Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a turning point in the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, the issue is much bigger than Palestine as Donald Trump may have just lit the match that will set off the powder keg of the Arab World.
by Eric Draitser
Part 2 - A crossroads for Palestinian resistance?
It has been argued by some that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a blessing in disguise for the movement for a free Palestine, for the simple fact that it opens up the possibility of a united Palestinian resistance. Indeed, the disunity among the factions – Hamas, Fatah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), et al – has been one of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles the Palestinian resistance has faced in recent years. So, it comes as no surprise that some interpret this latest development as a potential spark that could rekindle the flame of Palestinian unity and resistance.
While the idea of unity within the Palestinian resistance might indeed become reality – such a development would be watershed moment in the history of anti-colonial struggle – it is equally possible that it is more a product of wishful thinking than of cold, hard analysis of material reality. To that end, it is necessary to raise some profoundly difficult questions.
First and foremost concerns the relationship that political factions and religious institutions in Palestine have with outside actors such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and others. With the open conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar that erupted earlier this year, battle lines within Palestine have also been drawn. While the Saudis have long been financiers of the Palestinian Authority and its President, Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar has long been the patron of Hamas, seen by many as still an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. This fundamental rivalry has been at the root of much of the internal turmoil within the Palestinian resistance, where loyalties and patronage have, to a large extent, determined the politics.
But, of course, as with all things in the Arab world, the issue goes much deeper than that. Saudi and Qatari money earmarked for development programs and aid quite often gets filtered down to religious networks — sometimes directly into the pockets of influential clerics, who then push the political agenda of the given patron.
The Syrian conflict was perhaps the perfect example. As one Palestinian activist explained to me last year, the “Syria problem” became a rallying cry for corrupt religious and community leaders who used it to raise more money and bolster their own positions. As a result, rifts within Gaza and the West Bank grew, further dividing the resistance.
What makes these facts all the more troubling is in considering how they might impact a move for unity with elements within Palestine, and in the Palestinian diaspora, which are politically, ideologically, and/or financially aligned with Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, the Syrian Government, and Iran. While the Gulf monarchies have made the calculation that the war in Syria is lost, that does not mean they’ll simply cede political ground to their avowed enemies in Tehran, Damascus, and Southern Lebanon. Equally, who’s to say that it would all be “water under the bridge,” as those factions that have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah aren’t going to be too keen on allying with their enemies who, from their perspective, backed the wrong side.
Of course, there’s also the burning question of what exactly the Palestinian resistance should be. If it’s an armed intifada or uprising that will be launched, then surely no reasonable person can expect victory against the overwhelming military capabilities of Israel — 11th strongest military in the world, backed as it always is by the United States — without some form of outside intervention. And who might intervene?
Surely people aren’t expecting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), or the Emir of Qatar, or Egypt and Turkey’s presidents-cum-dictators, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan respectively, to initiate a broad regional war on behalf of the Palestinians who offer nothing in terms of political advantage to the aforementioned opportunists. Palestinians are an oppressed people rendered politically powerless by the fascist state of Israel and its patron in Washington. Their struggle may be righteous, but material reality cares little for righteousness, and much for power.
This is not to say that armed resistance is a fool’s errand. Rather, it is an attempt to demonstrate that, from all indications, the necessary preconditions for a successful armed insurrection don’t seem to be present. Naturally, the political winds can shift rapidly but, for now, it seems that the Palestinians will be resisting alone, as usual.
But what of the regional dynamics? How do the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, and among the major players, impact the resistance in Palestine?