Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 November 2009
This article examines the sensitivity of Arab states to the political and ideological repercussions of the Palestine issue by focussing upon Egypt, Syria and Jordan. It suggests that the policies of Arab regimes towards the Palestine issue have been substantially shaped by historical patterns of state formation, and by the gradual consolidation of the Arab state system. This has served to “harden” the Arab territorial state, creating conditions under which Arab states are increasingly (if only partially) insulated from the transnational effects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Cet article examine la sensibilité des États arabes face aux répercussions politiques et idéologiques de la question palestinienne; l'accent est mis sur l'Egypte, la Syrie et la Jordanie. On y suggère que les politiques des régimes arabes envers la question palestinienne ont été substantiellement façonnées par d'historiques tendances de formation étatique, et par la graduelle consolidation du système d'États arabes. Ceci a « endurci » l'État territorial arabe, créant des conditions selon lesquelles les états arabes sont de plus en plus (bien que partiellement) à l'abri des effets transnationaux du conflit israélo-palestinien.
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44 For example, Anis Mansur (editor of the pro-government journal Mayu) proclaimed that “192 Palestinian millionaires residing in Egypt are of Israeli origin” and accused Palestinians of deliberately selling their lands (AFP [Paris], July 21, 1990 [FBIS].
45 As Raymond Hinnebusch notes, “The 1976 Lebanon intervention against Palestinians and Muslims in defense of Christian rightists greatly damaged regime legitimacy among its own supporters and Sunni opinion generally,” setting the stage for the rise of Islamic opposition forces in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Hinnebusch, Authoritarian Power and State Formation in Ba'thist Syria, 293).
46 Hinnebusch, Raymond, “Revisionist Dreams, Realist Strategies: The Foreign Policy of Syria,” in Korany, and Dessouki, , eds., The Foreign Policies of Arab States, 302–303Google Scholar.
47 Typical of this effort is a short film recurrently played between programmes on Syrian television since the uprising, which intersperses heroic portraits of the Syrian armed forces with footage of the intifada and other Palestinian symbols. See also MERIP, “Repercussions in the Middle East,” 47–48.
48 Although noting that “we are in a state of war, which, for scores of years, has forced us and is forcing on us the application of the emergency law,” President al-Asad also went on to call for legal reforms—thus implicitly confirming the extent to which the “hardening” of the Arab state system has rendered the Palestine issue an increasingly less effective means of legitimizing authoritarian state policies (Damascus Television Service, March 8, 1990 [FBIS]).
49 For a similar argument regarding the primacy of security consideration in Syrian policy, see Lawson, Fred, “Syria,” in Brynen, , ed., Echoes of the IntifadaGoogle Scholar.
50 The demographic balance between Palestinians and Tranjordanians on the East Bank is an issue of considerable political dispute and sensitivity in contemporary Jordan. In a frequently cited study, Valerie York has suggested that Palestinians constitute only 40 per cent of the population (Yorke, Domestic Politics and Regional Security, 33). Most other analyists would put the figure at 50 to 60 per cent, however.
51 According to one 1986 survey, more than 93 per cent of Palestinians in the occupied territories viewed the PLO as their sole legitimate representative; less than 1 per cent looked to King Husayn (Shadid, Mohammed and Seltzer, Rick, “Political Attitudes of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” Middle East Journal 42 , 16–31Google Scholar; see also Sahliyeh, Emile, In Search of Leadership: West Bank Politics since 1967 [Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1988]Google Scholar).
52 According to Jordan's Public Security Directorate, some 117 pro-intifada demonstrations took place between December 1987 and August 1988, each involving anywhere from 100 to 2,500 persons.
53 King Husayn's speech announcing disengagement (text in Journal of Palestine Studies 18 , 279–283Google Scholar). Husayn later asserted that Palestinians comprised only 40 per cent of the Kingdom's population (Amman Television Service, August 7, 1988 [FBIS]).
54 For an overview of these measures, see Andoni, Lamis, “Jordan,” in Brynen, , ed., Echoes of the IntifadaGoogle Scholar.
55 Among other things, the PLO has encouraged Palestinians to support the value of the Jordanian dinar, refrained from interfering in the 1989 elections and discouraged Palestinians from engaging in illegal protests (Jordan Times [Amman], August 22, 1989, 16; Andoni, “Jordan”).
56 This was particularly evident in Husayn's position at the May 1990 Arab League summit in Baghdad, where he warned that Israeli pressures had “drained all our financial resources” and that “our national commitment [to the Palestine issue] should not be a source of punishment to my country.” He went on to appeal for renewed pledges of Arab aid (New York Times, May 30, 1990, A13).
57 The continued permeability of Jordan, and the radicalizing effect there of the intifada played at least a partial role in the electoral victories of the Muslim Brotherhood in the November 1989 parliamentary elections. Similarly, periodic violent protests have continued to erupt in the Kingdom, notably in December 1989 (on the second anniversary of the uprising), May 14, 1990 (on the anniversary of Israel's establishment) and again on May 22 (following shootings in Israel and the occupied territories). Twodemonstrators were killed by Jordanian security forces during the latter.
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