Footsteps – A Poem by Mu’in Bseiso

Palestine Update 413

Footsteps – A Poem by Mu’in Bseiso

By Muin Bseiso (Translated by May Jayyusi and Naomi Shihab Nye)

Brother! If they should sharpen the sword on my neck,
I would not kneel, even if their whips lashed
my bloodied mouth
If dawn is so close to coming
I shall not retreat.
I will rise from the land that feeds our furious storm!

Brother! If the executioner should drag me to the slaughterhouse
before your eyes to make you kneel,
so you might beg him to relent,
I’d call again, Brother! Raise your proud head
and watch as they murder me!
Witness my executioner, sword dripping with my blood!
What shall expose the murderer, but our innocent bleeding?

At night their guns kidnapped him from his trench.
The hero was flung into the cells’ darkness
where, like a banner flutter above chains, he stayed.
The chains became flaming torches,
burning the ashes which coat our shining future.
Now the hero lives, his footsteps ringing triumphantly
within the closed walls of every prison.

Discord around the Abraham Accords
UAE-Israel deal: Abraham accord or Israeli colonialism?Alliances have been shifting since Israel started signing a number of so-called peace accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain this summer. Hailed as beacons of peace by the US, who brokered these meetings, the Abraham Accords bypass an important actor in the equation of peace in the Middle East: Palestine. In order to understand the implications of these alliances on Palestine, as well as the geopolitical motivations behind them, we asked Palestinian researcher, Dr. Alaa Tartir, three questions. Under the auspices of the US, Israel, Bahrain and the UAE signed the Abraham accords on September 15, agreeing to normalize relations. What does this normalization mean in the context of countries who are not at war with each other?

The so-called Abraham Accords are neither peace agreements nor historic breakthroughs, as is hailed by many observers. They are rather a prime example of the distortion of the very meaning of peace. At best, on one hand, they are a set of economic and diplomatic arrangements between a number of regional actors in response to a mutual interest. On the other hand, they are an expression of the formation of an alliance to face what is perceived as a common threat.  Normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab countries such as Bahrain and the UAE, operationally means “doing joint business without being shy or embarrassed”

Hence, they are narrow and self-serving arrangements designed to reap benefits from a mutual interest and to face a perceived common threat. They are formulated through a top-down, elitist approach that is meant to serve the ruling class and the “leaders-in-trouble” in the concerned countries. The emergence of these Accords was neither due to the aspirations of the people (who are the real guarantors of any lasting peace), nor in response to a bottom-up incremental approach that aims to create a positive peace.  Therefore, it would be absolutely delusional, misleading, dangerous, and irresponsible to think about the so-called Abraham Accords as a form of meaningful “peace” or even a formula for a genuine stability or security.

Alliances have been shifting since Israel started signing a number of so-called peace accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain this summer. Hailed as beacons of peace by the US, who brokered these meetings, the Abraham Accords bypass a crucial factor in the equation of peace in the region. Palestinian researcher, Dr. Alaa Tartir, addresses three questions.

Under the auspices of the US, Israel, Bahrain and the UAE signed the Abraham accords on September 15, agreeing to normalize relations. What does this normalization mean in the context of countries who are not at war with each other?
The so-called Abraham Accords are neither peace agreements nor historic breakthroughs, as is hailed by many observers. They are rather a prime example of the distortion of the very meaning of peace. At best, on one hand, they are a set of economic and diplomatic arrangements between a number of regional actors in response to a mutual interest. On the other hand, they are an expression of the formation of an alliance to face what is perceived as a common threat.

Normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab countries such as Bahrain and the UAE, operationally means “doing joint business without being shy or embarrassed”
Hence, they are narrow and self-serving arrangements designed to reap benefits from a mutual interest and to face a perceived common threat. They are formulated through a top-down, elitist approach that is meant to serve the ruling class and the “leaders-in-trouble” in the concerned countries. The emergence of these Accords was neither due to the aspirations of the people (who are the real guarantors of any lasting peace), nor in response to a bottom-up incremental approach that aims to create a positive peace.  Therefore, it would be absolutely delusional, misleading, dangerous, and irresponsible to think about the so-called Abraham Accords as a form of meaningful “peace” or even a formula for a genuine stability or security.

