Connect with us

Middle East

The Cultural-Historical Debate behind the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Published

on

It is so mistakenly common to refer to the “Middle East conflict” as the “Arab-Israeli conflict.” In fact, in the Middle East there are so many wars, quarrels, conflicts and violence, representing perhaps the pick of world regions. The Arab-Israeli conflict is only one of them and the less lethal. This is one of the important facts to understand.

However, it has a “bad reputation” of the highest media attention. Why? Because the Palestinians have the best public relations machinery, perhaps ever in history, and they have succeeded to bring their case to the core of world attention at the expense of so many severer cases in the Middle East, let alone in the world.    

It is a common belief that the “Arab-Israeli conflict” is a conflict of two peoples fighting over the same piece of land and therefore it is one of nationalism. However, this belief stems from misunderstanding that leads to misperceptions, since the framework is more complicated. This conflict has many facets and dimensions. It is basically religious-cultural, a Muslim-Jewish conflict, which is Islam vs. Judaism; it is cloaked in political-ideological dimension, which is Arab nationalism vs. Jewish Zionism; and it is manifested as a territorial-national one, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

It is highly difficult for Westerners to internalize the real issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On the face of it, the objective is to find the formula of conflict resolution, by bridging the gaps between the attitudes of the parties; or at best to settle the issues down as a sort of conflict management. However, after so many years of negotiations, mediations, academic and political proposals, only little progress has been achieved, and amazingly there is still hope that a political arrangement, a magic formula to its solution, can be worked out.

Now there is the next round. The Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority have agreed to engage in direct peace talks. However, neither side has expressed any enthusiasm or hopes to find a resolution. They just wish to satisfy the US administration, to show willingness to gather around for talks, to be on the diplomatic track because the US wants them to do so, but not to end the talks by peace treaty. Peace talks are the American solution, which gives the US the appearance of seeking a solution to settle the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The comings and goings of American diplomats, the occasional photo op with leaders give legitimacy, status and standing. The US produces another pyrotechnical exposition which leads to nowhere. Talks do not solve the issues, but give the impression of progressing forward, thus, they become an end in itself and not the means to achieve peace.

Specifically, there are crucial constraints: first, there is no united, accepted, recognized Palestinian leadership, which can carry out the burdens of the resolution and impose it on the Palestinian society. Arafat had it but he did not want to. Abu Mazen has not the ability to achieve it and he does not want it. Second, any agreement with Abu Mazen, a weak and un-authoritative leader, is not acceptable by Hamas and other groups. Third, the Palestinians want it all and no less than all. They have never come to any compromise and they still do not recognize Israel as a nation deserving a statehood in this territory.

Under these circumstances any agreement could not bring a resolution but perhaps exacerbates the Palestinian situation, which will drip and intensify the hostilities against Israel. One of the main reasons is that whatever they do, all the atrocities they perform, and their stubborn refusal is hailed with applauses and consent by the international community, mainly Europe, with donations of billions of dollars.

Under these circumstances, why should they change their attitudes and policies? They win big time, and they have all the patience (Sabr) and steadfastness (Sumud) waiting for Israel’s collapse. The billions of dollars given to them by the international community, really at the expense of those who really need it, empower the Palestinians to continue on the road of stubbornness and extremism, with good life and high standard of living compare to at least 80 states around the world and one billion of people, including many in the Arab and Muslim states. Most of the money donated goes to corruption of the political elite and to terrorism.

All that one has to do to realize this situation, is to visit the Palestinians’ towns and villages, to see the comparatively high standard of living and then to travel to most of African, Asian and South-American states for comparison. All these, bearing in mind that the Palestinians get the flow of money from outside, being defined as wretched miserable people under Israel’s occupation and apartheid.

Very few people around the world really know the situation: 94-96 percent of the Palestinians are not, are absolutely not under Israel’s “occupation” or “control.” They live under their own people control and leadership in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, Israel control part of the territory, but very small part of Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians live their own life under their government and regimes, without any Israel’s interference or control. Moreover, had they stop terrorism and violence, and had they proceed with Oslo Accords, they would already have most of the territory, except of very few territories under dispute.                      

Why so little progress has been achieved? The so many failures of the past have occurred because of profound divergences in the interests and the objectives. The failure is based on the international understanding that the main issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are three: a) recognized borders acceptable by the parties; b) the ‘right of return’ of the Palestinian refugees; and c) Jerusalem issue. However, these are the symptoms, the by-product of the real issue, which is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish Zionist sovereign state. Here, the Palestinians’ refusal is total.  

This is the utmost important issue, and the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize it is the chief reason why the conflict is still here with us. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), a Holocaust denier and abhor extremist, who nevertheless is considered moderate, has reiterated this view for so many times: “I will never recognize Israel as the state and the Jewish people as a nation.” Time and again he declares that the peace talks are not the goal, but just another stage in the Palestinian attempt to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a state and present it as a “racist, apartheid state.”

The strategy of denial of the Jewish character of Israel is manifested in the conception that Israel should, in fact, become a bi-national state, or a State of all its Nationals, but never a Jewish state, living beside a Palestinian state, clean of Jews. This in fact the Palestinian formula to what they call “the States Solution.” The immediate end-result would be two Palestinian states, with perhaps a Jewish minority in one of them; and in the not far away future, three Palestinian states, after Jordan becomes Palestinian, out of demography and security weakness in the absence of Israel’s support.

Therefore, he who wishes to solve the conflict must start here. Only after recognizing Israel as a Jewish Zionist state and then the solemn declaration of the Palestinians to end of all sorts of hostilities, and agreeing to peaceful means of living together; only then, the other issues of borders, refugees, and Jerusalem are to be negotiated and decided upon.

The issue of recognition is conspicuous by analyzing contemporary Palestinian politics with its two main strategies: The first, the secular one, which is national-territorial, elaborated by PLO-Fath; the second, the religious one, which is religious-cultural, elaborated by Hamas. However, both approaches are similar in their total demand to obliterating the State of Israel as a Jewish Zionist state. Both wish to establish the Palestinian State on the entire territory “from the Sea to the River;” and both resist any possibility of Jewish existence as a nation entitled to a state. They only differ in the tactics and the means to achieve it, and as of the future status of the Palestinian state, being religious or secular, although not exactly in the Western terms.

These two attitudes are exemplified by a clear ideology of genocide and politicide, in the Palestinian National Covenant and the Hamas Charter.

The Palestinian National Covenant states:

Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian Arab people (Article 1). The Arab Palestinian people is the only legitimate owner of his land, and will determine himself politically only after the total liberation of his land according to its will and decision (Article 3). Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinians assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle for the total liberation of Palestine (Article 9).

The liberation of Palestine means to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression, and aims at the elimination of Zionism from Palestine in its entirety (Article 15). The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 are entirely illegal (Article 19). The Balfour Declaration [1917], the Mandate for Palestine [1919], and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of the Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history. Judaism, being only a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own. They are only citizens of the states to which they belong (Article 20).

The Palestinian people, expressing himself by the armed revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine (Article 21). The liberation of Palestine will totally destroy the Zionist presence and by that will contribute to the establishment of peace (Article 22).

Hamas Charter, contrary to Fath-PLO covenant, seeks not a ‘Palestinian state,’ but an ‘Islamic Ummah,’ according to the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology. The Charter opens with a quote from the Qur’an (3:10): “You [Islamic nation] are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind,” and declares the following:

Israel will exist until Islam will obliterate it… It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned. In the absence of Islam, strife will be rife, oppression spreads, evil prevails and schisms and wars will break out (Article 6).

The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It includes the struggle of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war and all Jihad operations… The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the and kill the Jews, and when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say O Muslims, O the servants of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him (Article 7).

Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Qur’an its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes (Article 8).

The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (endowment) until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to deny that. Palestine in its entirety belongs only to the Palestinians. This is the law governing the Islamic Shari’ah (article 11).

Nothing is more significant or deeper than Jihad against the Zionist enemy. Resisting and quelling the enemy become the individual duty of every Muslim, male or female. Abusing any part of Palestine is tantamount to abuse part of the religion [which means death]. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad to eliminate the Zionist invasion. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors (Article 13). It is the utmost necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the Muslim nation (Article 15).

The Islamic Resistance Movement is a humanistic movement. It takes care of human rights and is guided by Islamic tolerance when dealing with the followers of other religions. It does not antagonize anyone of them, except if it is antagonized by it or stands in its way to hamper its moves and waste its efforts. Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – to coexist in peace and quiet with each other. Peace and quiet would not be possible except under the wing of Islam (Article 31).

He who wishes even to begin understanding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must start here, with the ideology of annihilation, with the Palestinian Mein Kampf towards Israel. Moreover, after reading these documents, and listening-watching-reading the so many thousands declarations of the Palestinian leaders, the conclusion is clear: the issue is not the ‘occupation,’ the 1967 borders, but Israel’s existence. There is no mentioning of the ‘1967 occupation’ at all, but the ‘1948 occupation.’ It is Israel’s entity at any part of that area that matters; it is the total refusal to accept Israeli legitimacy and to make peace with Israel in any borders.

This is perhaps the biggest fallacy all outside parties share. When the Palestinians say ‘Israeli occupation,’ it is not the 1967 occupation, but the 1948 occupation; and it is not the 1967 borders even not the 1947 borders. The word ‘occupation’ serves as a code-word for the Palestinians the channel world politics and good people to support their case, without really knowing their real objectives.

This is perhaps the greatest deceit in modern time: when the Palestinians murder and massacre Israelis by inhuman terrorism, it is not because of the “occupation” of 1967 border. Arab harsh terrorism against Jews began from the 1920’s; and it is not because of the “settlements,” since the violent objection against Jewish immigration and settlements began even before 1920’s. The so-called 1967 occupied territories have no relevance to the conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is just another problem in a large set of complex issues which firstly must be focused on the recognition of Israel as a state and as a nation.

This is the Palestinian ideology of annihilation. The chief means is incitement and hatred. It is the supreme utmost strategy; the operational code in which it is executed and perpetuated. This is an ocean-deep, so atavistic and inhuman, a highly venomous loath toward everything Israel and Jews represent, manifested in all spheres of life. Children and youth learn to hate before everything else in life, and this is what motivates their ways of thinking and activities. This is a full-fledged industry, a monstrous phenomenon we are even unable to comprehend.

Although in the Qur’an there is the recognition of the Jewish ownership and sole rights on the Land of Israel, called “the Holy Land” (al-Ard al-Muqaddasah); “the Blessed Land” (al-Ard al-Mubarakah); the “Land of the Jews” (Ard Bani-Isra’il), and although on other passages it is declared that the Jews are Allah’s chosen people (2:47; 44:32; 45:16), Palestinian ideology still promotes genocide and Politicide objectives. Killing Jews serves as a prerequisite to religious redemption, for the sake of humanity at large. Palestine’s blessing is linked to the destruction of Israel that opens the doors to Heaven.

