Questions which resonate in our minds and from our tongues; Questions which ring the loudest whenever Israel initiates a new massacre; Questions which land the hardest against every innocent death Gaza’s defenseless inhabitants encounter:
Where are the Arabs? Where are the Arab leaders? Where is the Arab league? Why do they not help?
Saudi Arabia is a 24 hour drive from Israel. In all their might and influence, a week had to pass- consisting of hundreds of casualties- before this “pinnacle of Arab civilization” could even release a statement condemning the recent onslaught.
This is only one such example demonstrating the indifference, deafening silence, and betrayal Palestinians feel from their neighboring Arabs. Many Gazans have communicated their lost hope of any well-pronounced, long-lasting, or meaningful interference from the “brethren” which surround them.
Although Arab states have undoubtedly provided some aid (usually economic) to Gaza, it would be a severe mistake to praise any of their contributions. Every contribution barely reflects the context within which it was made, does not correlate to the urgency of circumstances, and is always focused on a short-lived purpose rather than achieving any lasting goals.
In fact, after every bombardment Gaza suffers, there is only one convenient source of reconstruction. The materials necessary to rebuild homes, schools, and hospitals are sold to Palestinians by Israel. So ultimately, who profits from any money given to Gaza?
There is sound basis as to why Arab leaders are criticized so harshly. Kings and Presidents of the Arab states have their pockets lined with money, oil, and military assets. They effectively retain all necessary wealth and possibility of action to secure fundamental human rights, an end to Israeli apartheid, blockades, allowing clean water, economic development, and technological advances for every single Palestinian, a thousand times over.
Therefore, it is not some blameless inability which disallows progress, it is a conscious decision being constantly made.
The answer is a complex array of political relations, irrational fear, hostile responses, and prioritized domestic issues.
Over the past 66 years, differing responses have been enacted by different “Arab leaders”. The past few years in particular have witnessed a barrage of Israeli assaults upon Gaza. Assaults which have led to a death toll surpassing 10,000, as well as 18,000 abducted children. This time period will be the main focus.
Any number of states can be called into question with the term “Arab league”. However, in the Palestinian situation, there are some of expected reliability considering their close proximity.
Each will be discussed in turn.
– Jordan: After the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, instead of helping Palestinians maintain ownership of their land, Jordan occupied the West Bank for nearly two decades. This despicable historical reaction to the British mandate can be interpreted to reflect their selfish response ever since.
Admittedly, Jordan helped Palestinians in the sense of financial and medical support, especially by allowing them to enter and leave freely from the West Bank.
Even so, Jordan does not interfere with the undermined rights of those same Palestinians living in Israel. The past three months have seen more than 30 Palestinians killed in the West Bank, and even more homes destroyed. Jordan has made no real reaction even though these attacks quite literally occur on the edge of their domain.
Jordan may provide further undisclosed aid to Palestine, but besides that, no more is done. This is due to the bordering relations with Israel, essentially outlined in the Jordan-Israel peace treaty of 1994.
The recent conflict saw King Abdullah II publicly condemn Israel as war criminals, beseeching the world to convict them of their savage attack on Gaza. This went further than the usual lip service paid by Arab leaders- though having said that, it was still nothing more than lip service. Israeli relations seem to steep any further public aid Jordan can provide.
It is worth mentioning that in 1997, when Hamas’s leader Khaled Meshaal was poisoned during an attempted assassination by Mossad agents, the reigning King responded exceptionally. He demanded an antidote and declared that “if Meshaal dies, our peace treaty [with Israel] dies with him”. This saved Meshaal’s life. Hamas was however exiled from Jordan after this King’s death.
– Egypt: Many of us are aware of the barricaded Rafah crossing. A crossing between Egypt and Gaza which Palestinians tend to rely on for the reception of basic humanitarian supplies and any chance of international transport.
During Mubarak’s time, the crossing was kept closed and Israeli orders controlled Egyptian-Gazan relations. Any aid delivered was due to international pressure alone.
Post-Mubarak rule saw an increase in aid towards Gaza. The Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange was facilitated by Egypt, and the 2012 Israeli Operation saw the Rafah crossing permanently open as well as resources, refugees, and sustenance gaining unparalleled free movement. This was under the rule of the elected Muslim Brotherhood government.
It was not to last. Al-Sisi and his supporters ousted the Muslim Brotherhood following a coup d’état in 2013. Since then, a deep hatred and lack of collaboration with Palestine has festered.
This is due to the fact that Hamas, Gaza’s elected government, is the historical off-shoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood- the very same party Sisi had overthrown to come into power.
The animosity Sisi holds for the Muslim Brotherhood interferes with any developments in a relationship between Gaza and Egypt. On the other hand, strong diplomatic ties have bound Israel and Egypt ever since the peace treaty signed in 1979.
