New Delhi: Some Middle East observers may be surprised over the Arab public indifference to the much-discussed Palestinian cause in the recent US-brokered Abraham Accords Israel had with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Such souls may be surprised that there was no public protest when Saudi Arabia and Bahrain agreed to open their airspace to eastward flights from Israel. These souls may also be surprised that the Arab League declined to adopt a Palestinian resolution to condemn the UAE for its peace treaty with Israel. However, in the Arab world there is hardly any surprise over the lack of response to these developments.
Knowledgeable sources say ordinary Arabs have a valid reason for this. According to an authentic study, many Palestinian Arabs are not originally Palestinian. They are immigrants who came to Israel from all over the Arab world during the British mandate in order to find employment in the cities and farms the Jewish people had built. These immigrants still have names such as Hourani (Syrian), Tzurani (Lebanese), Zarkawi (Jordanian), Masri (Egyptian), Hijazi (Arabian peninsula), Mughrabi (Maghrebi) etc.
The Arabs are becoming increasingly aware that Palestinians sell land to the Jewish people on their own to get a good price and then ask to free Palestine from “Zionist occupation”. Over the years, the world has given the Palestinians billions of euros and dollars. The per capita income of Palestinians is several times higher than that of the Egyptians, Sudanese, Algerians, Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans and Yemeni citizens.
Many are bitter that many Palestinians who came to the Arab nations in the wake of the Declaration of the Jewish state of Israel have used their refugee status to live in refugee camps. They do not pay municipal taxes. They often rent out their homes to make extra income.
Sources suggest ordinary Palestinian masses must take to self-introspection, discard their current corrupt political leadership and choose genuine representatives to serve the interest of peace and development in the region. Such leaders must establish peace with Israel and derive economic and technological benefits from the Jewish state. They ought to bear in mind Israel has never been an occupier nation. The Jewish people are indigenous to the Middle East and the Holy Land, not a foreign interloper or a colonialist phenomenon. Both the Bible and archaeology reveal that the Jewish people have been in Israel for more than 3,000 years.
Palestinian leaders must appreciate that the people of Israel always wanted peace. Israel allows hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshippers to visit the Temple Mount known to Muslims as the Haram esh Sharif, and pray at their third most sacred mosque Al Aqsa in the Old City of Jerusalem. For the sake of peace, Israel relinquished its control of the Gaza Strip in 2005. Afterwards, Hamas regularly threatened Israel with rockets. Yet Israel has been accommodative to them. Israel today is helping Hamas to control coronavirus. It gets hospital treatment for family members of Hamas officials. More importantly, Israel meets a great deal of Gaza’s demand for energy.
Future Palestinian leaders must realise that the West Bank-based Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Gaza Strip-based Hamas have been the real obstacles to peace in Palestine. Israel has made various proposals to the Palestinians from time to time for peace. But successive Palestinian leaderships have refused to recognise the very existence of the Jewish state.
These leaders must reciprocate Israeli gestures of peace. They should see to it that at the graves of the Patriarchs in Hebron, no Palestinian describes visits by Jews to the site as “pollution” (tadnis) by “herds of settlers.” They must throw out of power the West Bank-based Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Gaza Strip-based Hamas.
At a news conference, then Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat once said, “We accept two states, the Palestine state and the Jewish state of Israel.” The Palestinian leadership recognised Israel in the famous 1994 Oslo accord between the PLO and Israel. But they have never really practised it. Both the Fatah party and Hamas, from time to time, incite violence against the Jewish people, and have aspired the eventual creation of an Islamic state, replacing all of Israel.
New York-based attorney and Middle East observer, Irina Tsukerman laments this history now presents an obstacle not only to bilateral relations with Israel, but to the integration of the region which would benefit all countries in terms of both countering common threats and conducting research, commercial activity and cultural exchanges. Obsessively hostile handling of alleged Palestinian state operation leads not to the creation of a viable independent entity but to perpetuation of a hostile climate inimical to peaceful coexistence, and creates openings for state and non-state adversaries to cause further instability in the region.
Tsukerman adds this is of particular concern to other Arab governments and people alike. In many Arab states there has been a popular addiction to the Palestinian cause, perpetuated by decades of state-backed media coverage and education. The fact that the Palestinians not only fail to reciprocate political and economic support from these countries, but the obstructionism of their leaders is now causing challenges to the aspirations of these other Arab populations, is easily observable even to those who have been indoctrinated to hate Israel and to see Palestinians as their brethren.
There is a lot of resentment on an individual, personal level due to this perceived lack of reciprocity. Arabs are increasingly disillusioned with pan-Islamism and seek to advance their own national interests; the mentality of Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, and the self-serving interests of both, stand in the way, which these nations can no longer afford to overlook.
(*This article appeared first in The Sunday Guardian, New Delhi and is reposted with kind permission of the author)