David Calling

The ‘Istanbul Process’: A Success for Muslim Diplomacy

The ease with which Muslim diplomats outdo their Western opposite numbers is impressive. An outstanding example is the brilliance with which Iranian spokesmen vary the steady progress of the Iranian nuclear program with offers to negotiate. Apparently incapable of learning from their mistakes, Western representatives fall every time for this really rather simple deception. Muslim spokesmen are equally brilliant at exploiting international forums like the United Nations and its committees, or the Arab League, to misrepresent reality and lay a smokescreen of blame over the West. The European Union often gives the impression that it is an executive arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The so-called “Istanbul process” is the latest development in these sinister apologetics.

This seems to be the brainchild of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — of all 57 member states. Some of these countries have long tried to maintain that any criticism of their despotism, tribalism, oppression of women, anti-Semitism, and war-mongering has no relation to morals or humanism but merely signifies Western bias against Islam. In short, they hope that a ban on free speech in the West will enable them to carry on with the exercise of historic power. They have scored many a diplomatic success, for instance getting the American government to substitute the ridiculous phrase “man-made disaster” for an act of Islamist terror. Although its proceedings are hardly reported in the press, the “Istanbul process” is evidently the latest attempt to censure truth-telling as un-Islamic and so prohibit it. Westerners should have nothing to do with this. Yet with that mysterious surrender that seems to come naturally to him, President Obama has consented to American participation in the “Istanbul process.” That too is a success for Muslim diplomacy.

Commentators are generally writing off the Arab Spring but it has released a lot of dissent. As Patriarch Bishara al-Rai, head of the Maronite church in Lebanon, told Reuters, “We are with the Arab Spring but we are not with this spring of violence, war, destruction and killing.” Hussein Abdul-Hussein, a senior Kuwaiti journalist, wrote in his newspaper that the total number of Palestinians killed by Israelis since 1987 is around 9,000 while Assad has killed an equal number of his own in a year. Tariq al-Homayad, editor of Asharq al-Awsat, the Saudi newspaper published in London, goes further, saying that if Israelis kill Arabs then “we must all move as one to put an end to it,” but if the killer is an Arab “this is something we can accept.” He concludes, “This is a saddening and shameful state of affairs.” When the veteran PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi recently demanded that the international community brand Israel an apartheid state, the Palestinian Ramzi Abu Hadid answered her. How come, he asks, that she, a Christian, never mentions the Muslim persecution of Christians, the dream of many Muslims to emigrate into Israel, the gender apartheid of Saudi Arabia where women have no rights, and much more expressed with blistering passion.

Free spirits like these are depicting reality, while the “Istanbul process” is designed to distort and obscure it. More than that, they are defending values and beliefs which craven and foolish Western statesmen and their diplomatic representatives are abandoning.

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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