As things stand, Egypt is arguably the closest ally Israel have, in not just the Middle East, but the entire planet. During the recent conflict, Israel received some backlash from even the UK and US, whereas Egypt continued providing unconditional public, military, political, and financial support.
– Saudi Arabia: Due to the wealth, religious authority, and public perception of leadership Saudi Arabia hold, their lack of intervention is relentlessly criticised by Palestine’s supporters.
Although Saudi Arabia provide monetary grants (with ease considering the abundant resources they have) to Gaza, the aid they provide has particularly dwindled over the past few years.
Saudi Arabia are staunch supporters of their “protege”, President Al-Sisi. This has caused much difference in their recent contributions to Gaza. Their main goal now is to further encourage Al-Sisi’s reign in Egypt. Within this trusting relationship, Sisi has (among other things) convinced Saudi leaders that Hamas will “target them” next.
In Saudi’s belief of Egypt’s President, the hatred he himself had for the Muslim Brotherhood has infected many Arab leaders. This ultimately led to the further alienation of Hamas, and hence Gaza. Previous enmity towards Muslim Brotherhood branches also helped Al-Sisi succeed in this process.
Saudi Arabia’s military and financial support towards Hamas stopped immediately. Although they provide no particular statement in this regard for the sake of maintaining their domestic public image, they have withdrawn all support on “the fight against Israel”.
– Syria: Before the Arab Spring in 2011, Bashar Al-Assad provided military and financial assistance to Gaza.
After the attempted (and still ongoing) uprising in Syria, Al-Assad requested help in the form of a public declaration of support from Hamas. This was in the hope of quenching rebellion before any further developments.
Hamas refused to commentate. This is due to their solid policy in not interfering with foreign matters. Since their formation, they have repeatedly clarified themselves as solely a liberation party for the Palestinian people and an unwillingness to be involved in irrelevant affairs.
This prompted a hostile response from Al-Assad and all aid has since then been completely severed.
– Iraq: Though geographically close to the Palestinians, Iraq has suffered more problems than any state in the past decade. After a brutal occupation by the US which resulted in the death of more than one million Iraqis, domestic issues have taken priority. Before then, Iraq suffered constant sectarian conflict, and currently the ISIS matter, followed by further US intervention.
Iraq could not help even if they wanted to. Before 2000 though, they provided continuous financial support to Gaza, Hamas, and Palestinians generally.
– Lebanon: Lebanon is a small poor country and contain barely enough resources to maintain themselves.
This variation of responses and the reasons behind them draw four main conclusions:
1) Though most leaders provide public statements against Israel and occasional monetary grants for the sake of high standing or a charitable perception by the Arab world and their domestic communities, there has been no real move towards supporting Palestinians through any real commitment. In fact, the more horrific incidents during the past few decades have seen more Arab nations take bigger steps back.
2) Gaza is in dire need, yes, but not every Arab state is capable of providing aid without damaging their own necessities. Post-colonial interference has sabotaged any democratic inclination these countries could have.
3) With the ever-changing spectacle and extremely conflicting positions through recent history (even within the same state by different leaders), it seems the Arab world has absolutely no idea what they want from Gaza, let alone Israel.
4) The solidarity presented by the Arab population (as opposed to the Arab leaders) is overwhelmingly in favor of Palestine. Nevertheless, demonstration numbers are remarkably small compared to the rallies in European and South American countries. Arab governments have also been quick to suppress any public show of support for the Palestinians.
In face of this horrid tacit approval for brutal murder and recurring deprivation of basic needs, it is always important to mention those who have consistently supported Palestine. Notably, Qatar and Turkey have shown a persistent determination.
Their support does not go unnoticed.
During an interview a week ago, Hamas’s leader Khaled Meshaal responded in the following way when asked about Turkey:
“What is your assessment of the Turkish position on the Palestinian issue?
Turkey’s position has always been distinguished both at the official and popular level. It has made generous initiatives and they are much appreciated by the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim people and we will never forget the nine martyrs of the Mavi Marmara. Turkey has left its mark by means of its leaders, people, responsibilities, various commissions and media, and we appreciate this greatly. In the last war, and despite the Turkish leadership’s distraction and preoccupation with elections, it was present with its political, moral and popular support and sent aid throughout the war, especially during the humanitarian ceasefires. Throughout, I have remained in contact with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (and I would like to congratulate him on his victory in the presidential elections); and with Dr Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister; we communicated and coordinated. Therefore, we are grateful for the Turkish position and we thank the Turkish people and the Turkish leadership.
Indeed, I salute the Turkish people and express my appreciation to them. The people of Palestine have not forgotten the people of Turkey and its leadership, and we express our gratitude and appreciation towards them. I say to them and to all the nations that supported us that the reward from Allah to those who assisted the people of Gaza and supported Palestine and the resistance, will not be lost.”