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Firas Al-Atraqchi: Palestinian Lives Not For Sale

"The Princess has just donated her Rolls-Royce and an ox," said the Saudi telethon host gleefully, pride swelling in his mid-sized chest.

All around the world, and particularly the Arab/Muslim world, relief agencies have been inundated with food, blankets and financial assistance for the distraught Palestinian refugees and hapless victims of a brutal Nazi Israeli onslaught.

A telethon held on Saudi Arabian national television promised that all donations would be funneled to the reconstruction of destroyed Palestinian infrastructure, compensating civilians for the loss of their livelihood, and donating financial assistance to families who have lost martyrs defending their homes and villages.

Sound good?

Not really.

While the Palestinians are desperately in need of financial and moral support in the Middle East and elsewhere, they also require, indeed demand, strong Arab governments who respect the will of their people and do not practice the apathetic strategy of masked rhetoric.

Unfortunately, foreign interests (the Arabs have 3.2 trillion dollars invested in North American and European markets) matter more than hundreds of Palestinian lives. Arab leadership has failed both the Palestinians and the Arab nation as a whole. In times of crises, nations look to their leaders for guidance. That has been suspiciously missing in the Arab world in the past few weeks.

First, we have Egyptian President Mubarak who has not yet addressed his people. Instead, Egyptian riot police barbarically beat, harass, and kill their own people who dare to speak out against Nazi Israeli atrocities in Occupied Palestine. When Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Egypt yesterday, it was Egypt's Foreign Minister Maher that spoke to the press. Mubarak, who has always informed us how much he likes to watch CNN, seemed camera shy.

Next we move on to Jordan's King Abdullah, who rules a nation that is comprised of 75 percent ethnic Palestinians. He has not yet addressed his people, instead letting his riot police kill a 10-year-old Palestinian boy east of Amman and outlawing any demonstrations of protest against his friend Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. When the CNN crew hopped along with Powell to Jordan, Abdullah got off his laurels and gave CNN's Christiane Amanpour an exclusive interview.

"Arafat is a hero," Abdullah tells Amanpour.

Talk is cheap.

Why is Abdullah labeling Arafat a hero? What happened to the hundreds of Palestinians who were massacred because they had the dignity to defend themselves and the faith to sustain the vision of a homeland in their hearts? Could Abdullah stand up like a man and tell CNN that he stands behind every Palestinian who defends his home from pillage, plunder, rape and murder. No, he would rather whimper like a mouse and send his wife out to speak for him. In the Arab world, I believe, they have names for men like that.

In the end, all the telethons and all the rhetoric will not aid the Palestinians in their righteous quest for a homeland. In the end, all the financial assistance is nothing but blood money; money paid for the deaths of Palestinians who have been forsaken by their Muslim and Arab neighbors. Blood money to soothe the combined guilty conscience of cowardly Arab governments and the people who help sustain them.

- Firas Al-Atraqchi, MA, is a Canadian journalist living on the Pacific Coast

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