The harsh Palestinian reactions to the Aug. 13 announcement of the United Arab Emirates and Israel normalization agreement have drawn criticism in the Arab press, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the the UAE and Egypt.

The Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, accused the UAE of betraying the Palestinians and their cause, as well as Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, of “aggression towards the Palestinian people,” of stabbing the Palestinians and the Arab and Islamic nation in the back with a “poisoned dagger” and of making concessions to Israel for nothing in return. PA leaders called the UAE’s move unacceptable and an act of deception, accusing the UAE of abandoning the Arab Peace Initiative and capitulating and groveling to the United States. Calling on the UAE to reverse its “disgraceful decision,” they also warned other Arab countries not to follow its example.

The condemnations reached a peak during a Sept. 3 conference of Palestinian faction leaders that included representatives of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad alongside representatives of Fatah and other factions. At the conference, Abbas, as well as Mu’in Hamed, leader of the Al-Sa’iqa organization, a PLO faction, spoke bluntly and derisively of the Gulf states, calling them “illiterate” and saying that the Palestinians, who are far more educated than they, do not need anyone’s help.

In response, daily newspapers in many Arab countries have published dozens of articles expressing support for the UAE’s decision and condemning the Palestinians, especially their “ungrateful” leadership. Many writers claim that this leadership has exploited the Palestinian cause for seven decades to extort funds from the Gulf states. Some even accused Palestinian officials of taking the money for themselves and of deliberately rejecting every peace initiative in order to perpetuate the situation and remain in power. They argue that since the world and the global balance of power have changed, slogans like “Palestine from the River to the Sea” are no longer relevant, and also that the Arab countries are entitled to prioritize their own interests.

“The Palestinian problem is defunct, like the issue of restoring Andalusia to Muslim rule”

In his Sept. 2 column in the Saudi daily ‘Okaz, Hani al-Zahiri wrote:

“The situation of our Palestinian brothers is regrettable. For over 60 years, their politicians have cashed in on their cause, and persisted in not reaching an arrangement, in destroying the negotiations, and in opposing every peace initiative, whether proposed by the Israelis or by the other international elements. The Palestinian politician has inflicted this on his cause and his people in order to profit from leaving things as they are, since the way he has chosen for decades was the only way to guarantee that he would remain in the picture and [benefit from the] influx of funds, donations and aid flowing from all directions, particularly from the Arab and Islamic world, into his coffers and his European bank accounts.

“Today, the situation is different, because the peoples who once identified with the Palestinian cause are completely aware of this manipulation and the way it is done. This means the death of the Palestinian cause in the hearts of millions, because this is the natural outcome of six decades of lies and deception and collection of funds on behalf of a crisis whose owners have no interest in resolving it.

“A few days ago came the UAE’s bold move—normalization with Israel—to tell the Palestinian political leaders: ‘The time has come to deal with yourselves and with those who have been defrauded by you. The time for the games, hypocrisy, and the trading in the distress of the Palestinian people has passed, because the interest of the Arab people in Gaza and the West Bank demands intervention by the sane Arabs in order to negotiate with the Israeli side and act to bring comprehensive peace to the region, far from the gangs that derive political profit.’

“What is clear is that now it is certain that other Arab countries will follow in the footsteps of the UAE—that is, additional fig leaves will fall from the private parts of those who are looting the Palestinian cause, whom history will overlook and hound forever because of the suffering caused to the Palestinians….

“In effect, the matter of the entire Palestinian cause cannot remain pending in the current situation, because it has reached old age, and what comes next is only death. Therefore, it must either be resolved today, or else die, just as the cause of al-Andalus died, and the wise understand that there is no difference between the two.

“I, as an Arab Muslim, am sorry about the situation of the Palestinian who has been bought and sold by his political leaders, and I wish him all the best and [also wish him] an awakening from his coma and his adoption of [a path] that will serve him and his future well. But I do not think that his cause—whose ownership is contested by its rivals [the Israelis]—is sacred. This is particularly true because several Arab countries’ normalization with Israel will allow me and other Muslims to visit and pray at al-Aqsa mosque, and this is the only thing that concerns me in this matter. [Everything] beyond that is up to the [Palestinians], since this is, in rational language, a ‘real estate dispute’ of the first degree, and no one should be ashamed to admit it.”

Emirati business magnate Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor said in a Sept. 4 interview on Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya TV that the Palestinians are responsible for their own tragic situation. He added that the Arab world had supported them with billions of dollars only to see Palestinian movements like Hamas support Iran against the Arab world.

“The Palestinians extorted funds from the Gulf states but failed to support them against Iran”

Saudi journalist ‘Abdallah bin Bjad al-‘Otaibi wrote in a similar vein in his column in the London-based Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat:

“For seven decades, the Palestinians have been completely reliant on the aid from Arab countries, particularly from the rich Arab Gulf, for [all] things concerning their livelihood, their lives, their jobs, their rule, their embassies, and all the details of their lives. [Yet] they have consistently insisted that all their decisions be in their own hands, with no intervention by the countries that support [them] and no thought for the interests of those countries and the challenges that they face.

