the regard of the Establishment he never felt part of it. “I don’t think of myself that way,” he said. “I always think of myself as slightly outside. You can’t be more outside than a Jewish immigrant from South Africa, can you?”

(Sir Ronald Harwood CBE, playwright and screenwriter, was born on November 9, 1934 and died of undisclosed causes on September 8, 2020, aged 85)


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.