Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The root cause of the confrontation with Israel - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Last Friday, the al-Aqsa Mosque transformed from a Palestinian, Arab and Islamic symbol to a scene of confrontation and clashes between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli occupant forces, with Israel resorting to violence even within a yard of the mosque.

What was the reaction to this?

What is striking is that the reaction has been almost non-existent, whether in the Arab world or globally. If this [lack of reaction] becomes a regular occurrence, then there will come a day – and perhaps not too far away – when these kind of sporadic clashes become rare, because the Israeli forces will be relaxing amidst an occupation without resistance.

Under occupation, the Palestinian situation has suffered from two points of weakness, namely the disruption and cessation of armed resistance, and the emergence of a Palestinian leadership that publicly states that it does not support the armed approach, although armed resistance to occupation is legally and internationally legitimate worldwide.

It would be possible to understand the Palestinian leadership’s position if there were ongoing negotiations with the occupier about ending the occupation, but considering the lack of negotiations at present, the insistence upon ceasing armed resistance is strange and reprehensible. The occupation is a reality that can only end with negotiations or armed resistance, and with the absence of both, the only likely scenario is continual occupation.

There are those who interpret the stance of the current Palestinian leadership – and its decision not to promote armed resistance against the occupation – as an attempt to appear before the world as a peaceful force in confrontation with an aggressive force, namely the Israeli occupying forces. However, the reality on the ground dictates that the aggressive occupying force is oppressing the people without any real confrontation. The reality presents a miserable image of occupied people who do not rise up for their country, their land and their future. Yet the Palestinian people have always been known for their stubborn resistance to occupation; a continuous resistance that has been ongoing for more than half a century, based on the idea that the Palestinians will not let up until Israel is known across the entire world as a hostile state, even among the countries that support it. Let us recall here the global poll that was conducted on the subject of the world’s most hostile states, where Israel received 57 percent of the vote amongst Westerners; Israel’s allies.

With the existence of organized and rational Palestinian resistance to occupation, we would be able to take advantage of this image to mobilize greater international support against Israel, whilst at present we do not benefit in any way from theories that call for an end to armed resistance and a sole reliance upon so-called political or popular resistance. In fact, these two types of resistance would be more appropriate and significant as a support to genuine armed resistance on the ground.

It was always hoped that the Palestinian resistance would succeed in galvanizing an Arab front to support it, thus broadening its scope to create a joint Palestinian-Arab resistance. Here I do not mean mere Arab solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, but rather I am referring to the absolute conviction that an Arab struggle would be capable of confronting Israel, and that the Palestinians – although they are the ones directly affected by the issue – only constitute the driving force.

Furthermore, there is also the belief that confronting Israel is fundamentally an Arab task, for two reasons:

The first reason is that the establishment of the State of Israel, in 1948, was essentially a strategic counter-blow to Arab power and Arab solidarity.

The second reason is that Israel, with its stance against the Palestinians, is essentially adopting a position of power in the face of the Arabs, and an alliance with international forces (America) in the face of the Arabs.

Thus we can say that the confrontation with Israel has been and always will be an Arab confrontation, for Arab interests.

Many people talk about the Arab role in the Palestinian cause as if it is a supportive role or a role of solidarity, but they do not pay sufficient attention to the fact that a confrontation with Israel is in the Arabs’ interest; it is for the defense of Arab sovereignty.

Maybe Israel has not undertaken direct aggression against every single Arab country, but through its presence, through its alliances with the colonial powers, and through its confrontations with some of its neighboring Arab states, there is now a balance of power that works against Arab interests in general, and against the interests of Arab states in particular.

This reality necessitates the need for a Palestinian-Arab understanding, and the need for Palestinian-Arab coordination, which sometimes seems absent.

It is essential that I point out at this point that a “confrontation with Israel” does not necessarily mean an armed confrontation. Indeed, sometimes a political confrontation is more effective than armed conflict, and countries cannot adopt their stances with arms only. Other times what is most important is to build a strategic position so as to influence the stances and relations of neighbors and allies.

Israel is the fundamental adversary for many Arab countries, and even sometimes resembles a Trojan horse, through which the enemy enters and proceeds to wreak havoc from within (remember the Tripartite Aggression against Egypt in 1956?)

A country such as Egypt is capable of having a leading strategic role in the region as a whole, but Israel has entered into confrontations and wars with Egypt in particular, thus preoccupying it from performing its strategic role and dragging it into a maze of conflicts that could have been avoided, were Israel not the spearhead of an aggressive anti-Arab policy pursued by the United States.

This brings us back to the need to emphasize that the Arab role in confronting Israel is not a role in support of the Palestinian struggle, but often it is to protect the Arab countries themselves from Israel’s plans, and its aggressive policies aimed at imposing a foreign agenda upon the Arab region. Confronting Israel is an Arab task and an Arab responsibility first and foremost, in order to protect Arab interests. [As a secondary matter] it also happens to come within the context of defending Palestine and its territory.

Bilal Al-Hassan

Bilal Al-Hassan

Bilal Al-Hassan is a distinguished journalist and political analysts specializing in Arab–Israeli affairs. He is based in Paris.

More Posts