Formed in 1969, spanning over four continents with 57 member countries, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which claims to be a ‘collective voice’ of the Muslim world, has gradually lost its effectiveness due to internal rift and competing national interests among its member states. However, Trump’s recent decision on Jerusalem has presented the OIC another opportunity to revive its effectiveness and respect among the Muslim world.
In reaction to Trump’s decision, Turkey as the chair of the OIC called an ‘extraordinary’ summit. This was the sixth ‘extraordinary’ summit of the OIC since its establishment. During the summit, the OIC appealed to the world to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. It also reiterated its support for the Palestinian cause and condemned the violence of Israeli defence forces against Palestinian nonviolent protestors. Palestinian President Mehmoud Abbas also condemned the decision of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said that the US has lost its position as a mediator.
However, the current summit seems another episode of the OIC’s lip service over the Palestinian cause. Contrary to emotional claims at OIC forums, some member states have good relations with Israel. For instance, Israel imports more than 77% of its oil from the Kurdish region of Iraq through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Likewise, due to national and regional security imperatives, the US maintains cordial relations with a majority of the OIC members. Many wait anxiously for the US aid every year. In this backdrop, will OIC member countries abandon their relations with the US or Israel? Will Turkey and Iraq discontinue oil transactions with Israel? The answer is NO.
So what can the OIC do beyond words? Perhaps, the OIC can adopt three concrete and practical measures, which can not only sensitise the Palestinian cause but can also rejuvenate the effectiveness of the organisation. Firstly, the OIC’s extraordinary summit might not break silence of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Hence, the OIC can call special session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Since 1947, 30 special sessions have been called by the members of the UNSC or the UN general secretary. Among which two were on the Palestinian conflict in 1947 and 1948 by the UK and the UNSC, respectively. It is unfortunate that Muslim countries have never called special sessions either for Palestine or Kashmir. By convening a UNGA special session, the OIC can present a resolution for condemnation of Trump’s decision and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
Secondly, member states of the OIC can make their own relations with countries, other than Israel and the US, dependent on their reaction to Trump’s decision on Jerusalem at various levels with seriousness. This proactive approach can increase the list of supportive countries for the Palestinian cause and will help in restraining the diplomatic manoeuvering of Israel for recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. The focus should be on passing the resolution in the UNGA against Trump’s decision and Israel’s occupation.
Lastly, the OIC has not remained consistent in sensitising the Palestinian issue. It had passed several resolutions of solidarity with Palestinians in the past but couldn’t practically sensitise and successfully develop a collective approach to deal with the issue. Last year on March 7th, the OIC called its fifth ‘extraordinary’ session in Jakarta and repeated the same words that have been said in Istanbul on December 13th this year. Hence, rather passing more resolutions and convening ‘extraordinary’ sessions, the OIC must practically engage other countries, particularly the Western community, consistently to put diplomatic pressure on the US and Israel for a resolution of the dispute.
It is not expected that another episode of lip service by the OIC could change the fate of Palestinians. The OIC must take practical measures — call a UNGA special session, make relations dependent with other countries on the Palestinian cause, consistently manoeuver for diplomatic actions — in order to provide hope to the Palestinians whose two complete generations have experienced occupation and repression at the hands of Israel.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2017.