Legitimising Israel

A new wave of normalisation in the greater Middle East adds insult to Palestine’s injuries

Azhar Azam July 26, 2022
The writer is a private professional and writes on geopolitical issues and regional conflicts

After 15 years of Israel’s ruthless land, air and sea blockade of Gaza — which ensued from the US’s failure to anticipate Hamas’s win in the Palestine legislative election of 2006, bringing forth their covert Middle East mission to buck up ‘putschist’ Mohammed Dahlan to destroy Hamas militarily — the Palestinian coastal enclave is still the major casualty of Israeli repression for they voted out Fatah against the will of Israel and the US.

According to the UN, nearly 80% of people of the besieged territory are in dire need of humanitarian assistance as half of the 2 million population lives in poverty — with 80% of unemployed youth. The Save the Children foundation paints a bleak picture of children, four out of five of whom are growing up in a climate of ‘depression, grief and fear.’ Over the last one and a half decade, children in the world’s largest open-air prison have endured five major escalations and a pandemic. While 800,000 children have not known life without the blockade, economic deprivation, lack of access to essential services such as healthcare, and incessant threats to their lives have added to their misery. Temporary reactive mutism, a symptom of trauma and abuse, is prevalent among them. Poor hygiene due to inadequate access to clean water and sanitation increases the risk of infection and antibiotic resistance in Gazans. The beleaguered Palestinians are scarily waiting for the apartheid state’s next power display so that the international community can yet again pay lip service to Israeli tyranny before redeploying focus on Ukraine.

It was in May 2021 when the oppressive Israeli forces launched its last major offensive on Gaza that led to the death of more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, and the destruction of 1,800 houses. Air raids in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank is a quintessential pastime of the Israeli assailants who continue to hunt down Palestinians to quench their thirst for human blood. The scale and magnitude of ‘sorrow and despair’ the West feels for Gaza is far lesser than what they feel for Ukraine because Palestine like Afghanistan and Iraq isn’t ‘civilized’ and the majority of Palestinians don’t have blonde hair or blue eyes. Unlike the Ukrainians, whose video of Molotov cocktails was telecasted on mainstream media to project their right of self-defence, Israel has the privilege to exercise punitive expeditions against Palestinians without stint.

Israel’s allies delegitimise Palestine’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and bill it as anti-Semitic. They, at the same time, support and bully nations to back the isolation campaign against Russia and to exclude the Kremlin from international bodies and the world economy. This is a perfect illustration of blatant Western hypocrisy that is smitten with racial profiling or white supremacy.

A new wave of normalisation in the greater Middle East adds insult to Palestine’s injuries. Several Arab states have already established diplomatic relations under the Abraham Accords with Israel and others are lining up to follow the course. EU’s gas deal with Egypt and Israel during a regional summit in Cairo aimed at punishing Russia’s economy, shows how the West manipulates between respect for human rights laws and self-interests. The EU embargo on Russian oil may cut “a huge source of financing for its war machine.” The tripartite treaty to buy natural gas from Israel, to be liquefied in Egyptian plants, provides transactional immunity to Israeli jets, tanks and bulldozers to target the confined men, women and children in Gaza, and then make them starve to death by destroying their farmlands. Another Palestine’s staunch ally, Turkey, is warming up toward Israel. After 15 years, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Israel last month to normalise ties and address disagreements. Earlier in March, Israeli President Isaac Herzog reached Ankara where Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan described his visit as a ‘turning point’ and the country’s relationship with Israel as ‘historic’.

Turkey insists its normalisation will be antithetical to Gulf rapprochement with Israel, arguing it would augment Ankara’s role in a two-state solution. Yet, Turkey’s appeasing and submissive posture, craving for energy cooperation with Israel, is akin to endorsing Israeli crimes of apartheid and persecution, in turn putting a big question mark over its commitment to the Palestinian cause.

In the 1990s, after the signing of the Oslo Accords — through which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) handed over 78% of Palestinian land to Israel and gave legitimacy to the Jewish state — several Gulf states including Qatar, Bahrain and Oman established diplomatic connections with Israel even as the reconciliation disintegrated in 2000 and tensions flared following the second intifada. Saudi Arabia’s proposed Arab Peace Initiative in 2002 paired normalisation with the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state — the plan de facto lent legitimacy to the Israeli state. After Egypt and Jordan stepped back from the Khartoum Resolution to recognise Israel; UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco forged diplomatic relations with Israel.

Meanwhile, Iran’s intervention in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen to expand region-wide influence as well as tactics to leverage Palestine for negotiations with the US has deepened the prospect of any regional consensus on Palestine. Tehran has been selling its ‘resistance’ narrative via its proxy Hezbollah, while avoiding a direct conflict with Israel and playing the Palestine card to ‘garner popular support’ in the wider Gulf.

Given there haven’t been any serious peace talks between Palestine and Israel for more than a decade and all countries compete with one another as to how to best exploit Palestine to its own advantage, the Middle East’s promise to Palestine is almost dead. The PLO retraction from its historical position gave a walkover to Israel. The ongoing covert and overt connections between Arab states and Israel, spurred by Iran’s pursuit of regional dominance, will alas be the last nail in the coffin for Palestinian independence.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2022.

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