As Israel was busy firing hundreds of rockets at Gaza Tuesday evening, much of the Arab world was wrapped up in the admittedly enthralling Germany – Brazil World Cup semifinal.
But even then, there appears to be more individual concern for the unfolding catastrophe in the Palestinian enclave than there is among governments in the region.
And while the Western reactions have been unfortunately predictable – the U.S. has condemned rockets targeting Israel from Gaza, despite the absence of a single Israeli injury, while dozens of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, have already been murdered – the response, or lack thereof, from Palestine’s Arab neighbors has been disappointingly hypocritical.
For every Arab regime, and even Muslim majority countries further afield, has based – to some extent – much of their own domestic policies on the supposed centrality and urgency of the Palestinian issue. That Jerusalem was a city to be liberated for all of their sakes, that the Palestinian cause was one they were all invested in has been a rallying cry for decades now. It has been used and manipulated by leaders for their own ends, it has been used to justify extortionate military expenditure – often at the expense of social welfare – and often despotic internal security policies across the region. Whole political careers have been made on using and abusing the Palestinian issue.
No one can now claim ignorance of the situation on the ground, 24 hour news and social media has made that impossible, and ordinary people are growing increasingly irate about Israel’s collective punishment across Palestine. As long as regional governments fail to address the issue in a meaningful way, they are not only abandoning the Palestinian people, but they are telling their own citizens that they do not care about their priorities either.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 10, 2014, on page 7.