The fanatic exaggerated lies are inconceivable to human mind, and reiterated thousands of times. Khaled Mash`al, Hamas political bureau chairman:

“What the State of Israel has done to the Palestinian people is ten times worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews… The Zionist holocaust of the Palestinian people and the peoples of the Arab-Muslim nation is being carried out in full view, and no one can deny it or claim that it has been exaggerated…”

In a sermon on official Palestinian Authority TV the cleric preached:

The Jews, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger, enemies of humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular… The Jews are the Jews. Even if donkeys would cease to bray, dogs cease to bark, wolves cease to howl and snakes to bite, the Jews would not cease to harbor hatred towards Muslims… The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them all.

In a Friday sermon on al-Aqsa TV:

We will redeem Palestine with our souls, with our blood, with our sons, with what is most dear to us until it is entirely liberated and purified. The only way to liberate it is through Jihad for the sake of Allah. Jihad today is an individual duty, incumbent upon each and every Muslim man and woman.

Believe it or not, these declarations are not only the least extreme. The industry of hatred is fed even exacerbated by the industry of lies, and both produce an unprecedented volume of violence that brings de-humanization of the Jews. Violence does not and cannot exist by itself; it is invariably intertwined with the lie. The main aspect of hate industry is the educational system.

Anti-Semitism, the denial of the Jewish state’s right to exist, and martyrdom are constant staples on PA TV and other media devices. All cultural and social life are directed to stigmatize the phenomena. The Palestinians have targeted their education and media socialization and indoctrination toward the de-legitimization of Israel and de-humanization of the Jews, to prepare the ground of yet another “final solution.”

The main Palestinian strategy is to turn the historical-political reality upside down, by twisting the well-documented facts of history and by re-inventing a wholly new fabricated history. The lies they present are so detached from reality, are so disconnected from any human logic, and that is why they exactly are accepted. When one reiterates absurdity after total absurdity, people begin to believe it has some truths. Hitler, Goebbels, and Lenin have proven this; the Palestinians practice it so successfully.

The Palestinians claim the ridiculous absurdity that their ancestors were the seven peoples of Canaan and the Philistines. Going along, since the Palestinians are their descendants, they preceded the Jews in their right to the territory. Moreover, in Palestinians’ perspective, the Jews today have no connection to the Jews of the past, which were disappeared historically. Contemporary Jews are religious groups of imposters who are not the real Jews, but rather part of the Zionist plot to gain control of the Palestinians homeland.

Here is the exponent of Zaid Nabulsi review in Saudi paper:

All Zionist archaeologists have failed — after digging up every conceivable corner of Palestine for the last 62 years — to come up with a single credible Jewish teapot or tablespoon… digging. Two years ago, Israeli professor Shlomo Sand argued, with meticulous scholarship in his earth-shattering book, ‘The Invention of the Jewish People,’ that the claim that the Jews of today are the ethnic offspring of the Biblical Jews is yet another Zionist myth, because all records tell us that the current Jews are the descendants of Khazar tribes who converted to Judaism, and have no genetic link whatsoever to the Jews who lived in Palestine during Roman times… the Romans apparently never exiled anybody of the Jews. Sand demolishes the myth of the Kingdoms of David and Solomon by proving they are pure legends that never existed.

Israel is indeed under vicious assault of pseudo-history by the Palestinians who are assisted by pseudo-historians, many of them anti-Semite Jews, to invent new “history,” to rewrite some of the most widely-accepted truths of history. This is not only pseudo-historic revisionism or denial of well accepted truths, but clearly Nazi-Fascist claims, falsifying, twisting and distorting the history of the Land of Israel and the Jews.

Psychological factors operate to manipulate views and attitudes, and to create mantras that do not necessarily reflect either the historical record or applicable international law. Language becomes an important tool both in falsifying events and in perpetuating beliefs based on narratives that do not accurately reflect history. Psychological manipulation is operated for political purposes. Colonialism has become the major theme in de-legitimizing and de-humanizing Israel, charged as a ‘settler-colonialist’ state. The notion of ‘settler’ dismisses any historical or biblical connection of the Jews to the Land of Israel, hence, the importance of denial of Jewish rights. These charges are rooted in cognitive denial of any Jewish connection to Palestine. The mechanism of dissonance reduction is most central by arguing that Jews do not constitute a national entity and cannot have legitimate rights to what was known as Palestine. Corresponding with article 20 of their Covenant, the Palestinians claim that since Jews are members of a religion and not a nation, any nationalistic aspirations based on a specific territory are invalid.

Historically, ‘Palestine’ has never been a territorial-cultural and political unit and it had no special geographic or political role for the last 2000 years. The name in Arabic, “Filastin,” has no historical cultural connotations or any etymological meaning. “Palestine” has even no meaning in Greek, Latin, or English. In the New English Bible, the Latin name Palaestina denote Philistia as in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, the word does not occur at all. The only language it comes from is Hebrew, denoting the southern coastal region of the Land of Israel called “Pleshet”. Yet, it has now taken on the wholesale myth that could fill volumes of vitriolic and venomous propaganda that has become a virtual religion in itself.

The historical truths are clear: first, there has never been a sovereign Arab state in Palestine, after the Jewish Diaspora, 1900 years ago, until the establishment of the State of Israel; second, nor did a Palestinian people, distinct from other Arabs, appear during 1,375 years of Muslim hegemony in Palestine under Arab, Muslim and Ottoman rule; third, Jerusalem has never been an Arab or Muslim capital, even not an important city during the entire history of Islamic rule. Only twice in Jerusalem’s history has it served as a national capital: during the first Jewish kingdoms of David and Solomon (1013-933 B.C.) and the Second Temple period; and now as the capital of the State of Israel.

After the end of the second Jewish revolt in 135, the Roman ruler, Herod Agrippa, decided to rename the territory from “Provincia Judaea” to ‘Provincia Syria Palaestina’. The name was derived from the Philistines, a non-Semitic, Indo-European people from the Aegean islands. Later on the region was split into “Palaestina Prima,” consisted of Judea, Samaria and east and southern part of the Jordan valley; “Palaestina Secunda,” consist of the Galilee, the Golan and the northern part of the Jordan river; and “Palaestina Tertia,” extended over southern Transjordan, the Negev and Sinai desert. The Roman renamed Jerusalem as “Aelia Capitolina”.

The Arab invasion of the Middle East from 632, culminated in the conquest of the country in 634 and Jerusalem in 638. Palaestina Prima became Jund Filastin, the military district of Palaestina, administered from Lydda and Ramla; Palaestina Secunda including Western Galilee, became Jund al-Urdun, and was administered from Tiberias. These Arabic names were a direct borrowing from the Greco-Roman terms, but because Arabic has no “p” sound in its language “Palaestina” became “Filastin).” The Arab division of the country, like the Roman, was not vertical between east and west, but horizontal, with Filastin in the south and Urdun in the north.

The word ‘Palestine’ was reborn in the 20th century by the British, together with “Filastin” in Arabic, and “Palestina (E.I.: initials standing for Eretz-Israel)” in Hebrew. However, In contrast to the Jews, the Arab inhabitants avoided using the Arabic name Filastin, but the name “Arabs” or “Syrians.” The Peel Report had clearly noticed: “the Arabs had always regarded Palestine as included in Syria.” This was the official position of the Palestinian and Arab leadership during the 1940’s. In 1945, the renowned historian Philip Hitti vehemently claimed before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in January 11, 1946: “There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.” As late as 1956, Ahmad Shuqeiry, while addressing the United Nations Security Council, has put it: ‘it is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria’. Even the UN Resolution 242 of November 1967 mentions only “Arab refugees,” not “Palestinian refugees,” or a “Palestinian people.”

What do all these mean? One can only imagine if Hadrian had never changed the name from Judea to Palaestina, so this unique name wouldn’t have ever existed. In that case would we be hearing of “a Judean Arab people” striving to establish “a Judean Arab land”? The British could have chosen the name “The Holy Land” or “The Land of Israel” or other name. In that case, again, there could have been no “Palestine” as a territory and no “Palestinians” as a nation. To make it more absurd: what if Hadrian or the British had changed the name to “Jupiter?” In that case, would we be hearing of a “Jupiterian Arab people” fighting to liberate their “Jupiterian Arab land”?

Without entering polemical argumentation, from any known scientific historical perspectives, can one trace evidence to a land called Palestine? Can one show when and where it was founded and who were its leaders? Can one delineate its borders, its major cities and capital? Can one record its society, economy, currency, and political settings? Indeed, there is none of all these. There is no language known as Palestinian, or even specific Arabic accent; there is no distinct Palestinian culture; there are no records in history of Palestinian life; there are no archaeological sites and monuments. Indeed, there has never been a land known as “Palestine” governed by distinct “Palestinians.”

This does not deny at all the idea there is a Palestinian people today striving to establish a Palestinian state. Nationalism and political identity are evolving terms. However, these are brand new terms, only from the 1950’s, and mainly after 1967 war. For that, there is no need to twist and to rape history, unless one wishes to deny other’s legitimate rights. From here stems the most important question: what do the Palestinians really want?

What about Jews’ legal rights? Israel’s political rights and sovereignty over the mandated territory called ‘Palestine’ were favored under International Law. In 1917 Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, issued his famous ‘Declaration,’ with the consent of the cabinet. In 1920, the Ottoman Empire in Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres, granted its sovereignty in the Middle East, which had been undisputed for 400 years, to Great Britain. In 1920 San Remo convention, the Allies adopted Lord Balfour’s declaration as its policy, called ‘The British Mandate,’ that became International Law. The 1922 Palestine Mandate specifically refers to the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” and called for the Jewish people to begin “reconstituting of their national home.” In 1924, the British Mandate became the domestic law of England and the US. The UN continued with this policy, according to article 80 of its Charter. So, Israel emerged from the British Mandate with the support of the League of Nations, and recognition of the UN.

Furthermore, 99% of the lands captured from the Ottomans in the Middle East and the North Africa was allocated to the Arabs. Only 1% was given to the Jews under the British mandate. After Churchill gave Transjordan to Abdullah, the Arabs and Muslims had 99.77% of the lands, and the Jews only one quarter of one percent. These figures expose the whole reality of the Middle East.

The assertion that Israel came into existence on the basis of injustice done to the Palestinian nation proceeds on gross errors and lies: to claim that the Palestinian nation was displaced by Israel, when no such entity existed at that time is playing with the facts of history and twisting it. To argue that Israel took areas belonging to a Palestinian political entity in the Six Day War is a gross lie, since there was no Palestinian sovereignty on any territory. The fact is that in the 1967 war, Israel conquered militarily areas of mandatory Palestine which had been occupied by Jordan, which annexed the ‘West Bank;’ and Egypt, which retained the Mandatory system in Gaza.

