Ukraine a ‘special case’: Is the WEF ‘hypocritical’ on Palestine?

When Khaled Sabawi was invited in 2015 to join the Young Global Leaders (YGL), a network set up by the World Economic Forum head Klaus Schwab, he was reluctant to accept.

The son of Palestinian refugees from Gaza, now in Toronto, Sabawi’s invite to the exclusive organisation, where membership is reserved for “exceptional people”, had come off the back of his founding of TABO, an initiative dedicated to expanding property rights in the Palestine, and his Toronto-based company with offices in Gaza, Open Screenplay, which aims to help diverse screenwriters start their careers.

That recognition was a big deal; YGL’s ties to the WEF meant access to some of the world’s biggest names and invitations to the WEF’s annual summit which is being held this week in Davos, Switzerland.

However, in September of last year, Al Sabawi was suspended indefinitely from the YGL community.

Al Sabawi believes the suspension was retribution for a letter he and other YGL members had sent to Schwab, accusing the WEF of being silent on Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territory at the same time that it was expressing solidarity with Ukraine after Russia’s invasion of the country.

“While we profoundly support your public statement in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we cannot help but also feel immensely hurt that the WEF is selective when it comes to morality and solidarity based on nationality,” the letter, sent in March, said.

According to emails shown to Al Jazeera by Al Sabawi, Schwab responded angrily, saying Ukraine was a “special case” and that the content of the letter was “deeply insulting” and “offensive”. He threatened to dissolve the YGL.

However, Wadia Ait Hamza, the Head of the Forum of Young Global Leaders, while not disputing the contents of the emails, denied that Al Sabawi was suspended because of the letter sent to Schwab.

“When a young leader joins the YGL community, membership means they automatically adhere to the Community Charter and Code of Conduct,” Ait Hamza said. “Failing to adhere to this can result in suspension. Khaled [Al] Sabawi’s membership of Young Global Leaders was suspended indefinitely in September 2022.”

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