The announcements by Jordan and Egypt re-instating their ambassadors to Israel did not go well among many Arabs. Since the conclusion of the Sharm Al Sheikh conference, which witnessed the Jordanian and Egyptian announcements on February the 8th last month, a group of Palestinians and Arabs commented that the two countries have abandoned the Arabs’ central cause. Generally, not a few numbers of commentators in the press and on the satellite channels, said that the conference was very similar to a “great set-back” to the Palestinian issue, the issue of all issues for Arabs.
Anyone who reads and listens in the Arab arena will be able to feel a great deal of frustration coupled with a fear and sadness because it is now possible that the days where sword blades stroked daily between the Israelis and Palestinians will end. It is thought by such commentators that this end aims to thwart a mighty procession that is or was about to subdue the Hebrew state, if it were not for the games of politics.
They think that with some patience every Israeli will leave Palestine. It is astonishing that these commentators do not refrain from depicting the miserable condition of the Palestinians all the time. They also highlight the re-occupation of all the Oslo liberated lands in addition to the painful and cruel situations that are a result of the Israeli barbaric, occupational and settlement oriented operations.
But the Palestinian question remained in past decades as the central issue in the Arab conscience, whether in the educational process in different Arab countries or through the media, which itself expanded from newspapers and radio stations to satellite channels and the internet. Certainly, the Palestinian cause was the primary issue for many trans-national Arab political movements from the Arab Nationalists through Baa’thists and Nasserists to the Muslim Brothers.
To that end, not a single statement that was related to a Coup d’etate or a revolution failed to mention the great cause. To indicate the centrality of the issue, sometimes-usurped Palestinian rights were invoked, while in other times the Israeli danger that extends from expansionist intentions to the ownership of tools of threat and extortion (represented in conventional and nuclear military powers), was also invoked.
Yet, in some instances, the centrality of the cause took on a broder connotation, specifically representing the geopolitical aspect of the conflict, which was raised as the Israeli state was established on the bridge-way between the Arabs of the East and Arabs of the West. In other times, the meaning resulting from the convergence between historical, religious and geographical aspects of one issue was brought into play.
All the aforementioned meanings were common in the Arab Media, which expressed the general Arab psyche. The meanings also included what was the silent part of the discourse: namely that the issue transcends due to its centrality all the other Arab issues. For example, during the Iran-Iraq war, many Iraqis did not understand why the other Arabs do not regard defending the Eastern gate of the Arab world as a central issue? Similarly, the Mauritanians asked the same question when they were defending the “Western Gate” against African cultural invasions. The Sudanese, Somalis and the people of the Comoros Islands have all presented racist interpretations to explain the Arab negligence of their issues to the extent that the state disintegrated or there were an acceptance to a radical change to its Arab culture.
In the Arab Unionist literature, there was always an attempt to eliminate contradiction between nationalist identity and the Pan-Arab one. However, the Palestinian issue always remained above those contradictions. And to the contrary of Arab liberation movements, each of which has considered itself a special prerogative of the nationalists of its own country and that they are the ones who define its strategies and draw its tactics, while other countries only give moral support, the Palestinian issue was an exception. Thus, each Arab country became requested to contribute – which in effect gave that country or the other the right to interfere – with money, arms or both.
However, this exceptional situation did not constitute a large additional benefit for the Palestinian struggle, as it caused the Palestinian –Israeli conflict over Palestine to turn into a regional Arab-Israeli one. In other times, it turned into a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews. Both of the last two cases were not useful to the Palestinian issue with regards to international support even if they (the two cases) indirectly contributed to a number of international resolutions that were not implemented anyways. They were not useful when Israel expanded beyond its borders according to the 1947 UN division resolution, when it expanded again in 1948 and when it reached its ultimate imperial expansions after 1967.
The irony around the so-called “Central Cause” was not only related to the contradiction with more national issues, it was also related to the increasing gap between words and deeds in the Arab World. The grand rhetoric about the centrality never matched the little sacrifices that the people and the governments wanted to pay.
The high noisy rhetoric had its global negative repercussions. In the year 1967, Arab radio passion songs on Palestine were the reason why Arabs were excluded and encircled when the Palestinian issue was presented before the Security Council, therefore they got nothing except resolution 242, which did not contain a single word about the Palestinian issue. Furthermore, this resolution was ambiguous concerning withdrawal from “occupied lands.” Four years later, the Arab letters about the issue became “instigation” and “anti-Semitism” in the eyes of the world.
Surely, Israeli propaganda is also responsible in demeaning Arab stands. However, it is also certain that Arabs did not talk well, did not practice diplomacy well and did not even practice war well. Yet, this was not the case of the central cause all of the time. For example, in the first Camp David (1978), Arab words were verified by Arab action when an Arab leader moved beyond slogans to engage in an active political movement that resulted in the first time in an American and Israeli recognition that the Palestinian lands were indeed occupied lands that are inhabited by people who have a national identity that deserves to be given a form of “self determination.”
A decade later and through the Madrid conference there, came to be what is called “the Palestinian Track”. Another decade later, there was talk of an independent Palestinian state that expresses Palestinian nationalism (even if its borders are disputed between the two parties). In all these cases, the Palestinian cause was also a central issue. However, the nature of the centrality differed and gave the word a different meaning from the pre-1978 date. In post 1978, the issue was “central’ as much as other Arab issues were “central” too. It was central as much as the ability to liberate Palestinian lands and establish a Palestinian state. Finally, it was and still is central when it makes the benefits to the Palestinian cause related positively to achieving Arab-Israeli peace not antithetical to it.
Translated by: Mohamed Ansary