In the wake of Arab Gulf states’ normalization of ties with Israel — spearheaded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — commercial passenger jets are crisscrossing previously unchartered flight paths, from Tel Aviv to Dubai and Bahrain, and from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.
That an overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and refugee camps abroad will forever be denied an opportunity to board an Etihad, Saudia, Emirates, or El Al operated aircraft is a reminder of how these so-called “peace deals” have delivered only further humiliation to the Palestinian people.
Worse still is the fact Israel is using these historic flights to add further insult to Palestinian injury. The Netanyahu government deliberately chose EL Al flight LY971, a Boeing 737, to mark the first-ever direct flight from Israel to the UAE on August 31, with a delegation of Israeli and American officials on board and the words “Making History” emblazoned on each seat’s headrest covering and complimentary fabric bag.
Above the cockpit window the word “Peace” was painted, but below Palestinians would notice a homage to “Kiryat Gat.” The displayed name gave reverence to an Israeli settlement constructed on the ruins of two Palestinian villages, whose residents were murdered and chased out by Jewish militias during the 1948 Palestinian exodus, also known as the Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe.
More than 500 Palestinian towns and villages were liquidated during the Nakba, alongside 700,000 Palestinians forcibly displaced and 13,000 killed.
All in all, more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages were liquidated during the Nakba, alongside 700,000 Palestinians forcibly displaced and 13,000 killed. It marked the culmination of a deliberate Zionist orchestrated military operation to ethnically cleanse the territory’s indigenous population.
Some years later, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan would boast, “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. . . . There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”
Entire Palestinian families were chased from their homes at gunpoint, fleeing from place to place without food, water, medicine, or shelter, with many of the elderly dying of exhaustion and thirst along the way. Today, survivors and their descendants count among the 7 million Palestinian refugees who have been scattered throughout the region, unable to return to their land and homes.
“Stories of survival are hardly told, yet that moment of trauma continues to define the lives of millions, condemned to a life of exile and rootlessness,” narrated Nooran Alhamdan, a Palestinian journalist, in a touching story of the forced exodus’ impact on her family. “The Nakba is alive in every child who lives under occupation in the West Bank or blockade in Gaza, in every Palestinian refugee who is condemned to the life of a refugee camp. It is ongoing.”
The Arab normalization deals have added further trauma to this ongoing Palestinian nightmare.
On October 19, a delegation of UAE government officials landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport aboard an Etihad Airways jet for the first time to mark the normalization of ties and formalize an agreement that will allow UAE citizens to travel to Israel without a visa and vice versa.
Emirate visitors will be granted the liberty to move freely within the Palestinian Territories and Jerusalem. Yet Palestinians are forced to obtain a permit from the Israeli government.
What this means is Emirate visitors will be granted the liberty to move freely within the Palestinian Territories and Jerusalem. Yet, at the same time, Palestinians are forced to obtain a permit from the Israeli government – that is if they qualify for one in the first place – should they wish to visit their own religious sites or family in Jerusalem.
Soon, hundreds of thousands of Arab tourists will have unrestricted access to the religious sites of Jerusalem’s Old City and will wander through Israeli cities and towns built on the ruins of ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages – now that the UAE and Israel have signed an agreement allowing 28 commercial flights per week between the two countries.
“The bilateral agreements that were announced today and the delegations that come and go, all of that offers the occupation a strength to escalate its aggression and its crimes against the Palestinian people and increases its intransigence and arrogance,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, told Al Jazeera.
When the UAE first signaled its intention to normalize relations with Israel, it did so on the premise that a “peace deal” would be accompanied with a promise by Israel to end its stated plan to annex the West Bank, but the ultimate agreement signed between the two parties contained no such provision.
Israel recently announced approval for a further 5,000 settlement units in the West Bank.
Israel recently announced approval for a further 5,000 settlement units in the West Bank, a move condemned by the European Union as a violation of international law, one that “further imperils the viability of a two-state solution to bring about a just and lasting peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
In other words, settlement expansion, or what amounts to informal “annexation” or entrenched occupation, continues to march full steam ahead, even before the ink used to sign these agreements has had a chance to dry.
The Palestinians have been given absolutely nothing in return for this Arab betrayal; no right of return, no change of status over Jerusalem, no freedom of movement, no halt to the Israeli settler colonial enterprise, no lifting of restrictions over Gaza or the West Bank, and no promise for a future independent state — nothing!
These Arab Gulf regimes are receiving plenty in return for their betrayal of the Palestinians, however, including increased revenues from bilateral trade deals, access to previously forbidden US and Israeli weapon systems, and a whitewashing of their appalling human rights records.
Future historians might very well look back on this moment in time as the beginning of the Arab Zionist movement.