This may be a new Arab era. The distance between rulers and public has never been wider. The Arab people, under strict conditions of repression, took to social media and the streets to make their rage known to the world.
By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News
It’s too early to know exactly what the future of Arab politics and Arab-Western relations will be after Gaza. But it’s not difficult to assume, based on the contemporary history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, that there’ll be epoch-making repercussions to Israeli war crimes.
A new era is marked by the extent of Israeli brutality on live-TV. Looking back to the months preceding the operation against Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972, Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon had been subjected to merciless bombardment from Israeli fighter jets. Homes were destroyed and people were burnt alive.
Fatah leader Abu Dawud tells the story in his memoirs (he was the chief of the Munich operation — not Abu Hasan Salameh, as faulty Israeli intelligence would have it). Dawud’s memoirs were supposed to be translated by St. Martin’s Press in New York years ago, but Zionist organizations have made a fuss, and prevented the publisher from releasing it.
The Fatah organization did not conceive the plan out of nowhere. In fact it was Palestinian refugees who pressured their organization to take revenge; they were angry that Israel would get away with continuous deadly raids (the Lebanese government before the civil war in 1975, was beholden to the U.S. and Israel never defended Lebanon from Israeli attacks).
There was sustained, mass pressure on Fatah to do something, anything, to show that the Palestinians were not helpless. Abu Iyad (second-in-command, after Arafat within Fatah) conceived this ill-advised plan, which, like many PLO operations, failed (the outcome remains murky and it is likely that German police killed most of the hostages in the shootout).
Likewise, there will be pressure on Palestinian organizations “to do something” in revenge after Gaza; there will be pressure to do many things to avenge the deaths of thousands of children.
In fact, it is likely that new Palestinian organizations will be born out of the horrors of Gaza.
Many angry boys and men will join existing organizations or will form new ones dedicated to avenging the deaths of over 11,000 people thus far.
The End of Fatah & the PLO
The organization that the U.S. and Israel count on to take over Gaza, i.e., Fatah and the PLO, just had their official death certificates written in stone; marked by the carnage. Both are now rightly seen as mere tools of the occupation. They have no chance of survival after Gaza, notwithstanding the best, corrupt wishes of the US and Israel.
The reverberations of Gaza will be felt in various Arab countries, and governments will be judged on their reactions. The Saudi and U.A.E. governments are probably the least displeased with Israeli atrocities: they are close security allies of Israel, and both share enmity toward the Hamas movement.
Saudi media carry long articles regarding the carnage, but blame them on Iran, not Israel; and Hamas is being faulted for dragging the region into war. Saudi religious scholars are tightly controlled by the government and footage of Friday sermons show armed guards surrounding the seat of the Friday religious speaker; they watch to see if the speaker veers off script. That would be the end of a career, or even their lives.
Please notice the armed guards standing next to the speaker–just in case he veers of script. https://t.co/7iGQsnxtpX
— asad abukhalil ???? ??? ???? (@asadabukhalil) November 10, 2023
Religious speakers were instructed not to show much compassion for Gaza and to speak about it in the most general terms. As usual, the worshippers were instructed to follow the directions of “those in charge,” a reference to the rulers.
Yet, as the slaughter continued to increase, the Saudi government, which wished that the war would end because its continuation would bring embarrassing attention to its inaction, felt it had to appear concerned. During the Gaza nightmare, the Saudi entertainment industry was celebrating a series of festivities celebrated as “Riyadh nights”: comedy shows, dance groups, and singing performances were taking place while the overwhelming majority of Arabs were glued to TV screens carrying live footage of Gaza.
While events in the Gaza Strip from Israel attacks, Saudi leaders decided to hold a dance and music festival instead of holding demonstrations like other countries around the world.#RiyadhSeason2023 #RiyadhSeason #philistine #IsrealPalestineconflict #Israel #IsrealiNewNazism pic.twitter.com/zXyExzIBPA
— Wasiuddin (@Wasiuddinkhan1) October 29, 2023
Like Washington, Arab governments in the Gulf were taken aback by the level of public sympathy for the Palestinians and outrage at Western acquiescence with the slaughter. Some Saudi and U.A.E. intellectuals, who quietly sat out the normalization process, returned to social media with a vengeance, tweeting feverishly about Gaza and Western hypocrisy. Saudi government officials assured Western officials that normalization talks would proceed and that the war on Gaza would not derail the foreign policy course of the Saudi regime.
