Controversial “peace” agreements between Israel and Gulf countries is also about exporting an Israeli agenda on the region.
Ever since the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain formalised ties with Israel under the guidance of US President Donald Trump, the regimes and their supporters have embarked on a propaganda campaign to promote their now official friendship.
They are celebrating “Arab-Israeli peace.” Their PR endeavors often justify the Gulf-Israeli alliance as being beneficial for Palestinians. But the reality is that the Gulf-Israeli friendship further isolates Palestine.
Pictures of the Israeli flag being proudly waved in Dubai have emerged on social media. Emirati influencers are promoting Tel Aviv as a fancy tourist destination.
Israeli diplomats and business people are meeting with their UAE counterparts. Benjamin Netanyahu and Ivanka Trump are sharing pictures on social media of Emirati and Israeli youth holding hands.
These propaganda efforts praise the “normalisation” as bringing coexistence, peace, stability, and prosperity to a reformed Middle East.
Such a narrative embraces Israeli, or Zionist, visions of peace for the coloniser, while normalising the ongoing oppression of indigenous Palestinians under the guise of “peace.”
In fact, the UAE and Bahrain have never been in a direct conflict with Israel. Rather, as US allies, these regimes are Israel’s natural partners.
Their so-called normalisation paves the way for an extension of an existing collaboration between regimes dependent on the United State that allow for increased economic and military cooperation - it is a business opportunity. But first and foremost, the ‘peace deal’ is a gift to Donald Trump ahead of the elections.
The UAE and Bahrain broke with the consensus of the Arab League, which viewed a just solution of the Palestinian question as a pre-condition for talks with Israel.
Yet, this now official alliance is being marketed as an opportunity for Palestinians. The UAE claimed that after the deal Israel had agreed to halt its annexation of the West Bank.
The annexation is illegal under international law. Following the deal, the Netanyahu regime reaffirmed its commitment to annexation. But the envisioned annexation is of course not the origin of the Palestinian suffering, Israel is also moving ahead with new settlement construction.
Now, the terms “peace talks” and “two state solution” have reentered the discourse. But these words have become empty of any meaning and are being deployed to prolong Israel’s domination over Palestine.
Palestine was never a complex diplomatic conflict. Nor is it necessarily an “Arab-Israeli” issue that could be eased through collaboration between unelected regimes. It is a struggle of indigenous people against a heavily armed and internationally-backed settler-colonial project.
Effectively, Israel has established a one-state solution on the ground, under full Israeli control. Israel’s military occupation, settlement expansion, and human rights abuses continue unhindered.
The expansion of settlements is crucial to Israel’s settler-colonial project. As a US proxy, the colony is closely tied to US goals in the region. With its strong military, economic, and religious interests, the US is invested in upholding Israel’s supremacy in the region and linking it to other US allies and proxies.
As a consequence, the new “peace” further normalises Israeli colonialism with the approval of some Arab governments.
The Palestinian struggle is further appropriated through the widespread promotion of Gulf-Israeli friendship as peace between different religions. In particular, the projection of a war between Muslims and Jews further distorts the Palestinian struggle.
The Israeli propaganda enterprise, or Hasbara, has adopted a pro-UAE perspective, with messages such as: “What a time to be alive: A Jew and a Muslim man sitting together in a Sukkah in Dubai, UAE.”
Some international media praised the latest developments as “the normalization of Jews and Judaism in an Arab and Muslim society” and even a “Jewish revolution.”
However, this presentation of the UAE as being friendly and empathetic towards Jews adheres to the wrong and oftentimes anti-Semitic equation of Jews with the state of Israel. The Palestinian struggle is not a religious conflict, despite efforts from Israel and its supporters to brand it as such.
The same macabre propaganda surfaced last week in Berlin, when German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas welcomed his Israeli and Emirati counterparts Gabi Ashkenazi and Abdullah bin Zayed for a photo op at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
According to Maas, they were “commemorating the victims of the Holocaust” in this “historic meeting.” Maas expressed his hope that “Berlin will be remembered as a milestone in a success story” for the UAE and Israel and would promote “peaceful coexistence in the Middle East,” “enormous opportunities,” and “great courage and vision.”
Of course, bin Zayed’s expression of sorrow over the Holocaust can be commended. The fact that this was done in the context of promoting relations with Israel suggests that his move was not necessarily just about commemorating the Holocaust victims.
At the meeting, Maas stressed that the “courageous peace deal” was “a chance” for the “dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.” Yet, no Palestinian was consulted nor invited.
In fact, these three diplomats couldn't care less about Palestinians. Germany is notorious for its staunch support of Israel’s human rights violations. Gabi Ashkenazi, former army chief, oversaw Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008/09, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed, more than 300 of whom were children.
Human rights and peace are hardly at the core of this alliance. Unsurprisingly, some German media praised the step as being of “high symbolic significance” and marking “a change in the attitude of single Arab states towards Israel.”
This change of attitude entails the UAE’s and Bahrain’s shift towards approaching the Palestinian question through a Zionist lens. Their ruling elites are not necessarily representative of their population.
The masses in Arab countries continue to support Palestinians in their struggle for liberation. Indeed, numerous protests against the normalisation have taken place. The regime in Bahrain, for example, has attempted to suppress dissent. These developments receive less attention in Western media.
Through the “normalisation” with, and of, Israel, the Emirati and Bahraini regimes have officially endorsed the colonial narratives of Zionism. There is indeed peace, coexistence, and prosperity today, but not for Palestinians and others suffering under brutal Israeli subjugation.
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