As these words are being written, the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are in Washington DC to sign agreements to normalize relations between their countries and the state of Israel. While the United States and Israel were represented by President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Arab states sent their foreign ministers to represent their countries at the signing ceremony. This may have less to do with protocol and more to do with the fact that both Trump and Netanyahu are fighting for their political lives and for them, this was a much needed public relations stunt.
Today’s spectacle was a far cry from the resolute, principled, and courageous stance that was presented by Arab leaders in Khartoum almost exactly 53 years ago. In the aftermath of the Israeli assault on Arab lands in 1967, even as the gun barrels were still smoking, a meeting of the heads of the Arab states was convened in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. This meeting brought about a courageous resolution that said no to recognition, no to negotiations, and no to peace with Israel. The Arab armies of Egypt, the largest of all the Arab states, Syria and Jordan were demolished completely, close to 18,000 Arab soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands of civilians were made homeless, and yet the leaders of the Arab states stood and said, “no” to the mighty aggressor, Israel.
The resolution of the Arab states to reject the brutal apartheid regime of Israel was accepted in August of 1967, at the Arab League summit just two months after Israel had decimated the armies of three Arab states and had violently taken the Golan Heights from Syria, the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and had completed the conquest of Palestine by taking the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
That resolution, which later became known as the “Three No’s,” is still used by Zionist propagandists to demonstrate the Arab states’ unwillingness to make peace with Israel, and recognize the so-called Jewish State. However, in light of the deadly Israeli assault on these countries, their unwillingness to capitulate was heroic. What is unfortunate, however, is the success of the Zionist movement to reverse the Arab commitment to Palestine. Step by step, starting with the largest Arab state, Egypt, then Jordan, and now with the Gulf States and even Sudan, the Arab regimes have been “normalizing” relations with Israel.
If one could imagine themselves as the head of an Arab state just for a moment, what would that be like? One would see that the Arab countries that were steadfast in their support of the Palestinian cause are now destroyed. Starting with Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. The punishment for those who did not capitulate willingly was severe. Further afield is Iran, and while for the moment it is safe from an all-out military attack, mostly because the U.S. and Israel are incapable of facing the Iranian forces head-on, it is suffering greatly from severe sanctions.
Relations with Israel provide access to much desired U.S.-made weapons and other perks such as security and economic cooperation. As a leader of an Arab state, what choice would one make? Commentators on CNN repeatedly said that the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain, and possibly other Arab states that will be normalizing relations with Israel soon, decided to put the Palestinian issue behind them and focus on other issues like economic cooperation, tourism, and to place the needs and indeed the future of their own countries ahead of the Palestinian issue.
It is easy to criticize the Arab states for turning their back on their Palestinian brothers and sisters. However, larger and more influential countries are no different. Russia, the European Union, China, and India all conduct a great deal of business with Israel and have long since forgotten about the Palestinians. Israel has successfully taken the Palestinian issue off the world stage. Regardless of how often Israel attacks Gaza or how viciously it attacks, regardless of how many Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons and how severe the conditions in which Palestinians live, Israel succeeded in getting the world to look the other way.
There have been reports about popular resistance in Bahrain by groups who oppose the normalization of relations with Israel and rightfully see it as a betrayal of the Palestinian people. The expectation is that these voices will be silenced quickly by the Bahraini government.
Furthermore, Kuwaiti government sources announced that “Kuwait’s position towards Israel is unchanged after its accord with the United Arab Emirates.” Kuwaiti officials also denied Israeli flights to fly through Kuwaiti airspace.
Israel’s attempts to build alliances go beyond the Arabian peninsula and into Africa as well. The Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdokmet recently met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who visited Sudan following a trip to meet Israeli officials in Jerusalem. Israel was Pompeo’s first stop in a tour designed to convince more Arab countries to normalize ties with the Zionist state. Furthermore, reports confirm that the US secretary of State’s visit to Khartoum was meant to discuss relations between Sudan and Israel.
The Sudanese Prime Minister told Pompeo that his government “had no mandate to normalize ties with Israel,” and he added that the subject of lifting Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list should not be linked to normalizing ties with Israel. Clearly, removal from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list is the carrot Pompeo is offering Sudan.
Following the meeting, the U.S. State Department said in a statement that Pompeo and Hamdok discussed “positive developments in the Sudan-Israel relationship,” which should come as no surprise. It is hard to imagine that the Sudanese leadership can afford to refuse an offer from the U.S., certainly one as attractive as lifting the designation of State Sponsor of Terrorism, which will open doors and allow for economic growth for the African nation.
Now, let’s return for a moment and imagine ourselves as the head of an African or Arab nation. The choice is submission and relations with the Israeli apartheid regime, which will lead to new economic possibilities, or maintaining a firm, principled stance, and suffering destruction by war or slow suffocation through sanctions.
Feature photo | From left, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-NahyanAbraham, stand on the Blue Room Balcony during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington. Alex Brandon | AP
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”