How the Arabs Missed Opportunities to Create a Palestinian State

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Historical Revisionism
November 10, 2023
Written by: 
Mirjana Kasapović
Retired Professor of the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb

Croatia’s sudden love for the Palestinians  

The latest war in the Middle East revealed a multitude of ideological, political and worldview attitudes and emotions that had been hidden for years. Actors in public life suddenly started showing empathy towards the Palestinian people. The media, which for years justified every act of Israeli policy and callously wrote off the Palestinians as a “failed people”, became extremely sensitive to the fate of the Palestinians. The one-sided pro-Israeli comments of Ivo Goldstein in Jutarnji list were replaced by the political outbursts of Emina Bužinkić, a civil society activist previously known for her ethnically biased political actions, who with the “Initiative for a Free Palestine” had already organized a pro-Palestinian, and in fact a terrible anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish rally in Zagreb. Now she announces that she will organize another one: “A lot of people from Palestine contact us and want to join us, as well as people from migrant communities living in Croatia”. Thus Emina and her company, people from Palestine and migrant communities in Croatia, will once again play the role of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish people from the city of Zagreb and Croats in general.

The anti-fascist alliance fell apart because Jewish organizations withdrew from it due to the attitudes of its leaders towards the current war. In an unsubtle way, specific to him, this attitude was expressed by Zoran Pusić, a person who compensates for the lack of thoughtfulness, sense and sensitivity for politics with rigid ideological positions. The fact that the Serbian National Council “borrowed” the practice of commemorating the victims of the Holocaust by placing “stumbling blocks” around Zagreb for the Serbian victims and implicitly renewing the old Serbian narrative about the "Jewish-Serbian Holocaust" in the NDH was not well received by Jewish organizations. For the Jews, the Holocaust is a unique crime in history, and they insist on its singularity, which excludes equating and combining it with other crimes, and this includes memory practices.

The Croatian left, both academic and non-academic, which until yesterday was united in its attitude towards the NDH, the partisan movement, communist Yugoslavia, but also Croatia and the Homeland War, split. It turns out that many leftists are philo-Semites only when it comes to Jews who were victims of the Ustasha regime, but that they quickly turn into ill-concealed anti-Semites in other cases. They had someone to learn from: the Yugoslav communists, who protected the Jews in the Second World War, led an anti-Israeli policy since the “Suez crisis” in the 1950s. The Non-Aligned Movement, in which Yugoslavia was supposedly a pivotal member, led a systematic anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish policy. It was permeated with anti-Semitism brought by the Arab and Islamic countries and accepted by other countries.

Among the many outbreaks of anti-Semitism since the beginning of the war, the propaganda-political campaign of the Qatari media company “Al Jazeera Balkans”, which broadcasts programs day and night imbued with deep anti-Jewish historical revisionism, stands out. From the daily revisionist lessons of “Al Jazeera”, I will single out two narratives: the one about the Palestinian Arabs never having the opportunity to form their own state, and the one that all the Arab-Jewish wars in the 20th and 21st centuries were started by Israel.

The Palestinians reject the British proposal to establish a state

During the British Mandate administration (1920-1948), the Palestinian Arabs were given the opportunity to establish their own state for the first time in history – the Ottoman caliphs and sultans, who ruled the Middle East for about four centuries, did not think of such a thing. The great Arab revolt of the 1930s, directed against British rule and Jewish settlers, prompted the British government to adopt the report of the Royal Commission headed by William R. Peel in 1937, which stated that Arabs and Jews are two different “races” and that due to irreconcilable racial, cultural and political differences cannot create a common state. It was proposed to divide Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state so that about 80 percent of the territory, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Negev, would belong to the Arab state, and about 17 percent, in the coast and Galilee, to the Jewish state. The British would keep the mandate zone in the belt from Jerusalem to Jaffa. If the entire territory of Palestine, which includes the emirate of Transjordan established on the soil of historical Palestine east of the Jordan River, is counted, the Jews would receive only about four percent of the territory. But the Arabs rejected the plan because they did not accept any partition of Palestine. The Jews accepted the plan, although they were dissatisfied with the size of the allotted land.

The Palestinians reject the UN plan to establish a state

The UN Resolution (1947) sought to resolve the Palestinian problem by dividing Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. The Arabs rejected the Resolution, considering that the UN has no moral and political right to divide Arab Palestine and give a part of it to the Jews, who were denied any historical right to the Holy Land. The Jews accepted the plan, considering partition as the only possible solution, although they were dissatisfied with the borders and turning Jerusalem into a corpus separatum.

The Arab League – a military-political alliance of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Transjordan – declared the Resolution a continuation of “Zionist aggression and terror in Palestine” and attacked the State of Israel the day after the declaration in 1948. The Arabs lost the war, but some members of the Leagu achieved some of their goals: Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. What would Palestinians give today if someone offered them the state they rejected then?