After the failure of the Arab states in 1948 war, frontiers for the Jewish state were determined in negotiations with the Arab states, which appropriated the Palestinian issue to themselves. All armistice agreements were conducted and signed by the Arab states. No mention of the ‘Palestinians’ as a people and ‘Palestine’ as a territory. The fact is that UN Resolution 194, of December 11, 1948, refers mainly to conciliation regime between Israel and the Arab states, and only in Article 11 does it relate to the ‘refugee problem’ in general terms. If this means Palestinians, it no less means Jewish refugees from Arab states.

The allegations that Israel was established by the European colonialism, is cynical, ironical and aberration of the truth. It is exactly the Arab States that deserve their nationalities to the decisions of the European powers, including the delineating of their entire borders. Moreover, to accuse Israel of being the product of European colonialism, while the history of the Arabs and Islam is the pure form of imperialism, colonialism and occupation, is again twisting the truth. The Middle East was mainly Christian before it was occupied by Islam; Egypt was Pharaonic; Iran was Sassanid; Lebanon was Phoenician; Turkey was Christian; North Africa was Berber; Afghanistan was Christian; Pakistan was Buddhist. They all and many other countries were harshly occupied and viciously colonized by the Arabs and Islam. While European colonialism demised, Arab-Islamic colonialism thrives and expanding.      

The refugee Issue

The Palestinians initiated a highly successful propaganda campaign that Israel occupies the land belonging solely to them, uprooted its nation and scattered them out of their land. The Palestinian Nakbah has become a myth, the lost paradise, and thus the utmost specter. However, the original political use of the Nakbah was in 1920, when the local Arabs vehemently objected the separation of the territory from Syria.

The Palestinian national narrative depicts the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as the original sin, routinely equated with the Jewish Holocaust, and its remedy is turning the clock back to 1948. All Palestinian refugees, not just those still alive from 1948, but their millions of descendants, would be allowed to return to their homes. By that, this would entail the ending of the Jewish Zionist state.

The Palestinian issue is not a problem of refugees, since only a small minority of them live in camps, and the socioeconomic data and the living standards show clearly that their situation not only resembles hundreds of millions of inhabitants of Third World countries, but in many ways the Palestinian economy and social situation is much better than at least one hundred states, including some Arab states.

The Palestinian issue is not the problem of a people uprooted from its land, since most of the Palestinians live in the land of ‘Mandatory Palestine,’ in area less than the distance between New York and Philadelphia. Small part of them still resides in refugee camps only because some still hope of the destruction of the State of Israel.

The Palestinian issue is not a problem of a society that was scattered from its human environment, since almost all Palestinians live and reside in an Arabic speaking society and culture, among their own society. It is absolutely clear that the total majority of the so-called Palestinian refugees are in no sense true refugees, according to world standards and social-economic reality.

In the past ninety years, more than 130 million refugees around the world, mainly from Europe and Asia, of which 640,000 were Palestinians – only one half of one percent of world refugees. This is the correct proportion. Of all the millions of people who became refugees, the only ones who still count themselves as refugees and who live at the expense of the nations of the world are the Palestinians. Over 90% of the refugees in the world have been rehabilitated, residing in the places where they resettled. The enormous donations to the Palestinians are unfortunately earmarked mainly for corruption and terrorism. Those who are in need in Asia and Africa receive nothing. The poverty, misery and wretchedness are really there, mainly in Africa, but only the Palestinians get the world’s political, social and financial attention. The Palestinians live off the world’s charity at the expense of those who are truly in need of that charity.

One example of the so many of this tragedy is sufficed to illuminate the sick situation, and it comes precisely from a Muslim state: Pakistan. In August 2010 there were huge areas flooded in Pakistan, causing at least twenty million refugees without any means of living. It was defined by the UN “the greatest humanitarian disaster.” However, except of lip service declarations, including the UN Secretary General calling the world to donate money, the UN itself did nothing to treat these miserable refugees as compare to what the Palestinians get regularly. The same situation occurred in 2009, where two millions of Pakistanis run away from their homes in Swat region taken by the Taliban, without even water to drink, but with the same pattern of the UN: doing nothing. The UN High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, described the displacement crisis as “one of the most dramatic in recent times,” but except of these high words UNHCR did very little to assist and sustain them.

There are almost hundred countries in the world whose economic and social situation is much more severe than that of the Palestinians, Arab states included, with no attention let alone assistance of the world. The Palestinian GNP in year 2000 was 1600 US$, higher than Arab states and most of the Third World Countries. Concerning the contemporary so-called humanitarian situation in Gaza, it is higher than those state that cry out to sent aid flotilla, like Turkey, Iran and Lebanon. The GNH (Gross National Happiness) of the Palestinians is higher than most Arab states, including Turkey, and almost all Third World countries.

More illuminating and disturbing data give proportion to the Palestinian situation: a) at any given moment there are 15 to 25 million refugees living ‘outside of their border’ according to UN definition, without food and shelter, in conditions far direr than the Palestinians; b) there are almost two hundred national-ethnic peoples in the world begging desperately for statehood, who do not wish to gain their independence at the cost of ruining other nation; c) one third of world population drink polluted water, most of them drink water that endanger their health, and every minute 8000 children die solely from drinking polluted water; d) one quarter of world populations have no toilets at home and use holes in a field; e) there are 240 million slave-children around the world, including many from Muslim countries; f) there are, according to UNICEF and the International Woman Research, 51 million child-brides, all from Islamic countries, most of them are sexually harassed and beaten regularly, including one hundred million mutilated women.

The Palestinians are not included in this long poor miserable list.

There are three categories of refugees, according to the United Nations: refugees from all over the world; Palestinian refugees; and Jews refugees — with a totally different treatment. The first category is the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), which deals with refugees from all over the world, with the aim to give them a basic treatment, and to find quick and safe shelter for them, so that they are integrated or settled down as soon as possible. Those refugees are discouraged to remain refugees and to quickly find other accommodation alternatives. The budget allocated of UNHCR is 1.5 billion US$, with 6300 working personnel.

The second category is the Palestinian refugees. They are a special, privileged class. There is a special, separate UN agency, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), whose principal duty is to perpetuate their status as refugees forever; to prevent any attempt to settle them down; to provide them, their children and the next generations to come special humanitarian social, economic, and welfare treatment. From 640 thousand refugees in 1948, UNRWA supports now more than five million so-called Palestinian refugees. For that, it is the largest organization of the UN’s, with more than 28 thousand working personnel, 90 percent of them are Palestinians, and 1.1 billion US$ budget.

Under the humanitarian cover, UNRWA acts as a political organ, a giant pressure group for perpetuating the Palestinian refugee’s situation. Its activity is counterproductive in terms of the possibility of resolving the Palestinian refugee problem, by relegating them to a state of passivity and dependency. Yet it is much worse. All educational system and schools run by UNRWA actively serve as greenhouses for praising terrorism as a source of hideous hatred and demonism against Israel and the Jews, and active bases of terrorism instruction and operations. The money donated by the Western states that defines Hamas and other groups as terrorist organizations goes to terrorism; the food supply serve Hamas activity; its warehouses stores weapons; and its workers drive terrorists and weapons with the cars and ambulances of UNRWA. Taken the huge money pour upon them, there is absolutely no motivation of the Palestinians to handle the issue and to recover out of the refugee status.          

The third category is the Jews. Nobody took care about them after the Second World War, and nobody even knows there was a Jewish refugee problem. After the establishment of the State of Israel, a million of Jews became refugees in many Arab lands, and had to leave their houses and huge property in Arab countries and to flee to Israel, where they have been fully absorbed. None of these Jewish refugees were helped by the United Nations. All were set¬tled long ago in their new environments, without being parasites of the world.

The following examples put the Palestinian refugees in perspective:

In April 2004, the UN General Assembly decided that it is impossible to implement the rights of the two hundred thousand Greeks and the fifty thousand Turks to return to their homes in partitioned Cyprus, because “the new reality which has been created” must be taken into consideration. However, this stand of the UN is totally different concerning the Palestinian refugees.

Following World War II, 11 million Germans were expelled from their homes in the Sudetenland, in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, and were force-marched to Germany. Two million died on the way, but the others were absorbed in Germany. In 2004, few of them were seeking to return to their homes, not demanding to dissolve the country from which they were deported; not demanding to replace it; and not demanding money compensation. In August 2004, the German government determined they have no right of return even no reparation. However, the attitude of Germany and the EU towards the Palestinian refugees is totally different.  

In 1968, the British Government exiled 5,000 of the residents of the Island of Diego Garcia, for the purpose of constructing an American air base. In 2003, the exiled residents demand to return to their homes in the island. Their demand was rejected by the British High Court of Justice that ruled out that the residents have neither the right to return nor to receive compensations. However, the British stand toward the Palestinian refugee problem is different.    

Now the question is that out of all the misery and suffering in the world, and year 2010 is notoriously known of huge disasters culminating in tragedies almost everywhere, the world is busy with the false detached “humanitarian situation in Gaza” and the need of “rescue flotillas” for the Palestinians? Why the world is silent while there are more than a billion poor and miserable starving and dying people around the world, the Palestinians continue to receive billions of dollars yearly? This immoral and unjustified flow money continues even when the donating countries and the UN clearly know that large part of it goes to produce terrorism against Israel and increased corruption among the Palestinians.

Why the Kurds, 25 million people living in the same Middle East, have no state of their own and nobody cares about their situation? Why the Christians, the original population in most of the Arab states, have become extinct species and nobody cares about their miserable fate, while the Palestinians are treated and sustained as if they are the last and only people with denied national aspirations?

The Issue of Jerusalem

The Palestinian propaganda declares: Jerusalem has no sanctity whatsoever for the Jews; the Jewish Temple was in Nablus and not in Jerusalem; the Western Wall is part of the Wall of al-Aqsa Mosque, and the whole area of Jerusalem exclusively belongs to the Palestinians, and no stone in it has any connection to the Jews. Al-Quds University posts a History of Jerusalem in which the Jewish narrative is a ‘myth’; that King David, whose very existence is questioned, was probably part of an idealized community of “Israelites” that had no connection to Jerusalem; that those “Israelites” never experienced an exodus from Egypt, a story appropriated from a Canaanite legend; that Joshua’s conquest never took place; that Solomon’s Temple was actually a center of pagan worship; and that the Western Wall was part of a Roman fortress. In the al-Quds history of Palestine, Jews are not mentioned.

`Abd al-Rahim Barkat, of the Islamic Movement in Israel:

The imaginary tale regarding the Temple of Jerusalem is a lie, a crime, and the most enormous forgery in history… the existence of the Holy Temple is not based on any historical or archeological testimony and simply does not exist except in the minds of the Jews. Jerusalem in its entirety belongs to the Muslims and Jews have no relationship whatsoever to that city.

Dr. Hassan Khadir, founder of the al-Quds Encyclopedia:

The Jewish connection to this site is a recent one, began in the 16th century. It is not ancient like the roots of the Islamic connection. The Jewish connection to this site is a fabricated one. The true name of the Western Wall is the al-Buraq, named after Muhammad’s horse which was tied to the wall. Who would have believed that the Israelis would arrive 1400 years later, conquer Jerusalem, and make this wall into their special place of worship.

