Failure to read the balance of power led to the Palestinian Nakba

We still don’t know why the Arab nations refused to accept the partition decision of 1947 and why they went to war in 1948.
Sunday 20/05/2018
A Palestinian woman argues with a member of the Israeli security forces outside the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, on May 15. (AFP)
Many ‘Nakbas’. A Palestinian woman argues with a member of the Israeli security forces outside the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, on May 15. (AFP)

At the same time a high-level US delegation was taking part in the inauguration ceremony of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, Israel was killing scores of Palestinians in Gaza. The new embassy building in Jerusalem embodies US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the inauguration date was not chosen by chance.

The transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem came one day before the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba or catastrophe. Someone wants to remind the Palestinians that their Nakba is still ongoing and that nothing has changed in the 21st century. Israel continues to practise the same state terrorism against the Palestinians that it practised even before its creation and the Palestinians continue to ignore new realities and the new balance of power in the region, especially related to their cause. It was precisely this inability to read the region’s balance of power that contributed to their Nakba.

Officials and media in the Arab world almost completely ignored the inauguration event in Jerusalem. There is a political party that wants to embarrass the Arabs. That party operates in Gaza and is pushing scores of Palestinians to die gratuitous deaths. Yes, the Palestinian cause lives on and, yes, the Palestinian identity cannot be wiped out, but the gratuitous deaths of Palestinian youth will not move the cause forward one inch, especially when some parties will jump on the events and use them to advance their own narrow agendas.

The Arab reaction to the events unfolding was quite mature given how events could dangerously turn in the region. Right now, it is not just Jerusalem’s fate that is at stake. Despite 41 years of illegal occupation, Jerusalem might, in the end, turn out to be much better off than many Arab capitals in the region, since Iran boasts of being in control of Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a.

In reality, it is not just these four capital cities that are under threat. Many other Arab cities have either been transformed or simply wiped out. In Iraq, the ethnic and religious compositions of cities such as Baghdad and Basra have been changed while the venerable city of Mosul has practically been wiped out. A similar fate has been reserved for the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Homs and Hama.  In Jerusalem at least, there are still strong voices insisting on the city’s Arab identity and refusing to give in to colonisation.

I reiterate: The cause of the Palestinian Nakba is Arab stubbornness; refusal to accept the changing balance of power. We still don’t know why the Arab nations refused to accept the partition decision of 1947 and why they went to war in 1948. And can anyone please explain to me why that awful mistake was repeated in 1967?

The Arabs have made all kinds of mistakes that resulted in turning the great Palestinian Nakba into a succession of other nakbas. Today, for example, nobody has the courage to say that sacrificing scores of Palestinian youth along the Gaza-Israeli border will not return a single Palestinian to Palestine, just like the Lebanese war and the Jordanian war before it did not return a single Palestinian to Palestine.

In the Arab-Israeli conflict, that is to say between the day of the Nakba in 1948 and the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem in 2018, there were three notable events worth mentioning. The first was the return to Egypt of its territories occupied by Israel since 1967. That happened thanks to the determination of one man called Anwar Sadat, who had the courage to fly to Jerusalem and address the Israeli Knesset, saying: “I came to you bearing the peace of the brave and not the peace of the vanquished.”

The second event is Yasser Arafat’s signing of the Oslo Peace Accords on the White House lawn in 1993. Arafat was ready to accept the shortcomings of the Oslo Accords for the sake of a viable Palestinian state. Despite his many mistakes in Jordan and Lebanon, Arafat will remain a symbol of the Palestinian identity that refuses to give in to colonisation but remains aware of the reality of the day.

The third event occurred right after the Oslo Accords, when the late Jordanian King Hussein signed a peace agreement with Israel. The Jordanian monarch knew that the Palestinians’ acceptance of the Oslo Accords liberated him from any obligation towards the West Bank. So he did the sensible thing to safeguard Jordan’s interests and made peace with Israel. Hafez Assad in Syria on the other hand never intended to reclaim the occupied Golan Heights. He was interested only in wreaking havoc on Lebanon and using it to blackmail the Arabs and the world. And this is exactly what Iran is doing in Lebanon right now.

In the ruthless world of 2018, the Arabs are still searching for a place on the map of the Middle East. Can we still talk today about some Arab countries such as Iraq, Syria or the Palestinian territories?

Will Lebanon be able to protect itself and preserve its identity in the face of the Iranian onslaught?

Judging by Hezbollah’s aggressive behaviour during the past elections, it is going to be an uphill battle for Lebanon.