The Arab, Muslim and many of the “Non-Aligned” member countries were once staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause. However, in the world that exists today, this is no longer the case. One after the other, the Arab states are falling into the trap of normalizing relations with Israel. Many African nations are doing the same, as are the central Asian and former Soviet states. As the list of countries refusing to normalize relations with Israel shrinks, the pressures to join the normalizing states grows. Sadly, it is the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the illusion of the Two-State Solution that is eroding the support for the Palestinian struggle and the rejection of Zionism.
At the International Conference on Palestine in Kuala Lumpur, the mood and the message were crystal clear: Total support for the Palestinian cause, total rejection of Zionism. However, contrary to what one may expect in a conference of such gravity and which attracted more than one thousand guests and participants, there was no one representing the Palestinian Liberation Movement, the PLO, nor were there any senior members of the Malaysian government present. It is hard to believe that this was a coincidence.
Palestine’s eroding support
Unless there is a concerted effort to bolster the forces within the Muslim and Arab countries that reject Zionism, they will all fall into the trap of normalization with Israel. While in Kuala Lumpur these concerns were voiced – albeit in private – by people from Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan.
One of the problems is that these countries have a so-called Palestinian embassy, which is operated by the Palestinian Authority. Since the Palestinian Authority itself recognizes Israel – not to say collaborates and works for Israel – why should other countries be more strict about their relations with the apartheid state? This situation leaves the Palestinians with no international support at all.
Today a call to recognize the State of Palestine is considered a bold and progressive move, and indeed in previous meetings of the non-aligned states such calls were made. However, recognizing the State of Palestine means recognition to the Palestinian Authority and by default to Israel.
Is Indonesia next?
A November 2022 piece in The Jerusalem Post quotes Indonesia’s former vice president Jusuf Kalla, who praised an initiative for the Indonesian government to open diplomatic ties with Israel.
The potential benefits for countries who agree to normalize relations with Israel and decide to join the Abraham Accords, as seen by those who promote normalization, go beyond just economic ones. Relations with Israel, the Jerusalem Post claims, could position Indonesia as a “key potential mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” This is a prospect Kalla praised as an incentive for Indonesia to open diplomatic ties with Israel.
Furthermore, according to the article, Indonesia’s government would not be required to retract its support of the Palestinian cause in lieu of initiating economic and diplomatic ties with Israel. The proof for this is that, “Other historically pro-Palestinian Arab nations such as Bahrain and the UAE have now normalized ties with Israel, while maintaining support for a two-state solution.” The article also mentions Turkey, which combines “fervent advocacy for a Palestinian state with bilateral trade with Israel.” Clearly, the Two-State Solution is a dangerous concept for Palestinians.
Indonesia’s former vice president also apparently noted that, “direct political engagement could in fact place Indonesia in a more favorable position to broker peace.” In other words, “colossal economic opportunities,” as well as the favorable diplomatic position which this could afford the government of Indonesia. The piece ends by stating, “there has never been a riper time to jump-start normalization between Indonesia and Israel.”
A June 2022 article in Middle East Eye opens with the following: “An emerging media narrative in Pakistan is raising questions about its longstanding policy of recognition of Israel conditional on Palestinian statehood.” It continues to say,
“Opinion pieces in major newspapers, alongside guests on television talk shows and social media influencers, have opened a discussion about the prospect of unconditional recognition of Israel – something hitherto unimaginable in Pakistan, where rallies in support of Palestine can draw tens of thousands onto the streets.”
Pakistan’s poor economy, combined with Arab and other Muslim countries recognizing Israel, may well push it to abandon its moral stance on Palestine and normalize relations with Israel. Again, the Two-State solution, which has been conveniently adopted by countries who claim to support the rights of Palestinians, could pave the road for Pakistan to do the same.
In November 2020, Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, claimed that Pakistan is under pressure to recognize Israel. There is no surprise there; Pakistani dependence on the United States and on Saudi money are surely making the argument for normalizing easier. The danger is that as relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Apartheid state of Israel become warmer, the closer we will be to seeing other Muslim countries, like Pakistan, normalize relations with Israel.
Saudi Arabia’s romance with the Israeli government is a dangerous one. Arab and Muslim people stand with Palestine. As we all saw during the World Cup in Doha, any Arab victory was made into a rally for Palestine. This is probably why the Saudi government is taking its time in finalizing the normalization process, a process that is still somewhat tenuous. Diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia will mark an enormous political and personal victory for Benjamin Netanyahu. With Palestine burning and more violence against Palestinians still to come, it isn’t clear if this is the right time for the Saudis to give Netanyahu this victory.
If no support is given to the forces within the Arab and Muslim countries who reject normalization, we will see the Zionist flag flying in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Islamabad, and in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. As the Arab and Muslim countries fall like dominoes, the African Union will not be far behind, and Israel’s occupation of Palestine will continue without opposition.
Feature photo | A protester holds a placard that says Normalization is betrayal during a September 2020 demonstration. Palestinians protest against the Israeli normalization agreement with the UAE and Bahrain in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip hours before the signing ceremony at the White House. (Photo by Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)