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Israel's occupation is brutal, but what does that make the Arab nations?

A Palestinian Photographer is evacuated after inhaling tear grenade fired by Israeli border guard during clashes at a demonstration next to a section of Israel's separation wall in the biblical town of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, on December 23, 2016 [Shadi Hatem/ApaImages]
A Palestinian Photographer is evacuated after inhaling tear grenade fired by Israeli border guard during clashes at a demonstration next to a section of Israel's separation wall in the biblical town of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, on December 23, 2016 [Shadi Hatem/ApaImages]

Israeli newspaper columnist Gideon Levy is loved and loathed in equal measure across the Zionist State because of his acerbic views about the despicable way in which Israel chooses to treat the Palestinians. He recently accused the Israeli military of regarding Palestinians as "fair game" in one of his most critical opinion pieces to-date, but I'm not so sure why it should raise anyone's eyebrows anywhere in the world today.

After all, to be brutally frank, that is what occupying forces do. They demonise and belittle those whose lands they occupy and use violence against those who resist. Fuelled by a cocktail of nationalism and racism, the occupiers then justify their actions by citing "national security".

Every military occupation I've ever witnessed has contained clear evidence of an apartheid system in operation, whether it was in Afghanistan, Iraq, the West Bank or Northern Ireland during the height of the euphemistically-named "Troubles"; or in Apartheid South Africa itself, when Africans of colour were forbidden from even mentioning the name of Nelson Mandela. Basically, if your land is being occupied then your life is cheap; almost worthless, in fact.

So what's the big deal when the likes of Levy point out the blindingly obvious? We are, I fear, looking at the Palestinian situation from the wrong end of the telescope; what we should be focussing on is how the Arab world reacts to its Palestinian brothers and sisters and the position in which they find themselves.

They might share the same olive skin; on occasions, even share the same family name; but where is the unity? The solidarity? Such empathetic terminology is virtually meaningless to a selfish, self-serving, self-appointed Arab leadership which is not only corrupt but also quite alien to the concept of comradeship and brotherhood.

These filthy-rich despots, monarchs and tyrants feign shock and horror at the brutality of the Israeli occupation when the violence spikes but then quickly move on to more pressing issues, such as competing with each other to see who can build the tallest skyscrapers. Syria's Bashar Al-Assad has used the plight of the Palestinians as a fig leaf to cover his regime's despicable treatment of his own people. Furthermore, despite the rhetoric neither he nor his father before him have ever done anything to retrieve the swathes of Israeli-occupied land on the Golan Heights, including a vast reservoir of water which quenches the thirst of 15 per cent of Israel's population. I don't recall Assad making a specific stand for Palestine or lobbying the West over its arming of the Zionist State during his frequent visits when he was best friends with America and Britain. The truth is that most of these Arab leaders view the Palestinians through the same lens and with the same contempt as the Israelis.

When I joined the first Viva Palestina aid convoy which travelled from London across North Africa and on to Gaza in 2009, we were held by the Hosni Mubarak regime at El-Arish in northern Sinai. The Egyptian authorities demanded that the convoy should enter Gaza via Israel; the consensus among those on board was solid: "We'd rather burn everything than put a toe in the Zionist State."

That wasn't the view of the then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, though, who ordered his part of the convoy to toe the line with Israel's requests. The Libyan drivers, embarrassed and shame-faced, left us behind and did as they were bidden, very much aware that refusal to obey an order from Tripoli could be fatal. So were we; none of us criticised them.

The message was conveyed to the Egyptian leadership, after which thugs masquerading as security forces in the pay of the regime came to our compound and hurled bricks and bottles at us, creating fear and causing quite a few injuries. Imagine; Egyptian Arabs attacking British volunteers who were taking much-needed aid to Palestinian Arabs.

If that wasn't bad enough, one Egyptian with a conscience took me to a nearby stadium the following day. Inside, the huge arena was jam-packed with aid vehicles and food donations from across the Arab world, all intended to go to Gaza. "It will rot and be sold on the black market," my guide told me. "It will never reach the Palestinians. This has been here for nearly six months." The aid packages came from major Arab donors and was being channelled through a charity whose head was Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt's First Lady. To be fair to her, she may not have known about the secret store, such was the size and scale of corruption under her husband's regime.

However, neither she nor the government donors from the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia had bothered to check that the millions of dollars' worth of aid that they had sent via Egypt had been delivered to the Palestinians in Gaza.

When we finally crossed into the Gaza Strip — from Egypt, not Israel — a Palestinian there told me, "The rest of the Arab world thinks we are subhuman and we feel it."

Perhaps this is the real scandal. We should be writing about the treatment of the Palestinians by Arab nations; in essence, it differs little from the treatment meted out by the brutal Israeli occupiers.

If there was unity in the Arab world and a genuine consensus to rebuild Gaza it would have been done by now. A two-state solution, at the very least, would be in place. In fact, if Arab unity hadn't been corrupted by the West's divide and rule strategy, the occupation of Palestine would quite possibly never have been allowed in the first place.

The solution for peace in Palestine will never be delivered by the West, nor will it be delivered by a newspaper columnist pricking the collective conscience of his fellow Israelis. Only a united Arab world with a strong and compassionate leadership can deliver a real and lasting solution. That looks as unlikely in reality as it does in print: God help the Palestinians.

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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