PLO official, Dr. Ghazi Hussein:

Israel has been perpetrating against the Palestinian crimes far worse than those committed by Nazi Germany. The Judaization of al-Haram al-Ibrahimi [the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs in Hebron] and the Bilal bin Rabbah mosque [Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem], and the claim to build the false Jewish temple and to Judaize the al-Aqsa mosque prove the Jewish ethnic cleansing policy.

This sheer distorted scientific and twisted history is answered in details: Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Qur’an, the Hadeeth and the Seerah. Never in history had Jerusalem occupied a place of importance in Islam, even as a religious site. It was never considered to be a holy city and no religious institutions were established there, and never became a regional or national capital in Muslim history. The ‘awakening’ of the Palestinians is purely political, against the State of Israel, with the objective to de-legitimize its existence and to refute its legal claims.

The Land of Israel was conquered by the Muslims in 634 CE by `Umar bin-Khattab, but the Muslims did not bother to conquer Jerusalem until four years later. That is certainly an indication of the importance of Jerusalem as far as Islam is concerned. Had Jerusalem been of any real significance, it certainly would have been conquered earlier.

When the invading Muslims entered Jerusalem, they signed a Dhimma (a capitulation for security) agreement with the Christians and left it. `Umar Bin al-Khattab did not recognize any special significance of Jerusalem, and decided to make Caesarea the capital of the region. If the al-Aqsa mosque indeed was located on the Temple Mount, could we imagine that he would belittle it and deny the validity of its source in the Qur’an? If it had any religious, even political importance could we imagine how the Muslims treated Jerusalem for generations?

If Jerusalem was important to the Umayyads, why they made Damascus the capital of their dynasty and not Jerusalem? And if it was important to Islam after the Crusaders built their “kingdom of Jerusalem,” why the Muslims did not do anything to materialize Jerusalem’s importance? And if Jerusalem was important during the 400 years of Ottoman rule, why science and politics know nothing of this?

Apparently the Muslims did not think of any importance, as they called Jerusalem “Iliyas,” the Arabized form of the Latin “Aelia”. Afterwards, the city was called Bayt al-Maqdis, from the Hebrew Beit ha-Mikdash. From the 10th century, the Muslims used a shortened version of al-Quds (the Hebrew word of Kodesh, holy).

The only reference in the Qur’an regularly employed by Muslims is the first verse in Surat Bani Isra’il, 17:1 as if al-Aqsa located in Jerusalem:

Glory to (Allah) who took his servant for a journey by night from the sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts we did bless…

This verse, Isra’, is connected to Mi’ragh verses, that describe how Muhammad had visions at night in which he hovers with the Angel Gabriel through the seven worlds while riding on the horse al-Buraq and returns to Mecca the same night. On his way he meets the prophets: Adam, St. John and Jesus, Joseph, Idris, Aaron, Moses and Abraham.

Flying horses, flying dragons and gods able to fly, were common myths centuries before Muhammad. The whole story may have been influenced by the story of the prophet Elijah who flew into heaven in a burning chariot pulled by horses. Long before Elijah story, Moses ascended Mount Sinai and received the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. In other words, the story of Muhammad has its source in the Hebrew Bible. He intended to reach heaven in order to behold Allah. There was nothing else, surely not Jerusalem.

Moreover, the territory of the Land of Israel could not be called “al-Aqsa,” which means the far-away land, since its geographical proximity to Arabia. The Land of Israel is called in the Qur’an al-Ard al-Adna, the “nearby land,” closest to Mecca and Medina. However, an interesting approach is given by the Egyptian, Ahmad Muhammad `Arafa. He claims that Muhammad’s night journey refers to the Hijrah of the prophet from Mecca to Medina. The journey was not to Jerusalem but to Medina. The word Isra’ in Arabic that appears in the Qur’an means “to move secretly from a dangerous location to a safe place.” In that way the prophet obeyed the instructions of Allah to the effect that Mecca was dangerous, his enemies were plotting to kill him, and he was to escape secretly at night to Medina. Muhammad’s praise for Allah, referred to demonstrate the importance of the event for Mohammad.

The Caliph `Abd al-Malik (685-705) built the Dome of the Rock, in 691, as to elevate and sanctify Jerusalem, since the Umayyads could not reach Mecca for the pilgrimage. His son, al-Walid, constructed the mosque called al-Aqsa on the ruins of the Jewish Temple Mount in 715. The “Praise of Jerusalem” literature (Fada’il al-Quds), that emerged for political reasons during the Umayyad dynasty, disappeared, and a new contradictory literature appeared that belittled the importance of the city. The Hanbali exegete, Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), is identified with this trend: directing prayer toward Bayt al-Maqdis was nullified, being an apostasy (Irtidad). In 1016 the Dome of the Rock collapsed and no one bothered to restore it as a holy site of worship. Jerusalem once more fell into awe of neglect and oblivion. Damascus, Cairo, Constantinople and other centers were considered to be of much higher religious significance than Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was forgotten until the 20th century. It was “revealed” from the second half of 1920’s, by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini; then by King Abdallah of Transjordan; and culminated with Yasser Arafat. all of them prove the historical rule: Jerusalem is important in Islam only from its political role, when others control it, and to enhance political ambitions and identification.

Why the Palestinian Propaganda Succeeds?

Now, the question is why the Palestinians succeed in their propaganda full of uncorroborated and unsubstantiated facts as to divert world public opinion from reality? The answer lies in the following syndromes:

The first is the Ignorance-Disinformation Syndrome (IDS). Most of the people, even those who have constant information of the situation, are not acquainted enough and do not know the details and the characteristics of the conflict, mainly because of cultural barriers. One cannot avoid detecting the incredible amount of ignorance regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, so, when one pours highly concentrated disinformation to the ignorant, the success is surely his.

Disputes about opinions and views when the facts are known is understandable; different views in describing facts are reasonable, since history is not an exact science; even Rashomon of telling different stories is acceptable. But, the fact is that so much disinformation has been poured so many years and by so many educated and intelligent people, is amazing. Distortions, misconceptions, and unadulterated lies are common, so that it became the whole truth.

Why do the Palestinians twist the reality? It is because they know their case is weak and unconvincing; because this is a cultural syndrome proven in Islamic history when relating to the other; because this is the message of the Qur’an that for the promotion of Islamic interests cheating and deceiving are permitted, and mainly because they wish not a compromised solution, but want it all. Why do they continue lying? Because they have solid proofs that their lies succeed, and world public opinion, leaders and the media, do not condemn them. James Baldwin, the American author has put this syndrome as follows:

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

This is the reason why Goethe had reiterated the idea:

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.

This is why Alan Dershowitz has put it so succinctly:

When the best are accused being the worst, you have to look at the accusers.

To make the situation even more complicated, there is the Mirror Image Syndrome (MIS), the twisted psychological behavioral and conceptual lenses through which we look into the situation and interpret it. This is perhaps our most lethal enemy, proven through historical research by Barbara Tuchman; through psychological research by Norman Dixon and through surprise attacks and misconceptions research. We analyze the situation and relate to our enemy through our own values and conceptions. However, what if our enemy is different from us culturally and conceptually? What if he is devoted to achieve his goals by all means we do not even appreciate politically and understand culturally? What if we play Checkmate while he plays Sheshbesh?

Moreover, the situation is exacerbated by the Aggressiveness-Victimhood as against Political Correct Syndrome (AVPCS). That means, understanding the ramifications of Arab-Islamic cultural phenomenon of victimhood as against Western politically correct approach. The Western trauma of politically correct of not to offend the other and to act according to fashion goes exactly with the Muslim demand of honor and not to be offended, being a supremacist religion. The Arab-Muslims raise to unprecedented extremes their sensibilities; they immediately declare they are offended almost on every realm and every issue in day by day life. This situation, in its turn, deepens Western politically correct approach, and that process end with capitulation and apologies.

Whatever they do; no matter how aggressive is their behavior; how deep and horrible the atrocious violence they exhibit — from Arab-Muslim perspective, they are always the innocent victims who only defend their honor, their life and their land. This is a very well-known syndrome of the Arab-Islamic cultural trait of crying out and complaint (I`rad Baka’- Shaqa’), which is exemplified by the Arab saying: Darabni wa-Baka, Sabaqani wa-Shtaka (he hit me and cried out, he overtook me and grumbled). Add to this the Judeo-Christian guilt remorse, of internalizing the guilt, and the Arab-Islamic cultural syndrome of externalizing the guilt, and the result is clear: Arab Muslims win the situation, and Western civilization capitulates.

However, the most important is the leading scientific culture syndrome of the ‘post’ era, of ‘post imperialism’, ‘post modernism,’ ‘post colonialism,’ and relativism. This has become the new ideology, the god of new Western scientific era. Pascal Bruckner has called the Western intelligentsia’s new form as “tyranny of guilt,” a self-effacement of Western masochism that forbids any critical inquiry into the historical narratives of national movements granted the sanctified status of “oppressed.” The Nakbah narrative cannot even be challenged. This is the horrible legacy of Edward Said’s atrocious approach of Orientalism, which was criticized harshly, among many others, by Bernard Lewis and Ibn Warraq. This approach has become a highly sophisticated grand strategy built on the foundations laid down by Said: all you have to win over is to disqualify, to invalidate and to delegitimize the other, whatever the circumstances, the situation and reality are. This one-sided totality, this black and white absoluteness, is one of the conspicuous cultural traits of Islam.

The dire situation inherited from Said’s legacy is that contemporary Western research of the Middle East and Islam suffers from fear and dictation, out of post-colonial and guilt remorse and inferiority complex. According to this, one must accept the Middle East as is and must absolutely refrain of any judgment (but unfortunately and so tragically not Africa and Third World countries; only the Middle East!). This means that only the post-modernists, and of course Arabs and Muslims, hold the pure true academic indisputable knowledge of that field. Anyone who dares criticizing Arabs and Islam is being immediately accused outright as racist, colonialist and Islamophobe.

These are the basic reasons for the successful Palestinian’s propaganda of twisting reality and winning world public opinion’s stand. Of course, there is room for criticism on all sides. No one is solely righteous and no one is totally guilty of the situation. However, there is hardly such a case in which history has been so thoroughly written upside down and facts have been so profoundly manipulated as by the Palestinians. One day historians will devote in-depth many volumes studies of how did the Palestinians succeed in fooling so many people in such a long time, without the entire world standing up and crying out: enough is enough. Indeed, one can safely say: you can fool most of the people all the time; you can fool all the people most of the time; but you cannot fool all the people all the time – unless you are the Palestinians.

Summary

The Palestinians should look into the mirror and honestly ask: why there is no Palestinian state today? Is it Israel’s refusal, or their leadership’s obstinacy demanding ‘all or nothing,’ and out of inter-Arab rivalries? The Palestinians could have established their state according to UN partition plan of November 1947 (decision 181), with a bigger territory than Israel. The Arabs could have conclude peace with Israel after 1948, instead of armistice agreements and establish a state for the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, as most of contemporary plans are aimed to. However, unfortunately, both the Palestinian leadership and Arab states declined. The real question is whether the Palestinians are ready to establish a state on the 1967 borders, and to recognize Israel’s legitimacy by declaring the end of hostilities. Unfortunately, all indicators are clear, they do not, and they still believe they can achieve it all.

