Seventy years after the creation of Israel, the real sufferers are the millions of Palestinians who were either uprooted from their homes or are currently under the occupation of the Jewish state. Every year on May 15, Palestinians commemorate Yawn an-Nakba, day of catastrophe when Israel came into being on the map of the world. This year, on the occasion of Yawn an-Nakba Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza who were protesting against the shifting of American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
The massacre of Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli military prompted the holding of Arab League’s Foreign Minister meeting in Cairo on May 17 which called for the investigation of Israeli brutalities and taking steps to prevent such cruel acts in future. Also, an extraordinary summit of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was held in Istanbul on May 18 to discuss Israeli acts of barbarity in Gaza. OIC, called for sending an international peace keeping force in Gaza to save Palestinians from further liquidation at the hands of Israeli forces.
Why the Palestinians are at the receiving end? How and why the Palestinian case is being marginalised? Why there is no Arab/Muslim meaningful support to the Palestinian cause of seeking an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital? Will Israel and the United States continue to suppress legitimate Palestinian rights? These are the questions which are raised from time to time particularly when prospects for a Palestinian state are getting remote day by day.
The plight of Palestinians is not a recent phenomenon but their agony and humiliation at the hands of Israel and fellow Arabs began when they became refugees in their own homes. If Israel displaced millions of Palestinians since it emerged as a state in May 1948, no Arab country genuinely helped a community which is culturally, ethnically and religiously a part of the Arab land. The persecution and genocide of Palestinians in September 1970 in Jordan; the massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila located in Beirut, Lebanon in September 1982 and the indifferent attitude of Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia vis-à-vis Palestinians reflected a double jeopardy of a community which since 1948 till today is a victim of both Israeli and Arab suppression. Recently, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammad bin Salman added insult to injury when during his conversation with American Jewish leaders in New York in April he asked the Palestinian President to accept what the U.S President Donald Trump is offering to them or ‘shut up.’ Never before, Palestinians have been insulted simultaneously by Israel and Arabs.
Citing what it said were multiple sources, Israel’s Channel 10 News on Sunday night quoted what it said were remarks made by the crown prince at the meeting that left those who were present “staggered” by the ferocity of his criticism of the Palestinians. He asserted that “for the past 40 years, the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities again and again, and rejected all the offers it was given,” the Saudi leader reportedly said. Regretfully, he put blame on the Palestinian leadership of not getting peace or their state by asserting that, “it’s about time that the Palestinians accept the offers, and agree to come to the negotiating table — or they should shut up and stop complaining.” If Saudi Arabia has condemned inhuman Israeli acts against the Palestinians of Gaza, it will merely be termed as ‘eyewash’ because Riyadh has disowned the Palestinian struggle for an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
If someone asks the Saudi Crown Prince what Trump is offering to the Palestinians he may himself not have a plausible answer. Realistically speaking, the man who disregarded the UN Security Council resolutions on the disputed status of Jerusalem and shifted the U.S embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and has an open bias against the Palestinians cannot offer any thing tangible to them. And, the United States has been vetoing resolutions presented in the UN Security Council condemning Israeli atrocities in Gaza and illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It is a clear policy of Israel and the United States to deny Palestinians their state, contrary to what was envisaged in the UN partition of Palestine plan passed in 1947. Furthermore, as said earlier, Palestinians are facing double jeopardy i.e. from Israel and Arabs. One cannot just blame Israel or the United States for being cruel and ruthless to the Palestinians but the Arabs, particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are to be equally blamed for augmenting the plight of Palestinians by looking the other way when Israel from time to time embarks on the massacre of Palestinians and demolishing their homes in the West Bank for expanding illegal Jewish settlements. The Arab League has totally failed to deal with the Palestinian issue inasmuch as it has been unable to establish peace in conflict ridden Arab countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Three major realities tend to shape the unfortunate state of Palestinians. First, the sustained marginalisation of the Palestinian cause. In 1964 when PLO was established, it mentioned in its Charter to destroy Israel. Following the Oslo process in late 1980s and early 1990s leading to the signing of Palestinian-Israeli accord on September 13, 1993 in the lawns of White House, PLO deleted that clause from its Charter and Israel removed the clause in its constitution which termed PLO as a terrorist organization. PLO and Israel granted mutual recognition and both sides agreed to deal with the contentious issues like an independent Palestinian state, the issue of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees by the year 1999. But following the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995 (who transformed himself from a hawk to a dove like his counterpart PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat) by a fanatic Jew, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process derailed when Benjamin Netanyahu assumed power in 1996. Since then, Netanyahu and his right wing Likud Party, which has remained in power most of the time since the assassination of Rabin, he forcefully resisted to have an independent Palestinian state and established scores of Jewish settlements thus changing the demographic complexion of West Bank.
Second, infighting among the Palestinians has done more damage to them then Israel. Despite their apparent truce, ultra-right wing Hamas is in serious conflict with moderate PLO. Gaza is controlled by Hamas and West Bank by the PLO. Hamas is against any sort of rapprochement with the Jewish state which constantly results into armed conflict between Hamas and Israeli forces. History proves the fact that a national liberation movement must be untied for the accomplishment of its cause which is not the case with the Palestinians thus providing enormous benefits and space to Israel further weaken the Palestinian struggle for emancipation. Finally, it seems, an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem may not be possible in the foreseeable future because of their fragile position in terms of unity in their rank and file and regional/international support. It is pathetic and an unfortunate situation but that is how the vision for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel has been shattered.
The double jeopardy of Palestinians should be a lesson to all those groups who want to seek an independent position but either lack the capability or support from their so-called allies.