Saudi journalist Mohammed Al Saed describes how the Palestinians have been political opponents of Saudi Arabia for over 30 years. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
Nothing gets published in Saudi Arabia without approval from the government. On January 23 the newspaper Okaz, which is one of the most popular and influential newspapers in the Kingdom, published an opinion piece on why Saudi Arabia should break with the Palestinians. The text is here: “Popular Saudi newspaper says it is time to stop supporting Palestinians,” Elder of Ziyon, January 23, 2022:
…On Sunday, it published an op-ed by Mohammed Al Saed titled, “Is it time to break with the Palestinian cause?” And his answer is an emphatic “yes.”
He describes how the Palestinians have been political opponents of Saudi Arabia for over 30 years.
In the year 1990, in the fiercest challenge faced by Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states, following Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, nobody was surprised by the Palestinian leadership’s support for Saddam. Both inside Palestine and in the diaspora, the Palestinians chanted for Saddam and demanded for him to kill the Saudis and destroy their cities with internationally prohibited weapons. The chants of “Chemical, Saddam, from Khafji to Dammam” still resonate in the Saudis’ memory today.
When Saddam’s Iraqi army invaded Kuwait, the PLO and Yasser Arafat issued statements in support of the Iraqis. Most of the 400,000 Palestinians living in the country also sided with the invader. This behavior enraged the Kuwaitis, and when the Iraqis were pushed out by the Americans, Kuwait expelled the 200,000 who had remained in the country — 200,000 had already left during the war and occupation, due to various reasons, such as fear of persecution, food and medical care shortages, financial difficulties, and fear of arrest or mistreatment at roadblocks. The Palestinians in Kuwait and elsewhere not only sided with Saddam, but held demonstrations calling on him to attack Saudi Arabia as well. These chants – “Chemical [weapons], Saddam, from Khafji to Dammam” — went unreported in the Western media, but made a deep impression on the Saudis. They have not forgotten.
32 years have passed since the invasion of Kuwait, and the Palestinians have come out time and again against the Saudis in demonstrations, rallies and burning flags, the last of which was at the beginning of this week in support of the Houthis, and their demand that the Iranian backed terrorists bomb Saudi cities and their civilian targets. The years have changed and the Palestinians have not. They are on the same path, making the same wrong choices, and holding the same grudges that hardly leave their elders until their young ones inherit them.
The Palestinians have consistently supported the Iran-backed Houthis against the Saudis in Yemen’s civil war. Iran is, after all, Israel’s most implacable enemy, and has supplied both weapons and money to the two terror groups – Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon — whose attacks have plagued the Jewish state. And as the Houthi attacks on Saudi targets become more frequent – there have been 4,100 such attacks sine 2015 – the angrier the Saudis have become with the Palestinians for supporting them. The Palestinians are seen as betraying their fellow Arabs, and aligning themselves with “the Persians” who, as Shiites, are considered by many Sunnis, and certainly by the Wahhabis, to not even be real Muslims.
In my opinion, it is time for a rupture with the Palestinian cause, for the Saudis did not cause it and do not bear responsibility for the major crimes the Palestinians committed against themselves, from neglecting solving their division, and not finishing the Oslo Accords of 1993….
Since 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza, killing more than 100 Fatah members, wounding 500, and driving the remaining Fatah fighters out of Gaza, the internecine warfare between Hamas and the PA (of which Fatah is the major component) has continued. The author deplores the inability of the Palestinians to “solve their divisions.” As to the Palestinians “not finishing the Oslo Accords of 1993,” this is a reference to the failure of the Palestinians to accept – or even to discuss as the basis for further negotiations — the generous territorial offers made to them by Israel for an independent state. Both in 2000, when Yassir Arafat walked out on Ehud Barak, and in 2008, when Mahmoud Abbas walked out on Ehud Olmert, and in all the years since, the Palestinians have been their own worst enemies, in refusing to discuss anything less than a total return by Israel to the 1949 armistice lines. That has created a stalemate, and left the Palestinian Authority no closer to achieving its goal of an independent state.
Saudi Arabia has suffered enough for Palestinians, paid a lot for them, overlooked a lot, and borne its burdens…There is no enemy that they have not aligned themselves with. For what, and for whom do we sacrifice our money, positions, and political alliances?