One of the main reasons for their stubbornness is the political support, almost blindly and totally, they get from the international system, mainly from Europe and the UN. The international community has emboldened them into believing that Israel can be delegitimized and weakened through international pressure. All the Palestinians need is to hold out long enough for achieving their ultimate goal. This situation of putting their case above most of world issues, as if their case is solved all other issues coming from the Middle East, including the Islamic immigration, are solved, is disastrous for the world; counter-productive for the Palestinians; and lethal to the existence of Israel.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is and has always been based on Palestinian and Arab opposition to Jewish statehood. There is mainly one cause to the continuation of this conflict, which is buried beneath an avalanche of media coverage and politicians’ declarations designed to obfuscate and confuse reality — the refusal to come to terms with Israel’s existence as a Jewish Zionist state. Indeed, this conflict is not about the right of self-determination of the “Palestinian,” but rather it is about Jewish self-determination; it is not about Israel’s stubbornness and rejection of a “Palestinian state,” but rather about Arab and Palestinian stubborn rejection of Jewish statehood; it is not about Israel’s refusal to compromise, the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties clearly prove it, but about the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to compromise and to recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Under these circumstances, it is unreasonable to anticipate a change in the Palestinian and Islamic behavior towards Israel, unless their leaderships decide to change their policies, methods, textbooks and verbal messages. The education for hatred for Jews and for Israel lies at the root of the issues. The Nazi and Japanese analogy is most instructive. As long as racism and militarism was the basis of Nazi and Japanese society, both could not enter the modern democratic world. The Allied powers, headed by the US, understood that the military defeat is not enough, and imposed a radical change on Nazi and Japanese societal values, education and politics. Germany and Japan were forced to abandon their ancient tradition of nationalistic racism and militarism and to embrace an open system of democracy. Only then were they able to become democratic and technologically advanced nations. This must be applicable, first and foremost to the Palestinians, who are spoiled by the blind international support (and to the Muslims at large concerning the West).  

Professor Fuad Ajami, of John’s Hopkins University, clearly has stated: an accommodation with Israel is imperative, but the Palestinian leaders still demanding to have it all, ‘from the river to the sea.’ The Arab states have compounded the Palestinian radicalism, granted them everything and nothing at the same time, and there was thus no need for the Palestinians to moderation and realism. The Palestinians should know better, aside from a handful of the most messianic Israelis and Europeans, there is a recognition that the Palestinians must come to term with reason and live in peace with Israel, or to drop off the history.  

In his the Missing Peace, the American Diplomat, Dennis Ross, noticed the salient fact that for the Arabs, any Israeli withdrawal and relinquishment is not enough. The revolutionary change is yet to come for the Arab world to recognize Israeli needs, let alone its existence. It is not enough to sit at the negotiation table and to talk peace and yet to maintain a different atmosphere in the streets, in the media and politics. Without a real change in Arab-Islamic political culture, it is highly doubtful that the Middle East is on the path of change towards peace. On the contrary, it is still a huge barrier to peace, as much as to democracy and civil rights. The Middle East, Ross concludes, is going backwards and not progressing, with a continued militancy of Islamism. This is of course, exactly the case of the Palestinians.

Western public opinion is ignorant of the so pervasive cultural behavior of Arab-Islamic dualism. The reason is that one of the main aspects is dualism in language. The Palestinian Authority preaches peace in English and incites war in Arabic. The contradiction between what it says in English to the Western audience and what it says in Arabic is overwhelming. As Steven Simpson has put it, the fact is that the Palestinians and the Muslims at large still point to these hateful verses in the Qur’an, should give us a pause to consider if there can ever be true peace between Muslims and Jews. In the religious and cultural context, let alone the national territorial rivalry, the Palestinians cannot accept a Jewish state, and the big question under these circumstances, is it likely that true peace will reign in the Land of Israel?

Where did the name Palestine come from?

The Philistines were not native to Israel, in fact, as their name implies, they came from somewhere from the Greek Islands, most likely Crete. Obviously, they did not speak Arabic and they were not Semitic like Jews and Arabs. That is why the Romans chose to eradicate the name Judea by implementing foreign outside name.

From the fifth century BCE, the Greeks called the eastern coast of the Mediterranean “Philistine Syria” using the Greek language form of the name. In the year135, after putting down the Bar Kochba revolt, the second major Jewish revolt against Rome, the Emperor Hadrian wanted to wipe out the name of the Roman “Provincia Judaea” and so renamed it “Provincia Syria Palaestina”,

Therefore, if any, the Jews are the Palestinians, NOT anybody else.

“The British chose to call the land they mandated Palestine, and very later the local Arabs who picked it up as their supposed ancient name, though they couldn’t even pronounce it correctly and turned it into Filastin.”

So where did these so called “Palestinians” come from?

On March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with P.L.O. executive committee member Zahir Muhsein. In which he said he said:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel… Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

Can the Muslims claim the land through Ishmael?

Some people including many Muslims stake a claim for the Arabs through the line of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and his wife’s Egyptian servant Hagaar. The thinking is that if God promised Abraham that his family would be a blessing to the whole earth and that anyone who blessed them would be blessed and those who cursed them would be cursed, that must include the children of Ishmael who in fact was Abraham’s first son. That theory does make sense using man’s logic. The truth is that God made an executive decision to separate the children of Yitsak (Isaac) from the Children of Ishmael. It doesn’t sound fair does it? But who are we to question the Wisdom of the Almighty? Take a look at Genesis 17:18-21.

So God, Himself, refused to give the Abrahamic Blessing to Ishmael and the Arabs. Muslims have their own story of this covenant. They believe that Ishmael received the Covenant. They also claim that it was Ishmael who was taken and almost sacrificed by Abraham on Mount Moriah, later to be called the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem. But remember one thing, the Bible was written thousands of years before Mohammed was born and he and the other Muslims scribes took the parts of the Bible and other books that they liked and changed the parts they did not like in the seventh and eighth centuries.

Continue Reading
Comments

Middle East

Amid ethnic protests, Iran warns of foreign meddling

Dr. James M. Dorsey

Published

on

Iran has raised the spectre of a US-Saudi effort to destabilize the country by exploiting economic grievances against the backdrop of circumstantial evidence that Washington and Riyadh are playing with scenarios for stirring unrest among the Islamic republic’s ethnic minorities.

Iran witnessed this weekend minority Azeri and Iranian Arab protests in soccer stadiums while the country’s Revolutionary Guards Corps reported clashes with Iraq-based Iranian Kurdish insurgents.

State-run television warned in a primetime broadcast that foreign agents could turn legitimate protests stemming from domestic anger at the government’s mismanagement of the economy and corruption into “incendiary calls for regime change” by inciting violence that would provoke a crackdown by security forces and give the United States fodder to tackle Iran.

“The ordinary protesting worker would be hapless in the face of such schemes, uncertain how to stop his protest from spiralling into something bigger, more radical, that he wasn’t calling for,” journalist Azadeh Moaveni quoted in a series of tweets the broadcast as saying.

The warning stroked with the Trump administration’s strategy to escalate the protests that have been continuing for months and generate the kind of domestic pressure that would force Iran to concede by squeezing it economically with the imposition of harsh sanctions.

US officials, including President Donald J. Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, a long-time proponent of Iranian regime change, have shied away from declaring that they were seeking a change of government, but have indicated that they hoped sanctions would fuel economic discontent.

The Trump administration, after withdrawing in May from the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program, this month targeted Iranian access to US dollars, trade in gold and other precious metals, and the sale to Iran of auto parts, commercial passenger aircraft, and related parts and services. A second round of sanctions in November is scheduled to restrict oil and petrochemical products.

“The pressure on the Iranian economy is significant… We continue to see demonstrations and riots in cities and towns all around Iran showing the dissatisfaction the people feel because of the strained economy.” Mr. Bolton said as the first round of sanctions took effect.

Mr. Bolton insisted that US policy was to put “unprecedented pressure” on Iran to change its behaviour”, not change the regime.

The implication of his remarks resembled Israeli attitudes three decades ago when officials argued that if the Palestine Liberation Organization were to recognize Israel it would no longer be the PLO but the PPLO, Part of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

In other words, the kind of policy changes the Trump administration is demanding, including an end to its ballistic program and support for regional proxies, by implication would have to involve regime change.

A string of recent, possibly unrelated incidents involving Iran’s ethnic minorities coupled with various other events could suggest that the United States and Saudi Arabia covertly are also playing with separate plans developed in Washington and Riyadh to destabilize Iran by stirring unrest among non-Persian segments of the Islamic republic’s population.

Mr. Bolton last year before assuming office drafted at the request of Mr. Trump’s then strategic advisor, Steve Bannon, a plan that envisioned US support “for the democratic Iranian opposition,” “Kurdish national aspirations in Iran, Iraq and Syria,” and assistance for Baloch in the Pakistani province of Balochistan and Iran’s neighbouring Sistan and Balochistan province as well as Iranian Arabs in the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan.

A Saudi think tank, believed to be backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called in 2017 in a study for Saudi support for a low-level Baloch insurgency in Iran. Prince Mohammed vowed around the same time that “we will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”

Pakistani militants have claimed that Saudi Arabia has stepped up funding of militant madrassas or religious seminaries in Balochistan that allegedly serve as havens for anti-Iranian fighters.

The head of the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs met in Washington in June with Mustafa Hijri, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), before assuming his new post as counsel general in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said last weekend that they had killed ten militants near the Iranian border with Iraq. “A well-equipped terrorist group … intending to infiltrate the country from the border area of Oshnavieh to foment insecurity and carry out acts of sabotage was ambushed and at least 10 terrorists were killed in a heavy clash,” the Guards said.

The KDPI has recently stepped up its attacks in Iranian Kurdistan, killing nine people weeks before Mr. Hijri’s meeting with Mr. Fagin. Other Kurdish groups have reported similar attacks. Several Iranian Kurdish groups are discussing ways to coordinate efforts to confront the Iranian regime.

Similarly, this weekend’s ethnic soccer protests are rooted in a history of football unrest in the Iranian provinces of East Azerbaijan and Khuzestan that reflect long-standing economic and environmental grievances but also at times at least in oil-rich Khuzestan potentially had Saudi fingerprints on them.

Video clips of Azeri supporters of Tabriz-based Traktor Sazi FC chanting ‘Death to the Dictator” in Tehran’s Azadi stadium during a match against Esteghlal FC went viral on social media after a live broadcast on state television was muted to drown the protest out. A sports commentator blamed the loss of sound on a network disruption.

