I’ve written about Arab Israeli columnist and novelist Sayed Kashua recently. It is safe to say he has had less than an easy life. While some of his frustrations with the current Israeli government are grounded, I take issue with a number of his stances. But for all the critique he levels at the country, he is insightful in his observation in Dancing Arabs (2007) that “My father says the best thing would be for our cousins in Tulkarm, Ramallah, Nablus, and Bakat el-Hatab to receive the same blue ID cards that we have. Let them become seventh-class citizens in the Zionist state. He says it’s better than being third-class citizens in an Arab state.”
Though mentioned in passing as the final chapter of the novel comes to a close, this comment should not be taken lightly. On the contrary, the excerpt touches upon a greater truth about the Middle East that is oft ignored.
For all the talk of the importance of nuance in our discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from here at Tufts to the Middle East itself, scholars and activists time and time again choose to gloss over some Middle Eastern governments’ betrayal of the Palestinians.
The bitter truth is that many leaders in the Arab world and in Turkey have used the Palestinians as a political tool. It is time they are held accountable for unkept promises and deceptive rhetoric.
When many Arab leaders suffer from low domestic approval, there is no option but to bash Israel. Cheap rhetorical solidarity is many Arab leaders’ weapon of choice when in need of a quick bump in the polls. Look no further than Saddam Hussein, who resorted to tirades and providing financial support to the families of suicide bombers.
Almost a decade has passed since his death. How true was the Butcher of Baghdad to his impassioned speeches? It’s pretty hard to believe he helped the Palestinian cause. Especially given the fact that he lobbed wildly inaccurate Scud missiles at Israeli cities during the First Gulf War, putting Palestinians at risk.
This trend persists to this very day, as a variety of Middle Eastern countries fail to provide relief aid promised to the people of Gaza. Al-Jazeera recently reported that “countries have given just 26.8% of $3.5 billion promised for rebuilding Gaza.” Meanwhile, the EU has already actually donated more than Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey combined. This should not surprise, since these three Middle Eastern governments combined have yet to give a single dollar.
I wish I could say that the betrayal stopped at inaction. On the contrary, it runs much deeper. Palestinians in Jordan have historically faced brutal repression. For instance, the Black September terrorist group—responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games—“was named after the month in which the Palestinians were driven out of Jordan,” according to a BBC report. In Syria, Palestinians in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp face devastation as ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Syrian government fight for control of the city. All the while, governments across the region turn their backs as the situation worsens.
I take issue with much of the condemnation of Israel. Whether in mass media or in discourse on campus, people get it wrong for a number of reasons. As much as I want to discuss this at length, I’ll leave it for another op-ed.
I am sorry to say that no matter how hard some try, the world will continue to find ways to erroneously lash out at Israel. I don’t expect the truth to prevail in that discussion. I expect facts to be pushed aside as acerbic rhetoric takes control.
As people continue to wrongly single out Israel, I ask that they are at least honest about the regional deception: numerous Arab and Turkish governments’ manipulation and neglect of the Palestinian people.