Rashid Khalidi: Victory for Arab Reaction

As per usual it was Amy Goodman of Democracy Now who alone had one of the most thoughtful persons on the Middle East  Rashid Khalidi speak  to the announcement  that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached an agreement to fully normalize relations after years of secretly working together on countering Iran and other issues.The UAE is the first Gulf Arab country to normalize relations with Israel and just the third country in the Arab world to do so, after Egypt and Jordan.

Rashid Khalidi, is the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, author of several books his latest, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine was interviewed  on August 14.

Rashid Khalidi       Edited

In a sense, this is  another campaign in the hundred years’ war on Palestine. This is a great victory for Arab reaction. It’s a great victory for the annexationist government in Israel. It’s also a boost for President Trump. The Trump regime, which is one of the most authoritarian in American history, has now gotten a diplomatic victory.

So, I don’t see that it has anything to do with peace, of course. The United Arab Emirates was never at war with Israel. On the contrary, it makes the chance of a just, equitable and sustainable peace much, much, much harder.

 Well, it came about partly because of the blowback against the Trump-Netanyahu plan to overtly annex territories, which, as Rashida Tlaib said, are already under Israeli control, and, as Netanyahu said, he still plans to annex. But the blowback was so severe that both Trump and Netanyahu were forced to recalibrate.

And this is something that has always been ongoing, the plan to bring the most reactionary, most absolute monarchies in the world into an open public alliance with Israel, as part of the Netanyahu-Trump obsession with Iran, which is something that these regimes are also obsessed with, given that they have — they do not depend on consent of the governed, they do not have any kind of domestic legitimacy, they’re anti-democratic. They are the forces that fight against democracy throughout the Arab world. The United Arab Emirates is not a force for peace. It’s at war with the people of Yemen. It’s at war in Libya. It has never been involved in a war with Israel.

So, this is making overt a relationship that was already covert. This is making even more salient an alliance against Iran, which is the wet dream of both Netanyahu and Trump, to dangle Iran in front of people’s eyes to distract them from the kinds of reactionary dictatorships or absolute monarchies. Those monarchies are so reactionary that they make Henry VIII and Louis XIV look like Tom Paine and Robespierre. They are the most absolute monarchies in the world today. The fact that the United States is supporting them is an absolute disgrace.

the United Arab Emirates has never been engaged in war with Israel. On the contrary, the United Arab Emirates’ air defenses, its missile defenses, are manufactured in Israel and are probably controlled from Israel. So, this is an ally of Israel in practice. It always has been. Now this has been made public.

Israel still  the coloniser

Whatever the president and his ambassador to Israel say, I would take Netanyahu at his word. There is no change in his plans. He said it. You ran a clip from him, speaking in Hebrew. They will continue the ongoing colonization of the West Bank. They will continue to control it absolutely. Israel will continue to be the only sovereign between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. And it will continue its discriminatory policies whereby Israelis have one set of laws and Palestinians, under occupation, basically have the law of the jungle, i.e. military occupation, military courts, in which everybody is always guilty and in which about 20% of the Palestinian population has been sent to prison. So, we’re talking about a jackboot regime which is going to be sustained and continued by this deal. That’s not peace. That’s continuation of colonization and occupation, whatever the president says.

Conflict with Iran?

Rone of the greatest falsehoods that these people peddle is this idea that there is a conflict between the Arabs and Iran. There is a conflict between nonrepresentative, anti-democratic regimes and Iran.Arab public opinion considers Israel a great danger. There are polls every couple of years, run by the Arab Center, which show that across a dozen Arab countries, the Arabs, the people, most of them unrepresented by these dictatorships and absolute monarchies, consider Iran a minor threat. It’s a problem, but it’s not the number one problem.

For these regimes, which have no domestic legitimacy, which do not depend on consent of the governed, of course Iran is a problem. Moreover, they need the United States and Israel, because they can’t defend themselves, given the fact that — against their people, let alone against external threats, because they have no domestic legitimacy.

So, I think this is not something between the Arabs and Iran. This is something between unrepresentative and undemocratic Arab regimes, notably the absolute monarchies of the Gulf, and Iran.

US Leadership

I think that the leadership of the Democratic Party, from Biden to Senator Harris to the people who run it, the Schumers and the Pelosis and the Clintons and the Obamas, all of them are behind the times. The Democratic Party, its base, the people who are going to vote for the Democrats and will hopefully defeat Trump in November and take back the Senate and increase the progressive trends in the House, don’t feel that way. They strongly believe that Israel should be sanctioned for its violations of Palestinian human rights. They don’t have the position that the Democratic Party leadership has.

This is not new, and it’s unfortunately been further entrenched by Biden and Harris becoming the nominees for the party. There were several other candidates — obviously, Senator Sanders and Senator Warren, but others — who had more nuanced positions, much more in tune with the base of the Democratic Party on this issue, on the issue of Palestine. So, a lot of work is going to be necessary to force a leadership, that is, as I’ve said, completely blind to Israel’s faults and doesn’t see the Palestinians, to do the right thing.