The following report and interview with Palestinian leftist writer and activist Khaled Barakat was initially published in Danish by Arbejderen (The Worker), a Danish left publication, on 23 September 2020.
Palestinians: Sheikhs of the Gulf countries are on a collision course with their population
Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat does not consider that the Arab gulf countries, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, only recognized Israel officially last week. Instead, they have long been in the same camp with the United States and Israel – against us, the Palestinian people, he says in this interview.
When representatives of the Arab Gulf countries, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, shook hands with the Israeli Prime Minister in the White House in Washington last week, it caused international uproar. The three countries recognized each other diplomatically.
It was a knife in the back of the Palestinians, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) stated.
However, the 48-year-old Palestinian writer, organizer and activist Khaled Barakat is not surprised. It is not a violent blow to the Palestinians and their freedom struggle, he says via video link from Canada, where he is currently located.
“The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other reactionary Arab Gulf states have for a long time had security, political and economic relations with Israel, but never officially established diplomatic relations. In the last 10-15 years, relations with Israel have gradually become normalized with not only these two states, but also Saudi Arabia,” says Khaled Barakat to the Worker.
The agreement in Washington encourages increased tourism and trade between the states, increases cultural and sports cooperation, and opens embassies. In addition, Israel’s arms industry is eyeing the chance to export arms to the United Arab Emirates, writes the American Forbes Magazine.
Most recently, it has emerged that Israel may have to produce the wings of the F-35 fighter jets that the United States plans to sell to the Gulf state.
“It does not come as a surprise. The autocratic reactionary Arab kingdoms in the Gulf have been planning this normalization for a long time, with the aim of having a completely open relationship with Israel. They are all part of the same camp of imperialism, directed by the United States. The two regimes have long been in the same enemy camp as the United States and Israel, confronting and suppressing Palestinian self-determination and freedom.”
“They are Israel’s allies in the region,” believes Khaled Barakat, who is a Marxist and is the coordinator of the campaign for the release of PFLP Secretary General Ahmad Sa’adat.
The PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is on both the US and EU terror lists, although the organization is the third largest political force among all Palestinian groups after Fatah and Hamas.
Bahrain has long protected Israel
Khaled Barakat recalls that Bahrain’s autocratic king, Sheikh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah, has long cheered on Israel’s attacks on Arab countries in the region, defended Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and downplayed the Zionist state’s oppression of Palestinians. In 2017, the king condemned the Arab boycott of Israel and declared that Bahraini nationals will be allowed to visit Israel in the future.
Normalization of relations is seen by most Arabs in the region as a breach of Arab unity, a violation of the boycott of Israel and the abandonment of the Arab peace plan of 2002. The peace plan calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Arab territory, which was occupied in 1967 – in exchange for normalization of relations with the Arab world.
Arab League does not act
However, the Arab League, an organization of 22 Arab states, failed to agree on condemning the recognition of Israel by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, although the league’s goal is “to meet the hopes and expectations of all Arab countries” as well as the “recognition of Palestine”. as an independent state “.
Question: Are the Palestinians not hopelessly left alone, if even the Arab League cannot back them up?
Answer: “Saudi Arabia and its followers among the reactionary Gulf countries have taken the Arab League hostage – especially after Syria was suspended from the assembly in 2011. The League has changed structurally. The member countries do not have equal rights. For example, Lebanon has nothing to say, while Saudi Arabia dictates everything.”
“Raw power determines the direction of the League. It is an instrument of submission and division, not unity. This is not the same League that was inspired by Jamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt in the 1960s.”
“In addition, the United Arab Emirates has pressured a number of countries in the Arab League to do its bidding. It is well known that the United Arab Emirates has invested financially in many Arab countries. We know how the game goes,” says Khaled Barakat.
Increasing internal contradictions
Question: Many international media predict that the next countries to recognize Israel are Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Oman, Kuwait and even Mauritania …
Answer: “If you follow the Arab polls in countries like Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates, you will see that the people there do not support the normalization of relations with Israel. The people get nothing out of this recognition. There is no question of a peace agreement as the countries were not at war.”
A 2017 poll by the Washington Institute showed that only about 15 percent of Bahrain’s people supported diplomatic relations with Israel.
“Bahrain has also undergone a peaceful uprising over the past 10 years, and its suppression has created great hatred for the monarchy. It is clear that the agreement in Washington does not express the will of the people, but only the ruling class,” says Khaled Barakat.
Barakat believes that the great resistance of the population in both Gulf states will accelerate the internal protests against repression.
“It will increase the internal contradiction between the masses and the authorities, and it will accelerate the fall of the reactionary Arab dictatorships,” Khaled Barakat believes.
He believes it was a far tougher blow when Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel at Camp David in 1979. Or when Jordan – which has the longest border with Palestine – in 1994 signed a so-called peace agreement with Israel.
“The two agreements affected us a lot, and we felt the repercussions,” says Barakat.
Israeli annexation still on the table
Question: What do you think about the United Arab Emirates claiming that the agreement with Israel includes a promise that Israel will suspend its annexation of large parts of the West Bank?
Answer: “Yes, they justify with all their might their attempts to sell Palestinian rights to their own people and the people of the region. But that’s a hoax. They have not asked the Palestinians. They’re trying to throw us under the bus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself has said the annexation is still on the table. There was only respite when the pressure on Israel became too strong this summer.”
Barakat refers to Netanyahu’s own words in August – after the news of the peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates was published. Here he said the annexation “was still on the table” and that he was still “committed” to the project, middleeasteye.net quoted. .
Question: What is the role of the United States in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreement with Israel?
Answer: “The United States is trying to form an alliance of reactionary Arab regimes and Israel to flex its muscles in the region and confront China, Iran and other forces. Trump wants to be re-elected, he blindly trusts Israel, and he does not in the least respect other countries in the region – his administration does not even adhere to basic diplomatic courtesies.”
Khaled Barakat hesitates for a few seconds, looks down, then fixes his gaze on the video screen.
Historical task for the people
Question: But what then is the role of the EU in the game in the Middle East. The Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod (S) – who follows the EU’s policy for the Middle East to the letter – says that the agreement between Israel and the Gulf states is good because it can finally start negotiations with the Palestinians on peace?
Answer: “That position supports the occupation and colonization of Palestine. It is not in line with international law. If the Danish foreign minister respects international law, he must demand that Israel comply with it, that the country end its occupation and implement the Palestinian refugees’ right to return.”
“Either you support Israel or the Palestinian people. After all, your foreign minister does not hesitate to demand from other countries, such as Syria, that they comply with international law. He also does not hesitate to demand international law be upheld by force and is willing to allow massacres to take place in Iraq and Syria under the pretext of defending international law. Why is there a taboo on Israel, when it commits ethnic cleansing and pursues a consistent apartheid policy?”
Khaled Barakat turns his attention to European countries that are also approaching Israel, such as Serbia, which is a candidate country to join the EU. Most recently, the country’s government has signaled that it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem like the United States.
“The United States and its President Donald Trump have dictated what Serbia is doing,” says Barakat, who himself hails from Jerusalem.
EU complicit with occupation
Khaled Barakat believes that the people of Europe have a great responsibility to counter Israel’s “Zionist plans”.
European governments are complicit in the occupation. The German government, for example, supports Israel by selling nuclear submarines to the country. The EU is not playing a responsible role.
“The peoples of Europe are facing a historic task, to change the political course of the EU – it starts with the trade union movement, the women’s movement, the student movement. We trust that the positions of their governments do not reflect them. The majority understand the Palestinians’ thirst for freedom.