Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

What If the Palestine Issue was Resolved? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Away from the channels of indirect and direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, whether this is above or below the table; the “eternal” Palestinian Cause has remained central to Arab politics since 1948, the year of the Israeli declaration of independence – or perhaps a little before this [date] – until today.

It is because of the Palestinian Cause – in addition to other reasons of course – that King Farouk was dethroned and expelled from Egypt, transferred to a ship to take him to the beaches of Italy. King Idris I of Libya was also overthrown by military officers who adhered to the same revolutionary rhetoric as those followed by Jamal Abdul-Nasser and the Free Officer’s Movement. As a result of the Palestinian Cause, a series of minor and major wars broke out in Egypt, leading to the signing of the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, and President Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem; a visit which deeply divided the Arab world.

Violent Islamist groups emerged as a result of the Palestinian Cause, and prior to this left-wing and revolutionary groups emerged [as a result of the Palestinian Cause] like the groups led by George Habash and Wadie Haddad [the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], Abu Nidal [Abu Nidal Organization], Abu Daoud [Black September], Ahmed Jibril [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command], as well as the Fatah al-Intifada, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, and Fatah al-Islam. It was because of the Palestinian Cause that Hezbollah was able to expand to the point that its weapons are now overflowing Lebanon.

The question that remains: will it be possible to solve the Palestinian issue one day?

Many Arabs and Muslims cannot imagine the possibility of this ever happening. They cannot imagine by what means, and in what period, and under what conditions this issue can ever be solved? How will we live if the Palestinian cause came to an end?

Will the new generations hold the same enthusiasm and desire to make the Palestinian Cause the pivotal issue in their lives and political beliefs?

This is a difficult question to answer in an accurate and certain manner. Is the image of the Palestinian Cause as portrayed in the Arab and Muslim orientated media precisely what the Palestinians living this reality themselves see?

I am talking about those Arabs and Muslims who live outside of Palestine and might be viewing the situation in an exaggerated and inflated fashion that is not in line with the reality, and not in light with how those who are directly affected by this situation view it. For in the end, this person [who is affected by the Palestinian Cause] is just a human being that ultimately wants to live as best as he can with regards to clothes, food, and shelter, and most importantly of all, without wars or military oppression. As Mahmoud Darwish, the most notable poet of the Palestinian Cause wrote, “on this land [Palestine] is what makes life worth living.”

The most dangerous thing is for others to treat you as if you are on a pedestal; an incomparable hero, or a wailing wall for people to cry over, and you believe that these tears are for you, however if this river of tears does not stop it may choke those who are trying to deal with the Palestinian Cause, and prevent others from seeing the reality of the situation with clear eyes.

Whether others view you as an angel or a devil, in either case you lose the ability to deal with the situation realistically, and to force others to deal with the reality of what is going on. In reality, nobody is an unrepentant devil or an untainted angel.

In other words, why have we lost the capacity to deal with the Palestinian issue in a realistic and normal manner? The Arab analysis of the situation constantly repast that it is the Israeli side that is afraid – to its very core – of the consequences of peace, and normalization of relations with the Arab world. This is a correct analysis, to a large extent, at least with regards to the Israeli right-wing who supports the current state of affairs. Peace means a re-imagining of the Israeli mentality, removing it from the strangleholds of isolation, panic and [the mentality of] the Jewish ghetto.

This analysis is true, but what is not mentioned is this: Do some Arab intellectuals and politicians also fear a peace agreement being signed, finally resolving the Palestinian Cause?

This question is one that must be contemplated, regardless of the reality in Israel. Can the Arab public awareness accept that one day it will wake up without the Palestinian Cause, which is the issue that causes us to weep and wail every day?

We all know the highlights of negotiations between the Palestinians and Arabs with Israel, such as when Yasser Arafat acknowledged the two-state solution in 1988 and recognized UN Security Council resolution 242. Since that pivotal moment, we have been taking one step forwards and two steps back. Whenever there is any progress of breakthrough [in negotiations] this is either hampered by the Arabs or Palestinians, or by Israel. This was the case with the assassination of [Yitzhak] Rabin, and with the current Netanyahu government.

