27 May 2019
announcement of the deal of the century approaches, the Arab world is growing
increasingly tense. Widespread rumours about the contents of the proposal have
fuelled public outrage across the region.
By now, it
is perfectly clear that the deal of the century is not a peace plan, nor was it
ever intended to be, despite what its chief architect and White House adviser
Jared Kushner has been claiming. It is yet another American imperial
undertaking that is driven by the misguided notion that it is in the best
interest of the American people that Israel remains the regional hegemon and is
enabled to swallow the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.
It is a new
Sykes-Picot that aims to divide and weaken the Arabs once more so that Israel
may reign supreme a while longer. But just as British-French colonial designs
were rejected, so will Kushner's deal. In its failure, however, it will likely
fuel popular anger and endanger the survival of Arab regimes.
The Arab Cause
early decades of the 20th century, Palestine has served as a meeting point for
all Arabs, a just cause for their collective fight and a rallying cry against
western colonialism and its offshoot, the Zionist movement.
Arab countries which gained their independence in the mid-20th century,
Palestine remains captive to the very colonial forces that had subjugated Arabs
for decades. The suffering of Palestinians under Zionist colonialism and
occupation remains a bleeding Arab wound and a painful reminder of the
collective failure to do away with western domination of the region. Freedom
from western colonialism will never truly be achieved as long as the Palestinians
continue to endure daily violence, a protracted siege and military occupation.
the majority of Arabs today have no recollection of the 1967 war and
occupation, let alone the war of 1948 and the subsequent Nakba, they have
remained highly conscious of and sensitive about the suffering of Palestinians
for two reasons. One, "Tahrir Falasteen" - the liberation of
Palestine - has become a core element of the modern Arab political identity and
aspirations; and, two, because the ongoing Israeli injustices, the unrelenting
Palestinian shatat - diaspora - and a determined Palestinian resistance have
kept Palestine at the centre of collective Arab political consciousness.
of the importance of the Palestine cause to Arab masses, Arab rulers have used
and misused the Palestinian struggle to achieve a degree of political
validation, as their regimes have lacked any democratic legitimacy. Thus, since
Israel was established on the ruins of the Palestinian homeland in 1948,
freeing Palestine became a common official Arab mantra, widely used by Arab
regimes even as they conspired with the colonial powers against the
Arab rulers, one by one, started accepting the status quo of Israel's
occupation of Palestinian lands and gladly accepted western "rewards"
for their "good behaviour", the Arab streets never followed suit.
to a 2017 study of public attitudes in 11 Arab countries, 77 percent of
respondents believe the fate of Palestinians concerns all Arabs. Interestingly
enough, Arab nations whose regimes have official relations or are pushing for
normalisation with Israel are most adamant about the issue: 90 percent of
Jordanians, 85 percent of Egyptians and 80 percent of Saudis are convinced the
Palestinian cause is a pan-Arab one.
At the same
time, 90 percent of all respondents indicate that they still see Israel as the
greatest threat to the security of their home countries and 87 percent oppose
recognition of the Zionist state.
that Arab leaders have been going against the will of their people and engaging
with Israel has diminished their legitimacy and fuelled popular anger. In 2011,
these sentiments finally boiled over, as popular uprisings swept through the
region. That the neglect of the Palestinian issue was very much part of
people's grievances was made evident by the fact that Palestinian flags were
raised at protests across the region - in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Syria
uprisings brought short-lived political liberalisation, Arab activists rushed
to show solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters and organised
aid convoys to Gaza. Meanwhile, in Egypt, angry crowds attacked the Israeli
embassy in Cairo, causing all its staff to be evacuated.
has picked up where other Arab countries left off after a counter-revolution
swept through the region. Not a single demonstration has been held in Algiers
without the Palestinian flags waved high and proud. After all, these are the
same people who in 2016 cheered for the Palestinian national team against their
own in a friendly football match.
The rest of
the Arab world might be silent, plagued by conflict and violent repression, but
anger is simmering beneath the surface.
Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others are pushing for normalisation with
Israel without the issue of Palestinian statehood being resolved, the Arab
people outright reject any such concessions.
Britain and France used the moment of chaos the collapse of the Ottoman Empire
caused in the early 20th century to enforce their imperial designs on the
Arabs, the United States and Israel are using the post-Arab Spring instability
to impose a new reality on the region.
money, military force and political pressure, they wish to remap the Arab
region to advance American-Israeli colonial interests and cement the forceful
eviction of Palestinians from their land.
All of this
will fuel the growing anger and sense of betrayal that Arab nations feel
towards their self-serving governments, who are playing into American and
Israeli hands to ensure their own survival. However, the Arab peoples should
not be so easily dismissed and discounted, for humiliation can have many
deal of the century will ultimately do is erase what little legitimacy Arab
leaders have left and undermine their corrupt regimes. And just like in 2011,
sooner or later, Arab anger will boil over and sweep through the region in yet
another wave of uprisings which neither Israel, nor its western and regional
allies will be able to control.
decades of US-sponsored "peace process", political pressure and
economic bribery failed to bring a just solution to the Palestinian cause and
stability to the region, so will Kushner's "deal of the century"
fail. This is because just like previous US initiatives, it is completely tone
deaf about the state of affairs in the Arab world and the will of its people.
and certain Arab capitals probably think that whatever upheaval the deal
causes, it could be managed through mass repression, censorship and social
control. But over the past decades, Palestinians and their Arab brothers and
sisters have repeatedly demonstrated that they will not bow their heads down to
brutal and violent masters.
Kushner et al have to understand is that a major process of change is currently
under way in the Arab world driven by Arab people's yearning for freedom and
dignity and Palestine is at the very centre of it. These massive popular current
ebbs and flows but ultimately, it cannot be stopped.
Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author.