Civil unrest is a regular occurrence in the Palestinian Ayn al-Helwih refugee camp. Saudi Arabia disappears Prime Minister Hariri for a while. A resume of the break up of Palestine, since the 1940s. Egypt, Palestine and the British Raj
Lebanon, Prime Minister Hariri, Palestinian Refugees
The latest furor to hit Lebanon is the decision of the Israelis to replace Tel Aviv with Jerusalem as its capital. President Trump in his inimitable way concurred with the decision and, as is his want, become a focus for the issue. I have to say I’ve heard little from Palestine, though I went to a protest last Friday in my home town. I’ve given up on the struggle to a degree since the election of Hamas. That is because I support the Arab nationalist momentum not because I accept the Israeli state. It appears though, that Lebanon is going up in flames as the police opened fire on the pro Palestinian demonstrators. With my trip booked for May next year and having so many friends there, I’m terrified when anything happens in the country.
The Lebanese do not recognise the unconstituted ‘state of Israel’ and thousands of Arabs and westerners visit the refugee districts of Sabra/Shatila in South Beirut, where there are some lodgings for the volunteers who are passing through. Support for the Palestinian cause has grown since the arrival, at Shatila, of Palestinians who were once given refuge in Syria. A great deal of fund raising occurs among the Arabic visitors as support grows not only for the Palestinian cause but for the Islamic ideals many of the population embrace.
This is, in my view, a dangerous situation as if people from outside Lebanon get involved, it poses a threat to the stability and security of the whole country. The biggest Palestine refugee camp in Lebanon is along the coast from Beirut and not far from the predominently Sunni port town of Saidon. Ayn al-Helwih was set up in 1949 by the Red Cross and its population, now includes Palestinians from Syria. The camp has long been the site of battles between the Palestinian Arab nationalists, members of the PLO, now the Fatah Party and the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood. There was a gunfight only in February 2017, when two people were killed.
So far the Lebanese authorites have managed to suppress the attacks but with Mr Hariri under threat, for how much longer? Another important factor is, since the Lebanese civil war the Israelis have been heavily criticised by the world for its aggression towards the Shatila/Sabra districts. Yet while it was overseen by the Israelis, the masacre was conducted by the Maronite Lebanese Forces, an army commanded by Mr Geagea, who went to gaol, was exiled and then returned only to be a Presidential candidate, until he stepped down, in 2016, in favour of Mr Aoun, the other renowned Maronite whothough he began the civil war by declaring himself PM, is pro Palestinian and an Arab nationalist.
Just as Lebanon settled into the tentative position of supporting the Syrian government, through working together to defend the country against Islamic State, the Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri visited Saudi Arabia and was spirited away for some time while he decided whether or not to resign his position. He managed to return via France and was greeted warmly by his supporter as well as by his opponents, President Aoun and the Shi’ah Hizb’allah cleric Sayeed Hasan Nasrallah. It does make me wonder if the conspiracy theorists are right and Lebanon is one of the countries that is to be destabilised alongside Syria Iraq and Egypt, a theory that has never made sense to me before.
Since I wrote this Mr Hariri has withdrawn his resignation, which will, without doubt, stabilise Lebanon.
Having said that, Lebanon is hardly an electoral democracy but rather relies on the four main dynasties’ compliance with each other’s wishes and policies. A few years ago I was really critical of the Lebanese operation but since 2015 the dynasties have worked hard together to achieve unity, as they have toned down their ceremonies, mainly true of the Shi’ah at the Ashura commemoration. They have elected a President and held a general election, after which, Mr Hariri became PM once again. Then there was the state visit to Saudi Arabia and things changed once again.
I had a very interesting conversation with an American woman at Beirut airport in April of this year. At the time I laughed it off as I believed it was just a brag or hot air but now I’m not sure. She was part of a business delegation and told me they had met with Mr Hariri, who told her he was number one on Islamic State’s hit list. Whether true or not he will have offended his counterparts in the Saudi kingdom as he has thrown in his lot with the other Lebanese factions, including Hizb’Allah. This does suggest that Mr Hariri has no wish to fall under the auspices of salafa ideology and though other Sunni government members are more radical this appeared to be a concensus among the Sunni population, at least while he remains in post.
Political Comment: President Trump
For all his bluster I doubt President Trump has any interest in Middle Eastern politics but the American president is egotistical and does have a propensity for saying what other’s think and doing what other’s are frightened to do. He certainly enjoys being in the limelight but whether he will retract his acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the capital of an illegal state remains to be seen. The Levant, particularly Palestine, is much more the domain of Britain but as the Tories will never forgive the Zionists for taking its land and are pre-occupied with the European issue, Britain will no doubt remain in the background for now.
American Politicians and the Colonising of Palestine, A Short Resume
Before I begin this section, I’d like to say that it was always the intention of Jewish Zionism, that Jerusalem be the capital of its constructed Jewish state. It was going to be a slow process always, which accounts for my comments above levelled at President Trump. Tel Aviv, the current or old capital is the financial centre due to its coastal position and its proximity to the port of Haifa, while up until a few days ago, Jerusalem was considered the religious capital. As is well know the holy city is a religious icon in the Christian and Islamic world too.
Saw war break out between the the Israelis and Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq to avert the continued colonisation of Palestine by the Jewish Zionists after they had declared Israel a state. The allied Arab forces captured East Jerusalem but by 1949 the Israelis had occupied a region known as the Negev (the Hebrew name) which, excepting Gaza, is the whole of the Egypt/Palestinian frontier, for a detailed map see www.nationsonline.org/maps/Israel_map.jpg
Saw the Suez crisis and battles for control of the Suez canal and the port of Elat, which is adjacent to Jordanian controlled Aqaba Straits, which gives access to the Mediteranean Sea. The Israelis invaded Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, including Al-Arish, renowned for its bird sanctuary and for the tunnels that the people of Gaza used to enter Egypt before and during the blockade of the strip, by the Israelis, in 2009. The tunnels were privatised or walled up in 2010.
Saw the 6 Day war between the Israelis and Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq during which, the Arabic alliance suffered considerable losses. The Israelis had withdrawn from the the Sinai Peninsula in 1957 but in 1967 Egypt once again lost the territory and was not to regain control of the Gaza Strip. Jordan lost the other Palestinian territory, the West Bank, while Syria lost part of the the Golan Heights, to the south west of its capital Damascus.
Saw the war of Yom Kippur, whereby Egypt and Syria attempted to regain the territory lost to them in 1967 and in spite of support from Russia their attempts failed. They were, after all, up against the might of superior Israeli weaponry, supplied by the western arms companies. The Israeli victory consolidated its power in Palestine and it has never looked back.
Though all these wars can be seen as proxy wars conducted by the two main powers Russia and Britain/America, the territory in question is of enormous importance to the Arab world. Of course much of its significance can be attributed to politics, the struggle for resources and strategic positions in the region but also has to do with the holy city of Jerusalem.
The mid 1970s
saw the Egyptian leader President Anwar Sadat switching his allegiance from the Russian Bolsheviks to the capitalist west. The majority of big business was now based in America, which was becoming the face of the monopolist culture as the World Bank and the IMF were restructured, the oil rich nations rebelled, the gold reserve disappeared and an excess of US dollars were printed. Egypt was nearly bankrupt and remains so today but President Sadat sought to remedy this and in 1978 he bgan talks with his former enemies the Israelis and the Americans.
Saw the Camp David agreement beween the Israelis and the Egyptians, under which Egypt regained part of the Sinai but not Gaza. Camp David, like the Whitehouse, is in Washington DC, America’s capital, it is the summer residence of the incumbent American president and is where he entertains foreign political leaders. In 1979 when President Sadat made the decision to, in effect, relinquish parts of Palestine to the Israelis, he caused outrage in the Arab world, not least in Syria and more proverbial lines were drawn in the sand.
The American president was the Democrat Jimmy Carter who must have thought he’d struck gold as the Camp David talks, though dressed up as a peace agreement, in fact just entrenched the western allies and their pal the Israelis in the position their had dreamed of, the breaking of the ties between the Pan Arab nationalist countries in the Middle East.
Before I move to the next date I should explain that there have been several attempts at peace negotiations involving Palestine, other than those held at Camp David and that this account is just one part of the story.
Saw at Camp David, attempted negotiations between the Israelis and the PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, who refused to compromise on questions of the recognition of an Israeli state or the resulting two state solution. This was the basis of any concessions made to the Palestinians by the Israeli PM Ehud Barak. Accounts of the meeting, hosted by the then Democrat president Bill Clinton, make for uncomfortable reading. Needless to say western propaganda is heavily skewed towards the rights of the Israelis but is tentative about the issue of Jerusalem. The Zionists, though, have always laid claim to the city but time will tell how successful they’ll be in making it the capital.
Mr Arafat died in 2004, in 2002 he had appointed Mahmoud Abbas as the Prime Minister of both the Palestinian territories and, by so-doing inadvertently accepted the two state solution on offer. His organisation the PLO was renamed the Fatah Party, which paved the way for elections in 2006. By then the Islamic movement had escalated in the region and the Palestinian Brotherhood party Hamas won a victory in the West Bank and Gaza but soon became an ”enemy” of the west.
In 2003, not to be outdone, the Republican president, George W Bush, launched a road map to peace, in an attempt to consolidate the notion of a two state solution. All these initiatives amount to game playing as the west is not prepared to relinquish its main military base in the Levant, that of the spurious ‘State of Israel’
Egypt, Palestine and the British Raj, Political Comment
Just over 40 years ago the then Israeli and Egyptian premieres, Messrs Begin and Sadat respectively were awarded the Nobel Peace prize. Menachem Begin was part of the Zionist resistance to the British mandate, which in the 194os, conducted a bombing campaign, paving the way for the Israeli control of Palestine and for the influx of new Jewish refugees. The most memorable event was the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, part of which is said to have been requisitioned by the British military. Anwar Sadat came up through the ranks of the Arab nationalist movement and was a friend of the iconic Jamal abd’al Nasser, who preceded him. For a short biography see https://www.biography.com/people/anwar-el-sadat
Both Mr Sadat and Mr Begin found themselves in conflict with the British raj in one way or another but their respective encounters ended rather differently as the former achieved his aims but the latter was assassinated by an offshoot of the Egyptian Brotherhood in 1981. The assassin, named Takfir wal-Hajira, was a fellow officer in the Egyptian army but held a quite different philosophy to Mr Sadat. Both the Arab nationalist and the Islamic movements played a part in, ostensibly ousting Britain, but then, as now, had problems with ideology. Despite Mr Sadat’s decision to enter into negotiations with the Israelis it has to be said he was firmly anti-Zionist and did what he perceived as best for his country.
Mr Mubarak, successor to Mr Sadat, was rather more measured on the issue of Palestine but both, as Arab nationalist leaders, who had fought in the battle of Yom Kippur against the Israelis, governed in the aftermath of Jamal Ab’dal Nasser’s attempt to nationalise the Suez Canal. A slight to the British who had combatted his predessors the quasi Ottoman rulers the Pasha dynasty, for centuries. I believe most countries agree that if you cross Britain you do so at your peril. Anyway the Egyptian establishment was forced to play the game with Britain and then western capitalism in order to keep the country’s economic head above water.
Mr Mubarak may have been deposed as part of the contrived Arab Spring but an Arab nationalist, was soon, once again, in charge as the Brotherhood candidate Mr al-Morsi’s election result was overturned and Mr al-Sisi elevated to the presidential office. I have mentioned the Pasha dynasty who ruled Egypt under the auspices of the Turkish Ottomans but despite the Ottoman empire being classified as a Caliphate by many, the Pashas were not Islamists in the current sense of the word.
It appears that, in both Palestine (at present) and Egypt the Arab nationalists are favoured over the Islamists, by the west. In Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia and Britain itself the opposite is true. Whether in the guise of the original Brotherhood, the al-Whabbiz movement in Saudi in the 1800s, or in its current form, the Islamic Brotherhood, operational in the Levant, North Africa and many western countries, the Islamists are given preference. Though some of these leanings stems back to the cold war period, it is always the case with Britain and its appendage America, that it is a matter of who is easier to control at any given time.