Leading Palestinian nationalist Dr Haydar 'Abd al-Shafi was at the Mercato on Sunday evening, a setting thoroughly different from the one he is usually at, though the positively uplifting Dubai ambience — with shades, both the colourful and the grim and dark, of his own home-ground —

By Sushil Kutty

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Published: Mon 11 Apr 2005, 2:26 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:49 PM

did little to change his outlook on whether peace will get a chance in the turbulence that has marked the Middle East.

"Not very much," said the 86-year-old "Father of Palestine", "The prospects for peace are not very much. Not as long as they continue to stick to adopting the same stubborn position they have had for so long. There will be no stablity and just peace, not on these terms, not in these circumstances, not in the near future."

Dr. Haydar 'Abd al-Shafi is a physician, and one of the most popular Palestinian nationalists in the Gaza Strip. He was at the Mercato in Jumeirah on the invitation of the United Nations Development Programme/Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP), which unveiled an exhibition of Palestinian art at the shopping centre that resembles an Italian market, therefore the name Mercato.

The event opening saw a distinguished gathering of dignitaries from the region — UNDP representatives including Timothy Rothermel, UNDP special representative, and illustrious artists from across the Gaza Strip, West Bank and inside the Green Line besides prominent figures like Dr Haydar 'Abd al-Shafi, art collector Mazen Qupty and celebrated artist and Goodwill ambassador Hussein Fahmi.

'In Living Colour', on till April 16, features 35 installations by some of Palestine's most renowned artists including Suleiman Mansour, Ibrahim Nubani and Tayseer Barakat. Funds raised through the sale of their works would go towards support of the artists as well as towards the establishment of Al Hosah - the first Palestinian art gallery and museum in Jerusalem.

And while all these will take their own time, the UNDP/PAPP team would be simultaneously making efforts to increase all-round cooperation with the UAE, which it considers as of utmost importance to the welfare of the people of Palestine.

Speaking on the occasion, Rothermel said that "In Living Colours offers visitors a dynamic and interactive experience directly with art installations that represent the integral element in cultivation and recognition of Palestinian art.

Dr Haydar 'Abd al-Shafi, a highly respected respected and non-partisan figure, also "very popular" - the head of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip - was born in Gaza in 1919. He studied medicine at the American University in Beirut. Graduated 1943. Followed a stint in the British Jordanian Army and married in 1957. He co-founded a branch of the Palestine Medical Society (1945).

Dr Shafi believes any negotiating activity while settlements continue to expand would be pointless and a waste of Palestinian energies. Have things changed in the 50-plus years he has been watching the situation unfold in the region? "No, nothing has changed, the situation is very much the same like it was," Dr Shafi told the City Times. "They continue to be aggressive and hostile. That position has changed."

Minutes earlier, addressing the select gathering at the Mercato, Dr Shafi, clearly passing an unambigous judgement on the Palestinians themselves, said, "It is imperative that the Palestinians get their act together at this critical juncture. We need to show a united front to the rest of the world. It is imperative that the world gets the 'real info' about the Palestinian problem."

Rothermel, who holds Dr Shafi in high regard and considers him as the "voice of Palestine", said that this has been Dr Shafi's stance for a long time. "He has always been critical of the divisions in the Palestinian ranks, and has consistently spoken against it."

Incidentally, another reason why Dr Haydar 'Abd al-Shafi chose to accept the invitation to visit Dubai was because "there are quite a few of the Shafi-clan in the UAE", and he was very keen to meet them.

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