Israel's war on Gaza has highlighted how much of the Arab world has lacked economic development – and real peace – since the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948.
That was when Israel established its state on Palestinian land, establishing the pattern of conflict and displacement in the region hindering its prosperity.
It has proved stubborn – with unstable geopolitics trapping money in defence spending and preventing it from being better used elsewhere – as an indifferent international community looks on. All the while, select nations benefit from the arms trade that the whole process supports, not least in the West.
Hope and intransigence
Since 1947, successive Israeli governments have remained intransigent, rejecting United Nations resolutions that have been put forward to ease the standoff with the Arab world.
This has undermined the region’s chances of peace and security for Palestine and its neighbours, the conditions that most favour proper economic development.
While Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have always held out hope for peace, Israeli intransigence has never ceased. In fact, it has only multiplied after the rise of religious and Zionist right-wing parties in Israel has only bred more extremism and dashed any hope for a political solution.
Al Majalla now looks at the roots of this process – and what needs to happen for progress to be made – starting with the Arab world’s response to the events of the late 1940s.
Catastrophe and then coups
The Nakba led to tensions in many Arab countries, especially those neighbouring Palestine, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. And it changed politics. Parties backed the Palestinian movement and pledged to re-establish it as a homeland for those who lost it.
This was to have far-reaching consequences, including on the economies of nearby nations and the region.
Anger at what happened in the Nakba led young officers to carry out military coups against the regimes in Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. Coups spread to Sudan, Yemen and Libya. Those who took power were interested in militarisation – allocating financial resources for defence – and the preparation for efforts to reclaim Palestine.
As a result, economic development, education and healthcare were deprioritised. Military campaigns have been unsuccessful, and a realistic solution to the Palestinian issue drifts further and further away.
Nonetheless, popular support for Palestinian liberation across the region has not ceased – particularly in countries with significant Palestinian refugee populations, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.