The plight of the Palestinians has long been a cause célèbre of the progressive left, and Hamas’s bloody pogrom in southern Israel has raised its visibility. Ironically, while many on the left in the West so rabidly support the Palestinians, the rulers of the Arab world, who have seen them up close and invested billions in them, view them as a hapless, irredeemable people.
The Arab states have always paid lip service to the Palestinian cause—mostly in deference to the deeply antisemitic “Arab street,” consistently condemning Israel for Palestinian failures to move their project forward. But increasingly, Arab states look on the Palestinians more impatiently and unsympathetically. At best, Arab nations view the Palestinians as a burden. At worst, they view them as nothing but trouble-makers.
Having grown weary of the Palestinians’ corruption, infighting and intransigence, some Arab states have decided to make peace with Israel without waiting for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which looks increasingly unreachable. Inevitably, more Arab states will follow suit once they realize the Palestinians are no longer worth supporting financially or morally.
Historically, Arab states have primarily cared about the Palestinians to the extent that they could use them as a trump card with which to shame Israel and isolate it in the international community. That’s why 1.5 million Palestinians still live in refugee camps set up during and after the 1948 war. The Arab states maintain these camps—and their squalid living conditions—to pressure Israel into granting a “right of return” whereby millions of Palestinians would flood the Jewish state, negating its Jewish majority and therefore its existence.
In 1952, former head of UNRWA Sir Alexander Galloway described the Arab states’ policy towards the Palestinian refugees:
“The Arab States do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore … as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.”
If the Arab regimes can’t keep the Palestinians in camps, they have other ways of making sure they don’t integrate into their societies. In Lebanon, for example, Palestinians are banned from 39 professions, including areas of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and law. In most Arab states, Palestinians are considered foreigners and are denied citizenship and basic rights of any kind.
The Arab states see the Palestinians as rabble-rousers who cause instability and even threaten the regimes that host them. Indeed, the Palestinians also have a history of violence in Arab countries. In Jordan, for example, the 1970-1971 Black September revolt saw the Palestinians try to overthrow the Jordanian government. The Jordanians responded by slaughtering an estimated 15,000 Palestinians and expelling the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which then relocated to Lebanon.
When the Lebanese civil war erupted in 1975, the Palestinians fought alongside some of the Lebanese factions, contributing to widespread destruction caused by the conflict. The civil war was further exacerbated when Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in 1982 in response to repeated PLO attacks. Today, Hamas and its ally Hezbollah, both backed by Iran, are launching attacks on Israeli territory from southern Lebanon, potentially dragging that already beleaguered country into conflict with the Jewish state once again.
Some Arab dictatorships view the Palestinians as a potential fifth column, since they have a penchant for supporting their enemies. In 1991, for instance, the PLO supported Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait responded by expelling 200,000 Palestinians from its territory.
In the current Israel-Hamas war, Egypt has kept its border with the Gaza Strip closed because it does not want Palestinian terrorists coming in and destabilizing the country. Jordan has also declined to take in any Palestinians caught up in the Israel-Hamas war. Its ruler, King Abdullah II, said, “No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt.” In fact, not one Arab state has offered refuge to the Palestinians.
Nevertheless, the Arab states continue to condemn Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. They recently criticized Israel for attacking a hospital in the Gaza Strip causing mass casualties, even though evidence shows the hospital was surely hit by a misfired rocket launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But these condemnations are just an attempt to placate the Arab street, where which the Palestinian cause is still very popular.
The truth is, Arab states are getting increasingly fed up supporting the Palestinians. It’s why a growing number are pursuing peace with Israel without a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So far, four Arab states—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco—have established full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
For months, rumors have circulated that Saudi Arabia, too, would normalize relations with Israel in the very near future. Notably, a report in The Jerusalem Post last month cited “three regional sources familiar with the talks” on Israeli-Saudi normalization as saying that the Saudis would agree to normalize relations with Israel with or without major concessions to the Palestinians.
A desperate desire to derail this impending Israeli-Saudi normalization apparently caused Hamas to launch its genocidal rampage in southern Israel. Indeed, US President Joe Biden, in a speech after the Israel-Hamas war began, said, “One of the reasons Hamas moved on Israel… they knew that I was about to sit down with the Saudis… Guess what? The Saudis wanted to recognize Israel.”
In short, most Arab states consider the Palestinians pariahs and use them as tools to reach their own goals. They have kept the Palestinians impoverished and stateless, refusing to integrate them into their societies in the hopes this will support Palestinian self-determination. For their part, the Palestinians have not endeared themselves to Arab rulers. Rather, they have proven themselves untrustworthy—creating instability and trying to sabotage the regimes that host them. Most importantly, they have refused every Israeli offer of land, statehood and peace.
It’s time for the United States to follow the lead of Arab nations: Stop trying to put lipstick on corrupt Palestinian dictators who want nothing more than the death of Jews and destruction of the Jewish state. Rather, we should continue encouraging more Arab leaders to join the circle of peace with Israel, without waiting for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is unlikely to occur in our lifetime.
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