Friday, September 29, 2023

  • Friday, September 29, 2023
  • Elder of Ziyon

Three years after they were signed, it is clear that the Abraham Accords were a game changer in the region, despite the many "Middle East experts" who tried to downplay  ignore or disparage them. 

But as the Saudis position themselves to make some sort of agreement with Israel, we see a more fundamental change taking place in the Arab world, one that has not been explored but that is even more important than normalization with Israel is.

From the time of their independence to today, most Arab nations have been mired in a prison of their own devising: of looking at the world through an honor/shame viewpoint. Instead of admitting mistakes they twist defeats into victories. Instead of compromising they insist on "honor" even when that results in more misery for their own people. Instead of looking for win/win solutions they look at the world as a zero-sum game where if the enemy wins, then by definition they lose. 

Israel was a major part of this groupthink. Israel's very existence is the definition of shame - a small number of historically weak, second-class Jews defeated the combined armies of the mighty Arab world, and Israel's continued existence was regarded as a constant reminder of the profound shame they felt and an impetus to one day right those wrongs. Peace was impossible with a nation whose very existence reminds them of their shameful defeat.

This self-defeating mindset was so prevalent that the West, instead of undermining honor/shame as the single biggest obstacle to peace, accepted it as immutable and even adopted it to an extent. When Secretary of State John Kerry insisted in 2016 that no peace was possible between Israel and Arab nations without a Palestinian state, he was accepting honor/shame thinking as US policy. 

When the Abraham Accords were announced I was one of the few who noticed that this was a major blow against the honor/shame, zero-sum mentality that was considered an integral part of the Arab world.  Not only that, but honor/shame has been a major impediment to progress in the Arab world. 

The UAE and Bahrain exposed Kerry's "hard reality" as  being wildly wrong. They revealed to the Arab world a true "hard reality:" that Israel exists and it will not be destroyed militarily , economically or politically. 

But they also showed the rest of the Arab world that they no longer need to be shackled by the myth that "honor/shame" is honorable. The UAE, Bahrain and Morocco have benefitted from their normalization with Israel, and the insults from the Palestinians and Iran - usually centered on trying to shame them - have not landed. 

Palestinians still try to invoke shame to get the Arab world to do their bidding, but it no longer works. The success of the Abraham Accords has paved the way for other Arab countries, from Lebanon to Iraq to Saudi Arabia, to allow the conversations about whether it makes more sense to accept Israel than to be at war. Even the holdouts like Algeria, Libya and Tunisia feel shakier in their insistence on honor/shame thinking, publicly insisting or passing laws against normalization - something that shows that they are worried that their worldview is crumbling. 

The Emiratis and the Saudis have realized that if their countries are going to progress and survive in a post-oil world, they need to change their thinking. The concept of "honor" has been used for decades as an excuse to repress their own people and maintain power. That won't work in a connected world where they are not only competing against each other but with every other country and region. Accepting Israel as an economic and military powerhouse that is integrated in their own Middle East makes more sense than wasting resources trying to destroy Israel and replace it with another failed Arab kleptocracy.

More broadly, it is impossible to imagine any Arab leadership in technology or other fields without the ability to admit and learn from mistakes, something that honor/shame thinking cannot accept. 

In that sense, the Abraham Accords have been just the beginning of a sea change in Arab thinking, not just about Israel but about everything. 

What about the Palestinians? Their leaders, like all Arab leaders, have a choice: truly accept Israel's existence and normalize relations with it which would improve their lives in myriad ways, or remain imprisoned in an honor/shame mentality. It isn't that the Gulf countries have abandoned them; the Gulf countries are simply leaving them behind because of their own self-harming choices.

This is not to say that the future is all rosy. There are plenty of things that could go wrong. But at this time, the Abraham Accords has been the spark that is slowly turning the Arab world away from the medieval mindset of honor/shame, and that alone is a reason for celebration. 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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