The Saudis have long been financial supporters of the Palestinians. From 2000 to 2020, they gave the Palestinians $6.5 billion. The PA pockets the money, shows no gratitude, and continues to hold out its hands for more. Yet the Palestinians in the past sided with Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Kuwait, a Saudi ally, with many Palestinians in Kuwait welcoming the invaders; Palestinians called on Saddam to launch chemical attacks on Saudi Arabia. And now the Palestinians have sided with Iran and with the Houthis in Yemen, both mortal enemies of Saudi Arabia, having forgotten just how much they owe to the Saudis for their decades of financial and diplomatic support.
They deliberately kept a permanent path to be an obstacle to Arab countries’ development. Every country that tries to work for their future is obstructed by the cause and burdened with it, and one can see this with a simple look at Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, Jordan, Beirut and every land that the Palestinian cause has trampled upon.
The Palestinians have, until recently, managed to make their cause central to the Arab states, preventing those states from promoting their own national interests. That was what the Abraham Accords brought to an end for its four Arab members. No longer would they allow the Palestinians to veto their “normalization of ties” with the Jewish state. Instead, they would make deals with Israel, on trade, tourism, technology, agriculture, and security, ignoring the Palestinian attempt to block what they were convinced was in their own best interests. And the $675 million worth of deals that the U.A.E. alone has made with Israeli companies in the first year of the Abraham Accords, with the promise of many more deals to come, is evidence that they were right.
The Palestinians have to live with the mistakes of their fathers and grandfathers. They are not the liberators who sacrificed for their lands as the Vietnamese did, nor are they the skilled politicians who managed their cause professionally and justly as the Indians, except for their wrong alliances, selling lands by consent and acceptance, and agreeing to employment and contracting to any forces that intersect with their psyches and thinking, from Baghdad, the Baath in Damascus, and the new Persians in Tehran and Saada, and the implementation of the policies of the Mongols of the hour in Ankara and Istanbul.
The Palestinians have not fought “for their lands” but allowed Arab states to do it for them, expending men, money, and materiel, in the three major Arab-Israeli wars, in 1948,1967, and 1973. They have made “wrong alliance,” in the past by supporting Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and calling on him, after he had occupied Kuwait, to attack Saudi Arabia. They have done so again, by supporting Iran (“Tehran”) and its Houthi allies in the Yemen (“Saada”). They have allied themselves with the Baath Party and the Assad dynasty in Syria, whose Alawite-led army, aided by Shiite Iran, has crushed the Syrian opposition of mostly Sunni Arabs. And now the Palestinians, both those in Hamas and in the Palestinian Authority, have supported, and been supported by, the Turks (“in Ankara and Istanbul”), whom Saed likens to the Mongols, who in 1258 destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. Saed sees today’s Turks as inheritors of the Ottomans who ruled over the Arabs for 500 years, and deplores the Palestinian alliance with that neo-Ottoman Erdogan.
He doesn’t say to embrace Israel, but in a region where people think in terms of zero-sum games, that seems the only logical conclusion.
Nothing gets published in Saudi Arabia without the approval of the government. This article in the semi-official newspaper, Okaz, is surely part of a deliberate campaign to prepare the Saudi public for Riyadh’s decision to join the Abraham Accords. The first part of this campaign is to remind the public of the Palestinians’ ingratitude for generous Saudi support, their embrace of Saddam Hussein and their expressions of hope in 1990 that he would move on from conquering Kuwait to attacking the Saudis, and their staunch support of the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen who have launched 4,100 missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia since 2015. The appearance of this article must surely alarm the Palestinians; they know what the Saudi Crown Prince is up to, but there is nothing, at this point, they can do to win back Saudi support for their cause. The Saudis have looked on, enviously, at the mutually-beneficial deals being made between the UAE and Israeli companies.. They realize that Israel, which has agreed to supply weapons to Morocco and the UAE, could also do so with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has been shocked at how the Americans left Afghanistan in helter-skelter fashion, and alarmed, too, at Biden’s withdrawal of defensive weaponry that had been stationed in Saudi Arabia. Israeli weapons, especially anti-missile defense systems, could be the answer to the Saudis’ current need to replace the Americans.. We’ll see how many more anti-Palestinian pieces come out in the Saudi press in the next weeks and months, their appearance orchestrated by the Crown Prince. And if the reaction of the public is sufficiently favorable, a fifth Muslim member of the Abraham Accords will be ready for its close-up.
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