Monday, October 26, 2020

  • Monday, October 26, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
Peter Beinart writes in the socialist Jewish Currents site:

ON OCTOBER 23RD, Donald Trump announced that Sudan would begin the process of normalizing relations with Israel. The declaration, which was part of a deal to remove Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terror, follows last month’s pledges by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to recognize the Jewish state. Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu have claimed that those peace deals—dubbed “The Abraham Accords”—will promote “human dignity and freedom” in the Middle East. 

Twelve days after the Abraham Accords were signed, a poet named Dhabiya Khamis tried to exercise her freedom to leave the UAE. Her government barred her from boarding the plane. “The ban is probably because of my announced opinion against Zionism and normalization,” Khamis declared. “I fear for my freedom and life from being threatened and arrested.” Those fears were well-founded. According to a report in Middle East Monitor, “scores of Emiratis, Palestinians and Jordanians living in the UAE” had already been jailed “for opposing Abu-Dhabi’s peace deal with Israel.”
I'm not going to defend the human rights record of any Muslim country, but there is absolutely no evidence that Khamis was blocked from leaving because of her political positions. She made that claim; it was eagerly repeated by Iranian media and skeptically quoted by BBC Arabic.

What is the proof that the UAE arrested opponents of the deal? Tracing back the source, it came from a very sketchy NGO called the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, which mentioned that some people from the UAE, Bahrain and Mauritania were arrested during protests against the Abraham Accords. Not one person arrested was named - the NGO stated that it received "complaints."

Based on these tenuous reports, Beinart reaches some conclusions:

Khamis’s experience illustrates a harsh truth: Although Israel’s diplomatic breakthroughs in the Persian Gulf have elicited bipartisan praise in Washington, they rely on—and contribute to—brutal repression. In Sudan, which is undergoing a fragile transition after three decades of dictatorial rule, normalization imperils democracy too. The reason is simple. In a region where sympathy for the Palestinian cause still runs deep, recognizing Israel elicits fierce popular opposition. To implement normalization agreements, therefore, Netanyahu and Trump need their Arab partners to quash domestic dissent. For years, Israel’s boosters have bemoaned the lack of democracy in the Middle East. Ironically, it is that lack of democracy on which Israel’s peace diplomacy largely depends. 
And he uses curious logic. He says that since the UAE has used software from Israel's private NSO Group to spy on citizens, that means Israel is culpable for that use. He says that since Bahrain has previously banned Shiite parties from its parliament, Israel is benefitting from the king's repression. As always, to the Left, Arabs aren't responsible for their own actions - Israel is pulling the strings.

As far as Sudan goes, Beinart goes further out on a limb:

In a country where—according to an Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies poll—almost 80% of people oppose normalization, rapidly establishing diplomatic ties to Israel could destabilize the fragile transitional government. The announcement has already sparked public protests. And the leader of Sudan’s largest political party, which has close ties to the protest movement that overthrew Bashir, claims that the normalization agreement “contradicts the Sudanese national law” and could mean “the ignition of a new war.” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), told me she fears Sudan’s generals may use the resulting instability as the pretext for a “full military takeover and end to the democratic transition.” In which case Sudan would be on its way to resembling the UAE and Bahrain. 
So many bad things could happen - and people who are against normalization are saying it - so, to Beinart, we can assume they will, which makes normalization awful!

Unlike Beinart, I spend time reading primary sources. Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan are all different nations with different priorities and aspirations. But none of them - government or opposition  - are going to risk a civil war over the Palestinian issue. Nobody cares that deeply about it. The doomsday scenarios on Sudan are ridiculous.

Not to say there isn't opposition to the deal. There is. But Sudan's main desire is to get off the terror list and to help its economy. The Palestinian issue is barely line noise. If the price to get what they so desperately need is peace with Israel, that is a relatively small price to pay. The opposition will complain, like oppositions everywhere. But no one is going to start a war or a coup because of their love of Palestinians. 

No matter how much the Beinarts of the world hope that will happen.

Another major point that Beinart chooses to ignore: the entire reason for wall-to-wall historic opposition to Israel is a combination of antisemitism - which the socialist Left pretends does not exist in the Arab world - and decades of non-stop anti-Israel propaganda. In the UAE and  in Bahrain this propaganda has ended. In Sudan, there are articles in the media that are pro-normalization, some antisemitic articles against it, and many that are pragmatic about the idea. 

This is why the idea of normalization is gaining currency in so many Arab countries - for the first time, ordinary people are reading both sides of the story in their own local media.

To the Peter Beinarts of the world, this is a catastrophe. They need Arabs to be anti-Israel and antisemitic to justify their arguments that the Middle East will explode if Israel bypasses the intransigent Palestinians. But support for Palestinians was always ankle-deep at best, and the Western Left never understood that basic fact - mostly because every Arab diplomat, for honor reasons, would parrot the anti-Israel line whenever they spoke to their Western counterparts. 

In the end, every Arab nation will act in their self-interest. 

The UAE aspires to be a modern, high tech state whose economy is no longer dependent on vanishing oil supply and demand. Israel is a natural partner for this enterprise.

Bahrain wants to be known as the most tolerant Muslim country. Embracing Jews is the most visible and public means to reach that goal. 

Sudan wants to end its long nightmare of the last decade and become a respectable nation. Peace with Israel helps them in that direction far more than continued slogans for Palestinians.

And one more thing Beinart chooses to ignore. As much as he wants to paint Israel as a brutal dictatorship, he knows that Israel has the most concern for human rights and free speech of any nation in the region, and is among the best in the world. Israel will influence Arab nations to be more open, not less. It is Israel's concern for equal rights, for education, for scientific research and development, for innovation and for the free market that gives it a competitive advantage - and these are all things that will bring Arab nations out of the backwardness they have been in for so long. 

In literally every argument Beinart gives for his thesis, he shows not only that he is wrong, but that he has turned into a hater. Because in the end, his thesis rests on the assumption that Israel is evil, and therefore whatever it does will be evil. It is bigotry. 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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