Attack on Gaza Unmasks the Backstabbers in Arab World

The rapprochement between Israel and some Arab nations became a way for Israel and other stakeholders to come out as winners in the Middle East’s political scorecard, with no benefit to Palestine.

“Don’t shoot, there are children over there! My son is there!” a helpless Palestinian father yells near Jaffa Gate. “Whoever is out at this time is not a child” is what the officer replies. Another fires a stun grenade for no reason. 

At a time when Palestinians should be celebrating Eid, they are confronting heavy shelling and violence. “Let the world and history witness this; there are grenades inside Al Aqsa Mosque. They are suffocating us,” screams a distressed Palestinian man in a video as Israeli soldiers attacked the worshipers with stun guns, rubber bullets, and tear gas, inside the mosque. This took place ahead of the Jerusalem Day march and that too even after the Israeli authorities had given permission for the march. Above 300 Palestinians were injured.

 

A Palestinian confronts an Israeli policeman by the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City. [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

What happened next is the death (as of this writing) of nearly 200 people, including 59 children and 35 women in relentless aerial attacks between Israel and Hamas, as part of retaliation in Gaza. Israel saw 10 bodies, including two children. What is even more scary is that this could lead to full-scale war (Gaza War) like those of 2009, 2012, and 2014 that had thousands of casualties. “Israel bears all responsibility for the consequences after igniting a fire in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa,” says Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.

If they (Israel) want to escalate, the resistance is ready; and if they want to stop, the resistance is ready,” says Hamas leader.

Meanwhile, Hamas’ military strength in the recent attack on Tel Aviv shocked the entire world. While Iran assisted with designing and funding the rockets, Turkey provided the financial backing.

Ranging from shorter-range systems like the Qassam and the Quds 101 to long-range systems like the M-75, the R-160, and the Fajr, Hamas has a massive inventory that can cover both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The majority of Hamas’ arsenal comes from an advanced and dynamic capability inside the Gaza Strip with much-needed assistance from Iran.

But a conflict is about equal power. This is definitely not a conflict. On one side, there are fighter jets, a state-of-the-art anti-missile defense system, nuclear weapons, the so-called “Iron Dome” and the billions of dollars of military aid by the US (the Biden administration additionally approved a $735 million weapons sale to Israel).

The other side has no tanks, no aid, no nuclear weapons, no Navy or Army. The rockets that were fired were part of retaliation for years of systematic abuse, apartheid, theft of land and homes and tear-gassing the Palestinians in the mosque and they did not even penetrate the multi-billion dollar Israeli defense system. It is not about who saw more bodies but it is about the power dynamics. It is about resistance to oppression. Whenever you put Hamas under the scanner, you equalize state violence with retaliation of the powerless.

The Israeli army also informed that they would target elementary schools. What part of Israeli “self-defense” can blowing up a refugee camp, residential buildings, and media offices be? They were not terrorist hideouts. As an occupying force, Israel does not have the right to use military force in self-defense against its occupied territory. More than 300 families are evacuating Gaza. “They call us now before dropping the bombs,” a few Palestinian families told the media.

We cannot sleep at all. We pass out in fatigue,” a Palestinian resident wrote on Twitter.

Some sources have informed Core Middle East that the Palestinians are running out of food and essentials, and it is too dangerous to even step out of the house even during emergencies. The stores are closed due to the military offensive in Gaza. “We don’t have any option, we trust in Allah” is all they say.

Who benefits from this and how: From illegal detention without any charge or trial to shooting the unarmed, Israel has always bypassed its international commitments in terms of peace and security. Ignoring all Israeli breaches, the world silently watched as Palestine shrank and Israel expanded with the latest being the occupation of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. 

If we take Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to get an election outcome for a coalition government and his trial on serious corruption charges that might even drag him to jail if he does not retain his power, the latest turmoil in Gaza is politically useful to him.

Even though Israel’s Arab allies had condemned the attack, and the US, Europe, and the UN called for the restoration of peace and order, we all know that this ship sailed long ago. This needs a little more than just condemnations. As former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said, the Israeli breaches need action and not some summit meeting or condemnation. The recent attack is not just a Palestinian problem but a collective (Arab and Islamic). 

But where are the Arab leaders and billionaires now? 

The Gulf Arab-Israeli normalization or the Abraham Accords only served the short-term interests of the leaders of UAE, Israel, Bahrain, and the US, and hardly reflected the sentiments of the average Arab population in the region.

Speaking to Core Middle East, Syrian scholar and co-founder of the Global Campaign for Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution, Yasser Munif, said: “Arab countries are run by dictators who believe that establishing good relationships with Israel and the US will help them stay in power.

“Their populations, on the other hand, oppose these agreements and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. It is possible that in the coming months or years we see popular protests against them including a boycott of Israeli products.”

Officially, the Gulf countries maintain that they believe in the Arab peace initiative, which calls for a separate Palestinian state and supports the idea of Palestine’s legitimate rights to self-determination and also says that normalization depends on Israel accepting the same; we know, however, that this is not the case. For instance, the Saudi government denies conducting any business with Israel; however, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia was planning to hire an Israeli data expert for its counter-terrorism policies after a former Israeli intelligence officer got a call for help from Saudi Arabia. This is just one case. It is not hard to imagine what goes behind closed doors. 

For the Gulf nations, it was about their own strategic interests and economic benefits in terms of Israeli investments, advanced weapons, or diplomatic favors. What they did is just accept the regional order and agreements brokered by the US, to save themselves and unite to contain Iran. Trump’s “Deal of the Century” only unmasked the backstabbers and gave an upper hand to Israel. It became a powerful prop to fuel Trump’s re-election campaign. The Arab countries that signed these peace agreements with Israel had built relationships with the latter for years. What they are doing now is simply making these relationships public. In the meantime, the Palestinians were betrayed and left out.  

