PFLP supporters burn photos of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Dec. 9, 2017. (AP/Khalil Hamra) (AP/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians burn photos of Saudi king and prince


You simply cannot burn pictures of the Saudi crown prince one day and rush to Riyadh to seek money the next. 

by Khaled Abu Toameh, The Gatestone Institute

Is it true? If so, why? Sadly, the Palestinians are known for betraying their Arab brothers, even effectively stabbing them in the back. The Palestinians, for example, supported Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait – a Gulf state that, together with its neighbors, used to give the Palestinians tens of millions of dollars in aid each year.

This disloyalty is precisely how a growing number of Arabs, particularly those living in the Gulf states, have been describing the Palestinians for the past few years.

In recent months, however, Arab criticism of the Palestinians, mostly aired through traditional and social media, has further escalated, and sometimes turned ugly.

Some Arab writers and journalists expressed outrage over the Palestinians’ opposition to peace plans, particularly the US administration’s yet-to-be-announced “Deal of the Century.”

They accused the Palestinians of losing countless opportunities and said that the “Deal of the Century” could be the Palestinians’ “last, best chance to achieve a state.”

Khalid Ashaerah, a Saudi, denounced the Palestinians as “traitors” and expressed hope that Israel would be “victorious” over the Palestinians.

The Arab attacks on the Palestinians reflect an intense and increasing disillusionment in the Arab world with the Palestinians and anything related to them.

At the core of this deep sense of disillusionment is the Arabs’ belief that despite all they did to help their Palestinian brothers for the past seven decades, the Palestinians have proven to be constantly ungrateful toward the Arab and Muslim people and states.

Such a widespread view as that now being expressed in various Arab states accuses the Palestinians of betraying their Arab and Muslim brothers. As an Arab saying goes, it accuses them of spitting in the well they have been drinking from. The image refers to the financial aid that Palestinians have received for decades from many Arab states.

Until a few years ago, it was the Egyptians who were spearheading the anti-Palestinian campaign in the Arab world. Prominent Egyptian media personalities, journalists, writers and politicians seemed to be competing for a blue ribbon on who could attack Palestinians harder.

The Egyptians focused their criticism against the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip — a coastal enclave that has a shared border with Egypt. The Egyptian critics, who are mostly affiliated with the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, see Hamas — an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization now outlawed in Egypt — as a threat to Egypt’s national security and stability.

These critics also seem incensed at Palestinian criticism of Sisi for having alleged good relations with Israel and the US administration.

The Palestinians seem to believe that Sisi is conspiring against them, together with Israel and the US administration. They point out, for example, that last May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sisi “my friend.” Netanyahu had thanked Sisi after Egypt sent two helicopters to help extinguish wildfires in Israel. “I would like to thank my friend the Egyptian president, Sisi, for sending the two helicopters,” Netanyahu announced.

“Instead of defending their cause, the Palestinians are insulting Sisi and the Egyptian people,” a prominent Egyptian journalist, Azmi Mujahed, said.

“I have a message to send to the Palestinian beggars who sold their land and honor: You are cursing Egypt and its army and president. You are a group of despicable folks. Whoever insults our president insults all of us.”

The Egyptians’ attacks on the Palestinians reached a peak in 2014, when several prominent writers and journalists called on their government to expel Palestinians and launch a military strike against the Gaza Strip. The fierce attacks came amid reports that the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip were providing support to ISIS-inspired terrorist groups waging war on Egypt’s security forces right in its Sinai Peninsula.

Egyptian writer Lamis Jaber urged the Egyptian government to expel all Palestinians and confiscate their property. She also called for arresting anyone who sympathized with the Palestinians. “We give aid to the Gaza Strip, and in return they [Palestinians] kill our children. They are dogs and traitors.”

Jaber further pointed out that while Palestinian patients are being treated in Egyptian hospitals free of charge, the leaders of Hamas are enjoying themselves in “seven-star hotels” in Turkey and Qatar.

Jaber is just one of several leading Egyptians who have been waging a campaign against the Palestinians in recent years — a move reflecting Arab disappointment with Palestinians’ “ungratefulness” and “arrogance.”

The message the Egyptians are sending to the Palestinians is: We are fed up with you and your failure to get your act together and behave like adults. We are also fed up with you because after all these years of supporting you and fighting for your cause, in the end you are spitting in our face and offending our president.

Telling it Like it is

Now it seems that it is the Saudis’ turn to “tell it like it is” to the Palestinians. Like their Egyptian colleagues, many Saudi writers, bloggers, activists and journalists have taken to social media to denounce the Palestinians in an unprecedented manner. Some Saudis, for instance, are describing the Palestinians as terrorists and accusing them of selling their land to Israelis.

These denunciations are coming not only from Saudis, but from a growing number of Arabs in other Arab and Muslim countries, particularly in the Gulf.

