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February 18, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Summit


Sorry for the Roman analogy. 

Actually, this classic image, featuring (l to r) Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, shows the three men walking into the Grand Mosque in Mecca a little over a week ago.  The image coincides with the agreement, between Fatah and Hamas, to form a new Palestinian coalition government.

My question is, did Condi somehow miss this picture, or its implication?  I mean, if one photo ever hinted at a new political wrinkle….

But who knows.  Maybe Rice planned a three way summit between herself, Abbas and Israel’s Olmert with no sense Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas could be getting together. If not, however, why — almost ten days later now — didn’t she have a better countermove than to go ahead with a summit, scheduled for Monday, in which the U.S. holds no leverage?  I mean, isn’t this getting a little old already?

For indication of the latest State Department M.E. fiasco, you just have to scan the visuals.

Yesterday’s shot at, is a good example.  Notice the clearly frustrated, if not humiliated State Department official, David Welch, after Abbas tells him he and Hamas are sporting the same robes these days.  (If you read the article, by the way, also notice how Condi’s “summit,” which was touted as leading to a final peace agreement, is now being referred to as just a “meeting.”)

With all the violence marking the Fatah-Hamas power struggle, there’s no telling if the alliance will work.  Still, this group shot is striking, reflective of far greater Mid-East solidarity — if only, just pretend — than Bush, Rove and Condi could even begin to work up.

(Suhaib Salem / EPA.  Mecca. February 9, 2007 via

  • ummabdulla

    For a Muslim, this is quite a normal picture. They’re making umrah (the minor pilgrimage), and all men dress in the same simple way. For part of the ritual, they uncover the right shoulder. We often see news photos of Arab leaders like this.
    The Arab leaders are always being asked why they don’t show some leadership and have some influence over the Palestinians, so that’s what King Abdullah did. And it was pretty shrewd to do it in Makkah, a city which non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.
    From the CBS News link: “President Abbas told David Welch that the Mecca agreement was the only possible agreement and the world must deal with it…”
    I’m surprised that Abbas would have made such a strong statement, but what he said is exactly right. The alternative was for continued fighting among Palestinian factions – something that the Palestinians had mostly managed to avoid during all these difficult years. The Palestinians have always know that their fight was not with each other. (The U.S. and Israel seem to want that, though. Now that there’s a unity government, it looks like they’re still going to boycott it and try to starve the people into accepting their conditions. A united Palestine isn’t their goal.) Palestinians in particular, and Arabs and Muslims more generally, were saddened to see the factions fighting each other.
    By the way, all of these pundits underestimate the importance of religion. Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal might be religious, and Mahmoud Abbas might be secular, but there’s a bond – emphasized by their making the pilgrimage and praying together – that they just won’t have with Western diplomats.
    I’m sure the American diplomats also are pertty ignorant about the religious symbolism.

  • jtfromBC

    Has Condoleezza Rice ever had an accurate picture of the M.E., was with holding monies from a democratically elected government a good idea ?
    “There is no doubt that the Saudi position has finally revitalized the role of Arab states in regional conflicts (the Mecca agreement was signed after incessant talks between Fatah and Hamas in Egypt and Jordan).
    London-based Saudi analyst Mai Yamani suggests that the Mecca agreement is an attempt to quell Iran’s growing influence in the region. “Iran has been financing Hamas, while the Saudis in the last few months even refused to meet [Hamas Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh. They realised that if there is more chaos in the Palestinian territories, Iran will have more influence.”

  • lowly grunt

    Is anyone else really, truly glad that Rice was not a part of this group pic?
    That’s a mental image I’ll need to surgically remove….

  • Wordsmith

    Yeah, “all men”. Nothing like patriarchal religions, eh, ummabdulla?

  • F


    ‘Palestinian’ unity

    Israel, US rebuff Makkah accord

    Finally some “unity”… some common ground, evil-intention people can agree upon.

    For the only ‘unity’ among ‘Palestinian Arabs’ is the anti Israel fascism of not even recognizing the “stranger”, the “other”, the non Muslim (mainly), the non Arab (mostly).

    A “unity” Orchestrated by those that export to the world the textbooks as “Christians being Pigs, Jews apes”, the wonderful “moderate” Saudi Arabia, the Hatred kingdom, of course.

    Did you ever think this oily rich Goliath would ever lift a finger for it’s Arab brothers?
    “Next to the Jews, we hate the ‘Palestinians’ the most.”

    said Saudi King Fahd.

    What else is there “unity” among Arab, Muslim bitter bloody enemies of neighbour vs neighbour, brother vs brother, sect vs sect?

    Humanity? Goodwill? Are you kidding?

    As in Hezbollah Islamists terrorists that made sure Arab kids died with their tactics in a way to blame it on Israel.

