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The Twilight Zone

Munich is a special city with a lot of history.

It is Bavaria’s capital and home to gorgeous buildings and museums. Famous for its Oktoberfest celebrations and its beer halls, it is a city with a population of almost 1.5 million.

Another missed fact about Munich that is never in the limelight is “A Mosque in Munich“, a book by Ian Johnson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, that discusses the Nazis, the CIA and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West – an important read.

It was a sunny, clear sky day as we landed in Munich to attend the Munich Security Conference (MSC), the foremost meeting of leaders in the political, security, and think-tank world,  as well as business leaders.

Under the overt leadership of Christoph Heusgen and the covert management of the  energetic Benedikt Franke, the three-day event covered a wide range of public and private  meetings.

Zelenskyy, of course, came in his war wardrobe as he would not let a public event occur without him being on the podium.

Kamala Harris arrived accompanied by three huge C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft.

The articulate Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi, gave a tour de force speech in Chinese and  fielded questions from Christoph Heusgen. Sadly, no leader from the Arab world addressed the MSC.

King Abdullah of Jordan was on the program but did not speak publicly for some  unclear reason.

President of Israel Isaac Herzog, came to the MSC to proclaim that the return of hostages is a top priority, but did not offer how. He was accompanied by released hostages and  representatives of families of hostages.

A commentator said that Bibi was lucky that the released hostages and the families of hostages keep flying around the world and are not harassing him.

A high-level US Congressional delegation attended the MSC.

One member had a piece of tape on his lapel with the number 133 scribbled on it. When asked, he explained that it  represented the number of hostages held by Hamas.

“Sadly, he did not have the number of  28,500 Palestinians killed,” remarked a senior European politician, adding: “Our problem is  that we always look at only one side of the coin.”

Many other distinguished leaders participated, from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain,  Oman, Columbia, India, Ethiopia, Angola, Kenya, Singapore, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,  Ecuador, and almost every European country.

“No real Russians attended – only the so-called dissidents, no real Palestinians… It is a  wonder,” remarked an Indian politician. “How can the World Economic Forum and the Munich Security Conference contribute to a better world if only one party to the dispute is present, while the other is nowhere to be found?”

A French politician expressed: “It is sad that the days of Arafat, Perez and Amr Moussa are  over, and there is no light on the horizon.”

Blinken and Cameron attended, but it was clever deflections and diplomatic talk – no real insights. It was a process with no purpose. When Cameron was questioned about the  potential for a Palestinian state, which he mentioned before coming to Munich, he denied even the thought of a Cameron Declaration to announce a Palestinian state, as the Balfour Declaration that created Israel.

So, the Munich Security Conference ended with a squeak rather than a bang…

The Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, which hosted the MSC, was a beehive of activity with more human beings than beds and chairs combined. It was so busy that it was a miracle the elevators survived.

There were most likely more security than participants, with so many in uniform and looking suspiciously.

Packing and leaving was smooth, thanks to the hotel staff, who miraculously remained calm given the endless requests.

The journey to the specially arranged MSC section of Munich’s international airport (also named Munich Franz Josef Strauss Airport) was not devoid of tough traffic and problems to  get there.

The area for MSC participants was well-lit, nicely arranged, and well-serviced. When I arrived, tired after a long drive, there were about a dozen people in the lounge.

I introduced myself, and everyone was polite and cordial. Steven Burton had white hair, a well-trimmed beard, a dark suit and a red tie. When he found out I was from Egypt, he calmly said to me that he was sorry and ashamed about how the West (he was from the UK) were not calling a spade a spade and were unable to stop Netanyahu from his barbaric killing of Palestinians all over Gaza.

On Steven’s left was a sharp-looking professional with black hair swept back, tortoise-frame  glasses, wearing a dark turtleneck and a grey suit. He introduced himself as Lucas Claes from Belgium, Chairman and CEO of Belgium’s foremost security think tank.

With a cup of tea in  his left hand, Lucas had a firm handshake and a serious look. He commented that Belgium understood the dynamics of the war in Gaza, and he demanded a ceasefire but to no avail, as Europeans were divided.

Approaching from the left was a voice asking me without hesitation: “What do you see?”

I turned, and a tall woman with long blond hair swept in a ponytail and a celestial nose looked me straight in the eye.

I took a deep breath and gave her my name. She responded: “Celine Dubois,” and gestured for me to take a seat, which I happily did, as my lower back was causing me considerable discomfort – a nasty spasm.

Celine, wearing a striped Ralph Lauren grey suit and a white blouse, sat on a chair across from me, crossed her legs and leaned forward.

