David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

The Arab Jet Set



The first time I realised that there is a lot more to the Middle East than meets the eye was in the days of the Arab economic boycott of Israel. The Egyptian cotton crop was threatened by some worm, and Egypt had appealed to Israel to supply the chemical to save it. I heard about this from an Israeli friend, an industrialist, who was ordered to supply the steel barrels required for the shipment. Nor do I forget the Black September moment in Amman when I saw Palestinian women streaming out of a refugee camp to escape Jordanian troops coming for them. “We go to Moshe Dayan,” the women were shouting, perfectly well able to distinguish between potential killers and potential rescuers. Not so long afterwards, in a smart hotel in Tel Aviv I met a Palestinian poet who had become notorious for writing a verse boasting about eating the livers of Jews. Here was the poet socialising and drinking with the Israeli elite. Another friend, a specialist in the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, used to tell me how Saudis and Iraqis and even militant PLO members would insist on making difficult trips to have consultations with him.

Aisha Qaddafi, daughter of the late dictator, has the bad record that is only to be expected. Hers was a life of Arab jet set privilege. She was on the defense team of Saddam Hussein, whose daughters are in exile in Jordan. Now she is in exile in Algeria, and hopes to have the International Criminal Court investigate the deaths of her father and brothers. Who is she employing for her lawyer? One Nick Kaufman, an Israeli.

Perhaps there is an echo here of an ancient stereotype that the best doctors and lawyers are Jewish. And perhaps like others, Aisha Qaddafi is a realist for whom results have priority over ideology. Every so often, these intimations of a quite alternative and practical routine of accommodation and co-operation arise in the Middle East — and about which the media, either out of prejudice or ignorance, are silent.


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