    The normal world says:
    “what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”

    The death cult says:
    “What unites us [for now...] is to smite them”.

    What unites evil is, ‘wiping off map’, ‘no right to exist’, ‘drive them all into the sea’, second holocaust, you name it!

  • Rafael

    F…what an apt nom de guerre!
    Free Israel? From what?
    Oh wait never mind, first rule of the Internets, NEVER FEED THE TROLLS!

  • jtfromBC

    The more things change the more they stay the same, here’s an interesting take on Israel in view of plans to boycott the Palestinians.
    The Palestinian Accords, Facing Mecca By URI AVNERY
    February 17 / 18, 2007

  • jtfromBC

    ATTENTION: feeding a Troll
    Wednesday, May 03, 2006 Juan Cole, Informed Comment
    Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as having “threatened to wipe Israel off the map.” I object to this translation ..
    .. the actual quote, which comes from an old speech of Khomeini, does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all… it is just an inexact translation. The phrase is almost metaphysical. He quoted Khomeini that “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.” It is in fact probably a reference to some phrase in a medieval Persian poem.
    Sunday, August 27, 2006 Juan Cole Informed Comment
    “The schlock Western pundits, journalists and politicians who keep maintaining that Ahmadinejad threatened “to wipe Israel off the map” when he never said those words will never, ever manage to choke out the words Ahmadinejad spoke on Saturday, much less repeat them as a tag line forever after”

  • mugatea

    Toga, toga, toga …

  • ummabdulla

    There are only men in this photo because it’s a picture of these three men. And probably their aides and bodyguards surrounding them. Muslim women do the same rituals, in the same place, at the same time; the only difference is what they wear. I’ve done it myself several times. and The troll can’t do better than that?

  • PTate in FR

    ummabdulla, thanks for the additional understanding of the context of this picture. We don’t have anything comparable in modern Christianity, and it may be hard for Americans to comprehend. I take it that this would be something like seeing Tony Blair, George Bush and Dick Cheney in sackcloth and ashes at an ancient site of pilgrimage, say, Compostela de Santiago. But sackcloth and ashes would imply repentence, and that is not part of this pilgrimage.
    Actually, completely tastelessly, it reminds me of an old, old joke. The Lone Ranger and Tonto are surrounded by angry, armed Indians. To the left, the right, in front of them, behind them. They have no way to escape. The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and says, “well, old friend, it looks like we are surrounded this time. We won’t get out of this one alive.” And Tonto responds, “what do you mean “we”, paleface?”
    From the body language, it seems to me that the three were just asked an awkward question…perhaps, what does this mean for the negotations that you have been having with the United States? And Haniyeh and Meshaal are feeling just a little chagrined by the answer, but Abbas is completely calm. He could be saying, “What do you mean “we”, Christian?”

  • ummabdulla

    PTate, I don’t know if they would be asking reporters’ questions at that time – I doubt it. It may be that they’re just adjusting the piece of cloth to get it right. (Part of the time, they wear it like this.)
    I do think it’s hard for most Americans to understand. Every Muslim would know, at a glance, what that picture was. Muslims around the world face Makkah to pray five times a day, and they’re expected to make hajj (the major pilgrimage to Makkah) at least once in their life if possible. In Muslim countries, the TV stations broadcast the call to prayer five times a day, often with pictures of the Grand Mosque in Makkah. During the hajj every year, kindergarten classes re-enact the hajj, with the little boys dressed in two white pieces of cloth like these men…
    And aside from ignorance of the actual rituals (which are based on the experiences of Abraham and Hajar), there’s a lack of understanding about the role of religion in general. Whether one cares about it from a religious perspective or not, anyone who’s involved in diplomacy, law enforcement, or journalism in the Muslim world should be more knowledgeable, or they’ll be spinning their wheels at best, and probably causing more problems than they solve (as we’ve seen).

  • tina

    During Umrah and Hajj everybody has to get along, and show “brotherhood”, however bitter enemies they may be before or after the observance of this ritual, the observance of which is one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s not like they are in a sauna together putting in same male bonding time (although it’s every bit as hot). As soon as Muslims return from Mecca to their various places of origins, they go back to shooting at each other. The sentiment of the Ummah is a good one, a little like the concept of the Church (body of believers)in Christianity but, same as for Christians, it has not held up very well throughout history. In this picture, they are meeting on hallowed ground. They will not discuss their grievances there. It does not mean they are new best buddies, however. Ummabdullah says we are ignorant of the symbolism, well, it’s just that, just symbolism.
    Women at Mecca have to be totally covered head to toe. And yes, Islam is a patriarchal religion. Totally, utterly, and completely. The differences in dress are the most visible indicator of this.
    All of these overweight old guys look like they are sporting some substantial tits. I vote for hustling them into a burkah as soon as possible. In the name of not only decency but aesthetics. Blech.

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