The Al Arabiya news channel conducted an online survey over the past week to gauge the extent to which ordinary Arabs are still interested in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The results were quite astonishing; 71 per cent of the respondents affirmed that they do not care to know anything about the subject.Efraim Karsh responds with an editorial in the NY Times.
“This is an alarming indicator. The Arabs, people and regimes alike, have always been as interested in the peace process, its developments and particulars, as they were committed to the Palestinian cause itself,” according to Saleh Qallab, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.
This history of Arab leaders manipulating the Palestinian cause for their own ends while ignoring the fate of the Palestinians goes on and on. Saddam Hussein, in an effort to ennoble his predatory designs, claimed that he wouldn’t consider ending his August 1990 invasion of Kuwait without “the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Arab territories in Palestine.”
Shortly after the Persian Gulf War, Kuwaitis then set about punishing the P.L.O. for its support of Hussein — cutting off financial sponsorship, expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers and slaughtering thousands. Their retribution was so severe that Arafat was forced to acknowledge that “what Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories.”
Against this backdrop, it is a positive sign that so many Arabs have apparently grown so apathetic about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For if the Arab regimes’ self-serving interventionism has denied Palestinians the right to determine their own fate, then the best, indeed only, hope of peace between Arabs and Israelis lies in rejecting the spurious link between this particular issue and other regional and global problems.