There are insistent voices pointing to the decline of the Palestinian cause amongst Arabs and Muslims and its loss of its centrality within the Arab world. Such voices are only being heard because we are living in a time of serious weakness and fragmentation. Too many people, though, seem to have lost their understanding of faith, history and identity.
Attempts are being made to remove the Palestinian issue from Arab and Muslim hearts and minds so that some Arab countries can normalise their relations with Israel. It is necessary, therefore, to go back to basics and recall the facts about the cause so that greater awareness may prevail rather than short-term, selfish political expediency.
Whether the normalising states understand or not, it is a fact that Zionism presents a very real threat to all Arab states and people in the region, not just to Palestine and the Palestinians. The Zionism movement wants more land, Arab land, and once it has taken all of historic Palestine it will turn on its neighbours so that “Greater Israel” becomes a reality. That is the Zionist objective. The Palestinian struggle for justice stands in its way.
The Nakba and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and the events that followed, leading up to the 1967 Six Day War in which the Zionists seized more Arab land and all of Palestine, intensified Arab awareness that the Palestinians and their cause are entrenched as the central regional issue. Like it or not, Palestine still stands at the centre of the Arab world’s past, present and future; the Arab states’ fates are linked to it indelibly.
The understanding of the centrality of the Palestinian cause and its legitimacy has pushed the Arab people over many generations to participate in the struggle for the liberation of their usurped land, regardless of their political ideology. They have joined the call for Palestinian rights, and provided financial and political support to the people of occupied Palestine. In Algeria, for example, absolute support for the Palestinians is expressed in the slogan, “We are with Palestine, wronged and oppressed”, with the firm belief that Palestine suffers historical injustice from greedy oppressors approaching from all directions.
Their faith tends to mould the thoughts and actions of Muslims, and Palestine is regarded as part of that faith and their history. The Qur’an itself, as well as the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and those things of which he approved, all make mention of the sacred nature of the land around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The area is a “blessed land”.
The “Night Journey” of the Prophet could have taken place to and from anywhere, but the Almighty decreed that Jerusalem — specifically “Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa” — would play a central role: “Glorified be He Who took His servant for a Journey by Night from Al-Masjid Al-Haram to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, the surroundings of which We have blessed, in order that We might show him of Our signs. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.” (The Qur’an, chapter 17, verse 1)
According to the commentary on this verse by Ibn Kathir, may God have mercy on his soul, Prophet Muhammad was taken from Makkah to Al-Aqsa where all of the Prophets before him were gathered, and he led them in prayer before ascending through the heavens.
This miraculous journey teaches us many lessons, one of which is that the Prophets (peace be upon them all) were gathered together in Palestine to illustrate the sacred nature of the land. When the early followers of Prophet Muhammad were taught to pray, they turned towards Al-Aqsa to do so; it was their first Qibla. The Qibla was changed after the migration to Madinah, but by then the importance of Al-Aqsa and its surrounding territory was cemented within Islam and the hearts of the Muslims. It is a sacred trust for the Muslim Ummah to look after the mosque and land until the Day of Judgement.
The sanctity of Palestine, for which the miracle of the night journey is symbolic, is stressed by the Creator in several places in the Qur’an in order to stress its importance and status for Muslims. We know that it was a blessed land even before Moses (peace be upon him) led the Children of Israel (another name for Prophet Jacob, peace be upon him) there. Many prophets are buried in Palestine, including Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), who bought the land in which he is buried and upon which Masjid Ibrahimi stands in the city named after the Patriarch, Al-Khalil (Hebron). That transaction is significant in the present context when land in the area is being taken unlawfully from its rightful owners.
The sanctity of the land is in part due to it being the land of steadfastness. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said over 1,400 years ago that victory will come to those in the land over the invaders and occupiers provided that steadfastness is combined with legitimate struggle to defend and liberate it.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported by Abu Umamah Al-Bahli to have said: “A group of people from my Ummah will always remain triumphant on the right path and continue to be triumphant [against their opponents]. He who deserts them shall not be able to do them any harm. They will remain in this position until Allah’s Command is executed [i.e. the Day of Judgement is established].” He was asked, “Where are they, Prophet of Allah?” He replied, “In Jerusalem.”
Considerations of the centrality of Palestine with regard to the Arab and Islamic nations do not stop at the meanings and values that it bears for Muslims and a divine promise. It is not only about national affiliations between the Palestinian people and their brothers in blood, language and ethnicity, but goes beyond it to its importance for Arab security across the region. Zionism is based on territorial expansion, with the occupation of other people’s land and plunder of their resources. It is hugely significant in this context that the Zionist state of Israel has never declared its borders; it is the only UN member state never to have done so. The “self-defence” and “security” claims whenever more land is stolen from the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese are just excuses for territorial expansion. This should set alarm bells ringing in Arab capitals, but the normalisation states either can’t or won’t hear them. I say it again: Zionism is a threat to the security of all Arab land, not just occupied Palestine.
The “national home for the Jewish people” was planted in the Arab region by European imperialists with the specific objective of preventing any Arab unity and cooperation. Ultimately, the plan is for Israel to dominate the region and control its vast energy resources. To do this there has been a concerted effort to falsify and distort history, erase Arab identity and destroy the local culture with a false Zionist narrative. That is the function of the state of Israel. It is a capitalist colonial enterprise which pays no heed to the local people and treats international laws and conventions with contempt. Its allies in the West support it by turning a blind eye and allowing it to act with impunity.
The Palestinians, along with those Arabs and Muslims who are in thoughts and hearts free from the tyrannical regimes which rule over them, are now at the centre of the “normalisation” phase of the struggle. This is arguably the most difficult battle in the history of the Palestinian cause, as normalisation is intended to liquidate the cause and legitimise the Israeli occupation, and it is using Arab rulers to do it. These rulers are selling the Arab soul and identity to the Zionists and handing over the keys to Arab cities to those who do not have the interests of the Muslims at heart.
Stirring up controversy on an issue such as the centrality of Palestine and its cause for Arabs and Muslims (and the Palestinian Christians, it must be pointed out) is an attempt to brainwash and manipulate them. We are on the threshold of a “Zionist-American” era in the region wherein Israel will manage regional affairs and states, with the economic and political exclusivity that goes with such a role.
Zionism threatens all Arab states and normalisation is part of the plot. Those who promote normalisation with Israel will lose in the end. They are swimming against the tide of history as well as the value system and principles of Islam. They will never be able to erase the link between Muslims all over the world and the blessed land of Palestine, because it is based on their unshakeable faith and not temporal gains.