Islamic Leaders: Yes, Our World is in Crisis But Palestine Must Remain ‘The Central Issue’

By Patrick Goodenough | March 7, 2016 | 6:49pm EST
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, center, wanted by the ICC for war crimes and genocide, attends an Islamic bloc summit in Jakarta on Monday, March 7, 2016. Others in the photo include Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (AP Photo/ Dita Alangkara)

( – Islamic nations’ leaders meeting in Indonesia Monday acknowledged the chaos wracking parts of the Muslim world, but said that should not move the spotlight away from “the central issue” for the world’s Muslim community: Palestine.

A resolution endorsed at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) “extraordinary” summit on the Palestinian issue said the leaders were “aware of the tragic spread of crises” in the Islamic world, including armed conflicts and terrorism.

“Nonetheless,” it said, that situation “should not divert international attention from the cause of Palestine and al-Quds al-Sharif [Jerusalem], which must remain the central issue of the Islamic ummah [global community].”

Millions of people – mostly Muslims – have been killed, maimed, terrorized or displaced in OIC members Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere in recent years.

Among the leaders gathered in Jakarta was Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told the Antara state news agency Bashir had been included on the invitation list because Sudan is an OIC member-state. The indictment and arrest warrant was a matter between Bashir and the ICC, “and has nothing to do with the OIC,” he said.

Bashir has traveled multiple times since the ICC issued warrants for his arrest in 2009 and 2010, mostly to countries in the Middle East and Africa. Parties to the Rome Statute, the treaty which established the ICC, are obliged to honor arrest warrants issued by the tribunal. Indonesia is not a member.

The United States was represented at the two-day meeting in Indonesia by Arsalan Suleman, the Obama administration’s acting special envoy to the 57-member OIC.

When he addressed the meeting on Sunday, Suleman said the violence must stop, stressing that there was “no justification for acts of terrorism now or ever.”

“We all have watched over the past year and a half as waves of horrific attacks against civilians have washed across Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip,” he said.

“The United States has unequivocally condemned acts of terrorism, and called on both sides to take steps to reduce tensions and end the violence.”

Suleman urged the OIC to “condemn with equal vigor all violence against innocent Palestinians and Israelis.”

However, a resolution and a separate Jakarta Declaration issued by the OIC leaders on Monday were silent on the spate of violent attacks carried out by Palestinians in Israeli cities since last fall, on the firing of rockets from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, or any other violence directed at Israelis.

The leaders gave “unequivocal support” for Palestinians’ “legal right to resist” the occupation.

The documents repeatedly condemned the Israeli government, accusing it of carrying out a “brutal and criminal onslaught” on innocent Palestinians, and of encouraging Israeli citizens to be armed, “to terrorize and torment Palestinian civilians and to wreak havoc and destruction.”

Israel was further accused of endangering the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City – the third holiest site in Islam – and was blamed exclusively for the failure of more than 20 years of negotiations, due to its “lack of political will” and its “intransigence.”

The leaders approved a range of measures to increase pressure on Israel, threw their weight behind a boycott of Israeli goods produced in the disputed territories, and agreed to set up an expert legal group to study options for referring “human rights violations in Palestine” to international bodies.

The U.S. Congress also earned a mention, accused of taking the “illogical position” of punishing the Palestinian Authority for attempts to secure membership of U.N. agencies and the ICC.

The OIC resolution regretted “the illogical position taken by certain countries and entities, including by the United States Congress, aimed at taking punitive measures against the government of the State of Palestine for pursuing legitimate and peaceful venues to seek redress from illegal measures and policies of the occupying power.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, closing the summit, said that if the OIC is not part of the solution to the Palestinian problem, then the 47-year-old bloc will become irrelevant.

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