The announcement of the Israeli-UAE agreement, last week, provoked feelings of anger and resentment in Palestine. Marches and stands in protest of the agreement are still being organized across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and in the 1948 territories. On social media, accounts haven’t stopped citing “The Ten Commandments” by Egyptian poet Amal Dunqol:
Until existence returns to its due course;
Stars to their timing,
Birds to their voices,
Sands to their grains,
And the murdered to his awaiting child”
For millions of Palestinians and Arabs, the Israeli-UAE agreement represents the normalization of an injustice. An injustice that means no less than the distortion of the due course of existence itself, and that hasn’t been corrected since 1948. Such distortion of reality reached its maximum expression in 1969, when Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meyer declared, to the face of the entire world, that “there is not and never has been such a thing as a Palestinian people”. A claim which is continuously repeated, to this day, by Israeli politicians and pro-Israeli intellectuals, with little or no response.
From Jabotenski to Camp David
Amal Dunqol wrote his verses at a time when the government of Egypt, his country, was preparing to become the first Arab state to normalize relations with the occupation state. A time in which the Palestinian cause was being increasingly isolated, when the Zionist narrative of history prevailed internationally. In the Western world, the State of Israel was still being viewed by a large majority as the fair reparation to the Jewish people for the Nazi Holocaust. In the Arab world, solidarity with Palestine went no further than rhetoric. The Palestinian resistance was caught-up in the Lebanese Civil War, while the largest and most influential Arab country was negotiating peace, away from Palestinian grievances, under the auspice of the US.
The Camp David Accords with Egypt were a real historical break-through for the state of Israel. One reason for this is that Egypt had fought Israel repeatedly since 1948, and both were, until the signature of the Accords, at a state of war that kept half of the Israeli army busy on its southern front. Another reason is that Egypt was the leading country of the Arab World, with the largest resources and population, and it housed the headquarters of the Arab League. Most importantly, because this peace accord represented, for Israel at least, the fruit of a decades-long strategy that stood on two pillars: First, the adoption of the Zionist narrative by the entire Western World, including in popular culture. This meant necessarily the complete absence of the Palestinian side of the story. Second, the breaking of the Arab (and eventually the Palestinian) front into two camps; one of the radicals and one of the moderates, as the outcome of what the Zionist leader and theoretician Vladimir Jabotenski called in 1923 “The Iron Wall”.
The End of the Iron Wall
Jabotenski’s Iron Wall concept has been Israel’s political and military doctrine since its creation. It follows a simple principle; to close in front of Palestinians every chance of influencing their own destiny, through the use of excessive force in response to each one of their actions, until they begin to give up trying, and start to accept the Zionist colonial project (Jabotenski himself called it colonial) as a reality. This policy would lead to the emergence of a Palestinian leadership that is willing to negotiate under Israel’s conditions. One that would accept the Zionist narrative about Palestine. However, even in the most extremist vision of Jabotenski himself, the end goal of the Iron Wall was to achieve definitive normalization of the Zionist colonial reality, with Palestinian acceptance. In other words, a liquidation of the Palestinian Cause by Palestinians themselves. This, according to Jabotenski would be the fulfillment of the Zionist project and the end of the conflict.
Almost a century later, things don’t seem to have gone as planned. The show put up by the Trump Administration earlier in February, with the declaration of the Trump Plan for peace, demonstrated how much the Iron Wall has consumed itself as an ideology, without reaching its end goal. Thirty years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, which was seen at the time by Israeli politicians as the success of the Iron Wall, Israel and the US failed to find a single Palestinian to accept the final liquidation of the Palestinian Cause. Therefore, Trump and Netanyahu had to make their “deal” solely with themselves. In response to the Palestinians’ insistence to hold on to their inalienable right of return; Jerusalem as capital; and Palestinian self-determination; the Israeli leadership has given up on the idea of obtaining an official Palestinian submission. This couldn’t be any clearer when the Government of Israel announced last April its intent to unilaterally annex a third of the West Bank, despite international condemnation.
An Outdated Narrative
Yet, things have been changing for Israel internationally as well. Across the world, the Zionist narrative has been falling apart. Especially in the West, where Israel has traditionally had its safe reserve of support. The Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions – BDS movement marks its 15th anniversary this year, with an unprecedented presence worldwide, and with large support by civil society groups, social movements, religious communities, and even pop-culture figures from all five continents, including many Jewish organizations and notable individuals.
The judicial victory of three BDS activists before German courts, known as the Humboldt-3, last month, is clear evidence of to which extent things have changed for the Zionist discourse in its own backyard. The ruling of the European Court for Human Rights in favor of 12 BDS French activists, last June, declaring the boycott of Israel as legitimate freedom of expression, also proves that the Palestinian Narrative is more internationally present than ever, and its presence is growing.
A Leadership in Crisis
With this new reality in mind, Israeli leadership is facing its own crisis too. Netanyahu is desperately searching for opportunities to remain in power and to avoid accountability for accusations of corruption. At the same time, in the White House, Donald Trump is running against time to secure his second term, which is to be decided next November. The unconventional president, whom Barack Obama described, last Wednesday, as “treating the US presidency as another reality show”, has reached out to his last and most faithful resort; the Gulf States, to grant him a free achievement.
This time it was the UAE’s turn to come to his aid. An oil-rich monarchy whose population comprises of 80 percent expats, living there for work. A country with virtually no civil society or any counter-power to its government. A government that is willing to accept any commercial opportunity, before its oil reserves run out, and before the Chinese Silk Road strips it of its commercial significance. Most importantly, the UAE is a state that has been a staunch US ally since its founding, and as such has never been politically at odds with Israel. Its “peace” agreement with the Occupying Power, described by both Netanyahu and Trump as “historical” can hardly be considered a surprise.
A Changing World
Perhaps the only awkward fact in this story is the Arab silence, and the lack of an Arab response to the UAE’s normalization, unlike the Arab reaction to Egypt’s Camp David Accords, forty-four years ago. At that time, Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, and its headquarters were moved to Tunis. However, the Israeli-UAE agreement was met with no response on the official level by Arab states, apart from declarations by Kuwait and Tunisia that they will not follow the UAE’s steps. This Arab silence would never have been possible without the division of the Arab world and its drowning in endless destructive conflicts. This speaks to the dystopian reality in which Israel can only achieve any normalization or acceptance of its colonial apartheid regime in the region, especially when all over the world, it is becoming increasingly discredited.
The order of existence hasn’t regained its due course yet, to quote Amal Dunqol once more, because Palestine is not free yet. Nonetheless, things are changing fast. Today’s world isn’t any longer the world of Jabotenski or that of Golda Meyer. The Palestinian struggle is no longer isolated, even if it looks like it is on the level of state policies. In today’s world, states no longer make history alone. On a grassroots level, the Palestinian cause is being received and adopted by a global, diverse, and growing citizen movement, where the Occupying Power can no longer hide its true face. By resorting to autocratic states, far-right populist leaders, and desperate self-negotiated deals, and peace treaties with no enemies, Israel’s colonial project reveals how much, underneath all its military might, it is weaker than thought.