Egypt, Cairo, 21 October 2023
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Prayers and peace be upon our Prophet Mohammad,
My brother, Your Excellency President Abdel Fattah El Sisi,
Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies,
Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.
My thanks to His Excellency the President for convening this meeting during these difficult times, so we can work urgently together to stop this humanitarian disaster pushing our entire region into the abyss.
Allow me to speak in English to our friends from Europe and the world who join us here today. My message is to them.
Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.
This is how Muslims and Arabs greet others: with a wish for the other to be blessed with peace and the mercy of God.
Our religion came with a message of peace. The Pact of Omar, issued at the gates of Jerusalem almost 15 centuries ago, more than a thousand years before the Geneva Conventions, ordered Muslim soldiers not to kill a child, a woman or an old person, not to destroy a tree, not to harm a priest, not to destroy a church.
Those are the rules of engagement that Muslims must accept and abide by, as should all those who believe in our common humanity. All civilian lives matter!
I am outraged and grieved by those acts of violence waged against innocent civilians in Gaza, in the West Bank, and Israel.
The relentless bombing campaign underway in Gaza as we speak is cruel and unconscionable – on every level.
It is collective punishment of a besieged and helpless people.
It is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.
It is a war crime.
Yet, the deeper the crisis cuts of cruelty, the less the world seems to care.
Anywhere else, attacking civilian infrastructure and deliberately starving an entire population of food, water, electricity, and basic necessities would be condemned. Accountability would be enforced, immediately, unequivocally.
And it has been done before – recently, in another conflict.
But not in Gaza. It’s been two weeks since Israel put in place the complete siege of the Gaza Strip. And still, for the most part, global silence.
Yet the message the Arab world is hearing is loud and clear: Palestinian lives matter less than Israeli ones. Our lives matter less than other lives. The application of international law is optional. And human rights have boundaries – they stop at borders, they stop at races, and they stop at religions.
That is a very, very dangerous message, as the consequences of continued international apathy and inaction will be catastrophic – on us all.
We cannot let raw emotions dictate the moment; our priorities today are clear and urgent:
First: An immediate end to the war on Gaza, the protection of civilians, and the adoption of a unified position that indiscriminately condemns the targeting of all civilians, in line with our shared values and international law, which loses all value if it is implemented selectively.
Second: The sustained and uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid, fuel, food, and medicines to the Gaza Strip.
Third: The unequivocal rejection of the forced displacement or internal displacement of the Palestinians. This is a war crime according to international law, and a red line for all of us.
This conflict, my friends, did not start two weeks ago, and it will not stop if we continue down this blood-soaked path. We know all too well that it will only lead to more of the same – a zero-sum game of death and destruction, of hatred and hopelessness played on repeat.
Today, Israel is literally starving civilians in Gaza, but for decades, Palestinians have been starved of hope, of freedom, and a future.
Because when the bombs stop falling, Israel is never held accountable, the injustices of occupation continue and the world walks away, until the next round of violence. The bloodshed we are witnessing today is the price of that, of failing to make tangible progress towards a political horizon that brings peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Israeli leadership must realise that there is no military solution to its security concerns, that it cannot continue to sideline the five million Palestinians living under its occupation, denied of their legitimate rights, and that Palestinians lives are no less valuable than Israeli lives.
The Israeli leadership must realise, once and for all, that a state can never thrive if it is built on the foundations of injustice.
Over the past 15 years, we have seen how the dreams of a two-state solution and the hopes of an entire generation have turned into despair. This has been the policy of hardline Israeli leadership – to focus solely on security over peace and create new illegal realities on the ground that render an autonomous Palestinian state unviable. In the process, it has empowered extremists on both sides.
But we must not – we cannot – write off this conflict as too far gone, for the sake of both the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Our collective and unified message to the Israeli people should be: We want a future of peace and security for you and for the Palestinians, where your children and Palestinian children should no longer live in fear.
It is our duty as the international community to do whatever it takes to restart a meaningful political process that can take us to a just and sustainable peace on the basis of the two-state solution.
The only path to a safe and secure future for the people of the Middle East and the entire world – for the Jewish people, for Christians, for Muslims alike – starts with the belief that every human life is of equal value and it ends with two states, Palestine and Israel, sharing land and peace from the river to the sea.
The time to act is now.
Thank you all.
Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you. •
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