There’s an idea in certain foreign-policy circles that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the driving force behind many of the problems in the Middle East. But as recent events have illustrated, it’s democracy, not the “Palestinian cause,” that has been the main rallying cry of the uprisings across the Arab world.
To be sure, there is a prevalent anti-Israel sentiment in Egypt. But while Muslim Brotherhood leaders have engaged in a lot of bravado about ending the peace treaty, little has been said about ending the blockade of Gaza, which Western pro-Palestinian activists have been vocal in condemning. And while Arab leaders are eager to use the “Palestinian cause” as another way to bludgeon Israel, their actions indicate that they care little about the Palestinians.
Jordan, which has seen protests similar to the ones in Egypt in recent weeks, is known for its discriminatory treatment of Palestinians living within its borders. And it’s noteworthy that the U.S., Japan, Canada, and a host of European countries are the top donors of foreign aid to the Palestinian territories, despite the vast wealth of many oil-rich Middle Eastern nations.
As Brendan O’Neill writes at the Australian, the Palestinian issue has mainly been taken over by Western leftist activists:
Emptied of its nationalist vigour and militancy, the Palestine problem, it seems, is now of little immediate interest to protesting Arabs and is instead the ultimate cause celebre for Western liberal campaigners who like nothing more than having a victimised people they can coo over.
O’Neill notes that there is “a profound narcissism in the pity-for-Palestinian movement,” and he is correct. It has become a way for Western activists to feel good about themselves. The people of the Middle East, encumbered by their own problems, don’t seem to have the energy to worry about the problems of others.