The Arab governments’ response to Israel’s war on Gaza, like the previous four wars against the besieged Palestinian enclave, has been weak and poor, to say the least. But unlike Israel’s previous attacks, this spreading genocide – if left unchecked – will have dangerous repercussions throughout the Arab world.

Surprised, Arab leaders only took action after the Arab public made it clear that they would not tolerate Israeli atrocities against the 2.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Although Palestine was and remains the most important Arab issue, they have only spoken out, mostly in chatter and clichés.

At their Arab League meeting in Cairo on October 11, Arab foreign ministers condemned killings and attacks on civilians “on both sides” and equated the occupied with the occupiers, a Palestinian resistance group and the Israeli occupying army. They spoke vaguely about the need for peace as Israel set about recreating the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 with another round of violent ethnic cleansing.

The Al-Ahli Hospital bombing on October 17, in which some 470 Palestinians were massacred, angered the Arab and international public and forced Arab regimes to respond somewhat more forcefully.

A few days later, Arab foreign ministers managed to persuade UN member states to adopt a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning both the October 7 attacks and Israel’s atrocities and calling for an “immediate, lasting and permanent humanitarian ceasefire leading to a cessation of hostilities”. .

The overwhelming support for the resolution, albeit weak and non-binding, highlighted Israel’s isolation within the international community. But the Israeli authorities ignored this entirely, apparently guided by the principle “the world says what it wants, Israel does what it must.”

They casually launched a devastating land invasion of Gaza, disrupting telecommunications in the area for 36 hours and causing even more death and destruction.

Israel believes that Arab states are too divided, powerless and indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians to respond adequately.

Unfortunately it is not wrong.

Official Arab support for the Palestinian cause has steadily declined over the years. It began with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s decision to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Three years later, no one tried to stop the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which drove the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from the country and paved the way for the emergence of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.

Over the next four decades, Arab regimes showed less and less interest in rallying behind the Palestinian cause as the Arab world was ravaged by several wars, including the Iraq-Iran conflict and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, two by the US Gulf Wars and several civil wars after the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011.

Today, Arab leaders may be willing to stand up for Palestine, but few are willing or able to put their money where their mouth is. Those who have the means to influence events do not mean what they say, and the few who do mean what they say lack the means to follow through.

To be fair, Arab leaders were generally at odds with Israel as a divisive colonial enterprise in their midst, but they were also indifferent to the plight of Palestinians, as well as the suffering of their citizens.

In fact, some regimes have treated their people almost as badly as Israel has treated the Palestinians. Many have spoken out in support of Palestinian rights simply because it gave them a semblance of legitimacy in the eyes of their people.

Arab impotence has paved the way for other regional actors, Iran and Turkey, to flex their muscles and expand their influence at Arab expense, creating another layer of regional complexity and division. Iran’s growing influence and reckless policies in a number of Arab countries have led some desperate regimes to openly ally with Israel in return for greater American support.

But that has proven short-sighted, as neither Israel nor the United States can or will guarantee their security.

Today, these regimes tacitly blame Iran and Hamas for the ongoing escalation in Gaza that aims to undermine their new partnerships with Israel and drag them into a regional war. Indeed, pro-government preachers, journalists and pundits in countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have condemned what they see as Iran-inspired attempts by Hamas to push the region into war and inflict unbearable suffering on the Palestinian people.

But such positions have not influenced Arab public opinion. Wherever they have been allowed, Arabs have taken to the streets en masse to protest Israel’s atrocities and demand international intervention to stop the mass killings of Palestinian civilians. If no action is taken, the protest could lead to mass riots that could threaten regional stability

As Israel continues to decimate Gaza and carry out massacres of Palestinian children, women and men, its Arab partners must reconsider their normalization and cooperation agreements before they are forced to do so under intense public pressure.

This denormalization process must begin with the Palestinian Authority itself, whose insistence on maintaining relations with Israel has allowed it to deepen its military occupation and accelerate the theft of Palestinian land.

It is high time for President Mahmoud Abbas’ regime to cut ties with the Israeli government and start protecting its civilians from the Israeli army and settlers wreaking havoc in the West Bank.

Arab leaders must come together to end the genocide in Gaza, come what may. Only by uniting and speaking with one voice for the rights of Arabs and Palestinians would they be able to deter Israeli aggression and foreign interference in Arab affairs.

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