x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Don't lecture UAE on women, Israel told

Our record is better than yours, a UAE official and the FNC's only female member, points out.

BANGKOK // An Israeli politician got more than he bargained for when he said UAE leaders should be talking about women's rights in the country instead of lobbying against Israel's actions in East Jerusalem. Majalli Wahabi, Israel's deputy foreign minister, was reminded by a female UAE official that according to UN data, the Emirates rank higher on the empowerment of women than his country.

Mr Wahabi spoke shortly after Abdul Aziz al Ghurair, Speaker of the FNC, addressed the annual meeting of the International Parliamentary Union meeting in the Thai capital. Just before the meeting concluded, Amal al Qubaisi, the FNC's only elected woman member, took the podium. "Jerusalem is home to 220 historical sites with symbolic value not only to Islam but also to international heritage," said Dr al Qubaisi, who wrote her doctorate dissertation on the preservation of architectural heritage.

She said Israeli practices in Jerusalem contravened the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the destruction of cultural heritage by occupying powers in territories under their control. As for women's rights, Dr al Qubaisi noted the Emirates ranked 17th in the world for women empowerment, while Israel was 24th, according to the UN's Human Development Report 2009. She added that women occupy 23 per cent of the FNC's seats, eight per cent of Cabinet positions, 33 per cent of leadership positions and 66 per cent of public positions.

"Women are empowered in the UAE at all political, social and economic levels," Dr al Qubaisi said. Her remarks were greeted with applause by many of the representatives of the 131 parliaments attending the conference. The Israeli official had criticised the UAE's insistence that Israeli actions in East Jerusalem be included on the meeting's emergency agenda, saying that earthquake relief in Haiti was a more pressing matter.

"The Israeli practices in Jerusalem are not only a breach of Palestinian Arabs rights, but a violation and a threat to the feelings of Muslims around the world," Mr al Ghurair said in his speech. The Israeli government announced earlier this month plans to build 1,600 Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem while the US vice president, Joe Biden, was visiting Israel, triggering a rare row between the Jewish state and the US.

"I request the formation of an international parliamentary committee to look at what is happening in Jerusalem and report to the union's conference next year," Mr al Ghurair said. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, warned on Saturday at the opening of the Arab League's summit in Libya that the peace process was unlikely to move forward "as long as Israel maintains its settlement policy". Islamic and Arab states have repeatedly criticised Israel's excavation works outside the Al Aqsa mosque. Many Palestinians believe that Israeli extremists want to destroy the mosque to rebuild the ancient Solomon's Temple in its place.

Mr al Ghurair said that changing the Islamic features of Jerusalem "is an unambiguous violation of the international treaty signed by all countries with regard to protecting the cultural and natural heritage of humanity". "We, the Arabs, have tentatively listened to the calls by the international community for peace with Israel," said Mr al Ghurair. "And the Arab leaders have held on to the Arab peace initiative throughout their meetings and resolutions, but our calls have been ignored."