By Eyad Abu Shakra
18 October 2015
The Arab world is not a happy sight these days.
Iraqis are not relaxed with the fact they reside in a fragmented country dominated by Tehran and “cherished” by Washington. The Libyans are not so sure about their future in the midst of internal division and feverish grabbing of religious extremism and regional and tribal loyalties despite the efforts of the U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon.
In Syria and Lebanon, the requirements of new maps and apportionment of influence are leading to population “displacement” and “exchange” as hundreds of thousands are being killed and millions uprooted in Syria. While in Lebanon, the population’s fabric is being changed through systematic forced migration achieved through undermining civil society and government institutions by a religious militia implementing foreign regional plans.
Then, let’s not forget Yemen, the Arabia Felix no more, which has been saved in the eleventh hour from being handed to those using sectarianism as a “Trojan horse” intended to destroy the Arabs from within.
However, with all this it is impossible to overlook the oldest Arab wound - Palestine!
The Palestinian wound is bleeding again as a result of the transformation of Israel’s political chemistry, marked by the collapse of the Left, the disorientation of the liberals, and the takeover of extremists of the leadership of the Right and religious Right.
For the Zionist pioneers Israel was a “dream of redemption” far from discrimination and persecution in Europe. Some Zionist intellectuals strongly believed the “Promised Land” had to accommodate all trends and strains within the richly varied Jewish society as it was influenced in the different environments in which the Jews lived across the world. Even the text of the Balfour Declaration spelled out clearly in the future Jewish Homeland that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
The Palestinian state
Then, when the U.N. adopted its partition plan of Palestine, it recognized several criteria pertaining to demographics, land-ownerships, etc. Examining that map one can clearly see those demographic facts which allocated to “The Jewish State” three areas connected at two intersection points shared with the areas allocated to “The Palestinian State” as follows:
The first area, in the north, comprised Eastern Galilee which included Safed and Tiberias, two of the four “holy” Jewish cities, linking with the Second area west of the town of Afula. The second, in the western center, extended from southwestern Galilee (including Jezreel Valley and the Carmel) where intensive settlement activity during the British Mandate turned Haifa to a city with a sizeable Jewish population, along the Coastal (Sharon) Plain towards the second intersection point south of the town of Ramla, east of Ashdod and west of Latrun.
Finally, the third area, in the south, extends from the aforementioned point and ends at the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba, covering most of the Negev desert.
“The Palestinian State” was made up of three areas linked to one another at the two intersecting points, as follows: Western Galilee in the north including the towns of Acre and Nazareth; a much larger West Bank than pre-June 1967 in the center including the towns of Ramla, Lydd (Lod), Beersheba, and areas west of Jerusalem; and also a much larger Gaza Strip extending from Ashdod and Majdal/Ashkelon in the north to a large sector in western Negev along the Sinai borders. Even the city of Jaffa was kept as an “Arab island” surrounded by the lands of “The Jewish State”; while Jerusalem and its outlying suburbs were put under the U.N.’s authority.
Sure enough, the Zionist political and military establishments were well-prepared for the expected Arabs’ rejection of the Partition Plan on the eve of the “birth of the State of Israel” in 1948, and their declaration of war against it. Consequently, Israel defeated the ill-prepared and badly led Arab armies, and vastly increased its designated “original” territory thus Making the 1947 map irrelevant.
Accumulating Arab mistakes
More realities on the ground changed in the following years and decades primarily due to accumulating Arab mistakes, the most noteworthy of which was – and still is – their ignorance of what Israel really is, and what it means to and in the West.
So, after annexing western Galilee plus large territories in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel occupied all the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June 1967. However, today, in spite of the Oslo Accords which agreed the establishment of a “viable Palestinian State” and for which Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat won the Noble Peace Prize, one might surmise that the facts on the ground allow for neither the creation of a “Palestinian State” nor reaching a political settlement to the Palestinian problem and the Arab – Israeli conflict.
In the West there are still those who insist on blaming the Palestinians for the collapse of the “Peace process”, but the truth is that the Palestinians – just like their Syrian brethren today – have been victims of two culprits: the first a declared enemy who is fighting directly, and a concealed enemy who claims to be an ally but keeps inciting them, pushing them towards extremism and plays on their differences.
Indeed, as the declared enemy represented by the extreme Right takes over the government of Israel and boasts – from the highest office – its rejection of the principle of “Land for Peace”, thus encouraging Jewish ultra-fundamentalist terrorists to murder, burn and grab the lands and homes of Palestinians; the concealed enemy has been busy destroying the Palestinians’ national unity and driving them to political suicide. It has been sowing the seeds of friction and divisions among the Palestinians, fomenting animosity, and outbid them even in their own cause. It has also succeeded in convincing some that the only way to confront Jewish religious fascism is by an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-style Islamist fascism it is supporting in Palestine while claiming to be fighting in Syria and Iraq.
The Palestinians look as if they are now going through a third Intifada after Benjamin Netanyahu and his folks have, through their illegal settlement and displacement policies, effectively killed off any chance of a permanent and just political solution.
To rise as a means of refusing capitulation now is not only a Palestinian’s right, but also their sole choice. But if they need to heed one important truth then it must be sticking to reason and unity, and to stop betting on those regional players using them and exploiting their suffering in order to enhance their negotiating position, noting that these players just approved deals and treaties with powers that for a long time refused to recognize their legitimate rights.
The destiny of Palestine must be the only priority, not any empty slogan that has been perfected by insincere out-bidders for decades.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.