Revival of consciousness on the Palestinian cause

Nabil Abdel Fattah
Friday 12 Jan 2024

The genocidal war and the Israeli ethnic cleansing have been a shock to the collective consciousness of the millennial generations, awakening them to a nightmarish reality – the racism of the right-wing and the extreme religious leaders' view of the Palestinians.


The Palestinian issue was, and still is, an expression of the aspirations of British, French, and Italian colonial powers, as well as American imperialism, to perpetuate control and exploitation of the Arab region, its oil, and its strategic and political location. This is within the context of their international conflicts with the former Soviet Marxist bloc, China, and Russia in the current phase of global conflict, for maintaining supremacy in the international system.

Simultaneously, they sought to rid themselves of the socio-psychological burden, particularly the Nazi ethnic cleansing of Jews, whose traces are still evident in Germany, France, Europe, and Zionist Christianity in America. Consequently, they extended political, economic, military, and diplomatic support to the State of Israel.

The Palestinian issue has been a prominent manifestation of Arab shortcomings, exposing the fragility of Arab nationalism and unity ideas.

These concepts prevailed in some political thought before and after national independence, constituting elements of post-independence ideologies, especially under the influence of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party and Nasserism in the face of conservative Arab nations, particularly those with oil ties to Britain, France (as in Algeria before independence), and the United States after its victory in World War II in 1945.

The Arab unity idea, being ideological and idealistic, faced challenges in the Arab societies due to the societal, political, economic, and cultural developments that had not been collectively met, except in Egypt and Morocco. The construction of the nation-state confronted challenges in building national unity within the religiously, doctrinally, racially, nationally, linguistically, and regionally divided societies. This made the issue of state-building, its institutions, and ideological and symbolic apparatus, along with the establishment of national armies, bureaucracy, comprehensive political and constitutional systems, and authoritarianism, more critical and primary than the notion of Arab unity.

These nation-building processes hindered the idea of Arab unity, especially given the political manipulation of post-independence authorities, leading to internal fragmentation. This was exacerbated by conflicts with Islamic political groups, which presented the Islamic unity idea – the Caliphate – in opposition to the Arab unity idea.

Consequently, different perspectives emerged on the Palestinian issue, transforming it into a central Arab concern and core issue.

A bird's eye view of the Palestinian issue indicates its transformation into a source of intra-Arab conflicts between radical Arab states – Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya during Gaddafi's era, and Algeria – and conservative states. Simultaneously, the liberation of Palestine became a legitimate source for these authoritarian and hegemonic systems, until the defeat of 5 June 1967, the issuance of Resolution 242, and the shift in perspective towards the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state in the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

After the disengagement between Jordan and the West Bank, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) became the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Gradually, the centralization of the Palestinian issue diminished, becoming one of many issues for the affluent and struggling Arab countries. Nevertheless, it remains a fundamental issue for the Palestinian people, regardless of the official Arab discourse emphasizing its centrality.

Recognizing this shift, PLO leaders engaged in secret negotiations in Oslo, leading to the signing of the Declaration of Principles on Transitional Self-Government between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin at the White House in the presence of former US President Bill Clinton on 13 September 1993. On the other hand, Arab-Arab conflicts over the allegiance of some Palestinian factions continued, weakening the PLO and showcasing the conservative nature of Fatah, a major Palestinian faction, and the aging of its historical leaders. They failed to establish effective institutional foundations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Oslo until now.

Internal political conflicts within factions persisted, and the effective political emergence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad grew after winning the legislative council elections with 74 seats, while Fatah secured 45 seats on 29 January 2006. The political rift intensified after armed confrontations between Fatah and Hamas on 10 and 15 June 2007, leading to the political separation between the Palestinian Authority and Gaza.

Inefficiency, political corruption, and the aging of most leaders in the West Bank led to the gradual spread of Hamas ideology in some components of Palestinian society in the West Bank. Israeli policy exploited the internal strife between Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah, further marginalizing the Palestinian issue and thwarting successive Israeli governments' commitment to the Oslo Accords by intensifying settlements in the West Bank.

