Decades ago, Australian journalist John Pilger released a documentary titled Palestine is still the issue which documented the brutal treatment meted out to Palestinians and the steady occupation of their lands by Israelis. The film notes the fact that much of what plagues the Arab world and broader West Asia can be traced to the Palestinian question with pliant leaders who are installed and maintained by the US so they can crush public sentiment towards the issue.

Some 21 years after the film was released Palestine remains the issue which, like a spectre, haunts the countries of West Asia. As Israel continues its assault on Gaza and the West Bank we are seeing where leaders in the region are being placed in uncomfortable positions.

In Egypt, for example, a country which receives billions of dollars of US aid to pay for it to maintain the peace accords with Israel, we see where President Sisi has voiced concern over Israeli chatter of expelling the population of Gaza into the Sinai.

He voices this concern not for any love of the Palestinian people who he helps in oppressing, he is concerned because he knows such a move would lead to his violent removal from office as the army and people would not support it. The junior officers and the civilian population are entirely on the side of Palestine and Sisi knows if he is seen to be in cahoots with Israel in expelling Palestinians it would lead to events that would make the Arab Spring look like a walk in the park.

A similar situation is found in the Kingdom of Jordan which is the custodian of the Al Aqsa Mosque and whose population is dwarfed by Palestinian refugees. For decades Jordan has acted as a key pillar in subjugating Palestinians in cahoots with Israel. But now Jordan finds itself in a position where platitudes are no longer enough, and the population grows increasingly anti-Israel every day and makes bold moves like storming the Israeli embassy in Amman. 

Turkey is also in a similar position with the ruling AKP having to thread the needle of maintaining access to the lucrative Israeli market while also trying to be the leader in the Islamic world, which                  means standing for Palestinian rights. The Turks are aware of the fact that their economy cannot maintain the ban on trade with Israel but are equally aware of the fact that the majority of the citizenry wants to have no deals with Israel, especially at this moment.

This recent upsurge in what has been a near century-long conflict shows us that West Asia is changing, with new rules, poles of influence and military strength. Citizens are no longer afraid of the Israeli war machine the way they were even up to 10 years ago. Yes, they can do damage, but they are human and can be defeated. Such feelings are bad for any regional despot who earns their bread by suppressing the pro-Palestine sentiment among their citizens.

With Israel threatening to invade Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah we see a country at the end of its rope and stringing wildly like a blind animal.

Palestine remains the issue because it is one of two countries facing the very real and present threat of settler-colonialism, the other being the Western Sahara. It haunts the region specifically and the world more broadly because it highlights the fact that despite the work put in by freedom fighters, colonialism and all the ills that accompany it are still with us.

We know, in theory, the effects colonialism has on neighbouring countries; with Israel we see that theory in practice, and it mimics the suppression of the Mau-Maus and the Malaya emergency. It stinks of the UK leaving Aden and has eerie tones of the French attempts to maintain Algeria.

Right-thinking people see the parallels, and it is becoming more apparent with each passing day. It is a comparison one has to work really hard to avoid when discussing Israel and its treatment of Palestinians and its neighbours.

Countries must, at this moment, make a choice: side with colonialism and genocide, or side with the oppressed people seeking liberation. The actions taken by Israel during this assault have opened many eyes and forced people to be on the side of the oppressed.

Palestine will remain the issue until it is liberated, and the region will remain a tinderbox until the issue is dealt with in a just manner. Until that day comes, West Asia will remain a tinderbox unable to fulfil its destiny as individual leaders seek to engage with Israel and access US funding as a result.

No region can be prosperous with colonialism in the background and West Asia is no different. We must call a spade a spade and move to rectify the situation. Israel is a colonial state, just as apartheid South Africa was, and it must be stopped before it takes the region down with it.

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