Oil and Israel are responsible for the plight of Palestinians, according to Palestinian journalist Abdel al-Bari Atwan in a lecture titled “Palestine: The Way Forward” at McGill last Friday.
Born in the Gaza Strip in 1950, Atwan is the editor-in-chief of Britain-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, often censored or banned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan due to its strong criticism of Arab regimes’ conciliation with the U.S. and Israel.
Atwan began his discussion speaking of American foreign policy and the impacts of oil, asserting it is the most significant factor in determining affairs in the Middle East.
“Anybody who puts their hands on the Middle East’s oil will control the future of the world,” he said.
Atwan also suggested that the U.S. may launch a war against Iran, aided by Israel and moderate Arab states.
“The next country following in Iraq’s footsteps is Iran. They are definitely trying to produce a nuclear bomb…. [The U.S. has] a president who is a warmonger, and doesn’t want to leave office without saying, ‘Look, I managed to neutralize the Iranian weapon program.’”
But even if moderate Arab states opposed a war against Iran, their reluctance would likely not be influential, Atwan claimed.
The journalist showed little optimism for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, singling out Israel for an ineffective attitude toward peace and implicating Israelis for hostile relations with Palestinians.
“I don’t believe Israel is capable of making peace with Palestinians,” he said.
“I don’t know what we did to God, as Palestinians, to receive this enemy… As Palestinians we don’t like to kill and be killed. We would like to be normal. We would like to be painters, teachers, and to be normal…peace is still far away,” Atwan said. “It is not because of us. We want peace with the Israelis. But we have two curses in our part of the world, oil and Israel.”
When an audience member mentioned Canadian airport security’s treatment of Arabs, Atwan urged the audience to protect Canada’s image as a welcoming country, which he felt was being impaired by the war on terror.
“Canada should be raising its voice and protecting its interests. I don’t know why it is following American footsteps into Afghanistan. We should keep the image of Canada as a neutral nation. But this is up to you, not to me,” he said.
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, the Coalition for Peace and Justice in Palestine, and Montreal’s Badr Islamic Center hosted Atwan’s visit to McGill.