With the rise of new generations in affluent Arab leadership, their focus shifted towards competition for roles and regional influence within some Arab struggling countries. This shift intensified with economic and political problems, instability following the symbolic Arab Spring, its popular uprisings, and the failure to achieve structural changes in Arab political systems through democratic transformations and widespread political and economic reforms.

During the crises of the struggling states, the achievement in the era of former US President Donald Trump leaned towards the normalization of some struggling Arab countries with Israel, establishing diplomatic, political, and economic relations, known as the Abraham Accords. Other oil-rich countries maintained unofficial relations with Israel.

These political changes marginalized and diminished the Palestinian issue in the Arab world, except through the official political discourse calling for a just solution within the framework of the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative.

With the failure of the Oslo Agreement and transitional self-government arrangements and the Palestinian Authority's inability to achieve progress in the West Bank and the peace process due to Israeli obstinacy and wars between Israel and Hamas, Iran-Hamas relations have grown. Iran's policy seeks a significant regional role in the heart of the Arab region, amid the tripartite competition between Iran, Israel, and Turkey.

Iran aims to possess nuclear weapons and leverage regional actors below the state level – Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Ansar Allah in Yemen, and Shia militias in Iraq – to politically exploit the Palestinian issue. It legitimized its relations with these political actors and presented its regional role with an Islamic political face outside the Shiite political doctrine, especially in supporting Hamas to demonstrate that it does not differentiate between Shia and Sunni.

Therefore, the Arab political positions after the Al-Aqsa Flood mostly amounted to condemnation speeches against the aggression on Gaza, humanitarian demands for ceasefires, and calls for a two-state solution along with some humanitarian aid.

The inefficacy of the majority of Arab states in exerting effective pressure on the American-European stance supporting Israel can be traced back to the dwindling substance of Arab solidarity that is reduced to mere rhetoric in official political discourse, with only limited exceptions.

Undoubtedly, the challenge of nation-state construction remains structurally paramount in the vast majority of Arab countries. This stems from the nature of the formation of political authorities and the all-encompassing and authoritarian political systems.

These systems, through a crucible strategy, attempted to build integration and national assimilation through instruments of power, without opening doors to reform solutions in the system and authority that lead to institutional participatory structures that allow fundamental components to express their interests and cultures. This is particularly critical amid escalating economic and social challenges in unstable societies and a turbulent region.

The problem of nation-state building has resulted in the dominance of social and political systems which focused, in the pre-Arab Spring decades and beyond, on authoritarian and ideological policies in education, prescribed curricula, and the ideological state apparatus.

This occurred on the periphery of the pan-Arab idea, cultural Arab identity, and consequently the Palestinian issue. This has led to a decline in collective awareness of the Palestinian cause among the overwhelming majority of new generations since the 1990s, up to the present millennium.

Hence, the Al-Aqsa Flood, the genocide war, and the Israeli ethnic cleansing have been a shock to the collective consciousness of the millennial generations, awakening them to a horrible reality, the racism of the right-wing and the extreme religious leaders' view of the Palestinians.

This includes the culture of resistance, the resilient spirit, despite death, pain, wounds, and injuries. Some Arab and Palestinian awareness among certain young Arab generations seems to be a phenomenon while undermining some of the ethical images of America and Europe concerning human values and human rights.

The brutal war and the American and Western support are likely to create cognitive gaps in the collective perception of the Western model, relatively, and lead to the breakdown of the culture of normalization and peace promoted in the US, Europe, and Israel. This includes the political discourse carried by them and the groups that advocated normalization and peace with a state that pursued aggressive and expansionist policies against just peace.

This includes the application of the war laws, humanitarian international laws, and legitimate international resolutions, especially Resolution 242 and related ones, against the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem on the occupied territories after 5 June 1967. The objective is to eradicate the just Palestinian cause.

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