The normalization deals that Israel has cut with Gulf monarchies actually clarify the political work for western progressives: they need to build a coalition with Palestinians based on democracy and equality, authors Rashid Khalidi and Peter Beinart agreed today.
“The most absolute monarchies on earth are the ones that just made an agreement with Israel,” Khalidi said during an Arab Center conference. “There is a huge thirst for democracy in the Arab world…in Algeria, in Sudan, in Iraq, in Lebanon… and you have to align yourself with those forces.”
Beinart agreed that democracy was a “nice argument to have” in the U.S. because Gulf monarchies are “the last people on earth” who could inspire young Americans. “Congratulations, you have a kind of Jewish-Arab coalition for authoritarianism and for tyranny.”
Their comments are right on cue, because three days ago a prominent Emirati poet, Dhabiya Khamis Al-Muhairi, 62, reported that she feared for her life after being “prohibited by authorities from leaving Dubai International Airport to go to Cairo” because of her opposition to the normalization deal.
The remarks are also on cue because the Israel lobby has thrown itself into promoting the Gulf monarchies. Just yesterday Jewish Insider, a pro-Israel publication, had a conference call of its own in which it celebrated the United Arab Emirates as a beacon of progress.
During that call, Yousef Al Otaiba, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, made the risible claim that an authoritarian monarchy is more sensitive to public opinion, because it’s so… paternalistic.
Any country when they have to make a decision like this, they have to balance a variety of internal issues. One is economic. What are the benefits. Is trade and investment and job creation and flight– Is it enough?… Public opinion. Different countries have different public opinion inside about the relationship with Israel. People always think we don’t pay attention to public opinion inside the Emirates because we are not a democracy, and it’s actually quite the opposite. Because we’re not a democracy we have to be very in tune with what our people want and what the Street feel, and people really wanted this. This is not something that we are forcing against the popular will of the Emiratis who live in the country. There is a genuine energy that people are excited about this.
In that same panel, Democratic fundraiser and Israel supporter Haim Saban lauded Al Otaiba and the investment opportunities in the Gulf.
So this is what Israel is getting: rich friends who don’t care about democracy. No doubt the normalization deals are huge wins for Israel from the standpoint of power politics. But as Khalidi and Beinart note, they may actually make the grassroots struggle for Palestinian civil and human rights that much stronger.