Arab regimes have given up on the idea of liberating Palestine.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, the progressive, nationalist president of Egypt, was the last Arab leader to really believe in and work on the idea. For him, liberating Palestine was a core issue that could not be separated from Egypt’s national security.
He made it absolutely clear that the establishment of Israel in the heart of the Arab world was a huge blow to Arab aspirations for modernity, progress, prosperity and freedom. It embodied the continuation of colonialism in a postcolonial Arab world.
A settler-colony had been founded that negated the very existence of the Palestinian people and, hence, posed a threat to Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.
That is, perhaps, the main reason why Nasser’s progressive regime, with its anti-colonial leanings, was targeted by ex-colonial powers, namely Britain and France, both of which got directly involved in an alliance with Israel to topple Nasser’s government in 1956, and by America, which formed its own alliance with Israel in 1967.
The demise of Nasser in 1970 was a turning point. His successor Anwar Sadat followed a completely different line in terms of relations with the Western world and Israel.
Sadat strongly believed that 99 per cent of the cards were in America’s hands, as he scandalously put it. The US was the only power, he believed, that could persuade Israel to grant the concessions needed to return occupied Egyptian lands in the Sinai and even “solve” the Palestinian question.
That was part and parcel of a new domestic – albeit reactionary – “open door” economic policy of privatization and restructuring the public sector. Gone were the official commitments to Pan-Arabism and the liberation of Palestine.
Freedom seen as an obstacle
Normalization with apartheid Israel became the “solution” on the basis of offering the Palestinians a form of “autonomy” in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, land in exchange for “peace” and recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a settler-colony in the heart of the Arab world. That was the motive behind the signing of the Camp David Accords (1978), and the beginning of a series of normalization accords between Arab governments, including the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Israel.
Arab governments willing to “normalize” relations with Israel have always considered the Palestinian cause as an obstacle to their own “prosperity and security.” An obstacle to be moved out of the way.
Liberating Palestine was no longer on the agenda. It was deemed an unrealistic dream that cannot be achieved no matter what.
Supporting a just solution to the Palestinian question necessarily means a confrontation with the imperialist West, headed by the United States. And that is a route Arab regimes are not keen to follow.
First, it goes against the interests of the ruling oligarchies.
Second, it weakens their alliance with the US, a superpower that offers them protection and stability.
Hence the demise of the ideas of liberating Palestine and the return of Palestinian refugees to the towns and villages from which they were ethnically cleansed back in 1948. That has been replaced by the façade of the racist, two-state solution and the idea that it is possible to improve apartheid Israel and its multi-tiered system of oppression of the Palestinian people.
Even the very definition of the Palestinian people itself has been reduced to include only those who currently live in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This group is said to be the component of the Palestinian people that needs a “solution” and that solution can only materialize if apartheid Israel generously offers to improve the lives of these Palestinians, even if this happens under Israel’s total control.
A “generous offer” from Israel might include what Amilcar Cabral – one of Africa’s most prominent opponents of colonialism – called “flag independence,” symbols of governance and “sovereignty.” Hence official Arab support for the Oslo accords in 1993 which offered a fig leaf to all subsequent Arab deals of normalization with apartheid Israel.
Would Israel have the “courage” to do so without the shameful silence of Arab governments? Or to put it more crudely, would this have happened had the normalization deals not been signed?
After more than three weeks of unfolding genocide, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. This bloody mayhem is redolent of World War II and the times of genocidal pogroms in Eastern Europe, Africa, Australia and the Americas.
Gaza is literally being wiped out.
The Palestinians of Gaza, both Muslims and Christians, are Arabs whose humanity has been denied even by their “official” brethren. Otherwise, Israel’s ethnic cleansing and genocide would not have been allowed to happen, even in the worst nightmares of the Arab states.
In 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser paid a visit to Gaza and addressed its “heroic” people: “People of Gaza, I want three things from you: Hope, patience and faith (in your cause). These three qualities will lead you to victory over all those powers conspiring against you. You are the noblest and most honorable people and I want you to know one important fact: Gaza is as dear to my heart as Egypt, and whatever harms Gaza harms Egypt.”
That was a time when liberating Palestine was an achievable, realistic idea.
Haidar Eid is an educator and independent commentator from Gaza. Twitter: @haidareid