Pusillanimity of Arab leadership

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Pusillanimity of Arab leadership

Friday, 20 October 2023 | Bhopinder Singh

Pusillanimity of  Arab leadership

While the Arab states make a hue and cry about Israel’s wrongdoings in Gaza, they themselves are not doing anything to help Palestinians in distress

US Presidential aspirant, Nikki Haley has put the cat amongst the pigeons by asking some straight questions. She stated, “You're going to hear all those Arab countries vilify Israel for what's about to happen. You're going to hear all of them say, how dare you not do more for the Palestinian people?” and then posed bluntly, “But where are the Arab countries? Where are they? Where is Qatar? Where is Lebanon? Where is Jordan? Where is Egypt? Do you know we give Egypt over $1,000,000,000 a year? Why aren't they opening the gates? Why aren't they taking the Palestinians? You know why? Because they know they can't vet them, and they don't want Hamas in their neighborhood. So why would Israel want them in their neighborhood?”

It is true, but for shedding insincere tears and making political gold out of the issue of Palestine, the Arab Sheikhdoms have never done anything worthwhile for the Palestinians, now or before. It’s the same curse which afflicted the Middle East when the Syrian-Iraqi refugee exodus took place in the aftermath of ISIL running over swathes – boatloads of refugees had risked the unsafe water-crossing into Europe but no boat or bus seemed to have moved towards the borders of the cash-flush Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates etc.

Instead, Europe and its leadership was hauled up the coals when they started closing their borders, given their own socio-economic concerns and inability to take any further refugees. But the Arab leadership was quick, garrulous, and snarky to call out the insensitivity of the ‘West’ but did precious little to alleviate the sufferings of their own Arab brethren. Now, it seems to be a replay of the exact same double game today, when the Arab regimes are halfheartedly and conveniently pointing fingers at Tel Aviv following the brutal Hamas attack, after having walked a considerable distance with Israel, themselves.

It was pursuant to the ‘Abraham Accords’ that had sought to officially normalise (so called ‘secret talks’ in parallel are the worst kept secret) relations between Israel and Arab countries, ostensibly to ‘solve’ the protracted Israel-Palestine issue. Except that the Accord was virtually predicated on ignoring the Palestinians and their miserable conditions and participation in the same, as irrelevant. Assumption of Palestinian invisibility from those deliberations has come to haunt the region, now. Many Palestinians had not resigned to their proposed fate of slow death and forgetfulness, and sadly it metastasised into the Hamas attack.

The ‘Abrahamic Accord’ was eventually as ignoble and inefficacious as the peace talks between the Americans and Taliban, in Doha. Beyond countries like Egypt, Turkey and Jordan who have had diplomatic relations with Israel for long, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan, and Bahrain had rushed into signing deals with Israel – the emotions reserved for Palestinian suffering were conveniently and tellingly forgotten.

Now Bahrain was left issuing an embarrassingly platitudinous and mealy-mouthed statement urging, “the need for de-escalation among all parties to preserve the lives of people”, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI expressed “deep concern” and the Emiratis called it a “serious and grave escalation”. They are clearly caught between condemning either the Hamas action or the disproportionate Israeli revenge, as they have been party to the brewing secondment of the Palestinian cause. Nikki Haley only questioned the obvious.

Importantly, the so-called siege of Gaza may not be practically true as there is a 12-kilometer-long border between Egypt and Gaza.

Public memory is short, but long before Donald Trump embarked on his infamous ‘Wall’ along the border with Mexico – Egypt along with US help had started a steel wall along the Egypt-Gazza barrier. Unsurprisingly today, the same border (Rafah crossing) remains sealed to refugees, food, medical aid and other humanitarian supplies, all of which the Egyptians could deploy to aid the beleaguered Palestinians, if they wanted to. History of the massacres of Palestinian refugees by countries like Jordan (‘Black September’ in 1970) or Lebanon (Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982) etc., all point to the duplicitousness of Arabs towards Palestinians.

Besides, the meekly contextual defense of the Hamas by countries like Saudi Arabia also betrays an underlying concern feared by the Arab Sheikdoms – Hamas is essentially an offshoot of the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ which gave sleepless nights to Arab countries during the ‘Arab Spring’. Because it threatens the Arab regimes, Muslim Brotherhood is banned in authoritarian-monarchical regimes in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt etc.,

Beyond postures necessitated by having to pander to Ummah (Islamic Society) concerns and solidarity, the Arab Sheikhdoms would not touch the Hamas with a bargepole. In the entire melee, it is the hapless Palestinians who stand to suffer the most, and to that extent, the Arab Sheikhdoms are complicit for having run with the hare and hunted with the hound.

 The entire plan to remodel the Middle East in line with the powers-that-be has been undone by those in whose name the peace was sought to be negotiated – except the Palestinians were ignored, even by their supposed own.

(The writer, a military veteran, is a former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry. The views expressed are personal)

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