Over the past few months, an international political farce has unfolded among some Arab states – the UAE, Bahrain, and most recently Sudan – announcing the normalization of their ties with Israel. Western policymakers and governments have celebrated this Arab-Israeli normalization. However, the Arab people – in grassroots movements, in the streets, and across social media platforms – have been shaming and delegitimizing these political developments, which they say have been dictated by the unelected regimes of these states, and do not reflect the will of their citizens. The disappointment of Emiratis, Bahrainis, Sudanese, and many other Arabs, shows they consider these peace deals and normalization in all its forms as a betrayal.
For most Palestinians and Arabs, the normalization of relations between Gulf states and Israel came as no surprise. For many years, they have seen the governments of the UAE and Bahrain as normalizers with Israel, unofficially and covertly. The only difference now is they are clearly not ashamed to say it publicly. The UAE argued that as part of its normalization deal, it extracted a promise from Israel to halt its plans to annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank in July.
Israel annexed the West Bank de facto long ago, and has continued to treat the area as a sovereign Israel territory since the Gulf state deals.
Yet, Israel annexed the West Bank de facto long ago, and has continued to treat the area as a sovereign Israel territory since the Gulf state deals. Over the last 52 years, the Israeli government has built over 200 settlements and outposts, and has transferred over 620,000 Jewish Israeli settlers to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in clear violation of international law. Their destructive impact has shaped the life of every Palestinian in the occupied West Bank.
We are still not talking about the continuous massacres and crimes against humanity in the besieged and unlivable Gaza Strip. Israel has broken the promises it made in the Oslo Accords of 1993. It has ignored proposals such as the Arab Peace initiative of 2002, which required Israel to withdraw its illegal settlements from the West Bank and all Arab territories occupied since June 1967 and enable a just solution to the question of Palestinian refugees, including a constructive proposal such as the One Secular State for all people where every Israeli and Palestinian enjoys equality, justice, and dignity .
This isolation of Palestine is only feeding a fire lit by the Trump administration’s disastrous policies and other Western powers’ silence, neutrality, and complicity, adding insult to injury. For decades, Western governments have done their best to legitimize their top-down approach to peace, that has nothing to do with conditions on the ground. Instead, it fuels local anger at the West’s failure to acknowledge the Palestinian right to self-determination and their right of return, and the abysmal lack of effort to tackling the settler colonial policies, Israeli criminality, and apartheid existing in Israel/Palestine under Israeli colonial control.
Meanwhile, the longest military occupation in the world continues. Millions of Palestinian refugees registered with the chronically underfunded United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) live in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, with more exiled around the planet since 1948. They all now feel abandoned by the latest cynical moves of the Arab states which once claimed to be their supporters.
Opposition to any kind of normalization with Israel is connected to the long history of Israeli oppression of Palestinians and Arabs.
Opposition to any kind of normalization with Israel is connected to the long history of Israeli oppression of Palestinians and Arabs, and to the question of achieving a just peace for the Palestinians. It is a decades-long stand of people of conscience in order to counter Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Arabs do not view Israel as a regular neighboring country, but as a colonizer of Palestine, an aggressor for many decades, and an occupier of other Arab territories including the Syrian Golan Heights and southern Lebanon.
Treating Israel as a “normal” state means normalizing its colonial domination over the Palestinians. Neglecting to continuously speak out on behalf of Palestinians and demand their human rights, as the governments of the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan have chosen to do, is the clearest violation of the anti-normalization calls. The latest deals with Israel will not bring regional stability, but rather more mistrust, anger, and chaos. It is not about advancing a just peace in the region, but about complicity between Israel and oppressive Arab monarchies and dictatorships. Trump, far-right parties, and Israel are the only ones benefiting from the normalization deals.
Palestinians reject the idea of co-existence with Israeli oppression, occupation, and apartheid as means to establish moral peace and political trust. All who believe in real peace should oppose official normalizations such as those we have recently seen. Nevertheless, we must work to bring about people-to-people “normalization” that can bring a lasting peace, without which Israeli apartheid, occupation, annexation, settlement-building, and other human rights violations will continue.
We must work to bring about people-to-people “normalization” that can bring a lasting peace.
For decades, the Palestinians have invited and welcomed everyone who believes in justice, including Jews and courageous Israelis who reject their state’s policies, to join the resistance to Israeli apartheid and oppression, and contribute to laying the foundations of a genuine peace that will last for centuries.
A radically just and peaceful future can be established if we tackle the heart of the issue. The ideology of Zionism must be dismantled, as it is ultimately harmful to Jews as well as Palestinians. The list of changes Israel must make in order to be exonerated and viewed as part of the region rather than a large Western settlement amid Arab countries, is long, though not impossible.
Yet it is inconceivable to imagine any normalization without the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab lands, ending Israeli apartheid, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes. It is a bottom-up organic approach owned by the Arab and Palestinian people that will bring a just peace and reconciliation to the daughters and sons of colonized Palestine.