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The Arabs and the dark 70th anniversary of the Nakba

Palestinian protesters gather during clashes with Israeli security froces in a tent city protest where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba", and against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at Israel-Gaza border at the Israel-Gaza border, in al-Bureij in the center of Gaza Strip on 14 May, 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]
Palestinian in Gaza protests the right to return to their homeland on 14 May 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]

There is a luxurious hotel located in the heart of Cairo, directly next to the headquarters of the Arab League's General Secretariat. It overlooks the capital city's most famous square where the 25 January Revolution developed in 2011. Nearby stands a statue of one of Egypt's military figures during its wars with Israel; General Abdul Munim Riad was martyred during the War of Attrition, fought after the June 1967 defeat and which paved the way to victory in October 1973. This globally-recognised hotel also overlooks the glorious River Nile.

The Israeli enemy chose this location carefully to hold its celebration of the 70th anniversary of the declaration of its state established on stolen Arab-Palestinian land. This declaration took place immediately after Britain announced the end of its mandate in Palestine on 14 May, 1948. We called this the Nakba (Catastrophe), or Palestine's Nakba. Israel was keen on publicising this celebration and publishing pictures of the invitations signed by the Israeli ambassador in Egypt to promote the reception programme. It also made sure to make it known that the embassy had brought in the most famous Israeli chef from occupied Palestine, along with his sous chef, to prepare the most delicious dishes, and a professional band to entertain the guests. Moreover, immediately after the celebration, the Israeli enemy made sure to post pictures and video footage of the reception on social media.

There is no doubt that the location chosen for the celebration was significant, and deliberate on the part of the organisers, even though some have asked since, with false innocence, what the problem is. Isn't this, they argue, the right of a recognised state that has official diplomatic representation at the highest levels with its flag hoisted at the UN headquarters? Doesn't this state's embassy have the right to celebrate its national holiday, as it is a diplomatic tradition in all countries? Hasn't this country had an embassy in Cairo for nearly four decades and held such a celebration many times?

Read: #Nakba70

This all seems logical, given the existence of an Israeli Embassy in Cairo since the peace treaty signed by Anwar Sadat in 1979, a contractual deal that ended the state of war between Egypt and Israel. However, this logic is not consistent with the fact that the peace agreement under which an Israeli enemy embassy was established in Cairo did not solve the Palestinian issue nor did it retrieve any of the rights of the Palestinian people, which is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This is the conflict that Israel, supported by the United States under the Trump administration, is trying to bring to an end. President Donald Trump has decided to unmask US policy and objectives in the Middle East, at the forefront of which is the liquidation of the Palestinian cause, so that there will be no room for talking about an Arab-Israeli conflict. The liquidation process is being promoted as the so-called "Deal of the Century", the contents of which have not yet been announced officially. Nevertheless, it doesn't take much to identify its main features based on what is happening, especially with regards to the so-called final status issues for the Palestinian cause: land, borders and water; the refugees and their right of return; and Jerusalem, the cause of all Arabs and Muslims. These three issues are at the core of the conflict.

The Palestinians are demanding the bare minimum of their rights, which includes a state on the 4 June 1967 borders, territorial contiguity between all of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, water rights and the right of refugees to return unrestricted to their homes with compensation for those who do not want to return. As for Jerusalem and all of its sanctities, it must return as the capital of the Palestinian state.

People light candles for the memories of Palestinians martyred by Israeli occupation forces on protest held to mark 70th anniversary of Nakba, also known as Day of the Catastrophe in 1948, and against United States' decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in front of the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East in Gaza City, Gaza on 16 May, 2018 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinians light candles in memory of those killed by Israeli forces during a protest to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba in Gaza City, Gaza on 16 May 2018 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

The Zio-American plan ravages these three issues in a manner characterised by insult, the provocation of the people and a disregard of the systems and leaders. The plan is based on three axes.

The first is that America is the protector of all the countries in the region, especially the Arab and oil-rich countries, and that if it abandons these countries, they will collapse within a week or two (according to Trump himself). Hence, they must remain subject to America's economic and political blackmail. The US determines who the friends and foes should be for these countries, and has determined that the Arabs' enemy is Iran, not Israel. This is a blatant attempt to change the image of the Israeli enemy in the Arab mindset, turning it into an ally in confronting a common enemy, Iran. Based on this successfully-created axis, the official Arab discourse has focused noticeably on the Iranians rather than the Israeli enemy.

We then see a second axis destroying the Palestinian and Arab constants related to the three final status issues, beginning with Jerusalem. Thus, we saw Trump's move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he recognised as the capital of Israel. There is, therefore, no longer room for negotiations on the status of the Holy City. This all took place amid suspicious Arab silence.

Read: The Nakba is an ongoing process of Palestinian displacement

With regards to the refugees and the right of return, the US has cut its contribution to the budget of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in an effort to disrupt the activities of the Agency in preparation for its liquidation and marginalisation of the refugee issue. The Palestinians and resistance in the Gaza Strip warned against this. They began the peaceful Great Return Marches to assert their legitimate right to return, which the Israeli enemy confronted with its usual murderous brutality. This resulted in dozens of martyrs and thousands of wounded, sending a clear message: any talk or action regarding the refugees and their right to return will be responded to with extreme violence. This also occurred amid the same suspicious Arab silence.

As for the land, borders and water, the Israeli enemy sent a very important message to the Arab people, not just the regimes, during the Cairo ceremony, which was a celebration of Israel's "independence" as a state that imposes its sovereignty on the land, borders and resources in any manner that it chooses. This celebration, remember, was held in the heart of Cairo, the capital of the largest Arab state, the history of which involves Palestine, especially Jerusalem. It was from Cairo that Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi's armies set out to liberate Jerusalem and push out the Crusaders. It was also from Cairo that the slogans of liberating Palestine were launched to confront the Zionist project. It was also from the heart of Cairo that the Israeli enemy celebrated seventy years of violating Palestinians and their land.

#Nakba70

The third axis is that as long as the enemy of the Arab nation is neither Israel nor the Zionist project, but Iran and the Persian project, and as long as the final status issues are no longer issues of note, having been marginalised and discarded, then there is no chance of talking about Jerusalem, the refugees and their right of return, or the land and borders. Trump will offer the Arabs the "deal of the century", which is, in short, that they must ally with Israel to face the common enemy, Iran. The Palestinians must accept to live peacefully on whatever land is left for them under some kind of autonomy or local administration.

The road to the dark 70th anniversary began in 1948 with the Arab military defeat and the "Arab Nakba" that marked the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Now, in 2018, the darkness is total and the Arabs are on the verge of defeat, while their leaders will do anything to stay in power.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 24 May 2018

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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