I took the next ten minutes outlining the status of the Gaza debacle, explaining that there was no real war, but instead, the Israel was armed with military planes, bombs, tanks, armored vehicles, drones, artillery – whilst Hamas was a ragtag group of barbaric terrorists with nothing except hand weapons.

I added that in 2022, Amnesty International joined other human rights organizations  including Israel’s B’Tselem and America’s Human Rights Watch, issuing a 280-page report titled “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and Crime  Against Humanity.”

That was 20 months before October 2023….

Not one country acted in defense of the Palestinians.

The report directly pointed the finger at the US for its supplying Israel “with arms, equipment and other tools to perpetuate crimes under international law and by providing  diplomatic cover, including at the UN Security Council to shield it from accountability.”

Israel immediately acted to successfully whitewash the report (for further details, read “SpyFail” by James Bamford).

Many wise men have declared over three decades that, unless a resolution is found that is fast and sustainable, a disaster would occur – and indeed, October 7 occurred.

I added that what is happening on the ground by the IDF will bring worse debacles in the  future. The scene will leave traumatized Israelis and Palestinians seeking revenge.

Lucas and another man in a bomber jacket approached, sat and listened closely.

Celine uncrossed her legs, stretched her arms and pointed, saying: “Now what?”

The man beside Lucas answered before I could respond. “We will eradicate Hamas, we will kill as many Palestinians as needed until we get all the hostages back and break Hamas forever.”

Celine responded: “But doing so may cause the death of many hostages.”

“Not a problem,” the man responded.

Steven, plate in hand with finger sandwiches, stood beside Celine and remarked to the man in the bomber jacket: “And what then? The cycle of violence is to be the natural cycle?”, he  asked.

“Without a just and sustainable conflict resolution, which is a framework of security and stability, there shall be no day after,” a gentleman standing behind Lucas, close enough to  hear the conversation, commented.

The man in the bomber jacket turned in his seat and said: “Israel will design ‘the day after.’  No one will dictate what Israel does – not America, not Europe – nobody.”

Steven commented: “Then Israel does not want a resolution!”

Celine rose to her feet and stated: “The period we are living in is horrible… politically, this is Voldemort Netanyahu’s time. The sad news is not only Gaza, but also Ukraine, Congo, Sudan,  Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, and many more.” She looked at me and asked if there was a way out for  Gaza.

I stood and said that in the darkness, there can only be light if leaders can act with wisdom rather than allowing power and ego blind their minds.

I added: “Israel deserves security, their hostages, de-weaponizing Hamas and giving the  settlers a resettlement… However, Palestinians deserve a proclaimed state – not in phases,  not in steps – now.”

“The only deal,” I explained, “is a grand deal upheld by all. Not the sick-minded Netanyahu…  not the corrupt Palestinian Authority… and not the barbaric Hamas… but an Israeli leader like Rabin and Palestinian technocrats that can lead a profitable transition for the Palestinian people.”

As I was about to continue, Lucas and the bomber jacket stood up, and a staff member approached me, asking me to proceed to the gate immediately.

I got up, and bid everyone goodbye. As I walked towards the gate, the sun was setting behind the horizon… the light from the sky was dipping… the full night was approaching…  Twilight was upon us as I reached the gate, and I wondered what tomorrow will bring – more or less humanity?


About the author

M. Shafik Gabr is a renowned leader in international business, innovation, investment and one of the world’s premier collectors of Orientalist art, and an accomplished philanthropist.

During his career, Gabr established over 25 companies plus three investment holding companies including ARTOC Group for Investment and Development which, established in 1971, is a multi-disciplined investment holding company with businesses in infrastructure, automotive, engineering, construction and real estate, over the past three years focusing on investment in technology and artificial intelligence.

Gabr is the Chairman and a founding member of Egypt’s International Economic Forum, a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, a Board Member of Stanhope Capital, an International Chairman of the Sadat Congressional Gold Medal Committee, and a Member of the Parliamentary Intelligence Security Forum. Gabr is a Member of the Metropolitan Museum’s International Council and serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Financial Stability, the Advisory Board of The Middle East Institute, and the Global Advisory Council of the Mayo Clinic.

Through the Shafik Gabr Social Development Foundation, Gabr is helping to improve elementary-school education in Egypt, introducing students to arts and culture and promoting sports and physical fitness for youth. The Foundation has its first Medical and Social Development Center in Mokattam, Cairo, offering free medical and health services. In 2012 Gabr established in the US the Shafik Gabr Foundation which supports educational and medical initiatives plus launched in November 2012 the ‘East-West: The Art of Dialogue initiative promoting exchanges between the US and Egypt with the purpose of cultural dialogue and bridge-building.

Gabr holds a BA in Economics and Management from the American University in Cairo and an MA in Economics from the University of London.

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