“The problem with the erosion of the sacred [Palestinian] cause, and of its transformation into nothing more than a source of extortion, is that the cause may [entirely] lose its sanctity and be abandoned by its supporters. The young Arabs in most Arab countries have begun losing their enthusiasm for the Palestinian [cause], for it has long been exploited by Arab and regional countries and by several Palestinian streams in favor of political matters that have nothing to do with the Palestinian people….

“The Palestinian schism that shattered the Palestinian unity took place with the full support of Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and the political Islam organizations, led by the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] in Egypt and Gaza. It aimed to serve the [MB], not Palestine. Hamas took over Gaza by force of arms, murder, and blood, [that it directed] not against Israel but against the Palestinian people….

“The massive, ongoing Arab aid to the Palestinians was given freely and with no boasting [on the part of the donors], but the exclusive [Palestinian right to] decision-making, the extensive corruption [among the Palestinians], and the aging leadership and its inability to create any breakthrough have left these countries and brother peoples no [choice] but to reexamine their priorities and set [their own] national [interests] above everything else.

“The UAE’s position is supported by many Arab countries, primarily by young Arabs who seek a future, development, progress and advancement. This position is supported especially [due to the need] to deal with the dangers posed to the region by Iran and Turkey….

“For many years, in ongoing discussions with Arab intellectuals, this writer and others have attempted to persuade them that the Gulf states have for a long time stood alongside the Arabs in dealing with the Israeli danger, and the time has come for them [the Arabs] to stand alongside the Gulf states in dealing with the Iranian danger. But all this was to no avail, because of the clear persistence in not condemning Iran and its threats—on the contrary, some Palestinian streams allied publicly with Iran against the Gulf states, and other streams kept silent on this matter.

“Ultimately, the UAE and the Gulf states never boasted in any way about any aid they provided for the Palestinian cause, and they never will. But the situation in the region and in the world has been overturned, and has changed a great deal in the past seven decades. Time has dissolved all the slogans, the capabilities, and the past balances [of power], and we [are today living] in the era of the nation state … that seeks first and foremost the interests of itself and its people.”

“Those who curse the UAE must face reality”

Egyptian journalist Amina Khairy, a columnist for the UAE daily Al-Bayan, wrote:

“For decades, and perhaps many centuries, we believed that when an ostrich is confronted by sudden danger it buries its head in the sand … where it feels that it is safe because its eyes cannot see the threat.  We have continued to use the phrase ‘so-and-so buries his head in the sand to avoid reality’ so frequently that burying one’s head in the sand has become a way of life [for some people]—even though, it turns out, that the ostrich is innocent of the behavior attributed to it … and does not bury its head in the sand to escape [reality]. So why do we continue to adopt [this behavior]?!

“We [Egyptians] began to take our heads out of the sand 41 years ago. On March 21, 1979, Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel, devised by President Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, who was treasonously assassinated in 1981. At the time, the world was in an uproar, and it still has not calmed down, despite the many years that passed and the many changes they brought. [But] for 41 years, the Palestinian cause—which is of concern to all Arabs—has accrued nothing but further losses and defeats….

“There is a big difference between dreaming of being a millionaire and becoming one. You have the right to take steps to become a millionaire, but lying on the sofa waiting to become a millionaire, or for some [existing millionaire] to adopt you and transport you from the ranks of the needy to a life of luxury—well, that is the epitome of delusion. Delusion becomes defamation and lies when you choose to curse and hate others for failing to take notice of you while you continue to lounge on that sofa. Defamation becomes emotional deception when the person reclining [on the sofa] begins to imagine he possesses means and capabilities that do not, in fact, exist.

“Today’s reality suggests that the slogans of the past decades have proven to be slogans [and nothing more.] They were not translated into actual capabilities or ownership [over land or property]. Confusing our dreams for reality will only push us to bury our head deeper in the sand. The insistence on cursing anyone who chooses to remove the abaya [traditional Arab robe] of this dream, and to come down to reality while minimizing the damage, is an insistence on a scientifically impossible illusion.

“A few days ago, the UAE announced its agreement with Israel … The strange thing is that some voices criticize and oppose [the agreement] as though they are living on Mars … Establishing relations between countries is not the same as a love [affair], nor is it the same as [handing over] a carte blanche. Political-strategic relations are not a marriage, designed to establish a family, but rather a treaty of mutual interests and balances. This romantic view of politics and this imaginary and false approach to strategy and policy, that are based on a dream masquerading as a vision, is what brought the Arab region to its current situation.”

The Palestinians are responsible for their own plight; The UAE has nothing to do with the Palestinian problem”

Said ‘Okasha, an expert in Israel studies at Egypt’s al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said in an Aug. 24 interview on the UAE’s Dubai TV that the Palestinians are fully responsible for their current “tragedy” because they have chosen to align themselves with Islamist and pan-Arab movements.

Egyptian-American analyst Magdi Khalil said on an Aug. 14 show on Russia Today that the UAE is acting realistically and courageously by developing its relations with Israel, and that this is not a betrayal of the Palestinians because the UAE has nothing to do with the Palestinian cause.

The full version of this article is available at the MEMRI website.

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