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Visit of Arab foreign ministers shifts Palestinian discourse from isolation to unity

Operation Pillar of Cloud has shifted political rhetoric from concessions to resistance. After twenty years of negotiations which culminated in an Israeli policy of colonialism and apartheid, aided by an international community embracing the role of spectators, Gaza has catapulted to a prominence which contrasts sharply with the attention garnered during Operation Cast Lead.

The visit by Arab foreign ministers to Gaza, who arrived in the territory today, shows an unprecedented degree of political support for Gaza and Hamas. The Arab Spring has somewhat isolated Israel in the Middle East, having deposed of leaders sympathetic – indeed agreeable – to US foreign policy in the Middle East. The rise of Islamist movements has transformed the role of the region from an acquiescing audience to open supporters for Hamas and Gaza, with Egypt leading negotiations for a truce.

With Arab countries pledging monetary aid to Gaza in order to rebuild its infrastructure and homes destroyed in Israel's previous military bombardment, and improve health services, Hamas is further motivated to insist upon a ceasefire which includes an end to all attacks on Gaza, as well as terminating the blockade. US aid to Palestinians amounts to less than one tenth of that allocated to Israel. As Noam Chomsky explains in his book, Power and Terror (2011), there is a correlation between human rights violations and financial aid given to oppressive governments. Israel's foreign aid from the US enables it to maintain an apartheid practice and strengthen its ethnocracy under the guise of a democracy supported by the US and, in a less blatant manner, the United Nations.

Arab support has splintered the Western misconstruction of Gaza and human rights. Unlike previous years, the current discourse has shifted from a general denouncement of violence to an outright condemnation of Israeli aggression against the people of Gaza.

A rhetorical allegiance has been severed, leaving UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to express concern about the "alarming situation" and US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes to affirm US interest in enhancing "Israel's security and regional security". The Council of the European Union also released its statement on Gaza, expressing "regret" about the deaths on both sides, the need to respect international humanitarian law and justifying Israel's right to "protect civilians".

However, the political discourse constructed by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi veers towards internationalism, insisting that a ground invasion of Gaza would be unacceptable to Egypt and "the free world". Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and called it a terrorist state, also voicing mistrust in the United Nations due to the absence of Muslim countries holding permanent membership of the Security Council. The conflict and war have been given an internationalist identity, defying the prevailing attitude of exceptionalism used to avoid accountability.

Gaza's international recognition is a far cry from the past, where futile negotiations succeeded in strengthening Israeli oppression. With leaders of Arab countries united in their stance against the war, as well as maintaining official representation in Gaza, Israel's diplomatic isolation in the region may prove to be pivotal for Hamas, Gaza and Palestinian resistance. For the first time in decades, unity within internationalism has radicalised rhetoric through its opposition to the previously-accepted human rights discourse of the majority.

MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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