Illustration: Palestinian Fatah Militia in Beirut, Lebanon by Tiamat; Crop, cleanup and re-up by Jaakobou - Own work [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia
In the Arab Middle East, unlike in Western democracies, historical memory is very long. Nothing is forgotten, nothing is forgiven.
Therefore, Arabs are aware of the direct correlation between the scope of Palestinian freedom of action in Arab countries, on the one hand, and the level of anti-Arab Palestinian terrorism, on the other hand.
The Palestinian track record
This harsh correlation was demonstrated in Egypt and Syria during the mid-1950s and mid-1960s, as well as in Jordan. The latter experienced the 1970 civil war as a result of the unprecedented self-rule provided to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Jordan. It was manifested in Lebanon, which was plagued by a series of civil wars during the 1970s and early 1980s, ignited by the extraordinary autonomy accorded to Mahmoud Abbas’ PLO in Lebanon.
Also, in 1993/94, the establishment of a ground-breaking Palestinian Authority (PA) in Judea and Samaria triggered a massive Christian flight from Bethlehem, Beit Jallah and Beit Sahour. Consequently, this Christian dominated area was transformed into a tiny enclave of a 12% Christian minority.
Simultaneously, notwithstanding Palestinian verbal commitments to desist from incitement and violence, Mahmoud Abbas’ PA embarked on an unprecedented wave of anti-Jewish hate education and terrorism.
The intra-Arab Palestinian terrorist track record was highlighted by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, when the Mahmoud Abbas-aligned Palestinian community in Kuwait assisted in the plunder of their host country.
Until the invasion, Kuwait had absorbed over 400,000 Palestinians — a 20% minority and the second largest Palestinian migrant community in the Arab world. Kuwait was the most generous Arab host of Palestinian migrants, provided them with a high level of social, economic and political freedom, facilitating their rise to senior managerial, civil service, media and professional positions, including the top administration of the Central Bank of Kuwait.
Kuwait’s Palestinian migrants were Arafat’s and Mahmoud Abbas’ relatives and loyalists, evolving into the wealthiest Palestinian migrant community. In fact, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah — the largest PLO organization — was established in Kuwait in 1959. The oil producing sheikdom levied a 5% excise tax on all Palestinian earnings, and transferred it to the stashed accounts of the two PLO leaders. It also extended $65 million of annual aid to the PLO, in addition to an equal amount transferred by Palestinian workers in Kuwait to their relatives in Judea and Samaria.
Palestinians’ violent ingratitude
Kuwait’s generosity intended to reduce the threat of Palestinian terrorism and constrain the explosive potential of Palestinian migrants, who had been identified as a likely fifth column on behalf of Saddam Hussein. Like the rest of the Arab Gulf States, Kuwait was aware of the incitement, by PLO leaders, against all traditional pro-U.S. Arab regimes.
In return for Kuwait’s hospitality and generosity, PLO leaders displayed deep sympathy towards Saddam Hussein. They spent much time in Baghdad during the months leading up to the August 1990 invasion, which was facilitated by three PLO battalions stationed in Iraq, and vital intelligence that was provided by Palestinians in Kuwait. The PLO heralded the plunder of Kuwait, lobbying — along with Iraq and Libya — against an Arab League resolution which called for military action for the liberation of Kuwait. The PLO warned that a U.S. military intervention would result in many American fatalities.
Palestinians, Arabs and US interests
Before, and since, the invasion of Kuwait, Palestinian violence has always been in collaboration with adversaries and enemies of the U.S., such as: Nazi Germany, the USSR, international terrorism, Saddam Hussein, Turkey’s Erdogan, North Korea and Iran’s Ayatollahs, haunting all pro-U.S. Arab regimes.
Therefore, contrary to Western conventional wisdom, there has been an unbridgeable gap between the gloating pro-Palestinian Arab talk and the reserved and adverse Arab walk. Arab leaders have mustered the fundamental Middle East notions of dissolution and “on words one does not pay custom.”
Thus, irrespective of the ultra-generous pro-Palestinian Arab talk, no Arab country has ever fought Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. On the other hand, Arabs are determined to exert their military capabilities to abort Palestinian violence in Arab countries.
Furthermore, financial support of the Palestinian cause was never a top priority for the Arab oil-producing countries, which have been less generous than the U.S., Japan and other developed countries.
Hence, in April 1950, following the 1948 Arab war against Israel, Jordan and Egypt occupied Judea and Samaria (naming it the West Bank) and Gaza, but did not transfer these regions to the Palestinians. Realizing the Palestinian subversive and terrorist potential, they prohibited Palestinian political assertion in these two regions.
In 2020, the pro-U.S. Arab regimes are concerned about the possible Palestinian collaboration with domestic and external threats such as Iran’s Ayatollahs and the Muslim Brotherhood. These concerns are intensified against the backdrop of the still raging Arab Tsunami (superficially defined as “Arab Spring”) and the imminent threat posed by Iran’s Ayatollahs.
In 2020, the pro-U.S. Arab regimes — especially Jordan and the Gulf States — consider the Palestinian betrayal of Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait as an accurate indicator of the disruptive potential of the proposed Palestinian state, which they view as a deadly threat, especially to Jordan’s Hashemite regime, and subsequently to every pro-U.S. regime in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Arab world is endowed with a long memory. Their walk — contrary to their talk — demonstrates that they don’t forget Palestinian ingratitude, unreliability and terrorism; and they don’t forgive.
They are preoccupied with their top threats, such as Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Arab Tsunami, the Moslem Brotherhood and ISIS, which are unrelated to the Palestinian issue.
Are Western democracies aware of the costly Palestinian terrorist track record? Do they intend to learn from past mistakes by avoiding — rather than repeating — them? Are they aware that forgetfulness maximizes — while memory minimizes — costly errors?
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is the director of The Ettinger Report: Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.