It cannot be denied that Palestine is going through one of its biggest crises since its occupation in terms of official Arab support. Normalisation with Israel, whether open or secret, is increasing. Meetings are held between Arab officials and politicians from Tel Aviv. Economic and commercial relations between Arab countries and Israel, especially in cybersecurity and technology, are pushing ahead. The official position of Arab regimes towards the Trump-Netanyahu “peace plan” is limited to quiet statements of a kind that used to be ridiculed by ordinary people. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that normalisation features heavily in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign.
Paradoxically, while official Arab support for Palestine is declining, there is a growing trend in the West for pro-Palestine support to be growing, especially in Britain, Ireland and the US. When Jeremy Corbyn, a well-known support of the Palestinian cause, became leader of the opposition Labour Party in Britain in 2015, it was a major event. His position saw him confronted by a massive campaign to unseat him by the pro-Israel lobby, which is well represented across political parties, even Corbyn’s own Labour ranks. Accusations of anti-Semitism – a euphemism for anti-Zionism – were at the core of this campaign.
Although his opponents tried to blame his losses in the 2017 and 2019 General Elections on anti-Semitism, they were largely down to the Labour Party’s fudged position on Brexit. As the race heats up to replace Corbyn as Labour leader, though, it is clear that candidates’ positions on anti-Semitism and Israel-Palestine will play a leading role in who gets chosen.
What will this mean for the Palestinian cause? It is hard to tell, although I hope that regardless of who is the new party leader, the person chosen will adopt a fair approach towards Palestine. Nobody, though, will have the same pro-Palestine stance as Corbyn, that’s for sure.
Interestingly, Sinn Fein has emerged as the leading party in the Republic of Ireland, having been a marginal player for many years due to its links with the Irish Republican Movement. The party is known in the Republic and north of the border in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, for its support for the people of Palestine. Murals and graffiti backing the Palestinians, sometimes in Arabic, can be found in solidly Sinn Fein areas.
Surprisingly, even in the US we can see a rise in support for Palestine and its people. Would-be Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is known for espousing left-wing causes, including that of the Palestinians. He has condemned the “deal of the century” and was not alone in doing so. A group of senior Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives shared his position, while press reports indicate that support for the main pro-Israel lobby group in the US, AIPAC, is no longer as strong as before; it is no longer guaranteed bipartisan support.
At the moment, the increase in popular support for Palestine in the West is not yet reflected in a fundamental change in official Western attitudes towards the conflict. However, it is a phenomenon that deserves to be considered and celebrated, especially in light of the decline in official Arab support for the Palestinians, which we now see putting pressure on the latter instead of supporting them.
Translated from Arabi21, 17 February 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.