Arabs voice anger over Disney fair

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The Independent Online
FIRST CAME the Kuwaitis with their objections to Barbie dolls with "inappropriate" clothes. Then came the Burger King International franchise in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank. Now it's Disneyland. How dare the progenitors of Mickey Mouse suggest that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital?

Good point. But Arabs - not the public relations men nor the dictators who sign "peace" treaties with the Americans and the Israelis - are humiliated by the extraordinary rage visited upon the West for such indignities. When Palestinians are about to be deprived of their "capital" in Jerusalem - while allowing the expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied territory - how come the emirs and sheikhs care so much about a millennium exhibition in Florida, which is claiming Jerusalem to be the Israeli capital?

The United Arab Emirates is calling upon the Arab League to protest at the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration at the Epcot Centre in Florida. All Arab countries object to Israel's participation in the fair in which it is stated that "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel", according to the UAE information minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zaid al- Nahayan, speaking of an issue that is meant to be decided in the "final status" talks (supposing they ever take place) between the PLO and the Israelis next year. Sheikh Zaid wants Arabs and "Islamic groups" to visit the exhibition before its opening to ensure that it does not contain anything "distorting its Arab and Islamic history". Otherwise, there may well be a boycott of Disney.

Poor old Arab League. Having sat idly by while Yasser Arafat allowed the Israelis to re-negotiate UN Security Council Resolution 242 - by permitting the Israelis under the 1993 Oslo accords to decide which bits of occupied land will be returned to the Arabs and which will not - Walt Disney will be made to pay the price.

How dare this exhibition suggest that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel when the issue is still up for grabs? Similarly, Burger King restaurants in America are now picketed by Arab-Americans who believe a franchise in the Maale Adumim Jewish settlement on the West Bank - by a Miami-based group of the British company Diageo - legitimises Jewish settlements on Arab land.

Robert Doughty, Burger King's vice-president for public relations, says his organisation was deceived by Israelis who said that the franchise would be in "Maale Adumim, Israel". When a Dubai official of Burger King paid a visit to the West Bank, there was no sign - Mr Doughty claims - which said: "You are now entering occupied territory". No doubt. So the kosher Whopper became a political issue.

Likewise Disney. But the problem is like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. Barbie dolls? Hamburgers? Mickey Mouse in Jerusalem? For the Arabs, the Israelis - with Ms Albright and their Americans protectors - are deciding the future of the Middle East in negotiations that give Mr Arafat little room for manoeuvre and little chance of claiming Islam's third holiest city as a joint capital unless the Israelis give him a slice of east Jerusalem. Perspective is the problem.

For years, Western travel agents - including many in Britain - have advertised Jerusalem as an "Israeli" city, with little or no complaint. So do the sheikhs care about substance or form?