Yesterday at the Palestine rally I attended, the organizers gave a platform to Dr. Ibrahim Abo Mohammad, the Grand Mufti of Australia, who most people don’t know, supports the Saudi war on Yemen by the way, putting him objectively in the camp of Israel, even though I’m sure he thinks of himself as a friend of Palestine. In 2016 he issued a statement urging Muslims to “stand in solidarity and support with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” because the Yemeni resistance movement Ansarullah fired ONE missile back, after an entire year of being besieged, starved and bombed by the Saudi-led coalition.
A few days ago the Ansarullah movement spokesman Mohamad Ali al-Houthi tweeted: “I call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their alliance to accept the unification of forces in Ma’rib from the two parties in a parallel line, stop the battle and go all towards al-Aqsa.” The Yemeni national resistance led by Ansarullah is demanding the Saudis stop spending billions of dollars slaughtering Yemenis, and use that money to help Palestine instead. Why can’t the Grand Mufti get behind this demand if he’s interested in the Palestinian cause, especially when he’s the citizen of a country that arms Saudi Arabia?
The reason why has deep historic roots. Ever since the rise of the Ottoman Turks in the early 16th century, Yemen, which was previously rich, was transformed into the ‘third world’ of the Arab world. The EXACT same process by which Britain looted India was applied by the Ottomans against the people of Yemen. In the 16th century the Ottoman governor of occupied Yemen, Ridwan Pasha, raised taxes eightfold, provoking the Zaydi rebellion led by Imam al-Mutahhar, which sent 73,000 Ottoman invaders home in coffins, many of them Arabs, mainly from Egypt, from where the Grand Mufti hails.
The regional distribution of wealth served Istanbul the most, but also residually served the port cities of the eastern Mediterranean in modern day Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt, whereas Yemen was taxed into poverty, and that’s because the Ottoman state cared only for its strategic location, not its people. Don’t get me wrong, as someone from Kerala (India), it would be hypocritical of me not to include that my ancestors benefited from Ottoman strategy, which was to form a coalition with other Indian Ocean powers to counter the Portuguese naval terrorist threat. But the fiscal burden was disproportionately imposed on Yemen to pay for that strategy, which is what triggered the Zaydi rebellion. The free Yemenis from the highlands fought and died heroically under their Zaydi Imams, while the merchant classes of Yemen submitted to the occupation.
Nothing much has changed. Today Turkey holds no consistent position on Yemen. When it wants to undermine the Saudis, it uses its media organs to call for the recognition of the revolutionary government in Sana’a, but more recently this year there was talk of Turkey sending mercenaries to help the Saudis in Yemen. Despite all the backstabbing, including from Hamas which supported the Saudis in 2015 albeit unenthusiastically, the Ansarullah movement is staunchly behind Palestine, and they’re paying heavily for it.