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Arabs and Muslims must stand up for Palestine

 An emergency meeting of the Arab League called to discuss the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, at the league’s HQ in Cairo. (AFP)
An emergency meeting of the Arab League called to discuss the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, at the league’s HQ in Cairo. (AFP)
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12 Feb 2020 04:02:36 GMT9
12 Feb 2020 04:02:36 GMT9

The notion of a negotiated solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, at least the way envisaged by successive US administrations, has been rejected. Now, Palestinians and their allies will have to explore a whole new path of liberation that does not go through Washington.

It is easy to place all the blame on the current US administration, focusing on characters such as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as someone who single-handedly diminished any real chances for a just peace in Palestine and Israel. The truth, however, greatly differs from conveniently molded assumptions. The US-championed “peace process” has been on hiatus since the last negotiations in 2014. For years prior to the announcement of Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” plan last month, Israel did everything in its power to ensure Palestinians could never have a state of their own. Not only did Israeli officials openly speak of their desire to illegally annex much of the Occupied Territories, but the government took numerous steps to ensure the constant expansion of illegal Jewish settlements.

One would have to be politically naive and morally blind to assume that the Israeli government, at any point in the past, had one iota of interest in a just peace that would guarantee the Palestinian people a minimum amount of dignity, freedom and justice.

Yet everyone has played along. Israel complained that it has no peace partner while simultaneously entrenching its military occupation and expanding its colonial regime; the Palestinian Authority (PA) of President Mahmoud Abbas ceaselessly uttered empty threats; the Americans urged both parties to return to “unconditional negotiations” while funding, to the tune of $3.8 billion a year, the Israeli military and economy; and the UN and EU followed a predictable political script that was seen as more “moderate” than that of Washington, yet failed to take a single meaningful action to discourage Israel from further violations of international law.

Meanwhile, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), who are arguably Palestine’s more solid and consistent allies, remained marginal and by far the least relevant of all parties. Their occasional statements in support of Palestinians and condemnation of the Israeli occupation became predictable and ineffectual. Aside from Abbas and his PA, ordinary Palestinians saw no value in verbal support that hardly ever translated into tangible action.

Somehow, this skewed paradigm sustained itself for many years; partly because it suited everyone except the Palestinian people, whose subjugation and humiliation by Israel carried on unhindered.

Presently, there are two different currents fighting to define the situation in Palestine in the post-Trump deal era. First is the Israel-US combine, which is keen to translate the Trump plan into rapid and irreversible action. Israel is eager to annex the illegal settlements of the West Bank and Jordan Valley (approximately 30 percent of the West Bank) with American support. Moreover, Washington would like to see its diligent, clandestine efforts aimed at normalization between Arabs and Israel translate into actual agreements and, eventually, full diplomatic ties.

Second is the group that contains the PA, EU, UN, Arab League and OIC, which wants the deal defeated— but these organizations have no alternative path to follow. They insist on respect for international law and remain die-hard supporters of the unfeasible two-state solution, but they have no actual strategy, let alone an enforcement mechanism to make it happen.

The pro-PA camp reeks of contradictions, which are no less obvious than that of Abbas’ PA, which speaks of “popular resistance” while, jointly with Israel, suppressing any attempt at challenging the Israeli occupation. A perfect example of the contradictions in this camp is that, only two days after the Arab League issued its statement rejecting the Trump deal, the head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, met with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda. Al-Burhan is hoping to swap normalization with Israel for favors from Washington.

Another example is the behavior of Abbas himself, who, on Feb. 1, declared that he would sever all contacts with Israel, including the so-called security coordination — a main pillar of the Oslo agreement, which practically employs PA security forces in the service of the Israeli occupation. This is not the first time that Abbas has resorted to this rhetoric, but he has never gone through with his promises. We have no reason to believe that this time is any different.

They need to muster the courage to turn their statements into a unified strategy, and their strategy into action.

Ramzy Baroud

There is little hope that the pro-PA camp, as exemplified in the current political structure, can truly defeat Trump’s deal.

The final statements resulting from the Arab League summit in Cairo and the OIC summit in Jeddah on Feb. 1 and 3, respectively, were repeats of numerous past conferences, where promises were made and condemnations leveled, with no follow-up actions taken.

If Arabs and Muslims are sincere in their desire to confront US-Israeli plotting, they ought to go beyond this stifling pattern of impractical politics. It is not enough to reject Washington’s stratagems and denounce Israeli actions. They need to muster the courage to turn their statements into a unified strategy, and their strategy into action, using all the means at their disposal. Arab countries enjoy massive economic and political leverage in Washington and throughout the world. What’s the value of all of this leverage if it is not used in the defense of Palestine and her people?

Washington and Tel Aviv are counting on the fact that the anger at the Trump deal among Arabs and Muslims will eventually peter out, exactly as happened after the president recognized all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved his country’s embassy there.

If Arabs and Muslims fail Palestine again, then, once more, the Palestinian people will find themselves alone in this desperate fight, which they have no alternative but to take part in. And, when the Palestinians rise, as they surely will, they will challenge not just Israel but the entire regional and international apparatus that allowed the Israeli occupation to go unchallenged for so many years.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story” (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine studies from the University of Exeter. Twitter: @RamzyBaroud

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

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