Arabs Don’t Care About the Palestinians

Lisa Beyer has a powerful op-ed in Time with the provocative title “The Big Lie About the Middle East — Tell James Baker: Arab nations don’t care about the Palestinians.”

In lumping the Iraq mess in with the Palestinian problem–and suggesting the first could not be fixed unless the second was too–the Baker-Hamilton commission lent credibility to a corrosive myth: that the fundamental problem in the Arab world is the plight of the Palestinians.

It is a falsehood perpetuated not just by the likes of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, who came late to the slogan after their actual beefs–Saddam with his neighbors; bin Laden with the Saudi royals–gained insufficient traction in the Arab world. The mantra is also repeated like an axiom in the U.S.–in parts of the State Department, in various think tanks, by editorial writers and Sunday talk-show hosts.

Yes, it was a great disturbance in the Arab world in the 1940s when a Jewish state was born through a U.N. vote and a war that made refugees of many Palestinians. Then the 1967 war left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and thus the Palestinians who lived there. But the pan-Arabism that once made the Palestinian cause the region’s cause is long dead, and the Arab countries have their own worries aplenty. In a decade of reporting in the region, I found it rarely took more than the arching of an eyebrow to get the most candid of Arab thinkers to acknowledge that the tears shed for the Palestinians today outside the West Bank and Gaza are of the crocodile variety. Palestinians know this best of all.

The rest of her piece explains why the myth is so corrosive in terms of the broader Middle East. It’s worth a read in its entirety.

The above, though, is enough to show that this canard has nothing to do with resolving the crisis in Iraq. While a show of neutrality on the part of the United States in the Arab-Israeli mess might have some ancillary benefit in security the cooperation of Iraq’s neighbors (although it could just as easily be seen as a sign of fecklessness and weakness) it’s going to have zero impact on the internal issues that are at the heart of 90-odd percent of the violence.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MinorRipper says:

    Post deleted. Added to spam file for continuous violation of site policies.

  2. madmatt says:

    and israel or the US do?

  3. legion says:

    Not really, but a lot of people seem to think that if Israel suddenly, magically disappeared, the lot of the Palestinians would suddenly, magically become wonderful. Beyer’s point is that they actually would be (have been) treated much the same, and arguably worse, by the surrounding Arab countries.

  4. DaveD says:

    After the “assassination” of those three boys yesterday, I’m not sure if even the Palestinians care about Palestinians.