In the 72nd anniversary of Nakba – the Palestinian catastrophe with the creation of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948 – Arab regimes are still at fault with the Palestinian cause. Among the 22 Arab League countries, only three – Algeria, Tunisia and Kuwait – are not in the process of normalization with the State of Israel. And some go much further.
By Fabio Bosco, Brazil
Palestinians arrested in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the richest and most influential country in the Arab League. On April 4, 2019, the Saudi regime detained Dr. Mohammad Saleh al-Khodari and 67 other members and supporters of the political party Hamas. On March 2020, their charges were presented on trial: integrating and funding a “terrorist organization”.
The 81-year-old otorhinolaryngologist Dr. Mohammad Saleh al-Khodari has lived in the country for 30 years. He leads the General Council of Hamas, the body responsible for electing the movement leaders.
About half a million Palestinians live in the Saudi kingdom, where the population, as in the entire Arab world, expresses its solidarity with the Palestinian cause. In the opposite direction, the Saudi media strives to disqualify the Palestinians.
The gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians came from where it was least expected. In late March, the Yemeni group Ansar Allah, led by Sayyid Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, proposed to exchange prisoners: a pilot and four Saudi officers and soldiers would be released in exchange for the 68 arrested Palestinians.
The Houthis took the capital Sanaa in 2014 and are the de facto government in the north of the country, which concentrates the most fertile lands and the majority of the population. There has been no response from Saudi officials, who have been promoting strong military aggression against the Houthis for five years.
On April 17, Human Rights Watch issued a note expressing concern about both the plight of Palestinian prisoners and ensuring due process in Saudi Arabia.
On April 22, Mohammad Nazzal, a member of Hamas political bureau, revealed details of the Palestinian organization’s long-standing relationship with Saudi authorities to the satellite channel Al-Sharq. According to him, two former Saudi monarchs, Kings Fahd and Abdullah, donated US $ 1.3 million and US $ 2.6 million respectively to Hamas, and Prince Mohammad Bin Salman himself met with a Hamas delegation in 2015. Nazzal said that the relationship with Saudi authorities was historic, that Hamas’ activities within the country were well known to the authorities and called for the release of the prisoners [i].
Palestinians prevented from returning to Lebanon
In early May, the Lebanese Public Security Directorate issued a rule banning Palestinian refugees from returning to the country, even if they held a Lebanese travel document.
About 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon. They are part of the Palestinian families that were expelled from Palestine by the Zionist militias in 1948, during the Palestinian Nakba. They have Lebanese travel documents. Barred from returning to Lebanon, they have no other country to go to, as the State of Israel opposes their return.
On May 5, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor organization condemned the Lebanese authorities’ decision calling it “racist” [ii].
It is worth to keep in mind that the main party that supports the Lebanese government is Hezbollah, which has the necessary power to prevent any current or future discriminatory measures against Palestinian refugees.
Gaza Palestinians barred from entering Egypt
The 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza Strip have been besieged by the State of Israel and Egypt by land, sea and air since 2007.
The State of Israel regularly promotes military aggressions against the population in Gaza.
Condemned by several human rights organizations, the blockade of Gaza is part of a conscious project by the State of Israel to make the territory uninhabitable as the Nazis imposed on the Polish Jewish population under siege in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Who came to the aid of the Palestinians in Gaza was the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which opened the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt. Palestinians under the age of 14 and older than 40 years were allowed to enter Egypt without visa. Fuel and other essential products for the population in Gaza circulated across the border through either the Rafah checkpoint or the 1,200 tunnels. General Al-Sissi’s coup in 2013 led to the closure of the border and the destruction of all tunnels.
The priority of General Al-Sissi is the economic, political and diplomatic relationship with Israel, which implies subjecting Palestinians in Gaza to humiliation and deprivation.
Palestinians under repression in Syria
In May 2018, the Lebanese writer and renowned supporter of the Palestinian cause Elias Khoury published an article called “Palestine and the Palestinian branch” [iii].
The article deals with the political police branch of the Syrian regime designed to control and repress Palestinian refugees in the country.
Called branch 235 or Palestinian branch, it was created by Hafez al-Assad, father of the current dictator Bashar. Situated on the road that leads to Damascus airport, its premises have three floors. “In its corridors hundreds of Palestinian fighters have disappeared,” says Khoury. Its expertise was based on torture, being the pioneer in sexual torture. The operations inside that torture and prison center were described by Malik Daghistani in the article “Howl of a European in the Palestinian branch”, published in Al-Gomhoria on September 5, 2017.
Khoury describes various actions by the Syrian regime against Palestinian resistance, such as the formation of a guerrilla group led by Zuhair Mohsen (known as Zuhair al-Ajami), a pioneer in looting during the Lebanese civil war; the support for the criminal Elie Hobeika who was one of protagonists of the Sabra and Chatila massacres in Beirut; the attempt to divide the main Palestinian organization Al-Fatah; the participation in the siege of Tal al-Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp also in Lebanon.
“None of these is comparable to the biggest of all, the so-called Palestinian branch,” says Khoury.
The necessary solidarity
Palestinians can count on the working population of Arab countries, but they cannot rely on the Arab regimes. The second wave of revolutions in the Arab world, initiated by the Sudanese masses in 2018 and the Algerians in 2019 that were followed by the Lebanese and Iraqis, have as protagonists the natural allies of the Palestinian resistance. This confluence of revolutions, combined with international solidarity, could defeat the State of Israel and bring about free Palestine from the river to the sea, with the return of all refugees, when the Palestinians will be able to democratically decide their future and live in peace with all those who accept to live in peace with them.