A day earlier, Iranian Arab fans clashed with security forces in a stadium in the Khuzestan capital of Ahwaz during a match between local team Foolad Khuzestan FC and Tehran’s Persepolis FC. The fans reportedly shouted slogans reaffirming their Arab identity.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arabs have a long history of encouraging Iranian Arab opposition and troubling the minority’s relations with the government.

Iranian distrust of the country’s Arab minority has been further fuelled by the fact that the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran or Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), a controversial exiled opposition group that enjoys the support of prominent serving and former Western officials, including some in the Trump administration, has taken credit for a number of the protests in Khuzestan. The group advocates the violent overthrow of the regime in Tehran.

Two of Mr. Trump’s closest associates, Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, and former House speaker New Gingrich, attended in June a gathering in Paris of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq.

In past years, US participants, including Mr. Bolton, were joined by Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of the kingdom’s intelligence service and past ambassador to Britain and the United States, who is believed to often echo views that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prefers not to voice himself.

“The mullahs must go, the ayatollah must go, and they must be replaced by a democratic government which Madam Rajavi represents. Freedom is right around the corner … Next year I want to have this convention in Tehran,” Mr. Giuliani told this year’s rally, referring to Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Mujahedeen who is a cult figure to the group.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Russia’s Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Published

on

It is often said in the Western mainstream media that Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a disrupting role around the world, including in the Middle East. However, such accusations remind of an old Soviet joke that made its rounds in the late 1980s and could certainly be applicable to the United States and other Western countries. The joke begins with a man walking into a Soviet hospital and asking the desk nurse if he can see the eye-ear doctor. “There is no such doctor,” she tells him, “Perhaps you would like to see someone else?” “No,” he replies, “I need to see an eye-ear doctor.” “But there is no such doctor,” she replies. “We have doctors for eyes and doctors for ears, nose and throat (ENT), but no eye-ear doctor.” “No help,” he repeats. “I want to see the eye-ear doctor.” They go around like this for a few minutes before the nurse interjects and says, “Sir, there is no eye-ear doctor, but if there was one, why would you want to see one?” “Because,” he replies, “I keep hearing one thing and seeing another.”

This is exactly the sentiment that seems to be gripping the international community. It is stated as fact that President Putin is attempting to destabilize the Middle East and Europe quite like he ‘orchestrated’ in the American Presidential Elections in 2016. Leaving aside the lack of evidence for the latter two cases, Middle Eastern countries do not feel that Russia is trying to destabilize the region. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Israeli-Russian relations have never been better: Russia’s “frenemy,” Saudi Arabia turns to Russia for regional issues more so than to the US; and Turkey has improved its relations with Russia since the Turkish army shot down the Russian jet in Syria. Russia is in close contact and on good terms with all the key players and countries in the Middle East, and playing broker or interlocutor when a crisis arises.

Russia has been actively involved in the region to preserve its interests, namely ensuring stability in a region where jihadi terrorism has run rampant. That was the main reason it intervened in Syria in 2015, as Salafi jihadi forces such as Da’esh, Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra or Al-Qaeda in Syria), Ahrar al-Sham, and others were almost certainly on their way to occupying Damascus, which constitutes a red line for Moscow. In nearly three years, Russia has almost removed all of the Salafi jihadi terrorists from Syria and is now focused on finding a negotiated solution to the seven-year civil war. While it is working on a peace agreement in Sochi and Astana, Russia still sees Syria as the front line to its war on terror and is closely working with the Syrian Army to ensure it can fend off terrorists and any destabilizing efforts from any regional and external players. At the same time, Russia is constantly working with all the necessary partners to ensure stability there.

However, some prominent Russian figures including Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, the Russian deputy envoy to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov, and scholar Vitaly Naumkin have suggested that Russia can play a crucial role in resolving the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the prospect for a solution to this conflict seems bleak, having a new player that can help is a positive sign. In fact, Russia has unique credentials to kick-start peace talks, since it is a veto-holding member of the UN Security Council and a member of the Middle East Quartet. In both international bodies, Washington has been mingling with far right-wing elements in Israel and stonewalling any potential peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians by vetoing key United Nations Security Council resolutions. A more reliable player who is active in the region, like Russia, would serve well as a broker to help the necessary parties come to an agreement.

More importantly, Russia can play a constructive role and be a dependable broker because it has close ties with all the necessary parties needed for any agreement. It is more of an honest broker than Washington for a variety of reasons. Chiefly among them, if for no other reason, is the fact that Russia can play a fair interlocutor given its presence in the region. If we look at Donald Trump’s ill-advised decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it not only reignited violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians but it also revealed that Washington had never been an honest broker in resolving the age-old conflict.

This is not the first time that Moscow had offered to be a broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Kremlin had offered to host the two parties in Moscow as a venue for discussions in 2016. However, all hopes were dashed when two Israeli professors decided to reveal that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was a KGB Agent in the 1980s while pursuing his doctorate degree. It was later revealed that the two Israeli professors had leaked this document to the Israeli press because they had their own agenda and did not want negotiations to bear fruit under the auspices of the Russians.

It takes two to tango: Do the two states want it?

Israelis

Current Coalition Government

The current Israeli government’s perspective on a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis is nearly nonexistent. This is Israel’s most far-right government coalition since it first became a state in 1948. Since becoming Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has always found an excuse to not seek a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Moreover, Netanyahu has laid down the conditions to an agreement that no Palestinian leader can agree to. For instance, in 2013, he outlined his so-called “vision” for a future Palestinian state. He stated that there would be no agreement unless the Palestinian leadership recognizes Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people.” This is an ill-conceived approach as Israel’s concern should be about creating a two-state solution (and future narrative) for its national security rather than ensuring that its future neighbouring state recognizes the complexion of its statehood. Does the United States have to recognize Canada as a multicultural country? Or does Canada have to recognize the United States as a Christian state? No. The United States recognizes Canada as a state and vice versa. What each state does internally is its own business.

Under Netanyahu’s leadership, he has always suggested that the Palestinians are divided and when they did unite he suggested that they are aligning with Hamas—a “terrorist” organization—and, thus, Israel cannot negotiate with the Palestinians. In reality, Hamas conducted terrorist activities in the past, but today they are very popular with Gazans, East Jerusalemites, and West Bankers. If elections were held today in the Palestinian Territories, Hamas most likely would win in all three cities. For the last nine years, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his coalition governments have accused the Palestinian leadership of incitement. However, the blame should really be put on Netanyahu’s government for their incitement in the Occupied Territories (East Jerusalem and the West Bank), as it condones the daily activities of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the settlers’ mistreatment of the Palestinians on a day-to-day basis. As the country has shifted further to the extreme right in recent years, it will take much skill to convince Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his far right-wing coalition to come to the table and, eventually, agree on a final two-state solution with Israel’s neighbours. If anyone other than Netanyahu’s “Likud” Party in this coalition (namely Naftali Bennett’s “HaBayit HaYehudi” Party, any of the religious parties, or, to a certain extent, Avigdor Lieberman’s “Yisrael Beiteinu” Party, or any of their offshoots) wins the next general election, which is scheduled for 2019, then it will be increasingly difficult to reach a two-state solution agreement.

Opposition Parties

There is still some hope because there are a few party leaders that want to seek a two-state solution. However, the two main opposition leaders—Avi Gabay (“Labor” Party) and Yair Lapid (“Yesh Atid” Party) — do not seem to indicate that they are genuine in seeking a two-state solution. Their statements about Jerusalem, and other issues for a future agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, are disheartening. Both Gabay of the “Labor” Party (a central partner in the “Zionist Union” Party with Tzipi Livni’s “Hatnuah” Party) and Lapid of the “Yesh Atid” Party have shifted to the right of the Israeli political spectrum. Whether this is a tactic to attract right-wing voters or it is their fundamental belief remains to be seen. However, their statements signal trouble for the two-state solution if either of them were to become Prime Minister.

That leaves Israel with “Meretz” Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg, Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and “the Joint List” Chairman Ayman Odeh. Zandberg leads the progressive “Meretz” Party into the next election with only 5 seats in the Israeli Knesset (Israel’s Parliament). She has tried to inject new life in the party and suggested that if she were to lead a government, or take part in a coalition government, she would enter with all progressive parties on the Israeli left and would not rule out right-wing politician and current Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman, the Chairman of “Yisrael Beiteinu,” is a pragmatic leader who might be the only politician on the Israeli right that will change his view if he sees the security of his country at risk. That leaves the progressive with some hope that he would play it nice with Zandberg, but his negative comments about Arabs, Palestinians, and a future peace agreement makes one wonder if his views will actually change when faced with any potential agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Zandberg’s comments, however, could simply be a tactic for trying to lure more voters to her party, especially those on the right of the spectrum. It is still disheartening to hear the new “Meretz” Chairwoman make that promise to voters despite Lieberman’s rhetoric, which puts him in opposition to a fair peace treaty. Also, “Meretz’s” silence on Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, like other political parties on the left, with the exception of the “Joint List,” is also demoralizing to those struggling to bring peace.

Ehud Barak is a factor because he has wanted to return to the political scene since he resigned from his post as Defense Minister in a previous Netanyahu administration. He has been quite critical of the current Prime Minister over his several corruption scandals and his lackluster interest in seeking dialogue with the Palestinians. A former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and a protégé of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Barak has always sought a peace agreement with Israel’s neighbours and the Palestinians in particular. This is encouraging news, as Israel needs safe borders to ensure its stability and address its two national security priorities: ensuring the Jewish complexity of the state and reducing the violence within its borders. While it would be advisable to maintain a two-state solution, Barak’s strategy to ensure Israel’s national security concerns might be met with stumbling blocks. First, it is unclear if Barak is a strong contender, as many Israelis still remember his attempt at a peace agreement with the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Second, it is unclear what he will do should he negotiate with the Palestinians. In his last attempt, he refused to divide Jerusalem, rejected to return land to the Palestinians along the 1967 borders, and declined to dismantle settlements in those Occupied Territories. If he were to repeat this strategy, negotiations will almost certainly fail. In any case, Barak’s last attempt was Israel’s closest at reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. It abruptly ended when violence broke out between Palestinians and Israelis on Temple Mount, when then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon decided to pay a visit to the holy site for Jews and Muslims, thus giving start to the second intifada. In the following elections, Ehud Barak lost to Ariel Sharon ending all hopes for a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

While most would dismiss Ayman Odeh, it would be a mistake to do so. The “Joint List” is the third largest political party (13 seats) in the current Knesset behind the “Zionist Union” (24 seats) and the “Likud” (30 seats). Along with being the Chairman of the “Joint List” Party, a coalition of several Arab parties in the Knesset, Odeh is the leader of the “Hadash” Party. The young and energetic leader has consistently said that he supports a two-state solution, has consistently advocated for the rights of minorities living in Israel, and has challenged the current government’s policy on settlement building in the Occupied Territories (the West Bank and East Jerusalem), in Gaza, and how it has conducted itself in bordering countries—namely in Syria and Lebanon. More importantly, Odeh and his “Joint List” Party can play a productive role in a coalition government. As previously mentioned, Odeh has consistently stated that he wants a two-state solution—something that Israel should be seeking to ensure its national security. More specifically, in a future coalition, he can make the government treat minorities with respect and dignity—something past government coalitions have not done. A high ministerial position in the government for Odeh would be a first step in demonstrating that Israel is serious about integrating the 20% of its population that feels neglected and alienated by Israeli society. At the time of publication, both Gabay and Lapid have ruled out giving the “Joint List” Party a place in their coalition government, but we have yet to hear from the other candidates on the Israeli left. It is unknown what “Meretz” Leader Zandberg would do. In any case, if not as Prime Minister, Odeh and his “Joint List” Party can inject some new blood into a two-state solution and implement some progressive policies within Israel.

