In his recent World Quds Day speech, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei declared seven guidelines for the liberation of Palestine. Delivered via televised broadcast instead of in front of a large audience in view of ongoing coronavirus-related risks, the occasion demanded a robust speech from the senior official. However, the guidelines laid out were more than just rhetoric, but contain strategic truth to them as well.
The art of framing: a riposte to a Zionist-approved ‘Arab solution’ to Palestine
The guidelines, especially the first, cast support for the Palestinian struggle a duty in righteous Jihad for all Muslims and a duty for all mankind based on principles of humanity. Concurrently, the notion of Palestine as an ‘Arab issue’ is expressly rejected.
Seemingly perfunctory on the surface, it is when placed into adequate historical and geopolitical context that this stance stands out as exceedingly prescient.
To consign the issue of Palestinian statehood to a vague footnote in their agenda is a goal of the anti-Iran alliance between Israel and the Gulf Arab states (GCC). Pivoted around confronting Iran, the alliance finds special utility in the framing of the Palestine issue as one for ‘the Arab world’ and one that Israel-friendly Arab states will resolve. Iran is held as an intrusive, even dominating non-Arab actor which must be kept away while a solution is settled.
The fraudulence of this framing of the Palestine issue is exemplified best by the supreme irony of Israel partaking in and leading this new bloc of ‘Arab world’ custodians. Israel is a central enemy to supporters of pan-Arab unity, the Arab world’s welfare and Palestinian freedom, yet Israel’s GCC – and Egyptian – partners seek to allot that status of public Arab-enemy number one to Iran. The Zionist enemy is incredulously replaced by the Persian boogeyman.
This, of course, makes no sense for a host of reasons – prime among them being the simple fact that Iran’s own major allies across the region are Arabs. Regardless, this particular Israel-approved brand of the monopolization of pan-Arab discourse is pursued in earnest by Arab partners in the form of what this author describes as a ‘neo-Arab project’.
Thus, guideline-one’s rejection of the ‘Arab issue’ tag is prudent. Iran has been Palestine’s only steadfast supporter over the last few decades, arming and training the Palestinian resistance just as it did – to far greater impact – the Lebanese resistance against Israel. By opposing the framing of the Palestine issue in a way which would leave Palestine’s fate in the hands of those ‘Arab stakeholders’ who support the atrocious Israeli-engineered ‘Deal of the Century’ on Palestine announced in January, Iran also emphasizes the bond between its own status as a regional pan-Islamist power and Palestine’s resistance.
Resistance as the best and only way forward
Notably, Khamenei’s guidelines also saliently denounce proponents of the deceptive ‘Arab issue’ framing of Palestine as ‘guilty of betrayal for distorting the truth’. This leaves no doubt as to how highly Iran prioritizes opposition to the deceptive, Israel-approved ‘Arab issue’ label. It is made clearly to be a part of the enemy’s arsenal of weapons.
Building upon this, the call for resistance and Jihad emphasizes that proponents of the ‘Arab issue’ framework allow no room for resistance. Indeed, the ‘Deal of the Century’ would see ‘Palestine’ existing as isolated fragments of land lacking any military capability and living under Israeli military control.
The call for resistance also makes sense in Palestine’s context and especially during current circumstances. Whereas the Deal would have Israel disarm the Iran-supported Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, Israel’s demonstrated lack of appetite for prolonged confrontations with them stands in the way of this objective.
Many analysts have pointed out the increasing inefficiency, contrary to Israeli marketing, of Israel’s anti-missile systems in defending against Gazan rockets and mortars. Coupled with Israel’s highly narrow land mass means, this means its economic assets and civilian targets remain highly exposed to Gaza’s retaliatory attacks and even potentially those of the far more powerful, better-equipped Hezbollah in Lebanon toward Israel’s north if the situation with Palestine escalates badly enough.
Additionally, certain highly important yet somewhat precarious contemporary Israeli policy initiatives further lower Israel’s appetite for a fight against a determined resistance.
Israel of late, in what has become a core facet of its ties with the GCC and aligned Arab states, has sought to attain dominance in the export of Eastern Mediterranean gas. Israeli gas exports to Egypt and Jordan – highly controversial amongst the public in both countries – now constitute a key facet of Israel’s ties with the two Arab states.
The last thing Israel needs is the delicate and expensive exploration and production at its gas fields being disrupted by projectiles launched from nearby Gaza in response to Israeli moves to impose the Deal’s conditions upon it. Cheap rockets and mortars from Gaza can punch well above their weight as a deterrent to Israeli advances against Gaza by inflicting significant damages upon the pipelines and other infrastructure used by Israel to export the gas and thus tie Egypt and Jordan’s energy security to Israel’s economic welfare.
Thus, Khamenei’s call for resistance and Jihad rings especially true at this stage in history and fits neatly into the strategic environment around Palestine.
