Why Palestinians should denounce Iran and its proxies
In August 1990, days after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait — and months before the American-led coalition forced a withdrawal — the Palestinian leadership supported the dictator, severely wounding its cause internationally. I understood why Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, cheered Saddam. He felt abandoned at the time, while in the third year of an intifada that did little to ease the Palestinians’ suffering. Saddam pandered to that suffering and anguish like no one else, declaring that he would only withdraw from Kuwait if Israel withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
I had traveled to the West Bank to cover the First Intifada in November 1990, before the American-led liberation of Kuwait, and the Palestinian suffering was deep. Saddam was no hero, but I understood that, when people believe they are at death’s door, how you feel about others is not as important as how you feel about yourself. Just over 30 years later and the Palestinians are in a similar situation. Although they continue to live under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and in dire circumstances in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Palestinians should this time make the right choice and publicly speak out against Iran. Iran’s religious leaders are no different than Saddam: They pander to the suffering of the Palestinians, screaming about Israel to soothe anger but achieving very little. Iran’s mullahs and their proxies fuel the extremism that allows Hamas to leverage itself over Palestinian lives every day.
It might be tempting for Palestinians to cry out in defense of Iran and use obtrusive rhetoric about Tehran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon. They could ask why the world screams about Iran when Israel has such a large nuclear weapons cache. It is true that Israel’s nuclear weapons should also be scrutinized by the world, but it is also true that this has absolutely nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
What impact would arguing in support of Iran have on the Palestinians? If Iran were to strike Israel, just as Saddam did in 1991, the missiles would certainly have a harmful impact on Palestinian lives. They would be forced to suffer again. Worse is that the Palestinians would be aligning themselves with the most extreme forces in the world today.
The Palestinian struggle against Israel’s discrimination and violence are just. But violence as a response to violence is not just; and in fact it undermines justice. The Palestinians need to redefine themselves and show the world the truth of their plight — that they are peaceloving and demand and deserve their rights. Many Palestinian leaders want to avoid engaging in the US fight against Iran, but that is a mistake. The Palestinians should be at the forefront, denouncing Iran’s regime and all of the violent corruption it represents. How can you denounce Israel’s policies yet be silent on Iran’s violence and oppression?
The Palestinians do not need another Saddam to undermine global sympathy for their rights. Instead, they can bolster world support by standing up to Iran’s regime because it is the right thing to do — just as standing up against Israel’s religious discrimination is also the right thing to do.
More than 70 years since Israel’s founding on the ashes of Palestinian statehood, the Palestinians must speak out against injustice wherever it occurs. Iran is a threat to the entire Arab world. With all of the changes taking place in the region, now is the time to stand on strength, rather than on weakness.
Palestinians must denounce Iran and all of its proxies, including Hamas and Syria’s tyrannical dictatorship, which survives thanks to Iran’s support.