The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Maksoud Calls for Unified Arab Diplomacy to Thwart Netanyahu

by Katherine Metres

June/July 1997

According to former Arab League Ambassador to the United Nations Clovis Maksoud, it is time for coordinated Arab diplomacy “to make Israel’s actions costly” and to shock the United States into taking a more even-handed position. Maksoud, currently professor  of international relations and director of the Center for the Global South at American University in Washington, DC, was keynote speaker at the March 23 10th anniversary benefit dinner and costume exhibition of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation, founded by Farah and Hanan Munayyer. Held at the Marriott Hotel in Teaneck, New Jersey, the event rallied Arab Americans to support efforts to educate the public about Palestine’s heritage.

                                                                                The Maksouds and Munayyers

The permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Dr. Nasser Kidweh, along with Muslim, Christian and Druze religious leaders, were among the 400 persons in attendance. Sister Jane Frances Brady, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Patterson, NJ.   was awarded a wooden from Bethlehem for making her hospital more responsive to the needs of the Arab-American community. The Foundation’s citation noted that “This gift depicts the first Palestinian to carry a cross. 

Today we [Palestinians] all carry a bit of a cross.” Ambassador Maksoud, who resigned in protest from his Arab League ambassadorship during the 1990 Gulf crisis, sought to rally fellow Arabs to defend Jerusalem from Israeli aggrandizement during the current crisis. “This is the litmus test of what remains of the Arab will and the Palestinian commitment,” he said. He emphasized the need to make Jerusalem the “capital of a pluralistic civilization” in which the three monotheistic religions “reinforce each other rather than trying to destroy each other.”

                                                                     Sister Jane Frances, receiving Award and gift.

Maksoud called for international solidarity as the “critical counterweight to the Israeli lobby’s undue influence on U.S. Middle East policy.” A policy guided by American values would insist that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are occupied, he said, and therefore Israeli behavior must conform to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars occupiers from settling their own people in occupied territories.

Stressing Arab unity, Ambassador Maksoud lamented, “We talk brotherhood but act enemy hood.” He called for coordinated Arab diplomacy that would break diplomatic relations with Israel over its unilateral acts in occupied Jerusalem. “It is necessary to make Israel’s actions costly in order to extract from the United States a more objective, even-handed position,” he concluded.
                                                                                        Dress from Nazareth

In the costume show that followed the address, the Palestinian Heritage Foundation presented its collection of traditional embroidered bridal dresses, complete with headpieces and veils. Most of the handmade dresses were made around the turn of the century. The brightly colored dresses were embroidered with silk thread dyed with henna, saffron, and other herbs.

 The costume collection has been exhibited at museums and institutions throughout North America. Palestine was known for dressmaking before the time of Christ, a commentator noted. She said that “Canaan” means “the land of the purple,” a reference to the textile dye extracted from shellfish that became associated with royalty in the ancient world.

Famed Palestinian musician Simon Shaheen and his ensemble provided musical accompaniment to the dress exhibition. The evening also featured a sale of Palestinian paintings, tile work, calligraphy and works made from earthen materials.