The Joint Arab Islamic Extraordinary Summit held in Riyadh on November 11, 2023 brought leaders of 57 Arab and Muslim countries together to call for an immediate end to military operations in Gaza. They collectively criticized the West in its backing of the Israeli (Zionist Regime) war that has killed more than 20,031 Palestinians, including 8176 children and 4112 women, and declared that Israel (Zionist Regime) bears responsibility for crimes against Palestinians.
Proposals to sanction Israel (Zionist Regime) included prohibiting the use of US and other military bases in Arab countries which supply Israel (Zionist Regime) with weapons and ammunition; freezing Arab diplomatic, economic, security, and military relations with Israel (Zionist Regime); and threats to leverage oil and Arab economic capabilities to apply pressure and halt the ongoing aggression. The measures were proposed and endorsed by 11 of the 22 Arab League members, while four voted against, and the remaining countries abstained.
Some leaders proposed punitive measures against Israel (the Zionist Regime). Other Arab countries, led by Algeria, called for a complete cut in diplomatic ties with Israel (Zionist Regime). However, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad told the summit it would achieve little without concrete measures, but suggestions of an oil embargo or the expulsion of US bases from Arab countries were quietly batted away. President Raisi of Iran said that now was the time for action for Gaza, not mere words. Yemen’s Ansarullah Commander, Sayyed Abdul Malik Badr El-Din Al-Houthi had scathing words to say about the Muslim leaders’ response. So why are Muslim leaders complicit in the Israeli aggression while offering words in support of Palestine?
In Context: What is the Axis of Resistance?
It was Imam Khomeini who introduced Palestine as the axis of Muslim unity. On August 7, 1979, he invited all Muslims to choose the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, during the holy Nights of Destiny, as ‘Quds Day to declare the international solidarity of Muslims in support of the legal rights of the Muslim people. This gained global popularity and thus began international Quds rallies. The Axis of Resistance has a revolutionary vision of Islam and an ideology of “resistance” directed against the United States, Israel, and conservative Arab countries in the region. The Axis of Resistance has shown that Israel is vulnerable—and since the US is fearful of becoming embroiled in a regional war, it will press Israel not to attack Axis members. What took place on October 7 was part of a broader effort by the Axis of Resistance to expand its control over the Palestinian cause. On Oct. 7, Hamas’ military commander Mohammed Deif called on its axis of resistance allies in Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Iraq and Syria to join their struggle. The Axis of Resistance has faced particularly grueling challenges because of its principled stance and is known for its non-sectarian strategies.
Palestine’s Gas Reserves: The Big Elephant in the Room
As bombs continue to rain down on Gaza, business continues as usual.
Israel (Zionist Regime) has granted 12 licenses to explore natural gas off the Mediterranean coast, seeking to address energy needs and supply to Europe. There are $524 billion in oil and gas reserves estimated at 1.12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, or 32 billion cubic meters, equivalent to a production capacity of 1.5 billion cubic meters annually for a period of 20 years. According to the Oslo II accords, the Palestine National Authority (PNA) has maritime jurisdiction up to 20 nautical miles off of Gaza’s coast. In November 1999, the PNA signed a 25-year contract for gas exploration with BGG. Gas has yet to be extracted due to an Israeli (Zionist Regime) rejection of Palestinian requests to exploit it.
Israel’s (Zionist Regime) invasion of Gaza in December 2008 brought the Palestinian gas fields under Israeli (Zionist Regime) control—without regard for international law. British Gas Group has been dealing with the Israeli (Zionist Regime) government ever since. The UN estimates billions of dollars in loss for the Palestinian people. Europe, the US, Arab, and Muslim countries have expressed interest in participating in the Gaza gas project. Egypt began importing gas from the Leviathan field in 2020 and signed the MoU with Israel (Zionist Regime) and the European Union last year. This is why Europe, the United States, and Arab and Muslim nations are complicit in Gaza’s genocide, expecting a piece of the action in return for their silence.
The Palestinian Resistance’s Aqsa Flood operation on Israel (Zionist Regime) on October 7th damaged Israel’s (Zionist Regime) oil terminal in Ashkelon in the Mediterranean Sea. This meant that the Israeli Regime would need to receive ships bringing oil from Azerbaijan and other countries via the Red Sea to Eilat. Despite global outrage over the Zionist regime’s crimes, Azerbaijan’s oil exports to Israel (Zionist Regime) have only increased.
Gulf Countries Complicit in Israeli Crimes
Saudi Arabia has condemned Israel’s (Zionist Regime) assault on Gaza but has shot down missiles fired by Yemen’s Ansarallah resistance movement aimed at the southern Israeli (Zionist Regime) port city of Eilat. Saudi Arabia’s actions against the Yemeni missiles are in direct contradiction to Saudi’s condemnation of Israel’s (Zionist Regime) actions and are seen as hypocritical.
