The Arab-Muslim world, mostly dominated by either authoritarian or dictatorial regimes, is making a cynical exploitation of the legitimate Palestinian cause. The mobilization of crowds has always been an effective means of distracting their populations from their own aspirations for democracy and dignity in their own countries. Alongside Erdogan’s Turkey, Iran’s obscurantist and femicide regime is the terrorist Hamas’ top backer and financer. Neither are ethnically Arab, both are using and abusing the Palestinians. All Arab regimes, especially those neighboring Israel, are playing on the same strings, even if with lesser strategic weight and resources.
The social and political repercussions of these dynamics and calculated alliances are today making prime time news on mainstream 24-hour news channels and on social networks. The Qatari-run news channel Al-Jazeera, Arabic language (completely different from the sophisticated English version), is widely followed throughout the Arab world. It gives extensive favorable coverage to Islamist movements, referring to the members of Hamas as resistance fighters, their deaths described as martyrs, interrupts its programming to transmit live the sweeping declarations of warlords and Iranian leaders who promise the total destruction of Israel, with no attempt to edit content.
The Arab-Muslim world has not known reform or an age of enlightenment. A world where politics and public reaction is overwhelmingly emotional. It is a world dominated by political Islam that imposes the total submission of non-Muslims and non-Arabs, with, at best, an inaudible secular elite and worse, one blinded by nationalism. It does not hesitate to justify the scenes of horror and the war crimes committed by Hamas.
Arabs and Muslims deserve better than this terrible choice between the dictatorship of the turban and the dictatorship of the military boot.
As a young high school student in the early 1980s I volunteered in Yarmuk, the Palestinian refugee camp in the suburbs of Damascus. As a Kurd, I did this with my Christians and Druze comrades. We believed in a common future. This camp, created in the 1950s, had become a city with a population of 160,000 people. It was completely destroyed by the Syrian regime and emptied of its population in 2018, in the context of the ongoing civil war.
This camp’s story is unfortunately a replica of Gaza’s: Hamas chases Fatah from Yarmuk, it allies with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, before that the latter mutates into Daesh and controls the camp. Before its total destruction and evacuation of its residents, the Syrian army imposes a blockade, causes famine, pushing an imam inside the camp to proclaim dog meat as Halal/Kosher: a detail in the Syrian hell.
Millions of other Palestinians have been living in shanty towns, so-called camps, in Arab countries for generations. The majority are deprived of any citizenship, living in poverty and politically exploited by authoritarian Arab regimes or failing regimes, such as Lebanon. These are the facts, without denying either the misery in which Palestinians live or their aspiration to live with dignity.
But the crocodile tears in the Arab-Muslim world are simply unbearable and hypocritical: their denunciations of the Israeli armed intervention in Gaza, the calls for demonstrations by their dictatorial leaders supporting jihadism and manipulating the Palestinian cause.
What happened to their solidarity with the fifty million stateless Kurds in the Middle East, a Muslim colony? A people occupied and repressed since the First World War by four Muslim states (Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria). A territory as vast as France, with a population at least four times larger than Israelis and Palestinians combined.
The Turkish president denounces Israel for “committing genocide and war crimes”. His AKP party, ideologically linked to Hamas through the Muslim Brotherhood, welcomed and supported Hamas in recent years. And throughout these past weeks, the Turkish regime has been bombing civilian infrastructure including electricity and gas stations in Syrian Kurdistan. For months, water has been cut off to more than a million people in the Hassaké region alone.
The Turkish parliament voted on Tuesday 17 October to mandate armed intervention in Iraq and Syria for the next two years. This same Turkish army, with its air force and its drones, operates in these two countries without any respect for international law, bombs civilian infrastructures and kills civilians. Worse still, its military bases in the northwestern Syrian region of Edlib, a region with a population and area comparable to Gaza, cooperates and supports the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, Ahrar Al-Sham, which administers this region.
