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Palestinian Papers -- Another Tale in the Long Saga of Betrayal

By       Message Abdul-Majid Jaffry     Permalink
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The treacherous story told by the Al Jazeera leaked Palestine Papers on negotiation between the Palestinian authority (PA) and the Israeli occupation government may be shocking but not a total surprise.  Both the past and present   history contain pages darkened with the Arab betrayal of Arabs, particularly of Palestinian Arabs. The revealed document is shocking only in the sense that now it is the Palestinians betraying Palestinians. The unelected and unrepresented Palestinian leadership in the occupied territory is negotiating away the rights and land of their own people.

According to the Al Jazeera document, the PA is willing to cede the inalienable and internationally recognized right of millions of Palestinians forced to live in exile to return to their homes. Among other treacherous concessions, the PA is also willing to give up and let Israel have most of East Jerusalem and the land of the West Bank containing illegally built Jewish settlements -- and much more.

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The sad tale contained in more than 1,600 documents is just one page in the long and troubling saga of betrayal that has come to describe Middle Eastern Arab politics since the First World War. The story is fascinating, but a sad reading. It begins with the symbolic but cataclysmic shot that Sharif Hussein, Emir of Makkah, fired from his palace towards the Ottoman military base in Makkah in June 1916. The shot was not only to signal that the Arab revolt against Ottoman rule had begun, but it was rather a high sign of Sharif Hussein's belligerent and acquisitive campaign to crown himself as a king of the soon to be emerged from the rubbles of the Ottoman Empire, an independent Arab country that stretched from Syria to Yemen. The British assured Hussein the kingship of the promised country in return for his support against the Ottoman Empire.

When Britain, France, and Russia, the Triple Entente, attacked Ottoman Empire during the First World War, Sultan Mehmed V, the Padishah and Caliph of Islam, responded with a call for Jihad against the attackers. A cry for Jihad from a legitimate and authoritative source was bound to unite Muslims, not only under the Ottoman rule but also all over the world. The British, with a large Muslim population under its colonial rule, were alarmed and quickly scrambled to rupture the attempt to unite Muslims in the name of jihad. They found in Sharif Hussein a person with "dynastic ambition" who, for a "territorial award," could raise the flag of Arab nationalism, dilute the call for jihad, and destabilize the Ottoman regime. Sharif Hussein did exactly what was expected of him.

Sharif Hussein betrayed the Ottoman rulers, and the British, true to their color, reneged on their promise to allow a one united Arab country to emerge from the fallen Ottoman Empire. Sharif Hussein's ambition to become king of all the Arabs was never realized. Nevertheless, as a consolation prize, he was made king of Hejaz in 1917. The Hashemite Kingdom of Hejaz did not last too long. Sharif Hussein abdicated in favor of his son Ali, who was in turn expelled out of Hejaz by Abdul Aziz bin Saud. The man was reduced to his size; still he got more than he deserved.

Britain and France made a secret deal in 1916, known as Sykes-Picot agreement, to cut and slice the Arab land into mini states to keep them separated and disunited. The Ottoman province of Syria was divided into Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. France took the former two. Palestine, along with Iraq, became the British trophy. British interest in Palestine was intensified by the obligation undertaken in the Balfour declaration to create a Jewish state therein. They took direct control of Palestine. At the same time, Kuwait was carved out of Iraq. To the east of Palestine, a principality of Transjordan was created which, in 1949, became the state of Jordan.

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Strange and yet, despite the duplicity and fraud, Sharif Hussein and his sons continued their sycophantic and   treacherous cooperation with the two colonial powers. The British made Ali, the eldest son of Sharif Hussein -- after his father abdicated the throne -- the king of Hejaz. The second son, Abdullah, was placed on the throne in Transjordan, and the third son, Faisal, was crowned as king of Syria.

The British kept them on a short leash; they were little more than stool pigeons. Faisal did not last long; the French chased him out of Syria. The French considered Sharif Hussein and his sons (Hashemite) to be British lackeys. Winston Churchill, who was colonial secretary at the time, offered the rule of Iraq to Faisal, as a conciliatory gift for his expulsion from Syria by the French. Sharif Hussein and his sons aided and abetted the British and French to divide Arabs into small pockets and place them under the League of Nations mandates -- a blow from which the Arabs are suffering a great deal to this day. The Israel-Palestine quandary has a deep root in the history of betrayal and backstabbing at the hands of Hashemite.    