Non-reliance on international organizations and rejection of the ‘inevitability’ of Israel
Khamenei’s stress on a pan-Islamist liberation struggle for Palestine does not only counter the deceptive ‘Arab issue’ label but also promotes another important trait. That is independance from reliance on Western governments and international organizations under their sway, who Khamenei says are ‘opposed to any effective entity of an Islamic nature’.
While not necessarily anti-Islamic, international organizations based largely in the West and reliant upon Western government funding can do little better than advocating a futile mediation-and-negotiation approach to settling Palestine’s fate. Pre-requisites to such processes involve cessations of hostilities by ‘both sides’ which Israel unlike the Palestinians has the impunity to never abide by.
In describing the impotence of these global organizations in terms of pursuing justice, Khamenei states: ‘The so-called United Nations is not fulfilling its function and the so-called human rights organizations are dead.’
The Islamic resistance proposed by Khamenei’s guidelines recognizes this and while drawing up humanity-based global support ensures it does not enter into conditions imposed upon such organizations in exchange for ‘diplomacy’ with Israel.
Yet again, in the context of history and current affairs, Khamenei has the right idea.
That an arrangement as antithetical to international law as the Deal was announced via the highest echelons of the US government shows that international organizations such as the UN are not graced with even lip-service to their myriad resolutions on Palestine. Thus, even the case for entering into their long-winded ‘peace processes’ which inevitably dull down resistance to Israel is difficult to take seriously.
Even in the miraculous scenario whereby the UN was pushed by pro-Palestine forces successfully and punished Israel, it would not make much of a difference. This punishment would take the form of international sanctions, only to see Israel call upon its wealthy supporters abroad instead of somehow allowing a real Palestinian state to take shape. Indeed, Israel has more than enough mega-rich Jewish donors abroad who pull political strings and send huge flows of capital, foreign direct investment and even jobs Israel’s way which it otherwise did not merit and who could even sustain it with their own private wealth. Israel’s economy would not stagnate or contract but continue to grow.
The US would not dare adhere to UN sanctions on Israel and Israel would continue receiving irrational amounts of financial hand-outs to keep it financially healthy. Meanwhile, minus vibrant resistance from Gaza, Lebanon and the Syrian front as well, Israel would find it easier to pursue much-needed socio-political and economic ‘normalization’ through the aforementioned linking of its economy with that of regional states such as Egypt and Jordan.
Amidst toothless UN objections, Israel would gradually make itself an undeniable ‘fact’ of Middle Eastern life and politics and far from the pariah status it deserves. Even the undoubted historical development represented by actual sanctions on Israel would not halt Israel integrating itself into regional economies and thus ensuring that it can export and import as a proper economy besides simply being stuffed with US aid.
With resistance unhindered by concerns from obsolete international organizations, however, Israel’s ambitious yet vulnerable economic projects would face constant risk. They would be rendered unviable over time and Israel regardless of the huge flow of US taxpayer dollars to it every year would soon find itself in a highly uncomfortable position with hostile elements in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.
Indeed, Khamenei directly condemns ‘normalization’ of Israel as a hostile plot and describes attempts by Israel’s Arab allies to portray it as inevitable part of the conspiracy. The solution put forth by Khamenei is to ‘continue this struggle and to better organize the organizations for Jihad work, their cooperation and to expand the areas of Jihad inside Palestinian territories. Everyone must assist the Palestinian nation in this holy struggle. Everyone must contribute to the Palestinian fighters and stand behind them. We will proudly do everything in our power on this path.’
Dismissing the Two-State ‘Solution’ canard
Even if there was a time when Israel’s uncompromising expansion-via-settlements had not rendered it impossible, the Two State ‘Solution’ as has been fixated upon by international organizations for decades was no true solution to begin with. It sought to establish a Palestinian state upon less than 25% the land of historic Palestine, essentially gifting Israel an easy-to-target and congested mass of Palestinians to test its weapons upon.
Consistent with the general theme of resistance, shunning of cumbersome ‘peace processes’ overseen by useless international organizations and rejection of the notion that Israel is inevitable and here to stay, Khamenei declares:
‘The aim of this struggle is the liberation of all the Palestinian lands – from the river to the sea – and the return of all Palestinians to their homeland. Reducing this struggle to the formation of a government in a corner of the Palestinian lands – particularly, in the humiliating way that is mentioned in the discourse of shameless Zionists – is neither a sign of righteous struggle nor a sign of realism’
Indeed, with the liberation struggle capable of threatening Israel’s economic welfare and yet capable of forcing isolation upon it in the region, the Two State ‘Solution’ barely warrants a second thought.
Uncompromising resistance till the very end
Khamenei’s guidelines thus conform to reality and not just sentimental anti-Zionist rhetoric. From the strategic perspective of countering Israel and then forcing it into an erosive, isolated state far from the expansion it desires, the guidelines not only make a strong case but also cast Israel and Zionism accurately as anathema to the well-being of the very region Israel today so desperately seeks to make itself a part of.