Friday, April 15, 2011

PLO Representative Fails to Show at Malmö Middle East Peace Initiative

Picture by Ingemar D Kristiansen from Sydsvenskan
Yesterday a peace event was held Malmö on the initiative by business man Dan Olofsson who wanted to bring together Palestinian and Israeli representatives in order to talk about a peaceful future in the Middle East.
The event, which was held in Malmö’s beautiful new dock, was to discuss peace in Middle  and also aimed at strengthening the dialogue forum that was set up in the city in 2010. The forum’s goal is to combat hate crimes such as anti-Semitism which have increased during the last years. The list of speakers included former PM Göran Persson (SD) as well as Alf Svensson from the Christian Democrats alongside Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan. The PLO general delegate to Germany who had been invited to represent the Palestinian side’s wish for peace, did not show up however, cancelling at the last minute referring to the ”situation in Gaza”.
While the money raised at the event will go to the dialogue forum founded by Malmö Mayor Reepalu, the mayor himself was not on the speaker list even though he claims to be at the forefront of combating hate crime in the city. Not bothering to participate in an event to support peace sponsored by own dialogue forum clearly and sadly shows his lack of interest in the matter.
Fred Kahn, the chairman of the Jewish community, was one local representative who participate in the dialogue forum and was also a speaker at yesterday’s event. Joining him was Palestinian leader and member of the Social Democrats, Jamal El-Haj, who spoke about goals of peace in the Middle East, or well, pretended to.
Fred Kahn, who is not a representative of Israeli interests, but of the Jewish community in Malmö, spoke about the need for Malmö citizens to be able to live together in peace, no matter what political stance parties in the Middle East are taking. Local Palestinian Jamal El-Haj, who started his speech by thanking all crowd members for being peace lovers, rather quickly shifted his focus from peace to promoting his own political agenda and his views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his five-minute speech Jamal El-Haj rightly emphasized that Jewish individuals in Malmö cannot be responsible for the politics conducted by the state of Israel. He also said that it is important to understand the historical atrocities that have been conducted against the Jews, such as the Holocaust, which according to him are similar to what is happening to the Palestinian people in “occupied Palestine” today. Jamal El-Haj also expressed his despair that his parents allegedly aren’t able to return to their homeland, which is occupied by the Israelis. He cited various UN resolutions in which he falsely claimed it was stated that the Palestinians have the right to get all of Israel’s land. To summarize, Palestinian representative El-Haj used the opportunity of the forum for an inappropriate speech of Israel-bashing and Holocaust inversion. Little emphasis was put on any matter related to peaceful relations between Jews and Muslims in Malmö and no emphasis was put on peace related matters in the Middle East.
While the international PLO representative did not show up to support peace in the Middle East, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan was present and gave a speech in which he quoted Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s recognition that both Palestinians as well as Israelis need to be able to get their fair share of land in the area which today is Israel and the West Bank. He also mentioned that Israel absolutely has no interest in governing any Palestinian territories and actively seeks to have a healthy, democratic and peaceful neighboring Palestinian state.
Former PM Göran Persson (SD) gave a fantastic speech together with Alf Svensson (KD) and spoke about old memories of meetings with Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat and emphasized that when it comes down to it, we are all people, and we all need to come together for peace, now.
The peace event in Malmö was a nice initiative that failed to deliver even a basic message of peace. The fact that the PLO delegate to Germany did not even show up to support the cause clearly sent a message that there still are many Palestinian representatives who cannot stand behind a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Not even if it means showing up at a symbolic event in the highly conflicted town of Malmö, with a large Muslim population.
The local Palestinian representative was arguably a poor choice of speaker for the event. Jamal El-Haj failed to speak about peace but included his own political views concerning the conflict, when he was invited to represent local Palestinians in Malmö and their wishes for peace.  He also made highly inappropriate comparisons between the situation in the Palestinian territories and the Holocaust. Comparing the situation in the Palestinian territories to the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews were systematically slaughtered, further emphasizes El-Haj’s intent to smear Israel instead of seeking peace and reconciliation. If he was honest, he would admit the complicity of Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini with Hitler in WWII, and try to move forward, instead of spouting Nazi inversion accusations against Israel.

While El-Haj wasn’t the official Palestinian representative, it is still interesting to hear that he never expressed that he wants to live side by side with Israelis, but merely conveyed his wishes for getting his “homeland” back—he is a “one-stater” who wants all of what today is Israel to be under Palestinian control. This is in no way the intent of the UN resolutions he referred to, nor the goal proposed in the international arena by parties such as the EU or Sweden.
While there are certainly members of both the Jewish and Muslim communities who would like to see a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East, this event failed to deliver any notions of peace for the Middle East, and more importantly, the problems which all of Malmö’s citizens are facing today. Both Mayor Reepalu’s failure to participate and lend support to reconciliation, and the choice of an antagonistic local Palestinian representative left everyone feeling that the city authorities are still failing to improve and secure the citizens’ daily lives.
It’s time for Reepalu to do something for the citizens who employ him. And that’s something everyone can agree on.


  1. The mayor Ilmar Reepalu did attend the event and showed his support both for local dialogue and piece.

    Dan Olofsson

  2. The Mayor did attend the event.

    So did almost 600 others, in order to give there support for piece and reconciliation.

    Dan Olofsson

  3. Dear Dan,

    I find it very odd that the founder of the forum was present in the crowd yet failed to even state his presens.

    This is not only weird because the money raised at the event will be forwarded to his cause but also since he is the representative of the city of Malmö.

    This could be interpreted as failing to support the cause of the event.