Supporters of Palestine in the Middle East have long lamented the failure of Arab leaders to take a hard line against the Israeli occupation. But it is easy to understand why this is happening.
Every time Israel brutally oppresses the Palestinians, its Western allies fall into the fray. Leaders from countries such as Australia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States sent emotional messages of support for Israel. The media also went into overdrive. They justify Israel’s crimes by inventing racist platitudes. And Israel, the oppressor and aggressor, tries its best to change that. Billions of dollars worth of emergency aid was quickly approved by parliament to aid the Israeli army in the genocide.
Even though these supports are given to Israel to kill Palestinians, the governments of Arab and Muslim countries sit with their thumbs in their mouths. This deplorable inaction was further highlighted at the recent special joint conference of the Arab League and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The conference, called an emergency and special meeting in response to the massacre in Gaza, was for just one day. After much shouting and gestures, the only firm demand of the countries of the Arab and Muslim world was to ‘convene an international peace conference as soon as possible’. This will make the Israelis’ knees tremble.
Better to say, there were much higher expectations than that. Rather, it would not be wrong to say that the leaders attending the conference are patiently waiting for Israel to end its genocide in Gaza. They supported Egypt’s initiative to send aid to Gaza. That’s good to hear. In case you didn’t know, Egypt has little ability to send anything into Gaza through the Rafah border. And this Egypt is helping the Israelis to maintain the blockade of Gaza for the past 17 years.
With that suffocating cynicism, another successful gathering of the Arab and Muslim worlds complete with obligatory feasting and photo opportunities.
Not surprisingly, Palestinians and their supporters are outraged by this pathetic discussion. Such discussions have nothing in common with fiery speeches by leaders; Be it in support of the Palestinian people or in pressuring the West to stop atrocities.
It is not that the countries of the Middle East cannot do anything to Israel and its imperialist allies. Arab or Muslim countries control the majority of the world’s oil reserves. Saudi Arabia and Iraq alone control more than 21 percent of daily oil exports. This gives a lot of added benefits to both countries.
But it’s not just fuel oil. The Suez Canal, owned by Egypt, is vital to world trade. According to an estimate by the New Zealand Embassy in Cairo, the Suez Canal transports $1 trillion in goods annually, which is about 30 percent of global maritime trade. In 2021, an accident closed the transit of goods through the Suez Canal for just six days. According to data from London-based Lloyd’s, this alone costs the global economy about $9.6 billion every day.
So why do Arab and Muslim leaders not use either of these two powers?
Because they don’t want to. As part of global capitalism and imperialism, their success depends on overall stability and profitability. That is why most of them are aligned with America, which is currently the most powerful player on the world stage. Like other ruling classes in the world, Arab and Muslim leaders do not believe in ethnic, national or religious solidarity or identity. Their only ambition is their own profit and power. And if that means allying with America and Israel, so be it.
They also lead countries plagued by endemic poverty and inequality, where women and various minorities are denied their basic rights. Why should the Prince of Saudi Arabia or the President of Turkey care about the oppression of Palestinians? They are the ones who violently oppress the Shia and Kurdish minorities in their own countries? This applies equally to Iran’s Islamic dictatorship. Why would reactionary fundamentalists, despite their overt enmity with America and Israel, risk exerting their massive domestic and regional power to defend Palestine? These regimes sometimes talk about the persecution of Palestinians for their own cheap popularity. But they will never have the last word on the matter.
Of course, they are not alone in this. Western leaders never did anything to prevent the Nazi genocide in Germany or the genocides in Rwanda and Armenia. Rather, they used it to fulfill their imperialist agenda. In fact, the common thread is that the ruling class never fights for justice.
But yes, we can be angry at Arab and Muslim leaders for failing to show solidarity with the Palestinians. But it should not be surprising. Their inaction is not the result of bad policy, but of being part of the prevailing forces of exploitation, competition and war as rulers. To truly show meaningful solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, the Arab and Muslim world must first free itself from the grip of corrupt and self-interested capitalist elites.
Author: Editor of the Marxist Left Review
This article was published courtesy of Australia-based website Redflag