That Arab regimes have used the Palestinian cause to unite the Arab World is nothing new. Many Arab regimes continue this policy of lip service, by offering futile pabulum to either placate their populations or to maintain the false impression that the Palestinian issue is an Arab issue. But, the fiery rhetoric has really translated into silence. Other Arab regimes adopt a neutral stance on the Palestinian issue in order to gain personal economic benefits, benefits which do not trickle down to their constituencies. Perhaps, complete silence is better.
Consider Egypt, which has seen its aid increase as it has used its influence over the Palestinians since the signing of the defunct Oslo Accords. Amr Moussa’s words of unconditional Egyptian support were welcome for the Palestinian morale. These words were quickly negated after Egyptian diplomats recently left Washington, DC and agreed to resist international observers for Palestinians. Who are these diplomats that they can issue such insulting statements? The Egyptians are not the ones who are suffering under the firing of F16 bombers and Apache helicopters.
Then there’s Qatar, which never closed its trade office in Israel throughout this entire Intifada. Despite the fact that the Arab nations in the Gulf have the oil card and can end the bloodshed in 24 hours, they refuse to do so. The unspoken word between many is that they will never use this card because they feel it will be the end of their illegitimate and immoral kingdoms.
There’s Jordan, with a population dominated by Palestinians, which does not allow pro-Palestinian demonstrations. With the tacit approval of Jordan’s King Abdallah, Jordanian police brutally beat many Palestinian-Jordanians who attempted to demonstrate in solidarity with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem not too long ago. Even dogs were used to stake out Palestinian-Jordanians, who were hiding from the Jordanian police.
Libya, which has been trying to shake off sanctions since the 1980s, recently seemed to equate Palestinian suffering with Israeli suffering, by saying that both Arabs and Jews needed to make bold decisions, in order to peacefully co-exist. Peaceful co-existence is an obvious goal, but where is the symmetry? And what Arab bold decisions should be taken beyond what has already been taken é which is to forsake the Palestinian people, who have often been accused of being more Arab than the Arabs combined?
In Lebanon, we saw another attempt to ensure that Palestinians are less than human with the passage of legislation é without discussion é which prohibits Palestinians from owning a home or business. Palestinians who currently own a house or business may keep them but are forbidden from passing their property to their spouses or children. Of course, the rationale is that Palestinians should return to their homes in what is now Israel. Apparently, the Sunni component of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon’s delicate religious quandary has nothing to do with it. Who are they trying to fool? What followed was little protest by the general Lebanese populace to this discriminatory law, passed at such a time of great suffering for Palestinians.
In fact, there is little protest to the daily killings, home demolitions, assassinations of Palestinian leaders, and brutal economic siege by the Arab populations, in general.
Which leads us to the natural question: Have the last 53 years represented an Arab-Israeli conflict? Or has it been a Palestinian-Israeli conflict? It should be an Arab-Israeli conflict with so many Palestinian refugees spread out in the Arab World. It should be an Arab-Israeli conflict because Palestinians are being dehumanized on their own land. It should be an Arab-Israeli conflict because without a solution to the Palestinian problem, there will not be true peace for neighboring Arab nations, and the economic benefits that many of the regimes are falling beside themselves for will not come through. It should be an Arab-Israeli conflict because that’s what everybody always told the Palestinians.
And what do these Arab regimes think their silence translates to for the average Palestinian Joe on the streets? According to Palestinians polled by The Palestinian Information Center on August 17, 97.4 percent agreed that “the official Arab silence and abandonment at this time of trouble encourages Sharon to continue his crimes against the Palestinian people.” Only 2.5 percent disagreed. Israeli leaders laugh at the statements issued at emergency Arab League meetings. And who can blame them? Mocking Arab solidarity has even become trendy among Palestinians é such mockery was unheard of before.
Shouldn’t crimes against other Arabs raise the ire of the Arab regimes and frankly, their populations? One can surmise that the situation in Iraq and the loss of 1.5 million Iraqis should have been a strong signal of the lackadaisical attitude of the Arab world toward fellow Arabs, who are suffering. To be fair, those who pose challenges to their Arab governments are often jailed. The rest are too submissive and respect authority figures far too much. Even Palestinians can be somewhat accused of this as they tolerated years of corruption by the PA. Nonetheless, if there has been one immediate conclusion of the Second Intifada é Gamal Abdel Nasser’s dream of pan-Arabism is effectively dead. Maybe in the far future, it will resurrect itself. But now, the coffin has been nailed shut on this notion.
There is a song that has often come to my mind throughout the Intifada. Singer Julia Butros has a song called, “Wayn il Melayeen?” [Where are the millions?] “Il sha’ab il ‘Arabi wayn? Il ghadab il ‘Arabi wayn? Il sharif il ‘Arabi wayn?” [Where are the Arabs? Where is the anger of the Arabs? Where is the honor of the Arabs?]
Suffice to say, the teachers of this honor are the young Palestinian Davids facing the Israeli Goliath alone.
Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.