Is it possible to deal with the Palestinian issue as a dispute that has a solution? Or is this a dispute that is intrinsically unsolvable? If a solution is impossible, why are we chasing after a mirage?

Are the Arabs as serious about fighting Israeli and ending the Israeli presence in Palestinian lands, as we always hear? If this was the case – and of course, it is not – why aren’t Arab policies formulated on the basis of war, rather than peace?

We want war, and we want peace and development at the same time! This is not possible, and this current chaos only serves to benefit those who want to milk the issue to gain public support.

Perhaps a number of groups and figures in the Arab media will lose their purpose if the Palestinian Cause is resolved in a manner similar to previously resolved international conflicts.

Many people will feel somewhat depressed [if the Palestinian issue is resolved]. Their situation is similar to that of Abu Laila al Muhalhal who is better known as Al Zeir Salim, who fought the forty year Basus war [famous conflict in medieval Arabia between two rival clans] to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Jassas. Al-Zeir Salem could have ended the war much more quickly by simply killing Jassas himself, however had he done so, he would have lost his sense of purpose to that which he dedicated his entire life to, namely, revenge.

Therefore, it is no coincidence that Amal Donkol’s renowned poem “Do not Reconcile” which became an Arab slogan, rejecting any possibility for negotiation or peaceful solution to the Palestinian issue. This poem is derived from al-Zeir Salem’s story and its theme is that of burning revenge, which ultimately consumes the avenger rather than his target.

According to Amal Donkol’s poem, the Palestinian Cause should not be treated as if it were solvable. No solution should be sought, for this would undermine the Cause in the same manner that al-Zir Salem always believed that killing Jassas would not reconcile his issue.

Amal Donkol’s poem reads:

“Do not reconcile…

Even if they granted you gold.

What if they gouged out your eyes,

And then placed two jewels instead,

Would you be able to see?

There are things that cannot be purchased.”

So the Palestinian Cause is something that cannot be seen or purchased, and therefore it cannot be touched or addressed or examined in a realistic manner…

I recently read Saudi Arabian politician and intellectual [and Saudi Minister of Labor] Ghazi Algosaibi’s book entitled “The Accompanying Minister” in which he highlighted his memories and his impressions of a number of politicians and heads of state whom he met, accompanied or spoke with.

He recalled important details of the twelfth Arab Summit that was held in Fez in November 1981, where then Crown Prince Fahd Bin Abdulaziz launched his 8-point initiative to solve the Palestinian issue. The proposal was agreed upon by a majority of Arab states, with Saudi Arabia shouldering the responsibility for implementing this. The Fez Initiative, which was also called the Fahd Plan, called for a complete Israeli withdrawal, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with regional coexistence. Numerous Arab leaders supported the initiative; even President Arafat did not reject it although his support was vague, due to the presence of the Palestinian and Arab groups who rejected this.

What was important in this was a dangerous phrase that was uttered during the Fez Summit, when the debate over the Fahd Plan reached its peak. Saudi Arabia and other countries supporting the initiative put forward their opinion, whilst other countries gave theirs. Crown Prince Fahd was disturbed by the defamation that his country was being subject to, and so he announced that he was withdrawing the initiative. The summit was suspended, and the then Crown Prince left for Spain. Ghazi Algosaibi, who witnessed this himself, wrote that the then Crown Prince “was depressed and disappointed. He spent the entire time in the palace, only leaving on one occasion.” Algosaibi wrote that Crown Prince Fahd “talked about the Arab position with a sense of despair, he said ‘our land is not occupied and our people were not displaced, we have done all of this for their sake, and what was the result? We were hurt and insulted!'”

In addition to this, a member of the Palestinian delegation, speaking outside the Arab Summit, said: “Why should Saudi Arabia interfere? We accept seeing our sons homeless and our land being occupied. We accept this and do not want peace”.

King Fahd wondered “How can we have an understanding with such people?”

(Ghazi Algosaibi’s book the Attendant Minister, page 192, 193.)

The point of all this is to say that the moment we start dealing with the [Palestinian] issue in a way outside of its normal framework, but rather view it as an issue that cannot be solved, we transcend from the realm of intellect, to the realm of sentiment and emotion. As a result of this, understanding is lost because there is a lack of a logical link between issues.