On January 5, 2014, Iyad Madani, secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, visited the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and declared the launching of “Islamic Tourism Year” for the Holy City.
This rare visit exposed some of the struggles within Sunni Islam, along with the real nature of Qatar’s reconciliation with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Madani is a citizen of Saudi Arabia.
The call for Islamic tourism in Jerusalem constitutes a challenge to the stance of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which call for boycotting tourism to Israel because it implies “normalization” with Israel and a rejection of the military struggle to liberate Jerusalem; the city cannot be attacked if large throngs of Muslim tourists are in it. Egypt supports the Palestinian Authority’s stance that the struggle for Jerusalem can be waged, among other things, through massive tourism that emphasizes Jerusalem’s centrality to Islam and, economically speaking helps the Palestinians “stand firm” in the disputed city.
But the event also revealed the side of the Qatar-Egypt reconciliation that pertains to Israel. Al Jazeera TV denounced the visit, highlighted Hamas’ opposition to it and interviewed Sheikh Raed Salah who was unsparing in harsh criticism of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.
The upshot is that the agreement between Qatar and the other Arab states does not include the Palestinian problem – or Israel, and in the Israeli domain, Qatar continues to play an inciting, provocative role.
Now that Egypt has compelled Qatar to cease its anti-Egyptian propaganda, Israel must make clear to Qatar that it too will not tolerate subversion.