9 September 2005

This year it was Cairo in early summer. Before that it was Paris in the Spring, Summer in Copenhagen, and Autumn in Seville. About three hundred thousand dollars are wasted on three days, a hundred thousand per day. They're supposed to discuss the Palestinian question. Yet the worse the plight of the Palestinian people, the more enjoyable the venue for U.N./DPI sponsored gathering.

The junket goes on at U.N. expense, regardless of tragic realities on the ground. Under a conveniently general topic, the same clique -- with appropriate additions or subtractions -- meet every year in prized locations with the right climate in the most pleasant season. A kick off by Shashi Tharoor reading a readily available message by the Secretary General -- a carefully worded admonition for both sides to reach a solution. A number of speakers address an audience of grateful repeat guests, most of whom have little impact on anyone anywhere. For three days, with airplane tickets and accommodations fully covered, they exchange views already taken for granted on issues already discussed, with no real regard of what is actually going on. Four years ago, with the cities around Ramallah and Bethlehem raging, the meeting was held in Paris. That required a pre-seminar visit by a beneficiary under the guise of ensuring that the French capital had conference facilities appropriate for such a distinguished gathering. A year later it was Copenhagen in summer. At the time, the whole U.N. system was mobilized to help the distraught residents of the Jenin camp and an investigation team headed by the ever available Ahtisaari was about to look into the tragedy. Yet those assembled in Copenhagen -- most of whom could have met in Ramallah, Nicosia or Cairo -- continued their self-contained deliberation. Last October, the city of choice was none other than Seville, the blossoming regional capital of Andalucia, Spain. It was a futile exercise in political irrelevance -- again at U.N. expense.

As was reported earlier, this year it was Cairo. So, the shameless exploitation of the Palestinian misery goes on unhindered. The road circus remains on the road with no serious questions asked. No single newspaper in the Middle East reports on the gatherings. By now, even the U.N. website hardly mentions it, except for the obligatory statement by the Secretary General.

It is distressing that the worthy rightful cause of the Palestinian people continues to be exploited by those claiming to promote it. It is scandalous that the U.N. should continue to subsidize such irrelevant ventures for a nowhere man making all those nowhere plans for nobody.