Why Arab Regimes Don’t Trust Palestinian Leaders

Feb. 18 2020

Unlike in the West, writes Yoram Ettinger, in the Arab world “historical memory is very long; nothing is forgotten [and] nothing is forgiven.” Thus, Jordan hasn’t forgotten that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) nearly overthrew its monarchy in 1970; nor has Lebanon forgotten the PLO’s role in igniting its bloody civil war. Ettinger calls attention to the less-known case of Kuwait, a country where, at the beginning of 1990, Palestinian refugees made up a fifth of the population:

Kuwait was the most generous Arab host of Palestinian migrants, providing them with a high level of social, economic, and political freedom, and facilitating their rise to senior managerial, civil-service, media, and professional positions. . . . Kuwait’s Palestinian migrants, [who included] relatives and loyalists of Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, evolved into the wealthiest Palestinian migrant community. . . . The oil-producing sheikhdom levied a 5-percent 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.

Kuwait’s generosity [was] intended to reduce the threat of Palestinian terrorism, and constrain the explosive potential of Palestinian migrants. . . . In return for Kuwait’s hospitality and generosity, PLO leaders displayed deep sympathy toward [Kuwait’s enemy] Saddam Hussein. They spent much time in Baghdad during the months leading up to the August 1990 invasion [of Kuwait], which was facilitated by three PLO battalions stationed in Iraq and vital intelligence that was provided by Palestinians in Kuwait. The PLO [then] heralded the plunder of Kuwait, lobbying . . . against an Arab League resolution that called for military action for the liberation of Kuwait.

As a result of such instances, Arab leaders continue to pay lip service to the Palestinian cause, but little else:

Therefore, contrary to Western conventional wisdom, there has been an unbridgeable gap between . . . pro-Palestinian Arab talk and the [very different] Arab walk. Arab leaders have [followed] the fundamental Middle Eastern [aphorism], “on words one does not pay customs tax.”

Are Western democracies aware of the costly Palestinian terroristic track record? Do they intend to learn from past mistakes by avoiding—rather than repeating—them?

Read more at The Ettinger Report

More about: Kuwait, Mahmoud Abbas, PLO, Saddam Hussein, Yasir Arafat

Israel’s Friendship with Iraqi Kurds, and Why Iran Opposes It

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law “criminalizing normalization and establishment of relations with the Zionist entity,” banning even public discussion of ending the country’s 76-year state of war with Israel. The bill was a response to a conference, held a few months prior, addressing just that subject. Although the gathering attracted members of various religious and ethnic groups, it is no coincidence, writes Suzan Quitaz, that it took place in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

Himdad Mustafa, an independent researcher based in Erbil, to whom the law would be applied, noted: “When 300 people gathered in Erbil calling for peace and normalization with Israel, the Iraqi government immediately passed a law criminalizing ties with Israel and Israelis. The law is clearly aimed at Kurds.” . . . Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Coordination Framework), a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, slammed the conference as “disgraceful.”

Himdad explains that the criminalization of Israeli-Kurdish ties is primarily driven by “Kurd-phobia,” and that Kurd-hatred and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand.

One reason for that is the long history of cooperation Israel and the Kurds of Iraq; another is the conflict between the Kurdish local government and the Iran-backed militias who increasingly control the rest of the country. Quitaz elaborates:

Israel also maintains economic ties with Kurdistan, purchasing Kurdish oil despite objections from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A report in the Financial Times discusses investments by many Israeli companies in energy, development sectors, and communications projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to providing security training and purchasing oil. Moreover, in a poll conducted in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, 71 percent of Kurds supported normalization with Israel. The results are unsurprising since, historically, Israel has had cordial ties with the Kurds in a generally hostile region where Jews and Kurds have fought against the odds with the same Arab enemy in their struggles for a homeland.

The Iranian regime, through its proxies in the Iraqi government, is the most significant source of Kurd-phobia in Iraq and the driving factor fueling tensions. In addition to their explicit threat to Israel, Iranian officials frequently threaten the Kurdish region, and repeatedly accuse the Kurds of working with Israel.

Read more at Jersualem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, Kurds