Palestinians

Fatah (Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filastini)

Fatah is one of the main factions in the Palestinian National Authority (PA) and the second largest faction in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The Chairman of the faction, Mahmoud Abbas, is also the President of the PA. He succeeded the PA’s late President, and Fatah founding member, Yasser Arafat in a contested election. There are many problems with Fatah. Much has changed since it was founded in 1959. Swamped with graft and corruption, the “Old Guard” is still in control, but it is a movement that is deeply divided. The main tribulation for the “Young Guard” is the amount of corruption and the fact that it governs with a vertical approach, both within Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. While the “Young Guard” is demonstrating its frustrations about the movement, it remains largely dominated by aging cadres from the pre-Oslo era of Palestinian politics—most of them gaining prominence through their patronage to the late Yasser Arafat.

Most notable from the “Young Guard” is the popular Palestinian politician Marwan Barghouti. The jailed politician left Fatah in 2005 to form his own “al-Mustaqbal” Party, which was mainly composed of the youth of Fatah. His main complaint was the faction’s lack of vision and exorbitant corruption. This struck a chord with many in the Occupied Territories. However, his party never came to fruition, as Fatah decided to present a unified list to voters in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections—with Barghouti campaigning for Fatah from his jail cell. After the election, Barghouti remained popular within Fatah regardless of being in jail. PA President, Mahmoud Abbas is aging, in poor health, completely disconnected with the Palestinian people, and utterly alienated and demonized by the Israelis (with support from the United States). Any future mediator must look to the “Young Guard” within Fatah for a negotiating partner for a two-state solution—and Barghouti is one of those leaders to keep an eye on.

Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah)

Hamas is another faction within the PA, and the largest faction within the PLC. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Mahmoud Zahar, and several others founded it in 1987, right after the beginning of the first intifada. Its current Chief of the Political Bureau is Ismail Haniyeh. He succeeded Khaled Mashal, who held on to the position from 1996 until 2017. Originally an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas was hostile to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)—the predecessor to the PA—and Israel. However, it has since revoked most of its hostile rhetoric to the PA and Israel. Furthermore, it has revamped its hostile charter, which recognizes Israel as a state along the 1967 borders—indicating the land that Israel obtained in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel took ownership of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

This is not to mean that Hamas does not face challenges. It is in a quagmire of its own, as it struggles to maintain legitimacy in the Gaza Strip, where it has governed since the brutal power struggle between them and Fatah following the 2005 Disengagement. There have been some small murmurs of discontent of their leadership as it tries to balance between resisting the occupation, avoiding another war, and governing its people. As the economic situation has deteriorated over the years (mainly but not solely due to the Israeli blockade), it has led to small divisions within the rank-and-file, but nothing noteworthy of any type of threat to their leadership in the Gaza Strip. For all intents and purposes, Hamas is a necessary partner in a future peace agreement as it is still popular with the majority of Palestinians.

Suggesting that Hamas is solely a terrorist organization is a mistake. There are some elements within the organization that still seek a hard line with Israel and want to have the entire state of Israel. However, this is not the official position of Hamas. This is the main argument that comes from the Israeli right and the naysayers to openly negotiating with Hamas. To those that feel that Hamas should never be trusted and dialogue with the organization is a non-starter: would it not be wiser to engage with an organization that has extremist views, such as they do, and integrate them into the mainstream in the hopes of marginalizing those that want to make Palestine a cause while strengthening those that want to make Palestine a nation? The only way to change Hamas’ behaviour for the better is to engage them in the process, rather than leave them as an outlier where their mischievous behaviour will certainly continue. Engaging Hamas is necessary because without Hamas, there is no peace agreement.

The current regional players: How do they see it?

Saudi Arabia

The PA and Saudi Arabia have had a longstanding relationship. They both sit in the Arab League and the Islamic Cooperation Council. For the longest time, the two countries have been allies and the perception had been that the Saudis have always defended the Palestinians. As a charter member of the Arab League, Saudi Arabia has supported Palestinian rights to sovereignty and called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Occupied Territories since 1967. However, in recent years, this all changed. With the new Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman having won the power struggle to succeed King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz, the policy and relations with the Palestinians have significantly shifted.

With the Crown Prince in full control, he “offered” a “deal” to the Palestinians that was almost immediately rejected by PA President Abbas because it made many guarantees to the Israelis, but offered the Palestinians nothing. This should not come as a surprise because, in one of the region’s worst kept secrets, Saudi Arabia and Israel have improved their relations significantly. This is a foreign policy that Bin Salman has carried out since solidifying his power. One has to wonder if this is a wise decision for Israel because the young Defense Minister has been highly sectarian in his wars with Yemen and the standoff with Qatar. What is more, he deems Iran as a greater threat than Israel, which is the main reason for his policy shift. For a country that is very weak, he is trying to hold on to power with an iron fist. This will not bode well for the Sheikhdom—a country composed of regions that differ in nature, which were united into a single political entity only by blending the Ibn Saud dynasty with Wahhabism. If left unchecked, Bin Salman’s iron fist mentality, will most certainly disintegrate Saudi Arabia into its historic components, as happened in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and potentially could happen in Syria. Furthermore, Bin Salman’s belligerent behaviour may lead to resistance from the Saudi elites who he is attempting to purge. Also, there is a considerable Shi‘i minority in the eastern part of the Sheikhdom, which will probably pursue a military or political sponsor for itself in Iran.

This type of aggressive activity at home and abroad has the very real possibility of creating a confrontation with Iran. Thus, Saudi Arabia can no longer be trusted as a key player in any political solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians, if not for its weakness and bellicosity, then for its lack of support within the Palestinian leadership as it’s seen as a guarantor for the Israeli side. This does not mean engagement should be shelved. On the contrary, a mediator should be in contact with the Sheikhdom in order to avoid rogue elements within the regime to sabotage an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Iran

Iran has been labeled as a menacing force by many Western countries, namely the United States and Israel. The argument is that Iran is a state that is sponsoring terrorism in the region and abroad. This is grossly exaggerated. While it might be on the same level as Saudi Arabia in “sponsoring terrorism,” where is this criticism of Saudi Arabia? It has funded numerous organizations that are in line with its Wahhabist vision. We see this in Iraq, Libya, and Syria where Daesh (the Islamic State or IS for short), and other similar organizations, have wreaked havoc after American covert or overt operations created a vacuum allowing these Salafi jihadi organizations to run amuck. These same organizations are still threatening others in the region. The Arab New Cold War between Iran and Saudi Arabia might have started in 1979, when the Islamic Revolution was successful in overthrowing the Shah, but the extremist ideological feud predated it with the Saudi Sheikhdom’s unholy alliance with Wahhabism and the exportation of its revolution into other countries in the Middle East. All this while cozying up to Western powers long before Iran had begun to export its revolution. What needs to be done with Hamas is exactly what needs to be done with Iran, and for the same reason. However, a similar approach also needs to be taken with Saudi Arabia because it is a country that has been allowed to act without consequence. The onus for the instability in the region and international terrorism should be placed on the Sheikhdom just as much as (if not more than) the Iranians.

Regarding Iran’s influence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is limited. They do fund the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, which has claimed responsibility for some of the rockets launched into Israel. However, their influence and power are limited. But, if a mediator wants to marginalize the extremists within the organization, it would be wise to engage with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is what Fmr. US President Obama began in 2015 with his “Iran Nuclear Deal.” The withdrawal from the deal by the United States by current US President Donald Trump is disheartening for the simple reason that Iran has no incentive for cooperating with the international community and, more specifically, revoking its funding to Shi‘i organizations in the region, such as the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Turkey

In recent years, Turkey has taken a major shift from what it used to be in the 20th century. Under current President and former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the country has taken on a more traditionalist identity. When first elected as Prime Minister in 2003, Erdoğan was elected because the society was changing. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were military coups happening more often than one would change their underwear. Those that had become wealthier now wanted to be able to practice their religion freely. Many people also felt disenfranchised for a variety of reasons. Whether it was for religious, economic, or social reasons, the people wanted a change from a strict, secular country guided by the military. It would be a misnomer to suggest that Turks wanted (and still do not want) to be an Islamic fundamentalist state. Rather, they wanted to be free to pray or practice their religion without feeling threatened (a more traditionalist state, if you will). The Turks do not want an Islamic fundamentalist state and their Presidential elections have consistently shown that as Erdoğan or his presidential allies have usually received a little over than fifty percent of the vote while always maintaining power in the Turkish parliament. The message the voters are sending is that it likes the government’s economic policies and it wants the traditionalist element in Turkish daily life but it does not want to have a fundamentalist version of Islam guide its country.

At the beginning, Erdoğan and his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), were the perfect fit. This is exactly what the party promised in their first election campaign and it has, more or less, implemented these laws throughout their time in power. However, as time went on, many rifts emerged within the AKP that eventually cost it seats in parliamentary elections. In fact, it received a minority government for a brief period before a snap election was called where the AKP regained its majority. Over the years, Erdoğan had gradually become weaker while pursuing a “neo-Ottoman” crusade in the region. We saw this in Libya during its civil war, in Syria during its civil war, and in his tough words and actions regarding Israel’s occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Erdoğan remains weak and we know he is weak given the failed coup attempt back in 2016 and the countless arrests he has made ever since.

Today, Turkey has resumed ties with Moscow after Ankara shot down a Russian plane over Syrian skies. This is good news if Russia seeks to mediate a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Turkish-Israeli relations are “luke-cold” at best. They have diplomatic relations with each other. However, Turkey consistently criticizes Israel’s every move and consistently tries to defend the Palestinians. It is in close contact with Hamas, a vital partner for any agreement, and ties have been improving with Fatah. Turkey has consistently invited Hamas to Ankara and has defended them on many occasions. Any mediator needs to include Turkey, given their strong ties to Hamas, because leaving the country on the sidelines might have undesirable consequences that will not be in the international community’s best interest.

Qatar

Long before Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s failed blockade back in 2017, Qatar had been conducting a robust foreign policy. The tiny peninsular Arab country has sought ties with many different states within the region beyond its “base.” For instance, it has sought ties with Iran, which was at the heart of the Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates (UAE) led blockade. Since the Saudi-UAE led blockade, the Qataris also successfully reached out to improve diplomatic relations with Oman, Turkey, the United States, and Russia. Regarding the latter, in the waning years of the Soviet Union, Qatar established diplomatic relations and for three decades the two countries have had good diplomatic relations despite some minor tensions between them. In any case, economic ties between the two countries are strong and became even stronger after the failed Saudi-UAE blockade.