To be sure, the U.A.E. and Saudi governments announced shipments of aid to Gaza and both governments issued mild — by Arab standards — statements condemning the massacres. But they were both careful to demand a return to peace talks with a view toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, side-by-side with Israel. This is now where the rulers of those countries are.
Thousands of Egyptians rally in the Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo support of the Palestinian people and in protest of the Israeli genocide campaign taking place right now in Gaza.#GazaGenocide pic.twitter.com/sbS2bBrdlN
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) October 20, 2023
A few years ago, support for Hamas increased in Saudi Arabia, according to a poll by the Washington Institute for Near Policy, which usually produces polls that are not inconvenient to Israel. As the war continued, the Saudi regime unleashed their electronic army which bombarded social media with torrents of abuse at Hamas and Hizbullah and their leaders. Their propaganda is clearly coordinated with Israel and the U.S. through the U.S. media center in Dubai.
(During the crisis, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken officially asked Al Jazeera to tone down the coverage and viewers noticed the results of the demarche, at least on Al Jazeera English).
Saudi media mocked Hizbullah for not entering the war, knowing that it would also blame its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, for the war if he were to expand it. This crisis has proved that the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia are reliable allies of Israel, their statements of condemnations of Israel notwithstanding.
Saudi Arabia runs the Arab order, and it coordinates its moves with the U.S. and Israel.
The Arab-Islamic “emergency” summit, convened a month after the slaughter in Gaza started, issued a long statement containing 31 articles. None of the articles (which talk about the need to document Israeli war crimes and the need to take Israel’s case to the International Criminal Court, as well as poetic descriptions of the suffering and the need for humanitarian aid to Gaza) matter except article 25, which states that the Arab countries are “reiterating the attachment to peace as a strategic option.”
Leaders of the Arab and Islamic world gathered in Saudi Arabia to talk about Gaza. pic.twitter.com/I0EgOK9olK
— W i z a r d S X (@WizardSX0) November 11, 2023
What is the value of denunciations and condemnations when the governments run by the Saudi regime declare their adherence to peace with Israel? What kind of leverage do you have with Israel when you reassure it that no matter how many crimes it commits, Arab countries will continue to insist on peace with it, even when it has consistently and repeatedly rejected the Arab “peace initiative” of 2002? In fact, article 25 of the statement basically tells Israel that its crimes will be forgiven and that Arab potentates will be making peace with it.
Another article insists that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the “sole and legitimate” representative of the Palestinian people. This article is ironic because those Arab countries fought and undermined the PLO when it was truly a representative of the Palestinian people. In present-day Palestine, the PLO is nothing but an association of gangs and mafias run by the head of the PA mafias, Mahmoud Abbas, and his corrupt family.
Hamas, for example, is not a member of the PLO and yet today it represents the bulk of the Palestinian public. This article was clearly inserted by order of the U.S. and Israel who fear a legitimization of the popularity of Hamas in the wake of Oct. 7. Hamas has become widely popular not only among the Palestinians but also among the Arab public. Its commanders are now cult figures, and the images of the spokesperson of its military wing, Abu `Ubayda, can be seen in many Arab and Muslim capitals.
We may have already entered a new Arab era. The gulf between rulers and the public has never been wider. The Arab people, under strict conditions of repression and control, took to social media and to the streets to make their rage known to the world. The Saudi and U.A.E. governments felt the mass anger and for that they convened the Arab summit.
Israel thinks it can end Hamas but that is besides the point. Palestinian violence will chase those who killed Gaza children for years to come.
As`ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004) and ran the popular The Angry Arab blog. He tweets as @asadabukhalil
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.