Islamist terrorism is a weapon of mass destruction and a scourge that is primarily gnawing away at the Arab-Muslim world from within. Political Islam kills and commits mass murder under the different names of Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Jabhat Al-Nusra and Hamas. It is a machine of destruction and self-destruction. These movements all find their origins in the Muslim Brotherhood, born in the 1920s in Egypt. It is a Sunni version of radical Islam. The sponsors have been the Gulf countries plus Turkey since the Tayyip Recep Erdogan regime and his AKP party came to power.
Radical Shiism, since the Islamic revolution of the Mullahs in Iran in 1979, is the other face of conquering radical Islam. Iran oversees and finances the various parties and militias that dominate in Baghdad and Hezbollah, more powerful than the Lebanese state itself.
With stunning and complicit silence from the Arab-Muslim world, Saddam Hussein’s regime baptized its genocidal campaign against the Iraqi Kurdish civilian populations in the 1980s with the Koranic verse “Anfal”. He did not hesitate to resort to the use of chemical weapons. It is a verse that justifies kidnapping, expropriation and the destruction of the enemy’s property. This campaign’s purpose was to bulldoze Kurdish villages and Kurdish towns, burn fields and concrete over wells, in order to wipe out any possibility of life. Nearly 200,000 Kurds were killed, asphyxiated, or buried alive. Numerous written and visual documents seized after the fall of Saddam’s Ba’athist regime certify and confirm these facts. This campaign was described as genocidal by international and UN institutions. Jewish Kurds in Israel were the only people to demonstrate and denounce these crimes against humanity in the entire Middle East. There were no demonstrations in the streets of Istanbul, Cairo, Damascus or Tunis to denounce the chemical weapons bombings against the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988.
More recently, in 2017, the Turkish regime of Erdogan and his Islamist AKP party launched an ethnic cleansing campaign in Syria against the Kurdish region of Efrin, north of Aleppo. Turkish military intervention in the Afrin region, 95% Kurdish, saw its original population of 600,000 almost entirely evacuated. Arabs, Turkmens and even Palestinians were settled in their place; a colonization financed by Turkey, with funds diverted from the European Union and the Arab countries of the Gulf. This cleansing campaign, as referred to in UN reports, also carried a Koranic verse, “Al-Fatih”, the conquest. The verse was recited by the imams of more than 80,000 mosques in Turkey during this period of ethnic cleansing. These same crimes of ethnic cleansing and occupation were again committed in 2019 by the Turkish army and the Islamist militias linked to it in the Syrian Kurdish towns of Serê Kanyiê and Girê sipî.
All this without any demonstration of solidarity in the streets of the capitals of the Arab-Muslim world to denounce these atrocities committed in the name of Islam and the Arabs. Nor even in the streets of London, Paris, New York, Madrid or Rome, made possible and permitted by the Arab-Muslim communities settled in the West over several generations. These are the very same capitals which are not safe from Islamist terrorist attacks in their streets.
In this limitless competition of cynicism, only the Kremlin Tzar – the butcher of Bucha, Mariupol and Kharkiv – can rival the carpet seller of Ankara and pistachio seller of Tehran with his demand that Israel spare innocent civilians.
Last but not least, in my country, France, thirty-nine of its nationals were murdered by Hamas and nine are still missing. Here, a left-wing group, La France Insoumise, which held-up gangster-style the electorate of the poor suburbs with their large Arab-Muslim populations, today refuses to condemn the Hamas terrorist attacks. Worse still, a parliamentarian from this same group calls Hamas a resistance movement. In response, a complaint for glorifying terrorism was filed by the French Minister of the Interior. And all this, just when a French schoolteacher, victim of Islamist terrorism, was killed by a jihadist associated with Daesh, exactly three years after the beheading of another teacher. These murders are acts against freedom of expression, and against the secularism that France’s education system defends.
The silence of the Arab-Muslim world in the face of these assassinations, committed in its name by Hamas, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, is unbearable and undignified. As is the complicity of a part of the political left in the West, populist and for electoral reasons vote-seeking in the poor suburbs.