This Is What Kuwait's Relationship With Palestine Looks Like
By: Noureldin Mohamed/Arab America Contributing Writer Kuwait-Palestine relations have been grounded as Kuwait’s role in the Palestine cause is one of support and recognition. The country has denied the annexation done by Israel on several occasions. Although history was not on the positive sin of the Kuwait-Palestinian relations since the Gulf War, it is steadily growing to be a successful one – from aid, to voting in the UN against the occupiers, and the opportunities given to Palestinians residing in Kuwait – the relationship continues to grow.
To understand its relationship with each other, we must first examine their history. Palestinians, along with other laborers from Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, India, and Pakistan came to play a formative role in the development of Kuwait. When two-thirds of Palestinians became refugees in Kuwait, the workforce became economically dependent on them. Great opportunities existed for educated Palestinians to play key roles as engineers, doctors, teachers, and civil servants in the state’s fledgling bureaucracy after the state officially received independence from Great Britain in 1961.
Palestinians in Kuwait totaled 400,000 of Kuwait’s 2 million population, making them the largest immigrant population in the country pre-Gulf War.
Palestinians remained in the underdeveloped nature of Kuwait in the mid-1950s, which was an inhabited fertile ground for the regrouping and rebirth of a modern Palestinian national movement after the Nakba. Palestinians were socialized together in Kuwait in an environment where they were newly created refugees, proletarianized, and exploited by their Kuwaiti masters, yet were nonetheless able to lead a stable and sometimes prosperous existence.
Moreover, they were witness to the Arab world of the 1950s and 1960s, and its ongoing struggles with political ideologies such as Arab nationalism in its Nasserite and Baathist variations, to Arab communism and Islamism. Palestinians in Kuwait totaled 400,000 of Kuwait’s 2 million population, making them the largest immigrant population in the country pre-Gulf War. During the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, 200,000 Palestinians left Kuwait due to various reasons (fear of persecution, food shortages, medical care difficulties, financial shortages, fear of arrest, and mistreatment at roadblocks by Iraqis).
The center of the issue stemmed from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s support for former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the 1990-1991 Gulf War. However, on December 12, 2004, a top Palestinian official stated during his first visit to Kuwait, “We apologize over our stand towards Kuwait.” In 2012, 80,000 Palestinians were recorded living in Kuwait. In 2017, the Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanim, condemned the Zionist entity as “occupiers and murderers of children.”
In July 2018, Mansour al-Otaibi, Kuwait’s ambassador to the United Nations, condemned Israeli use of force “against unarmed Palestinian people” as “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” When Kuwait was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, its leadership expressed interest in possibly opening a Kuwaiti embassy in Palestine while also supporting the formation of an international protection force along the Gaza-Israel border to protect Palestinians in the besieged enclave.
Today, Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is miles ahead of other members of the Arab League. Kuwait’s position seems clear: Honor the Palestinian cause as expressed by Marzouq Al-Ghanim during the emergency meeting of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, which was held in Amman, Jordan in February of this year.
On August 17, 2020, the UAE normalized relations with Israel, offending Palestinians, and most Arabs all over the world. Some speculate that the move was to take a jab against Iran due to increased tensions earlier this year. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure – it harms the Arab world as we stand for the Palestinian cause and right of land and recognition. The situation seems to only benefit the western hegemonies and allies of Israel. According to Al-Qabas, a Kuwaiti newspaper, government sources confirm, “Kuwait maintains its position and will be the last country to normalize with Israel.”
As of August 18, 39 of Kuwait’s 50 parliamentarians signed a statement stressing their view against normalization with Israel.
In addition, another Gulf country, Qatar, has also remained “pro-Palestinian” for the most part in its foreign policy, as they continue their economic assistance to Gaza. The State of Qatar has also been hailed as strong diplomatic support for a two-state solution without challenging Israel, just as Kuwait has throughout 2018 and 2019. Parliamentarian Osama Al-Shaheen declared in late April of this year that “Kuwait is against any cultural, political, or social normalization with the ‘Zionist entity.’” This statement is emblematic of the relative autonomy of Kuwait‘s Islamist political opposition and their position in parliament.
As of August 18, 39 of Kuwait’s 50 parliamentarians signed a statement stressing their view against normalization with Israel. Beyond Kuwaiti officials, analysts, and academics, many citizens and residents in Kuwait have expressed their position on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and ultimately support for Palestinian independence. Both Kuwait and Palestine today have streets named after one another and deeply recognize and celebrate their national days.
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