by Azra Naseem
The new Maldivian government welcomed Palestinian leader Dr Mahmood Abbas yesterday. It was the first time in 28 years an Arab leader visited the Maldives. The last such visit was by Yasser Arafat in 1984.
Maldivian people, like other Muslims across the world, have sympathised with the plight of Palestinians for decades. All Maldivians over thirty years of age will remember a long-running campaign on national television in the 1980s, with a picture of the golden dome of Masjid Al Aqsa. It was an appeal to Maldivians to make donations to what was called the ‘Qudus Fund’ to help the suffering Palestinians.
None of the rhetoric of the time relied on anti-Semitism to help gain public support for the Palestine cause. It was a campaign run on empathy with Palestinians and not hatred of Israel.
Fast forward some two decades, and it is an entirely different story–what drives our Palestinian policy now is not love of our ‘Muslim brothers and sisters’ but hatred of Israel and Jews; and political point scoring. Evidence of this was on full display during Dr Abbas’s visit today.