Tough days ahead for the Palestinians

Unfortunately for the Palestinians, Israel’s mission is being facilitated by developments in Syria and Iraq.
Sunday 08/04/2018
Palestinians plant olive seedlings ahead of Land Day near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 20.                       (AFP)
A day to remember. Palestinians plant olive seedlings ahead of Land Day near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 20. (AFP)

Who else but the Israelis are benefiting from the turmoil in the Middle East? Nobody. In one day, at least 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers shooting at Palestinian demonstrators on the Gazan-Israeli border. The Palestinians were commemorating Land Day and reminding an indifferent world of their right of return to their ancestral land. As usual, the world just stood by as the drama unfolded.

Regardless of the circumstances of the March 30 events, it is remarkable how removed from the Palestinian cause the world and the region have become. Compare world reactions to what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians with reactions to what the Syrian regime is doing to the Syrians or with what the sectarian militias are doing to the Iraqis and the extent of the world’s indifference towards the Palestinians is apparent.

These days, a human tragedy is unfolding in the Middle East. Thousands of Ghouta inhabitants in Syria are being forced out of their homes and pushed towards other Syrian cities, such as Idlib. The goal is to cleanse the area of Damascus of any Sunni presence.

Something similar has been taking place in Iraq. Under the guise of the war on the Islamic State (ISIS), the city of Mosul was the victim of systematic destruction by sectarian militias. ISIS was long gone from the city but the destruction and displacement campaign against Mosul and its inhabitants continues.

I’m afraid the Palestinians will have to face Israeli colonisation and state terrorism alone. Israel’s plan is clear. It wants to get rid of the Gaza Strip once and for all so that it can claim ownership of a large portion of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Unfortunately for the Palestinians, Israel’s mission is being facilitated by developments in Syria and Iraq. How else could we explain the international indifference towards Israel’s crime on Land Day? In Syria, more than 500,000 Syrians have been killed since 2011, major Syrian cities such as Homs, Hama and Aleppo were half razed and the ethnic and sectarian composition of Damascus is being played with.

Similar things are happening in Iraq even though no popular revolution has taken place there. Under the pretext of cleaning up the remains of Saddam Hussein’s regime, authorities ensured a demographic shift took place in Baghdad and Basra. In Mosul, a portion of the city has been destroyed with no hope for its inhabitants to ever return there.

Since 1967, when Hafez Assad surrendered the Golan Heights to Israel, the Syrian regime has never stopped rendering valuable services to Israel. In 1970, for example, the Syrian regime flooded Lebanon with Palestinian fighters who had been expelled from Jordan after their failed coup.

The late Jordanian Prince Zaid ibn Shaker, who in 1970 was a high-ranking officer in the Jordanian Army, related how Syrian authorities transferred the Palestinians — one truckload after another — to Lebanon. The Palestinians did not spend one night in Syria. Assad never stopped playing with the Palestinians and their just cause. He used them during Lebanon’s civil war and opposed all serious efforts to find a sensible solution to their cause.

Today, services continue to be rendered to Israel. The difference is that Iran is on board. The Iranian regime is the Syrian regime’s partner in its crimes against the Syrian people and has been the main player in Iraq since 2003. The main tool in its arsenal is the creation of violent sectarian militias, such as the Popular Mobilisation Forces in Iraq, which facilitate Israel’s mission.

On Land Day, Israel justified the actions of its snipers against Palestinian protesters under the pretext that the latter were trying to cross into Israeli territory. That was a good enough excuse for the US administration not to decry the blatant crime. With Donald Trump in the White House, Israel has nothing to fear, not even international sanctions and decisions.

If truth be told though, there is a need for the Palestinians to overhaul their political discourse. The Palestinian cause is still important in the region but there is a need to keep in mind that a major upheaval has turned the region on its head since 2003. That upheaval was the US occupation of Iraq and then the handing of it over to Iran.

To describe in a few words the events that transpired in the 15 years from April 9, 2003, to March 30, 2018, would be to say that Iran was not the only country in the region to benefit from Iraq’s death and Syria’s crumbling. Israel is also free to continue and multiply its crimes in the region without fear of accountability.