The shocking plight of the Palestinians began in 1948 when the Zionist regime embarked on an ethnic cleansing of Palestine to form the State of Israel. The Arab states were enraged, and the liberation of Palestine became a pan-Arab cause. However, as Arab regimes became more established, the usefulness of the Palestinian cause for Arab leaders began to fade. The undemocratic nature of the Arab regimes and their political dependence on Israel and the United States directly relate to the abandonment of the Palestinians. Palestine appears to be an afterthought in the Arab political order, and many countries have made peace and normalized relations with Israel.
Restraining the public’s desire to express solidarity with the Palestinians living as second-class citizens within Israel and in poor conditions in refugee camps across the region used to be difficult for the governments. But as Arab governments have become authoritarian and entrenched, the space to defend the Palestinian cause has shrunk. Tighter controls over public speech, increased censorship, and escalating political violence have silenced dissent across the Arab world. The monopolization of the Palestinian struggle in public aims to hide the fact that Arab regimes are increasingly abandoning significant political efforts to help the Palestinian people.
Palestinian political disunity has worked in Israel’s favor and provided a convenient excuse for Arab regimes not to advance the Palestinian cause. This has essentially abandoned their responsibility to the Palestinian people. The US-brokered “peace process” is a farce, and international institutions such as the UN remain largely ineffective. Today, it seems that only Palestinians can lead their own struggle for liberation based on democracy, inclusion, pluralism, and equality.
The Arab political order is unreliable as long as it is authoritarian and dependent on the very powers that sustain Israel and support its policies. The Arab world may play an active role in helping the Palestinian people one day, but only after going through a process of democratization and regeneration.