Palestine has once again displayed the limitations of Arab and Islamic political organisations and their impotence in resolving any problems faced by Muslims around the world.

It is not as though the Arab world had ascended to any notable level of might and glory after it was colonised by the British and the French for it to have fallen particularly far from grace. 

However, events of the past month in Palestine have shown how the political leadership of the Arab world has plumbed even greater depths of disgrace than ever before, while the coveted illusion of international Islamic unity and solidarity continues to evade Muslims who aspire for a better tomorrow away from the diktats of foreign interlopers and domestic dictators.

Despite there being numerous eminently worthy causes to attract pan-Islamic solidarity, none quite have the same effect on the Muslim psyche than the Palestinian cause. It is that cause, once again, that has starkly displayed the limitations of Arab and Islamic political organisations and their impotence in resolving any of the pressing problems faced by Muslims around the world today.

No more lip service to Palestine

In the past week alone, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has demanded an apology from the Palestinians for their criticisms of the recently concluded normalisation of ties between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel. 

The GCC accused the Palestinian leadership of using the language of “incitement and threats” in an attempt to influence broader Arab policy to condemn the UAE’s betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

The GCC represents the wealthiest Arab states, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman, and all members are also members of the Arab League.

Considering the events of today, it is hard to believe that it was the Arab League that made the first concerted attempt to support the Palestinian cause in 1945 which predates the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and actively initiated a boycott of all Jewish businesses operating in the British Mandate of Palestine to curtail Zionist ambitions.

It was also the Arab League that instituted a joint defence and economic cooperation pact in 1950 which further resolved to expel any Arab state that formalised ties with Israel, whether economic, political, or military. 

The pact was invoked when, in 1979, Egypt under Anwar Sadat signed a peace and normalisation agreement with Israel and was expelled from the League, an exile that lasted until 1989.

It is not as though the Arab League was ever truly caring of the Palestinians and their plight, but the various members had used the “Palestinian card” and the League as a platform to pay lip service to the cause that strikes the deepest chords in the hearts of their populations.

Nonetheless, when one compares the Arab League of yesteryear with the one of today, it is disgraceful that the League not only failed to rein in the GCC’s demands for an apology in a summit on Wednesday, but further slapped the Palestinians in the face by failing to rebuke the UAE’s actions that have completely undermined initiatives the League had adopted as formal pan-Arab policy. 

It is now Arab policy that Abu Dhabi will be shielded and not even face even a short exile in the same manner Egypt did decades ago.

Laughably, and at the same summit, the League actually found the time to take a swing at both Turkey and Iran for interference in Arab affairs, but they had nothing to say about Israel’s continued violations of the Palestinians’ human rights and rights to self-determination.

Indolence, not initiative

Despite the bad taste it leaves in one’s mouth, particularly due to his role in facilitating Israeli expansionism, one is forced to agree with Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat who said that the Arab League “will no longer be relevant” if it failed to condemn the UAE-Israeli deal. This is indubitably the case, particularly when one examines the League’s flagship Palestinian-Israeli peace policy which was dubbed the Arab Peace Initiative.

The peace initiative was the brainchild of former Saudi King Abdullah in 2002, setting out conditions for lasting peace and the end of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by guaranteeing Tel Aviv complete normalisation of ties with Arab countries in exchange for an actual, self-governing Palestinian state along the 1967 borders devoid of any Israeli military occupation.

This diplomatic olive branch was endorsed as pan-Arab policy three times: first in 2002, then in 2007, and again in 2017. 

Indeed, in the aftermath of the Emirati-Israeli deal, Riyadh reaffirmed its commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative but failed to condemn its Arab ally for undermining its own policy, showing that the Saudi authorities since King Abdullah never really cared about what happened in Palestine.

This was something the Israelis understood because, rather than peace, Israel expressed its disdain for the Arabs by launching several extensive military campaigns in Palestine, including three major operations in Gaza between 2008 and 2014, not to mention numerous other flare-ups where thousands of civilians ended up paying the ultimate price, with millions more under siege.

But this weakness is not solely focused on the Arab world, although arguably the onus is on them to do the most to defend and protect Palestinian rights. This enfeeblement can be seen across the Islamic world where fiery statements in support of the Palestinians are the norm, but very little is ever actually done for them.

Even the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), heavily supported by Saudi although all its members contribute to its funding, shows how very little cooperation actually exists in the Islamic world. 

The OIC was so silent on the UAE-Israel deal that one could easily imagine hearing the doors slamming at its headquarters as its representatives went to lay low until the entire affair blew over.

Clearly, and unfortunately, the notion of an “Ummah”, or a pan-Islamic sense of brotherhood, is still a distant dream for many Muslims. While their governments continue to rival one another and use various meritorious causes for their own domestic and regional ends, more and more Muslim rights around the world get crushed under the heel of regional and international politicking that views them as pawns on a chessboard rather than actual human beings.

This Arab and Islamic indolence and lethargy, completely opposite to the energy and initiative they claim to possess, will ultimately result in alternative political movements rising that will claim to stand up for the rights of the oppressed in Muslim lands. If governments continue to sidestep their obligations to their fellow Muslims, they may well end up inadvertently engineering their own demises.

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