The treachery continues. Faisal, as a King of the Greater Syria, signed an agreement in 1919 with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Zionist leader and future first President of Israel, that essentially extended legitimacy and implicit approval to the idea of a Jewish nation in Palestine. The Faisal-Weizmann agreement silently gave acquiescence to the nefarious Balfour Declaration. The agreement was to create an alliance between Faisal and the Zionists to support Jewish settlement in Palestine. The treacherous intent behind the agreement is quite clearly enunciated in Article IV of the accord...

"All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil. In taking such measures, the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development."
The Faisal-Weizmann Agreement not only did not take into consideration the wishes of the Palestinian Arabs, but also the two signatories, Weizmann and Faisal, held the Palestinian Arabs in considerable contempt. After his meeting with Faisal, Weizmann reported that Faisal was "contemptuous of the Palestinian Arabs whom he doesn't even regard as Arabs."

Hussein bin Talal, the grandson of Abdullah, and the great-grandson of Sharif Hussein, became the King of Jordan in 1952, after his father abdicated the throne. The "plucky Little King," the nickname Western observers patronizingly bestowed on Hussein, remained committed to his grandfather Abdullah's policy of appeasing Israel and serving as a surrogate for the western interests in the region. These two things made King Hussein the longest reigning ruler in the region. He became an acknowledged ally of Israel in denying the Palestinians their political and human rights. In September 1970, with the collaboration of Israel and western allies, he killed thousands of Palestinians and forced them to flee Lebanon. His cooperation with the Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war is not hidden. It was Hussein who forewarned Israel of the Egyptian assault across the Suez Canal.

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King Hussein remained loyal to his western masters until his death. Nearing the end of his life, he deposed his brother, Hassan, after publicly chastising and humiliating him as his successor, and consecrated his eldest son, Abdullah II, as the new crown prince. Why was Prince Hassan, who served his brother as a loyal partner in running the kingdom's affairs and an heir-apparent since 1965, ousted? It may be the fatherly desire to pass the crown to this son. However, the politics of the region suggest something else too. Hussein's choice was not his alone. The British, who brought the Hashemite family to Jordan from Saudi Arabia, and the Israelis and the CIA, for whom Hussein was a paid agent, had their say in Abdullah II's good fortune. Abdullah II, son of a British mother, was better molded than Hassan to keep Jordan as a safe haven for western and Zionist politics in the Middle East. Abdullah, a chip off the old block, is thought to be more compliant towards western interests in the region; a willing partner in keeping the Palestinian issue subdued.

A man is known by the company he keeps, the funeral of the Plucky Little King, called the "diplomatic funeral of the century," offers a glimpse into the company he kept. As a reward to Hussein's lifetime loyalty, Israeli and British flags were flying at half-mast to mourn his death. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the largest delegation to Hussein's funeral that included the chief of Mossad and the hawkish Ariel Sharon, who is known for his Arab hatred. The Israeli radio played mourning songs. President Clinton along with three living former presidents -- Ford, Carter and Bush -- was there to eulogize a "loyal ally." And, of course, the British prime minister came to pay his last respects to the great grandson of the man who helped them pull the rug under the feet of the Ottoman Empire and hasten the British victory in the Great War.

While the Hashemites, from Sharif Hussein to Abdullah II -- the present ruler of Jordan -- are historically known for their treachery and dishonorable ways, the inter-Arab backstabbing and back-room negotiation with Israel, however, is not limited to the Hashemite clan. No Arab leader in contemporary history has done as much damage to Arab and Palestinian causes as Anwar Sadat. And no Arab leader can match Hosni Mubarak's dogged support of Israel in enforcing the criminal siege of 1.5 million Palestinians, his backing of the 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza by Israel, and his tacit approval of every Israeli act of tightening the screw on Palestinians.

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Retired engineer from aircraft industry and a freelance columnist.

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