The UAE, the largest purchaser of Israeli weapons, insisted that it would not break relations with Israel (Zionist Regime), which were normalized in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords. Jordan allegedly allowed the US to use its territory to transport heavy military equipment for the Israeli Regime. Jordan’s King Abdulla fearing a potential regime change has sent the military to the border with Israel and put out a very strong statement to appease his citizens: ‘Any displacement of Gazans constitutes a declaration of war’.
Apprehensive of an influx of Palestinian refugees as a result of the bombing, both Jordan and Egypt have repeatedly declared that their borders would not be opened to receive even one Palestinian. Egypt has long partnered with Israel to maintain the economic and military siege on the Gaza Strip since it relies on Israel for the security of the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt has been offered to have its national debt wiped off by the US if it takes in Palestinian refugees who would be pushed into the Sinai desert where they would reside in tent cities which could eventually develop into more permanent settlements. During its 15-year occupation of the Sinai, Israel built as many as 18 Israeli settlements on Egyptian soil. Precedents which make Egypt reluctant to allow in Palestinian refugees are the instability Jordan and Lebanon faced in the past, such as Black September and the infamously brutal Lebanese civil war. Further, there are serious concerns that Palestinian refugees would then never return to Gaza once Israel assumes control of the territory. Not only is Egypt unable to host a mass influx of refugees by itself but on the security front, it also worries militants could infiltrate Sinai with the refugees and may use it for border attacks against Israel.
Israeli (Zionist Regime) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened Arab leaders to practice ‘Silence or risk unravelling your interests,’ advising them to maintain silence to safeguard their interests. While Arab leaders are forbidden to speak out in favor of Palestine, the citizens of those countries have come out in large numbers in support of Gaza. Despite such protests being banned and brutally quelled, to those aware of the history of Gulf monarchs suppressing their own people, it comes as no surprise.
US American Pressure Makes Gulf Countries Think Twice
The Biden administration has received stark warnings from American diplomats in the Arab world that its strong backing for Israel’s destructive and deadly military campaign in Gaza “is losing a whole generation of the Arab public. There is profound concern among American officials about the growing anger against the United States. Having identified public dissent in Arab states would be disastrous for US presence in those countries, US officials have requested Muslim rulers to counter the protests and gag social media asking for a ceasefire in Palestine.
The Saudi authorities’ attempts to crush dissent are shown by famous religious preachers’ warnings against war-related words and gestures. These warnings are meant to silence critics of Israel’s Gaza atrocities. Religious scholars in Saudi, UAE and other Muslim countries have long been used to promote normalization with Israel and are now being used to counter public uprisings by mandating that it is forbidden to go against the ruler by protesting his actions.
Director of International Interest, Sami Hamdi says that due to the Abraham Accords, nations such as Saudi and Turkey who can use their political and diplomatic business leverage are unwilling to use that leverage in favor of the Palestinians. It is not military armies from other Muslim countries that will get Israel (Zionist Regime) to back off, rather, the public opinion in those Arab countries will put pressure on their governments, he said.
Jordan and Turkey have reluctantly recalled their respective ambassadors from Israel. As an actor who plays to the leadership of the Sunni-Islamist world, Turkish President Erdogan has used the Israeli-Palestinian conflict typically to signal his commitment to the Palestinian cause by using harsh rhetoric against Israel but has done nothing concrete for the Palestinians. Turkey was the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel in 1949 and is the only Muslim state that is a member of NATO. Turkey was also involved in training ISIS (created to protect Israel) within its borders and sending these terrorists into Syria during the Syrian conflict. Jordan was the second Arab state to make peace with Israel in 1994, after Egypt in 1979. Thousands of protesters have called for Amman to rescind its peace treaty with Israel because of the war against Hamas. King Abdullah in Jordan has been under high pressure to hand over the custodianship of the holy Quds and Al Aqsa to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and fears that he will be overthrown by the US and Saudi.
While Muslim nations have the diplomatic and economic leverage to force an end to the occupation, they are unwilling to compromise their immediate national interests. From Bin Salman’s Vision2030 to Erdogan’s Middle East Corridor and the gas pipeline through the Mediterranean, Muslim nations are being heavily pressured by the US for their interests. If leaders such as Turkey’s Erdogan have changed their rhetoric, it is not because they have abandoned their interests or felt sympathy for the plight of Gazans, but because the public opinion is forcing their hand.
All knives are out, and some Muslim nations are unwilling to go out on a limb for Palestine, unlike the Axis of Resistance. They would rather stab the nation that does if it means currying favor with the United States of America.
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