Monday, August 02, 2010

Palestine is Alone, The Arabs Don't Care

Efraim Karsh states the truth that every long-time observer of the Middle East [I am an ex-State Dept. Arabist who lived in three countries there for a decade] knows if he is honest and discerning: The Arabs don't really, deep down in their heart of hearts, give a sh*t about Palestine. Here is Karsh's text:
What, then, are we to make of a recent survey for the Al Arabiya television network finding that a staggering 71 percent of the Arabic respondents have no interest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks? “This is an alarming indicator,” lamented Saleh Qallab, a columnist for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. “The Arabs, people and regimes alike, have always been as interested in the peace process, its developments and particulars, as they were committed to the Palestinian cause itself.”

But the truth is that Arab policies since the mid-1930s suggest otherwise. While the “Palestine question” has long been central to inter-Arab politics, Arab states have shown far less concern for the well-being of the Palestinians than for their own interests.
For example, it was common knowledge that the May 1948 pan-Arab invasion of the nascent state of Israel was more a scramble for Palestinian territory than a fight for Palestinian national rights. As the first secretary-general of the Arab League, Abdel Rahman Azzam, once admitted to a British reporter, the goal of King Abdullah of Transjordan “was to swallow up the central hill regions of Palestine, with access to the Mediterranean at Gaza. The Egyptians would get the Negev. Galilee would go to Syria, except that the coastal part as far as Acre would be added to the Lebanon.”

From 1948 to 1967, when Egypt and Jordan ruled the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Arab states failed to put these populations on the road to statehood. They also showed little interest in protecting their human rights or even in improving their quality of life — which is part of the reason why 120,000 West Bank Palestinians moved to the East Bank of the Jordan River and about 300,000 others emigrated abroad. “We couldn’t care less if all the refugees die,” an Egyptian diplomat once remarked. “There are enough Arabs around.”

It's a little-known fact that after the '67 War, Israel victorious offered to return Gaza just captured in the hostilities back to Egypt. The Egyptians demurred, leaving the Israelis with the impression that among other reasons, Nasser and the boys didn't want to be bothered with Gaza [as Israeli strategists also wished to not be vexed with the teeming hotspot.]

Perhaps Gaza is the metaphor of the Palestinians, truly unwanted, a pawn on the Arab chessboard that means nothing to the Arabs except as a reason not to admit their defeats by Israel.

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