In light of my imminent attendance at the Jerusalem Conference at Birzeit University (Ramallah) this coming Saturday, I would like to honor one of the keynote speakers:
Ahmed Qurei, a well known Palestinian figure and a former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, served under Yassir Arafat at the height of the 2nd Intifada in 2003. Qurei filled Abu Mazen’s (Mahmoud Abbas’) shoes after he decided to resign at that point in time.
Although a prominent politician in his day, Qurei, like many Palestinian leaders, ceded to corrupt means at the expense of his own people. Qurei comes from a wealthy family with major stock in an Egyptian cement company called Al-Quds Cement (Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem).
As most of you already know, Israel is currently in the process of constructing a “Separation Barrier” along the Oslo specified Green Line which lies between the West Bank and Israel. While the true motives of Israel’s decision to execute this costly project are debatable, there is no doubt that the violence accompanying the Intifada served as a major catalyst for Israel’s decision. Qurei, a businessman, found himself in a political position at the wrong time, at a time when the deal was ripe.
It didn’t take long for the Palestinian nation to learn what Qurei had done. Officials of a parliamentary committee discovered that Qurei’s Al-Quds Cement Co. had made a contract with the Israeli government for the sale of concrete for the specific purpose of constructing the Separation Barrier.
It’s not that complex of a scenario. This is the same separation barrier that many, if not most, Palestinians refer to as “The Apartheid Wall.” It serves a major talking point in the Palestinian narrative citing the injustices of Israel’s policies. It’s big, it’s ugly, and it padded the pockets of a man appointed by Arafat.
Please don’t interpret this blog post as a defense for Israel’s construction of the barrier. In many cases, I see the purpose of the wall as a tool for annexation of land in the West Bank (like in the West Bank town of Jayyus). I also see the wall as a means for Israel to reduce the Arab population of Jerusalem as a proactive move in making a case for the retention of the entire city of Jerusalem (like in the case of Shofat). I acknowledge the security value of maintaining a separation between Israel and the West Bank, but the process by which Israel is doing so is appalling.
To conclude this late-night revelatory rant, I would like to say how excited I am to see such a corrupt, conniving man like Qurei speak on Saturday. He holds a criminal celebrity status that few men are able to claim. Then again, few men have sold out their people on such a large scale for the sake of capital gains. The irony of the whole situation is that Qurei, while a selfish swine, still has the nerve to step onto the same stage and follow a speech by a true patriot like Rashid Khalidi. I lament for the Palestinian nation, and hope for their sake that they find some competency in a leader. Maybe at that point in time, they’ll find some justice.