More importantly, Qatar is a crucial player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will play a critical role in its solution. For the longest time, Qatar has been an active supporter of Hamas. It housed Hamas’ former Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mashal and has assisted the Palestinian organization financially. This has been another element in its robust foreign policy. For a small country, it is trying to gain clout in a region where countries are jockeying for a position of regional supremacy. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it very much has clout due to the fact that, like Turkey, it has very close ties to Hamas. Some might suggest that it has more pull than Ankara. In any case, like Turkey, it should not be left aside in a future peace agreement.

Two be or not two be: Can it be done?

The question remains: can this seven-decade-old conflict be resolved? The answer is yes, if there is the resolve. There are players in both camps that are willing to engage in resolving the conflict. It will be a tall order to accomplish, but all parties — both domestic and foreign — need to be on board and engaged. “Yisrael Beiteinu” Chairman and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman once said that there should be a regional agreement before a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He does have a point, but it is vital that the two sides come to an agreement first before a regional agreement is achieved for the very simple reason: it’s imperative Israel solve this issue for its own national security.

The United States and other Western countries have tried and failed to make the two sides come to an agreement. In the case of the former, it was never an honest broker in resolving the problem and usually took the side of the Israelis. Western players—namely, the European Union (EU) — never had the wherewithal and clout to resolve the conflict. With the exception of some breakthroughs, the Israelis and the Palestinians are far from coming to an agreement in which Israel will agree to give up the West Bank (in its entirety) along with East Jerusalem, and remove the blockade in the Gaza Strip. Israel claims that it still needs security guarantees that the latter will not lead to constant wars. However, if it doesn’t completely relinquish these areas, the one-state reality and the very real possibility of a civil war will be upon the Zionist entity sooner rather than later, which would surely spell the end of the Jewish identity of the country.

At the moment, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are keen on talking to one another—each accusing the other of incitement and blaming one another for the upsurge in violence. Where the United States and the EU have been unsuccessful, Russia has the potential of successfully bringing these two sides together. Why Russia? It has good ties with the Israelis and Palestinians as well as the key regional players that must sign off on the agreement. As much as it is in the Israelis’ national security interests to come to an agreement as soon as possible, so too is it an urgent national security issue for Russia. A civil war, which could explode in a region where extremism is rampant, is not only a threat to the Israelis, Palestinians, and the entire Middle East—but also to Russia and the entire international community.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, many Russian-Jews left the Russian Federation, because under former President Boris Yeltsin, life was tough and Israel offered better opportunities. Today, Israel has a significant population of Russian-Jews as well as other Jewish people from other countries of the former Soviet Union. Since President Putin came to power, he has sought better relations with Israel. Over the years, there have been numerous state visits: many Israeli Prime Ministers visited Russia and President Putin and others have visited Israel on many occasions. Today, the two countries are cooperating very closely in Syria. Russia also has good ties with the Palestinians. This relationship predates the Russian Federation when the Soviet Union usually took the side of the Palestinians. Where Russia plays a unique role that others don’t is its presence and commitment to the region. It also has contacts with all the countries in the region and is, more or less, on good terms with them all. Russia genuinely wants to ensure stability in this region because of its fears that the extremism can spread to its backyard and, potentially, into its own country. It also has the experience and the relevant expertise to make the two-state solution a reality. More importantly, Russia has been in the region for centuries. So, trust and experience in a region full of skepticism can go a long way—and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no exception.

The Israelis and Palestinians have been in a stalemate for too long and something needs to change. The status quo is unsustainable, mainly for the Israelis but, to a certain extent, for the Palestinians as well. Both parties desperately need to return to the table if for no other reason than to ensure that their people live in peace, stability, and security. With the United States removing itself from the region over the last decade and a half coupled with the fact that it is a biased broker in this conflict, both the Israelis and the Palestinians should look to Russia if they want to resolve their age-old conflict. Russia seems to be a willing partner to broker a deal. Now, the warring parties must be ready to do the same rather than throw out useless accusations of incitement or “it is their fault, not mine.” For Israel, this is an existential moment, as the very identity of the country is at stake. If this opportunity is overlooked, Israel will only have itself to blame—and one would assume that the elite in Israel do not want that to happen to its people and to the Jewish diaspora who it claims to be protecting.

First published in our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Middle East

Yemen war challenges Saudi moral authority

Dr. James M. Dorsey

Published

on

Saudi conduct of its ill-fated war in Yemen coupled with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alignment with the Trump administration and Israel, and his often coercive approach to diplomatic relations, has opened the door to challenges of the kingdom’s moral leadership of the Sunni Muslim world, a legitimizing pillar of the ruling Al Saud family’s grip on power.

The cracks in Saudi legitimacy are being fuelled by the escalating humanitarian crisis in Yemen, described by the United Nations and aid organizations as the world’s worst since World War Two; shocking civilian deaths as the result of attacks by the Saudi-led coalition; electoral successes by populist leaders in countries like Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan; and the kingdom’s inability to impose its will on countries like Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Oman.

An attack this week on a bus in the heartland of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels that killed at least 43 people, including 29 children returning from a summer camp, dealt a significant body blow to Saudi moral authority.

The coalition said it would investigate the attack that has sparked international outrage.

The attack was but the latest of multiple incidents in which weddings, funerals and hospitals have been hit by coalition forces in a war that has gone badly wrong and demonstrates Saudi military ineptitude despite the fact that the kingdom’s armed forces operate some of the world’s most sophisticated weaponry, according to military sources.

Mr. Trump reversed a decision by his predecessor, Barack Obama, to halt the sale of air-dropped and precision-guided munitions until it had better trained Saudi forces in their targeting and use of the weapons. An Obama official said at the time that there were “systemic, endemic” problems in Saudi targeting.

“Malaysia and other Muslim nations can no longer look up to the Saudis like we used to. They can no longer command our respect and provide leadership. The Saudis have abandoned the Palestinians, just like the Egyptians. The Saudis have moved much closer to Israel who are suppressing and killing the Palestinians,” said Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad, a member of Malaysia’s upper house of parliament and the head of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition in the Malaysian state of Terengganu.

“Perhaps Malaysia under the leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad should take the lead again in speaking up for the oppressed Muslims of the world. It is about time Malaysia again show the leadership that was once so much admired and respected worldwide,” Mr. Bahrin added.

Malaysia has sought to distance itself from Saudi Arabia since the return to power in May of Mr. Mahathir, whose past Islamist rhetoric and stark anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish statements propelled him to prominence in the Islamic world.

Malaysia has in recent weeks withdrawn troops from the 41-nation, Saudi-sponsored Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) and closed the Saudi-backed King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP) in Kuala Lumpur. Mr. Mahathir’s defense minister, Mohamad Sabu, long before taking office this year, was already highly critical of Saudi Arabia.

In anticipation of investigations into allegations of corruption against former prime minister Najib Razak and his recent indictment, Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull, Mr. Mahathir’s newly appointed anti-corruption czar, noted barely a week after the May election that “we have had difficulties dealing with Arab countries (such as) Qatar, Saudi Arabia, (and the) UAE.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera last month, Mr. Mahathir said that “we are disappointed that Saudi Arabia has not denied that the money was given by Saudi,” referring to $681 million in Saudi funds that were allegedly gifted to Mr. Razak.

Malaysia is but the latest Sunni Muslim nation to either challenge Saudi Arabia or at least refuse to kowtow to the kingdom’s foreign policy as it relates to its bitter rivalry with Iran; Prince Mohammed’s tacit backing of US President Donald J. Trump’s staunch support of Israel and pressure on Palestinians; its 14-month old economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar; and the war in Yemen.

Like Mr. Mahathir in the past, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, despite his evolving autocracy, has emerged as an Islamist populist counter pole, his credibility enhanced by his escalating disputes with the United States, his often emotional support for the Palestinians, and opposition to moves by Mr. Trump like his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey this week became the latest target of Mr. Trump’s wielding of trade and economic sanctions as a means of bullying countries into submitting to his demands. Mr. Trump doubled metals tariffs on Turkey after earlier sanctioning two senior Turkish ministers in an effort to force Mr. Erdogan to release American evangelist Andrew Brunson.

Mr. Brunson has been detained in Turkey for the past two years on charges of having been involved in the failed 2016 military coup against Mr. Erdogan and seeking to convert Turkish Kurds to Christianity.

Mr. Erdogan has in recent years consistently thought to thwart Saudi policy in the region by positioning himself as the leader of a Muslim world opposed to Mr. Trump’s Israel-Palestine approach and a de facto Arab alliance with Israel, maintaining close ties to Iran and defying US sanctions against the Islamic republic, supporting Qatar, and expanding Turkish influence in the Horn of Africa in competition with the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s closest regional ally.

Mr. Erdogan has portrayed Prince Mohammed’s vow to return Saudi Arabia to an unidentified form of ‘moderate Islam’ as adopting a Western concept.

“Islam cannot be either ‘moderate’ or ‘not moderate.’ Islam can only be one thing. Recently the concept of ‘moderate Islam’ has received attention. But the patent of this concept originated in the West. Perhaps, the person voicing this concept thinks it belongs to him. No, it does not belong to you. They are now trying to pump up this idea again. What they really want to do is weaken Islam … We don’t want people to learn about religion from foreign facts,” Mr. Erdogan said.

Echoing former US president George W. Bush’s assertion of an axis of evil, Prince Mohammed charged in March that Turkey was part of a triangle of evil that included Iran and Islamist groups. The crown prince accused Turkey of trying to reinstate the Islamic Caliphate, abolished nearly a century ago when the Ottoman empire collapsed.

Similarly, Pakistan’s prime minister-in-waiting appeared to be charting his own course by saying that he wants to improve relations with Iran and mediate an end to the debilitating Saudi-Iranian rivalry despite the fact that the kingdom has so far ruled out a negotiated resolution and backs US efforts to isolate the Islamic republic.

In a bow to Saudi Arabia, Jordan has backed the kingdom in its row with Canada over criticism of Riyadh’s human rights record and refrained from appointing a new ambassador to Iran, but has stood its ground in supporting Palestinian rejection of US peace efforts.

Similarly, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri has reversed his resignation initially announced in Riyadh last year under alleged duress while Oman and Kuwait, alarmed by the Saudi-UAE campaign against Qatar, have sought to chart a middle course that keeps them out of the firing line of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

For the time being, Saudi Arabia is likely to successfully fend off challenges to its leadership of the Muslim world.

However, responding viscerally to criticism like in the case of non-Muslim Canada or, more importantly, two years ago to Muslim leaders who excluded Wahhabism and Salafism, the religious worldview that underpins the Al Sauds’ rule, from their definition of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamaah or the Sunni people, is unlikely to cut ice in the longer term.

Continue Reading

Latest

Trending

Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy