Avishai Sober

Disguised Oppression: The Apartheid of Arab States Towards Palestinians

Over the past two decades, every war between Israel and Hamas always resulted in protests around the world with cries to “end the apartheid” and “free Palestine”. These chants derive from two main reasons: antisemitism or ignorance. The protesters refer to an alleged apartheid led by Israel, but no one seems to refer to the apartheid led by Arab states around the region. If they truly want to end the apartheid against Palestinians- the first place they should go is the League of Arab States (LAS).

In 1959, the LAS published resolution 1547 which states that all members must prohibit Palestinians from gaining citizenship in their respective countries. The reasoning behind this resolution is to “retain their Palestinian identity”. Apparently, there was no fear of losing the identity of any other ethnicity since the resolution singled out only the Palestinians. This resolution was the beginning of the apartheid policies that Arab states implemented against Palestinian refugees.

To further demonstrate the Arab apartheid, let’s examine a few examples of anti-Palestinian policies that some of the Arab states have implemented over the past few years:

Jordan has gone through some significant turbulence with the Palestinians, beginning with their illegal annexation of the west-bank in 1950. Although Jordan was the only Arab state to give citizenship to the Palestinians, within about two decades it began backpaddling resulting in the death and the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians in the events known as Black September. The Jordanian policy towards Palestinians hasn’t improved since then; until this day there are still low quotas that limit the number of Palestinians who can access higher education, the goal of which is to ensure that the key positions in the state remain in the hands of non-Palestinians. Other political changes include the alteration of the election law in 1993 which gave more representation to rural areas at the expense of urban areas. By coincidence, the vast majority of the Palestinians living in Jordan live in the urban areas. One last example is the revocation of the citizenship from thousands of Jordanian citizens with Palestinian heritage over the past two decades.

Another example is Egypt, who has made many statements in support of the Palestinians since the beginning of the war with Israel yet hasn’t been as supportive of the Palestinians in Egypt. One of the first major changes the Egyptian government made was in 1978 when President Anwar Sadat imposed law 48 which revoked the Palestinian rights to work in the public sector. Another significant political change occurred in 2004 when Egypt changed its nationality law to grant citizenship to any child born to an Egyptian parent except if one of their parents is Palestinian (the original law from 1975 only gave citizenship if the father was Egyptian, thereby ignoring the mother). Egypt explained this law by quoting the LAS resolution from 1959. Also, although Egypt is one of the most influential states in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it has forbidden UNRWA from opening offices in Egyptian territory.

Examining a different Arab state, Lebanon, its government has passed laws that ban Lebanese-Palestinians from accessing healthcare, owning land or working in over 70 major professions. The Lebanese government further claimed that Palestinians are in fact foreigners and not refugees, therefore cutting them off from various rights they had been granted as refugees.

If these examples aren’t enough, we could look at Kuwait who expelled roughly 400,000 Palestinians in 1991, which resulted in Yasser Arafat stating that “What Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories”. We could also look at Saudi Arabia which passed a law in 2004 that enables expatriates living in Saudi Arabia for more than 10 years to apply for citizenship except Palestinians.

When examining these protests around the world in support of Palestinians, one must wonder how the world has been manipulated into believing that the apartheid is being committed by Israel. The sad truth is that the Palestinians are simply a pawn being sacrificed by the Arab world in the multi-layered chess match against Israel. No Arab state truly cares about the Palestinians, all they care about is using Palestinian suffering to promote their antisemitic and anti-Zionist agenda. That’s why they passed resolution 1547, not to “retain the Palestinian identity”, but to retain their use of Palestinians as a weapon against Israel.

About the Author
Avishai Sober is an M.A student for Counterterrorism & Homeland Security at Reichman University, and also is a part-time intern at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT). Avishai also has a B.A in Political Science and Middle Eastern studies from Ariel University.
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