by Paul Merkley

As the tyrant regimes of the Arab world totter, there has ensued a bewildering contest for political control. In the field is a constellation of ideological and theological rivals who hate each other much more deeply than any of them ever hated the Arab tyrants or for that matter, ourselves. For Israel, the saving paradox is that as the Arab mobs pronounce the imminence of global jihad against the sons of pigs and monkeys, the cause of rescue of "Palestine" from the Jews has lost its luster for many Arab politicians, and, most notably, for those who have the resources to make another Arab-Israeli war possible.

Ever since 1949, when the dust settled upon the first war between the State of Israel and its Arab neighbours, there has been a great and conspicuous divide between the immediate Arab neighbours of Israel — all "poor" as reckoned by the indices promulgated by UN agencies and NGOs — and those Arab regimes to whom Allah entrusted great reserves of petroleum — the wealthy ones by those same indices, the most stable ones (for the time being at least), and also the most remote geographically from the State of Israel: these are Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Kings and sheikhs who rule as despots over these principalities dominate in the counsels of the Arab League and other agencies of inter-Arab cooperation, and they dominate the global Muslim charitable organizations and the missionary organizations that promote the message of Islam. It is they who give as gifts to our part of the world countless mosques and madrassas and who give entire Schools of Islam to our Universities. They dominate the deliberations of the Muslim bloc in the United Nations General Assembly. They make huge financial contributions to the anti-Zionist terrorist groups, to Islamic "educational" programmes and to organizations dedicated to liberating al-Quds (Jerusalem).

In the past, these Arab Kings and princelings provided the funding for the Egyptian and Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and other Arab armies (including makeshift armies of volunteers from around the Muslim world) whose ranks were decimated in all the Arab-Israeli wars that were provoked, at least in part, by their fiery rhetoric. Their voices dominated the proceedings of the Arab League meeting convened in the wake of the Six-Day War, in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan,from which issued the Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967, remembered as the "Three No's" : "No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with it."

But few of those who fell in the Arab-Israeli wars were citizens of these oil-rich states, whose populations and whose armies are small, relative to those of Egypt (whose population is roughly equal to that of all the other Arab nations put together) and whose ruling classes have never been keen to interrupt their vacations in Europe in order to fight on battlefields. Until recently, it has never seemed necessary to the Sheikhs to justify these inequities. In all of the wars fought by Arab masses against the Zionist entity, it has always been, for the Arab princes, a matter of Why don't you and he fight?

But just in the last few months has come evidence that the leaders of rich Arab states are looking for ways to tone down the rhetoric about the suffering Palestinians and about the Islamic duty to liberate al-Quds. And this change of heart is clearly linked to the perception by the Kings and princelings that the political leaders emerging from these early democratic exercises are too radical for anyone's good.

There is every reason to expect that as the Arab masses become more desperate and as their new leaders continue to fail to solve all the great problems of economic inequality — as revenues fall, through the effects of civil discord war upon industry, trade and tourism — that Arab rage will increasingly turn against their richer Arab brethren who exploit in their own jurisdictions the labour of expatriate Palestinians, Egyptians, Iranians and others — a proletariat that is disproportionately drawn from the Shiite wing of Islam, openly despised by the Wahhabi masters of Saudi Arabia as false Muslims.

In short: the issue of Palestine has, at least for the time being, lost its priority among the Arab governing classes beyond the circle of the "confrontation states" — Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Paradoxically, this is happening even as the "Palestine cause" is growing in potency as a rallying theme for demonstrations in the Arab world generally and — even more paradoxically — as it grows in prominence among opinion elites and progressive activists in our part of the world.

Evidence for this significant shift of interest we find in reports of the recent Twenty-Fourth Summit of the Arab League, held at Doha, Qatar, in March of 2013.

According to the Al-Medinah newspaper (a reliable voice for the Saudi government):

When the ummah the [world that obeys Islam] met years ago, it had a single problem — the Palestinian problem. Now there are many problems for which [the Arabs] are seeking urgent solutions in order to preserve the security, stability, and independence of the Arab countries — most of which are subject to a political, security, and economic earthquake, and to raging storms of chaos, upheaval, and fitna,[upheaval] especially [in] the Arab Spring countries .... A comprehensive look at the current situation in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen arouses concern. The Syrian revolution is at a dangerous turning point .... Weapons [provided to the Syrian regime] by Iran and allowed by Iraq through Iraqi airspace are also playing a part in igniting the Syrian crisis, and they are pouring more oil [on the fire] of sectarian fitna [in Iraq .... Add to this the Iranian nuclear dossier, the current state in Lebanon, the chaos in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, the stagnation of the peace process, and the ongoing settlements, Judaization, expropriation, and arrests carried out by Israel [against the Palestinians] — and we can appreciate the scope and gravity of the challenges addressed by the Doha summit. (Al-Medina, Saudi Arabia), March 26, 2013, cited by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research),

For the politicians of Palestine, there has to be great shock to find their cause, the reason for calling together the first Arab League summit, after all these decades suddenly dropped down to the bottom of the list of "problems" facing the Arab world.

Dr. Paul Merkley is a retired Professor of History at Carleton University and author of American Presidents, Religion and Israel (Praeger, 2004). This article appeared July 8, 2013 in the Bayview Review and is archived at demoted-in-the-higher-counsels-of-arab-world/

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