Middle East Monitor / April 1, 2020
In February, the chief of the Mossad, Israel’s global death squad, visited Doha, the capital of Qatar; Yossi Cohen was accompanied by Major General Herzi Halevi, the head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command. They went at the invitation of Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani and met with national security advisor Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al-Masnad.
Their meetings were effectively indirect negotiations with the Gaza Strip’s ruling authorities, led by Hamas. The Israelis reportedly argued for the natural-gas-rich emirate to continue paying millions in aid to the besieged coastal enclave.
Even these indirect, limited negotiations with Hamas – the Islamic Resistance Movement whose armed wing opposes Israel’s military incursions – were treated as a minor scandal in Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit to Qatar was revealed by his bitter rival, the former minister (and anti-Arab psychopath) Avigdor Lieberman, who told the media about it in order to embarrass the Prime Minister in the most recent round of the apparently interminable cycle of General Elections in Israel.
Unfortunately, this contact between Qatar and Israel has a precedent. The government in Doha has actually ramped up its ties with Israel over the past few years.
At the cost of millions of dollars, the Qatar lobby in Washington has been trying to buy support for its policies, or at least an easing of US support for Saudi Arabia in the context of the Saudi-Qatar diplomatic freeze and Saudi-led blockade of its smaller neighbour. In 2018, as part of its efforts to win favour with the US administration, Qatar went on an unprecedented pro-Israel charm offensive, flying prominent conservative and pro-Israel figures into the emirate for privileged access to the Emir and other top government figures.
These visitors included “Israel’s lawyer” Alan Dershowitz and even Morton Klein, of the far-right Zionist Organisation of America. Dershowitz in particular came back from Doha miraculously singing Qatar’s praises: “Qatar is quickly becoming the Israel of the Gulf states, surrounded by enemies, subject to boycotts and unrealistic demands, and struggling for its survival.”
The Emir’s charm offensive included a donation of $100,000 to the ZOA. That was probably small change for Qatar, but it is a huge amount to the rest of us.
Qatar’s multi-million-dollar schmoozing of the US pro-Israel lobby, however, is dwarfed by those of the other Gulf Arab states. The hereditary tyrants who rule these countries – aka kings and emirs – have been in increasingly open alliance with Israel for the past decade.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in particular have over the past few years ramped up their links with Israel, establishing ever more open relations with the Zionist state, despite having no formal diplomatic relations. These three states have made common cause with Israel over their mutual hatred of Iran.
Israeli propagandists and their pro-Israel colleagues in countries around the world are currently making hay while this particular sun shines. With every new link between a dictatorial Arab state they establish, they declare a new “first”; the first Israeli cycling team to compete in an Arab country (the UAE), for example.
“We hope to make a diplomatic statement that Israel is a normal country, and normalise our image,” said Canadian-Israeli real estate tycoon and “self-appointed ambassador-at-large for Israel” Sylvan Adams while he was in the Emirates. Adams was responsible for paying American singer Madonna’s million-dollar fee for performing at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv last year.
However, the narrative of these Israeli “firsts” simply isn’t true. As the Palestinian academic and intellectual Joseph Massad wrote recently, the image of the Arab regimes’ resistance to Israel has, by and large, always been false.
Current developments in relations between Israel and Gulf states are “presented as some major change of heart on the part of Arab regimes, which had apparently always shunned relations with Israel in the interest of defending the Palestinians,” wrote Massad. “This was always a fiction. Most of the 20th century’s Arab leaders and ruling families maintained cordial relations with Israel and, before it, the Zionist movement.” His article is worth reading in full, as it details the long history of coordination between Israel and undemocratic Arab states, including Jordan, Sudan, Morocco, fascist Maronite leaders in Lebanon, Tunisia and, of course, Egypt.
In many ways, Israel is a natural fit for these regimes, for it is most definitely not a benign democracy for the millions of Palestinians whose fate it controls and who are forced to live under its military dictatorship in the West Bank; under its siege and repeated military offensives in Gaza; and under its racist apartheid regime within Israel itself. It also imposes a military occupation and annexation on Syrians living in the occupied Golan Heights.
Israel’s focus on its relations with these military rulers, kings and petty dictators can never make up for the fact that the Zionist state and its unjust, racist regime has always been, and always will be, rejected by the ordinary people across the region. That is why it is in Israel’s interest to preserve dictatorships in these countries, since democratic governments in the Arab lands would reject normalisation with the Israeli enemy and bring about an end to such ties.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East