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The Changed Meaning of the Palestinian Cause: Why the Astonishment?

The Changed Meaning of the Palestinian Cause: Why the Astonishment?

Sunday, 27 September, 2020 - 10:00

The Arab Levant has been undergoing stormy transformations. Over the years, spanning less than the past two decades, Syria and Iraq completely changed, and now major changes are sweeping through Lebanon.

A few of these changes were positive. Most of them were negative. Another portion remains ambiguous.

In 2003, through illegal justifications, many of which were lies, the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein. The dictator fell easily after he had been ruling as vice-president since 1968 and as an absolute ruler since 1979.

Political democracy was accompanied by an explosion of sectarian rot, which had been repressed by the tyrannical state that was aggravating it in the dark behind closed doors. Iran, through its sectarian militias, stretched its hand out and seized the lion’s share for itself.

We are now facing another Iraq. Mustafa Kadhimi’s attempt to take the country out of the whale’s mouth is still being tested. It may fail and may succeed, but in both cases, Iraq will not be as we have known it to be. The relationship between its Shiites and Sunnis, its Kurds with its center and vice versa, are all not what they had been. The same is true for Iraq’s relationship with its neighbors, especially Iran.

Syria, as a result of the revolution, especially because of its counter-revolution, has also become another country. The population’s make-up has changed significantly. Sectarian relationships in the inside have changed as well. The class map and the distribution of age groups are qualitatively different, not to mention what the press refers to as Syria’s transformation from a regional player into a playground brimming with occupiers and interventions of every kind.

Lebanon, for its part, lost its mediatory role. It lost its middle class and is starting to lose its educated cadres and youths’ energy. Ports and banks have gone from having been symbols of expansion to becoming symbols of contraction, even death. Inter-sectarian relationships are at a boiling point, and the sectarian system is decaying without an alternative appearing on the horizon. The Arab window into modernity has almost totally closed.

Furthermore, the roles of other pillars of contemporary Arab life have changed:

Concerning the realms of religion, ideas, and values, the Sunni Shiite conflict has blown up in unprecedented fashion. Daesh arose, established a state spanning two countries, and then collapsed. The way Islam is approached, as the majority’s religion and the source for policies and senses of belonging, has changed from what it had previously been.

Regarding the economy, a change is noticeable in the role of oil, which had played a massive role, negative and positive, over the past five decades. The maps of social classes throughout the Levant had been drawn by oil, or it had a significant impact on them. Both conservative and revolutionary inclinations profited from it.

When it comes to its strategic position, lying between Asia, Africa, and Europe, was one of the region’s primary sources of importance. Today, as the West moves towards Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East loses much of its foundational importance.

Why, amid all of these sweeping changes, which affect tens of millions, is the changed meaning of the Palestinian question met with bewilderment, especially since this change was most expected, with very well-known developments paving the way for it?

After the War of 1967, “restoration of the occupied territories” replaced “the liberation of Palestine.” In 1970, the civil war broke out in Jordan. In 1973, the limits of an Arab war effort became apparent. In 1974, the Palestinian National Council adopted the “Ten Points Program” and called for establishing national authority over any liberated piece of Palestinian land. In 1975, the Lebanese war erupted. In 1978-79, by signing the Camp David Treaty, Egypt left the conflict. In 1982, Lebanon was alone when it was invaded. Throughout the 1980s, Hafez al-Assad pursued his war of eradication against the Palestine Liberation Organization. In 1990-91, because of the PLO’s support for Saddam Hussein’s Kuwait invasion, the Palestinians and the Gulf states became estranged. At the same time, the collapse of the Soviet Union and its camp dried up international support sources. In 1993, the PLO signed the Oslo Accords. In 1994, Jordan signed the Wadi Araba Treaty. With the collapse of Arafat and Barak’s settlement, the second intifada, which chose the path of violence unlike the first intifada, broke out in 2000, and the Israelis destroyed most of what the authority built. In 2007, infighting preceded the split between the West Bank and Gaza, which witnessed three successive wars (2008, 2012, and 2014) that seemed to concern only Gaza and Israel. In the meantime, two Palestinian models were unfolding: a one corrupt in the West Bank and a backward model in the Gaza Strip. The two undermined the cause, each in its own way. The Arab revolutions began to follow, revealing the national concerns of the countries in which they erupted, which the Palestinian cause was either irrelevant to or had little connection to them.

In parallel, the Iranian’s confiscation of the Palestinian cause persisted unrestrained, climaxing with the 2006 War, an Iranian – Israeli war fought by Lebanese tools on Lebanese territory. For many, Iran’s expansion pushed Israel’s danger into a secondary or tertiary category.

During this long journey, the Palestinians remained the oppressed, while many factions, most of all but not only Israel, were the oppressors. whatever the case, in the end, this was what in reality happened.

A reasonable person following the developments of this perpetual decline, to remain reasonable, will not be taken by surprise. Of course, one would feel sad. As for those who are astonished, they themselves are astonishing.

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