Like the Egyptians, the Saudis seem enraged by the recurring Palestinian attacks on the royal family in Saudi Arabia, especially Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In the past two years, Palestinians have burned Saudi flags and photographs of bin Salman during demonstrations in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza Strip. Why? The crown prince is seen by Palestinians as being “too close” to Israel and the US administration.

Like the Egyptians, the Saudis feel betrayed by the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia for years has given the Palestinians billions of dollars in aid, but this has not stopped the Palestinians from bad-mouthing Saudi leaders at every turn.

The Saudis are now saying that they, too, are fed up. Their outrage reached its peak last June, when Palestinians assaulted a Saudi blogger visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Palestinians spat in the face of the blogger, Mohammed Saud, and accused him of promoting “normalization” with Israel by visiting the country.

Since that incident at the holy site, many Saudis and citizens of Gulf states have been waging daily attacks on the Palestinians, mostly on social media.

Defending Israel

Saudi blogger Mohammed al-Qahtani wrote:

“To all those in Israel who are listening to our voice: We call for transferring the custodianship over Al-Aqsa Mosque from Jordan to the State of Israel so that the despicable assault on the Saudi citizen, Mohammed Saud, will not recur.”

This is an extraordinary statement from a Saudi writer, and would have been totally unthinkable just a few years ago. A Saudi national is saying that he prefers to see an Islamic holy site under Israeli custodianship (rather than Jordanian custodianship) because only then will Muslims feel safe to visit their mosque.

Other Saudis seem extremely unhappy with the Palestinians’ relations with Iran. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two terror groups controlling the Gaza Strip, receive financial and military aid from Iran and political backing from Turkey. The Saudis and other Gulf states see Iran, not Israel, as the major threat to their stability. Because of that, these states have come closer to Israel in recent years. Israel and they have a common enemy: Iran.

Remarkably, a Saudi writer, Turki al-Hamad, did what even many Western leaders refuse to do: he dared to condemn Hamas and other Gaza-based groups for firing rockets at Israel. Al-Hamad, denounced the Palestinians for allowing themselves to serve as puppets in the hands of Turkey and Iran.

Commenting on a recent barrage of rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, he said: “Iran and Turkey are facing a crisis [an apparent reference to economic and political crises in Iran and Turkey] and the Palestinians are paying the price.” In other words, the Palestinians have chosen to align themselves with two countries, Iran and Turkey, that support the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.

Another Saudi writer, Mohammed al-Shaikh, repeated the old-new charge in the Arab world that wherever the Palestinians go, they cause trouble.

“Palestinians bring disaster to anyone who hosts them. Jordan hosted them, and there was Black September; Lebanon hosted them, and there was a civil war there; Kuwait hosted them, and they turned into Saddam Hussein’s soldiers. Now they are using their podiums to curse us.”

In another comment on Twitter, al-Shaikh called for banning Palestinians from performing the Islamic hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. His comment came after a video surfaced showing Palestinians, during the recent hajj, carrying Palestinian flags and chanting, “With blood, with soul, we redeem you, Al-Aqsa Mosque!”

The Saudis have strict rules banning political activities during the hajj. Al-Shaikh apparently viewed the Palestinians as using the pilgrimage to Mecca to stage a demonstration, stir up trouble during the hajj and embarrass the Saudi authorities.

“The dogs of Hamas,” al-Shaikh said after viewing the video, “should be banned from performing the hajj next year because of their obscene behavior.”

Fahd al-Shammari, a Saudi journalist, attacked Palestinians by calling them “beggars without honor.” He went as far as saying that a mosque in Uganda is more blessed than Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is a Jewish holy site.”

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

The Palestinians can only blame themselves for damaging their relations with the Arab states. Biting the hand that feeds you has always been a policy for which the Palestinians have paid a heavy price.

Burning photos of Arab leaders and heads of state on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has proven to be a big mistake. You simply cannot burn pictures of the Saudi crown prince one day and rush to Riyadh to seek money the next. You cannot shout slogans against the Egyptian president one day and go to Cairo to seek political backing the next.

Many people in the Arab countries are now saying that it is high time for the Palestinians to start looking after their own interests and thinking of a better future for their children. They no longer see the Palestinian issue as the main problem in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arabs seem to be saying to the Palestinians: “We want to march forward; you can continue to march backward for as long as you wish.”

What they see is Palestinian stagnation, mainly thanks to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders, who are too busy poisoning their peoples’ minds and ripping each other to shreds to have time for anything positive. The Palestinians may just wake up one day to discover that their Arab brothers can truly no longer be duped.

Ahmad al-Jaralah, a leading Kuwaiti newspaper editor, was even more blunt, saying:

“The Palestinian cause is no longer an Arab concern. We fund the Palestinians, and they respond by cursing us and behaving badly. The Arabs and Muslims no longer applaud the Palestinians. We should not be ashamed to establish relations with Israel.”

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

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