Former US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal looks ironic as he declared the Arab-Israeli conflict over. He wrote, “New friendly relations were flowering between Jews and Arabs…We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

These countries had sealed the deal last year promising their people that the “normalization” of relations would put pressure on Israel into stopping its violent persecution of Palestinians. However, the lies stand bare now and those countries that were coerced into signing the accord are now condemning the acts. Even Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel in the past, condemned the May 10 attack.  

Israel has benefited from other countries meddling in Arab and Islamic countries and the chaos that followed; a lack of coordination and differences of opinion have just upped the ante for Israel and its regional projects.

Even though the Arab League held an urgent session following the May 1o attack at Palestine’s request, institutions like this and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League itself are not that effective and have no unity. This has always been very advantageous for Israel. The latest UNSC meeting on Sunday also ended abruptly without any conclusive resolution to defuse the crisis.

Negotiations in the past have not paid any dividends and we have seen how the US and other Western countries have always acted as plaint states of Israel. On the other hand, the Arab world doesn’t have the military might to challenge Israel. The Israel Defence Force (IDF) has coerced them, and frankly, they don’t possess the dynamic leadership that could stand for the oppressed,” Fidato, a history student from Pakistan, told Core Middle East.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours

Some of the major reasons for the Arab world to sell Palestine out are regional security and the belief that the Palestinian issue is going nowhere, and the rise of national identities over a united Arab one. Speaking to Core Middle East, Dr. Kaushikee, Honorary Director at Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, JMI in New Delhi, said: “Everybody is looking for an opportunity here and Israel is a powerful player in the Middle East. Hence, all Arab countries are trying one on one with Israel and many are also trying to get out of their conservative regimes.”

Everybody is looking for an opportunity here and Israel is a powerful player in the Middle East. Hence, all Arab countries are trying one on one with Israel and many are also trying to get out of their conservative regimes.”

Israel had signed a number of agreements with historically hostile Gulf countries, keeping Iran in its sights. It had proposed the formation of a defense alliance with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE, which sparked a lot of speculation on if the former is trying to create a misunderstanding between Iran and Arab countries.

Israel signed many deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE in terms of health, agriculture, and tourism. Israel is also trying to maintain a cordial relation with Egypt since the peace treaty was signed in 1979 and both have followed the security arrangement in place since then. This strategic cooperation through the creation of lobbies coupled with vested interest has increased Israel’s stake in peace with the Arab world and reduced the chances of any conflict for that matter. 

It tried to be an ally when it saw fit but ended up being called a “war nation” for what it is doing to Palestine. As stated before, Israel is ready to cooperate even in terms of social media monitoring. Even big players wary of the human rights record of the Gulf countries have taken a step back in this case. In a desperate move, Israel also purchased the Covid-19 vaccine from Russia under a prisoner exchange deal for Syria, an ally of Iran. So, Israel is trying its level best to manipulate even the countries hostile to it by trying to soften their attitude towards it. 

Since the inauguration of direct flights, many Israeli tourists have visited Abu Dhabi. Also, a royal from Emirates bought a huge stake in an Israeli soccer team, which is contrary to the whole anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment that it had been accused of. This is how Israel gained acceptance without having to compromise much. The rapprochement between Israel and some Arab nations was supposed to be a step towards independence for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but became a way for Israel and other stakeholders to come out as winners in the Middle East’s political scorecard, with no benefit to Palestine.

The latest affirmation of Turkey to stand by Palestine only amplifies how non-Arab countries have always used the Palestinian cause to project themselves as regional leaders. In this case, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seized the opportunity. He says, “If Jerusalem falls, no other Muslim area will be safe, including Mecca, Madina, Riyadh, Istanbul, Islamabad, Jakarta, and Cairo.” 

Last year, moving past all disagreements over Tel Aviv’s occupation of the West Bank, Turkey was ready to normalize its relations with Israel but it never agreed to Israel’s policy on Palestine. Turkey was the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel, but relations between the two strained after an Israeli military operation known as the ‘Gaza flotilla raid’ in which 10 pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed and many were injured by Israeli commandos during the storming of a Turkish-owned ship. 

Achilles heel: Israel’s hubris that it is immune and can do whatever it wants without any objection from the international community became its biggest downfall. It fell in its own trap and its policies are now coming under scrutiny, globally. The latest attack on peaceful worshipers acted as the last nail in the coffin.

The moment Israel ended its “two-state” charade and declared the annexation of the Palestinian territories, it simply provided ammunition to those who already viewed it as an apartheid state. 

There has been declining support for Israel and growing support for Palestine, in the US and UK. Human rights groups have accused Israel of carrying out a regime of “apartheid” in the Palestinian territories and even though US President Joe Biden seems to be busy worrying about the ‘Iran deal’ more, senior leaders within the Democratic Party have raised their voice against Israel’s barbaric crimes against humanity.

Many parts of the world witnessed pro-Palestinian rallies and even the younger generations have started echoing the sentiments of the Palestinian people; instead of calling the Israel-Palestine issue a “conflict” or using euphemisms like “disputed territory”, they are using the terms “human rights violations”, “occupation”, “apartheid” and “colonization” and even “ethnic cleansing”.

 

A Palestinian man shouts slogans during a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah. REUTERS

 

The latest siege against Palestinians has also given a boost to the Palestinian-led movement promoting boycott, divestment, and economic sanctions against Israel (BDS). 

The Israel-Palestine conflict has been going on for more than 50 years now and Israel has used advanced weaponry and tortured innocent people who have no weapons or army but still has not managed to win. 

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