Led by a young generation of Palestinians, millions across the Middle East have condemned Israel and opposed its apartheid policies.

Israel’s recent aggression against the Palestinians, including the deadly bombings in Gaza and the forceful eviction of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, has poked holes in the Middle East normalisation narrative, experts said. 

Last year, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv in a move engineered by former US President Donald Trump. In quick succession, the UAE was followed by Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan - all of which normalised ties with Israel. 

All along the UAE leadership, led by the powerful ruler of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed, has maintained that the Arab world’s recognition of Israel will eventually help Palestinians in the fight for their rights. 

“The recent events have shown that the UAE has no authority and no power whatsoever to stop the Israeli aggression or secure any concessions [for the Palestinians],” Sami Hamdi, an Arab political analyst, told TRT World. 

Led by young Palestinian activists, including students, millions of people from across the Arab world have used street demonstrations and social media to condemn Israel. 

Over an 11-day period last month, Israel rained thousands of bombs on the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza, killing 256 Palestinians, including 66 children. At least 72,000 Palestinians were displaced during the assault. 

“The UAE has actually come out looking far more humiliated in the eyes of Arab population,” said Hamdi, who is also the head of International Interest, a political risk analysis group. 

The UAE’s regional aspirations have faced several setbacks last year, especially in Yemen, from where it was forced to pull its military. 

Before last month’s conflict between Israel and Gaza groups, the UAE still appeared in a strong position considering the leverage it has in a region expanding from Yemen to Libya. But that might change, said Hamdi. 

The Emirates had backed Trump’s Deal of Century, hoping that Palestinians could be bought off with financial incentives. 

In recent months, pictures of Israelis with social media influencers from the UAE have gone viral. Some commentators have cited them to be a case where the new Arab generation no longer has interest in the Palestinian cause. 

An Emirati man, wearing a protective mask with American, Israeli and Emirati flags, looks on upon the arrival of US and Israeli delegates in Abu Dhabi, August 31, 2020.
An Emirati man, wearing a protective mask with American, Israeli and Emirati flags, looks on upon the arrival of US and Israeli delegates in Abu Dhabi, August 31, 2020. (Christopher Pike / Reuters Archive)

Nothing can be further from the truth. 

The recent Palestinian resistance against the Israeli aggression has worried the UAE and other Gulf states that are keen at restoring ties with Israel, said Sami al Arian, a prominent Palestinian-American professor. 

“The stance that these regimes took with regards to Israel is not supported by their own people,” Arian told TRT World.  

Despite a clear military superiority that’s backed by billions of dollars in US aid, Israel wasn’t able to repress Palestinian resistance groups. 

That has led more people in the Arab world to question the normalisation rationale since the UAE and its allies want Israel’s support at some point in time for their own regional interests, said Arian. 

A ‘normalisation myth’

Following the UAE-led normalisation with Israel, both pundits and politicians promoted a “myth” that the region would soon see peace, Hamdi said. 

The experts tried to portray “a sort of the schism” between young and old Arab populations when it comes to how they conceive the Palestinian conflict, he said. 

But the mass outpouring across the Middle East has made it “absolutely clear” that the claim that there is a lack of strong Arab support for the Palestinian cause is “a myth”, he said.  

Even people close to UAE rulers, such as Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a UAE-based political science professor, have warned about the dangers of losing popular support on the issue of Palestine. 

In a tweet, Abdulla said Abu Dhabi “needs a creative effort to win Arab public opinion with a modern, convincing and influential Emirati discourse.” 

“Time and again overconfident leaders succumb to the illusion of being invincible and then make tragic mistakes with even more tragic consequences for the whole nation,” the professor wrote in an apparent cryptic message to MBZ. 

Despite a push to promote the normalisation agenda in the corridors of power, Palestinian resistance was able to push its own narrative via social media, Hamdi said. 

“The Palestinian resistance destroyed the myth that Arabs are no longer interested in Palestinians.” 

Source: TRT World