Palestinians renounce their state and agree to the occupation of Arab states

In September 1948, the Arab League decided to establish a Palestinian Arab provisional government in Gaza, which proclaimed the Palestinian state as an expression of the “natural right to self-determination”. The decision was motivated by the efforts of League members, especially Egypt, to prevent the Transjordan king Abdullah I Hashemite from annexing the Arab part of Palestine, creating a “great Jordan” and strengthening his position in the Arab world. In addition, the establishment of the Palestinian Authority was supposed to show the world that the Arabs have not betrayed the Palestinians.

While the Palestinian National Council was in session in Gaza, the First Palestinian Congress was held in Amman and voted for the annexation of Arab Palestine to Transjordan. At the Second Palestinian Congress in Jericho on December 1, 1948, about three thousand delegates voted for the unification of Arab Palestine with Transjordan. The Palestinian Authority from Gaza survived until 1959, when Nasser ordered the closure of its office in Cairo as a symbolic remnant of "statehood". For the next twenty years (1948-1967), neither Egypt, which occupied the Gaza Strip, nor Jordan, which occupied the West Bank with East Jerusalem, thought of declaring a Palestinian state. They started actively advocating for it only after the heavy defeat of the Arabs in the Six-Day War, after which Israel occupied both entities.

Palestinians are undermining the Palestinian Authority as a potential state

In the first half of the nineties, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Oslo resulted in the establishment of Palestinian self-government. With the Declaration of Principles, signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1993, the PLO recognized Israel, and Israel recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. It guaranteed a five-year Palestinian self-government in the occupied territories, which would begin to be realized in Gaza and Jericho. The Interim Agreements on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (1995) extended the Palestinian Authority to all Palestinian cities, except Hebron, which was extended in 1997.

The first government was formed by Fatah, which won the parliamentary elections in 1996. Problems arose when Hamas won the 2006 elections. The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, handed Hamas’ prime ministerial candidate Ismail Haniyeh a letter on the conditions under which Fatah would form a coalition government with Hamas: that Hamas accept all UN resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict, all Arab League resolutions and all Israel-PLO agreements created after the Oslo Accord. This meant that Hamas had to accept the principle of “two states for two peoples”, recognize Israel and give up armed resistance. Everything was ominous.

Nevertheless, Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement in Mecca in February 2007 on the establishment of a government of national unity. But the government, formed in March 2007, did not last even three months. After Hamas staged a coup and seized all power in the Gaza Strip, Abbas dissolved Haniyeh’s government and formed a government in Ramla. Hanieh’s government retreated to Gaza, declared Fatah’s government illegal, and effectively created a dual government. The “civil war” between Hamas and Fatah began, in which thousands of Palestinians died.

Hamas took power in Gaza after violent street clashes in 2006 and 2007 with Fatah members and supporters. In June 2007, Hamas seized complete power in Gaza with a five-day military operation and forced thousands of Fatah members and supporters, as well as organizations and institutions of the Palestinian Authority under its control, to flee Gaza. Hamas occupied all the buildings where the institutions of the Palestinian Self-Government were located. The administrative apparatus was filled with its own members. Hamas created its own judiciary and appointed new judges. It suspended media freedom and completely deliberalized public life. However, Hamas claimed that in Gaza it does not want to create an Afghanistan in al-Qaeda style, but a Turkey according to Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. In return, Fatah destroyed Hamas organizations and institutions in the West Bank. Territorial fragmentation was accompanied by social fragmentation, paralysis of political institutions that were not capable of resolving the conflict, and the active interference of foreign actors in the conflict. The regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia supported Fatah, and the regimes in Iran, Syria and Qatar supported Hamas. How can we call all this but a major contribution of the Palestinians to the downfall of their own potential state?


For a long time, we will not know what was behind the Hamas military attack on Israel, the massacre and kidnapping of civilians on October 7, 2023. What drove the fanatics and militants from Hamas to this self-destructive act? Did they actually think that in the new war with Israel – on the fiftieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, which also began with the Arab states' attack on Israel – Arab and Islamic states would support them? Which countries would go to war with Israel today? Iraq is a failed state. Syria is a failed state. Yemen is a failed state. Libya is a failed state. Sudan is a failed state. Afghanistan is a failed state. Lebanon is collapsing before the eyes of the whole world. Jordan is a dependent state that cannot survive without Western political rents. Iran only wages war through proxies. Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars in aging European and South American soccer stars, not the Palestinian poor. The overly rich Arab Emirates, such as Qatar, limit themselves to opening Hamas offices on their soil and financing Al Jazeera. The Turkish “Sultan” plays bigger games. The Palestinian diaspora protests in London, Berlin and Paris, and it never occurs to them to wage war in Gaza and the West Bank. Someone else should be fighting there. Who? 

Annals of the Croatian Political Science Association

Croatian Political Science Association
Faculty of Political Science
Lepušićeva 6, 10 000 Zagreb

SCImago Journal & Country Rank
Anali Hrvatskog politološkog društva ℗ 2023 Sva prava pridržana
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