As we sat before the TV screens on October 7th and became the virtual witness of Hamas’ atrocious and cowardly fusillade on Israel, it was expected that Israel would retaliate menacingly. However, when Israel went on a rampage against the Gazans, and even the civic amenities in the Gaza Strip got reduced to rubbles, some of us who had a layman’s perspective of the war were contemplating whether the Arab countries would take up arms against the horrendous war crimes getting executed in Gaza. Eight weeks after the war broke out and the bombing of Gaza continued in full vigour, we realised that we couldn’t have been more wrong.
More than 16,200 Gazans have been killed, and we cannot estimate the number of people who have been relocated. After a ceasefire that lasted only a few days, Israel is once again bombing Gaza with a reinvigorated zeal. Even the people living in the southern portion of the Gaza Strip, which is deemed to be void of Hamas’ influence, have been issued a directive to vacate their abodes. A report by Oxfam suggests that more than 18 lakh Gazans have been squeezed into an area no bigger than London’s Heathrow Airport! What is the response from the Arab countries, you ask? They are not even pretending to hide their perceived indifference.
Why such indifference from the Arab countries?
Arab countries are a stretch of nations extending from the Middle East to Morocco in North Africa. Notwithstanding their differing dialects and languages, these countries are predominantly Muslim and use the same script to communicate. Despite their diversities, these countries have identical cultures and social institutions.
Historically speaking, these countries have suffered under the colonialism of the West, where they were robbed of their resources and denied development for centuries. Hence, these regions share a historical and emotional bonhomie as well. Today, this stretch of countries sustains a population of 46 crore and has a collective economy of USD 3.5 trillion. Together, they produce 30% of the global oil and even have a political confederation called the ‘Arab League’ to cater to their political interests! Despite having such a considerable presence, why can’t they pressure Israel into a perpetual ceasefire? One word: Neo-colonisation.
Even in the 21st century, the erst-while Colonial powers and the USA have found a new charade to pursue their economic interests by ignoring and invigorating regional problems. Israel is a manifestation of the West’s presence in the Middle East, and the ancient Jewish civilisation has now merely emerged as a proxy to enforce the Western ambition on the fragile balance of power in the Arabian countries. Thus, the Palestinian cause appears to be a juvenile attempt to break the West’s high-handedness in its dealing with the Arabian peninsula.
The former president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, could foresee how the West treated the sensitive Middle East as a trivial affair. Hence, when he affirmed himself as the poster boy of ‘Pan-Arab Nationalism and Democracy,’ the West cracked down hard and extended support to the conservative theocratic monarchs to subdue the rising Arabian nationalism through their tried and tested ‘divide and rule’ policy! To crush down the rising spirit of nationalism, the UK, France, and Israel invaded Egypt and took control of the logistical gold-mine Suez Canal! They refused to interfere when Israel invaded its neighbouring countries in 1967.
Little to no hope for a genuine demand for a ceasefire in Gaza:
The Arab countries today formally follow the mantra of “No peace, no recognition, no negotiation” while dealing with Israel. On November 10th, during the meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Riyadh, the countries deliberated and decided that they would stop their arms supplies to Israel as a protest of the crimes in Gaza. However, the members of the OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) shied away from taking a firm stand in cutting their oil support to Israel — the same oil that Israel uses to fuel its F-16 fighter jets while conducting airstrikes in the Hospitals and Water supplies of Gaza.
The countries like Libya, Sudan, and Syria are already torn by their perpetual civil wars. The monarchs in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Oman have an extremely ambiguous stand. Egypt is crumbling under a USD 162.9 billion debt, which it owes to Western-dominated institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and Mali is still writhing under French colonialism. The UAE has refrained from imposing any economic sanctions on Israel, citing how “their trade policies differ from their political ones.”
In such a precarious predicament, where each is tending to its own cause, the demand for an immediate ceasefire stays ignored. Pro-Palestine protestors are getting detained, and the governments of these Arab countries are cracking down on those who were merely offering prayers and beseeching a ceasefire in Gaza.
We maintain that we are NOT rooting for an Arab retaliation against Israel. We aim to convey that the ceasefire could have been achieved weeks ago, and the death toll could have seen a significant reduction had the ‘Arab League’ extended pressure on Israel via economic and political sanctions. Alas, for now, business interests seem to eclipse a humanitarian cry against the genocide in Gaza!