So, within this contextual understanding, normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab countries such as Bahrain and the UAE, operationally means “doing joint business without being shy or embarrassed”. Politically, it means transforming the “under-the-table” diplomacy into “over-the-table diplomacy”. Economically, it implies capitalizing on the existing security arrangements and intelligence cooperation, to ensure the prosperity of security -driven economic deals (and their industrial complexes) between the signatories. Socially, especially in the post-Covid-19 era, we will witness some social media influencers, celebrities, and possibly religious actors enjoying the trivial trappings of “peace-building”, for the sake of impacting public perceptions, pleasing the ruling elites, and financially benefiting from this emerging “peace industry”. These multi-dimensional consequences are some selected reflections of the short-sighted strategy that we could see in the near future. However, these manifestations are largely dependent on the continuation of the current administrations and polity in the ruling offices. A test to the strength or fragility of these “normalization deals” will occur the day after Trump and Netanyahu leave their political offices.

Additionally, it is crucial to remember that these “normalization deals” violated the “Arab consensus” around the Palestinian cause, and effectively declared the end of the much-touted Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative (API) as we know it (a future modified version of the API remains a strong possibility). Therefore, they further fragmented the “Arab bloc”, which has always been an Israeli-American objective that is now potentially fulfilled. Consequently, these “normalization deals” offer the Palestinian political leadership a reality check concerning whom they can depend on.
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US investment for Zimbabwe by strengthening relations with Israel
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Zimbabwe is set to become the latest African country to embrace Israel as it seeks to get off the US sanctions list. Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, vowed to get the embattled country out of the economic turmoil it had faced under the former president, Robert Mugabe, since the late 2000s, and ending US sanctions on the country would be a good start. In August, Mnangagwa appointed Israeli citizen Ronny Levi Musan as Zimbabwe’s honorary consul in Israel. This signalled strengthened relations between the two countries, and a move away from longstanding support expressed for Palestinians by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Mnangagwa hopes to enlist Israel’s military intelligence to train Zimbabwe’s security forces and to establish a defence academy in Harare, which will be run by Israelis. Zimbabwe’s relations with Israel began in the early 1990s under Mugabe, who deployed Israeli riot control equipment to suppress political opposition, especially before the 2008 elections when there was a heavy clampdown on the opposition, particularly supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
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The Palestinians need an alternative vision
A Palestinian flag flutters as Palestinians gather on a hilltop during a protest against Israeli settlements in the town of Beita in the Israeli occupied West Bank, on March 2, 2020 [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]The signing of the deal between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE at the White House on September 15 is, admittedly, the beginning of a new era that has started in the Middle East; however, it will not bring about – with its unbalanced power relations – a just solution to the Palestinian question. The accords of Camp David (1979), Oslo (1993), Wadi Araba (1994), and the Abraham Accord (2020), all of which were borne out of trade deals and backroom diplomacy between Israel and those Arab countries, have sold out the Palestinian cause altogether. None of them addressed the basic Palestinian rights, like the right of return of the refugees, self-determination, equality, and freedom. In a nutshell, all mentioned agreements have guaranteed Israeli control over historic Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, a de facto reality created by the stronger colonial party with no compromise whatsoever. The current situation is undoubtedly the product of international and regional imbalances prevailing at this specific moment, which is neither static nor eternal, but rather passing and will inevitably be followed by other moments, according to the law of dialectics.

There is no doubt, then, that this specific historical moment is the climax of Palestinian and Arab passivity because of the weakening of progressive Arab nationalism and the fall of the Palestinian right-wing leadership into the trap of the “peace industry”. However, any approaching moment is expected to be heading against what is being offered to us under these circumstances: “All that is solid melts into air” as Karl Marx would have put it. Opposition to the deals in the Arab world, in general, and the Gulf States, in particular, will grow exactly the same way the Egyptian and Jordanian peoples opposed and fought against the Camp David and Araba after they were signed.

The alternative vision Palestinians have to embrace is a geopolitical production that challenges the space newly drawn by the United States, Israel and their Arab allies – the so-called new Middle East – and puts forward a new map of secular-democratic Palestine, in the heart of a democratic Arab world. Palestinians need to move on, but with new ideas emanating from a strong belief that “[wo]men make history, but they do not make it in circumstances chosen by themselves”, as Marx has put it. For far too long, Palestinians have been led by right-wing politicians that have failed to achieve a single basic right of any of the three components comprising the Palestinian people: those living in the diaspora, residents of Gaza and the West Bank, and second-class Palestinian citizens of Israel.
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