A recent visit to Qatar by attorney Alan Dershowitz, Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein and Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is part of a campaign by American Zionist leaders and their supporters to fortify Israel’s standing in the region in the most difficult period faced by the Arab and Muslim world. We can’t blame them for grasping the opportunity but should rightly expose and critique it.
Currently, Qatar is facing a siege from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt and, in response or as a way to alleviate the pressure, hired the Washington lobbyist Nick Muzin, a former advisor to Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Muzin was tasked with improving the country’s standing in the US, with a specific focus on the American Jewish community. A similar effort was undertaken by Saudi Arabia, with an invite and a country tour by New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman, who never misses an opportunity to demonize and problematize Arabs and Muslims while supporting every US and Israeli military campaign targeting the population in those regions.
Here, the agenda for Qatar and the four countries involved in the siege passes through Washington and structured relations with American Zionist organizations that seek to obliterate the Arab and Muslim support for the Palestinians. For me, the issue is not to delve into the current Gulf crisis or take sides between the various parties, but rather to highlight and critique the current engagement with American Zionist organizations and the wrong assumptions that they are well-suited to help resolve the ongoing conflicts by using their access in Washington. All the countries mentioned above, as well as others, have internalized this wrong assumption that the road to Washington passes through Tel Aviv and that American Zionist organizations hold the access key to decision-making circles in the US. While the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is powerful and able to push Israel’s agenda in Washington, the thought however that this will be used for the benefit of any Arab or Muslim countries is delusional, even when it produces momentary or short-term benefits.
Indeed, Qatar is not alone in the effort to court major American Zionist organizations in the hope of improving or shifting the boundaries of the ongoing protracted crisis. The logic is that the pro-Israel lobby in the US is very powerful and a key player in shaping the American regional policies, which has led to various initiatives to solicit their support on key intra-Arab and Muslim relations and post-Arab Spring conflicts. Thus, the recent reports of various Gulf States courting and trying to curry favor with major Zionist organizations in the US is both disconcerting and shortsighted. This effort is disconcerting because it is being carried out at the expense and in exchange for downgrading the occupation of Palestine as a central struggle on the regional agenda. Furthermore, it is shortsighted because the central assumption behind it is that Israel will protect the individual interests of the Gulf States rather than continue to expand its owns, regardless of the circumstances. Let’s be clear, Israel is in this regional game for one and one reason only – its own interests centered on dispossessing the last vestiges of the idea of a Palestinian state and to force the Arab and Muslim world to surrender to Zionism’s vision of the region.
The American Zionist organizations have always acted to promote and expand Israel’s sphere of influence, both regionally and globally, by using their access and influence towards this goal. It is Israel’s security and interests that drive the agenda of these US-based national organizations and the visits to the Gulf, Arab and Muslim countries are intended to strengthen and expand the sphere of influence. Due to this intense and complex engagement, Israel has become the key regional power, working to broker security and strategic relations between the various Arab state actors and some of the non-state actors. The subtext of this involvement is directed at creating favorable strategic conditions for Israel and developing a regional coalition to fight a future war against Iran.
Nowadays, the worst kept secret in the region is that Israel is the real power broker among the competing Arab states and existing Arab and Muslim political elites. A similar approach is put at work on the periphery of the Arab world involving Muslim majority states, but I will leave this for a future article.
Importantly, centering the American Zionist organizations in the effort to “resolve” or “address” intra-Arab and Muslim conflicts leads to its intensification due to the fact that a new set of demands, external to the existing crisis, is placed on each state in the region. The involvement of Israel and the American Zionist organizations is not cost-free, a heavy strategic and monetary price being extricated and leading to further strengthening and consolidation of AIPAC’s power and its lobby infrastructure. There is no such thing as a free lunch! What are Alan Dershowitz, ZOA President Mort Klein and Mike Huckabee claiming to seek in the region? To free and promote justice for Arabs and Muslims! Why don’t they start by calling an end to the Apartheid in Palestine, stop settlements and end the siege on Gaza before lecturing the region on rules of law, religious tolerance, and educational, economic and social reforms!
The contract and resources showered on various initiatives connected to Zionist organizations in America actually end-up increasing the power and influence of these organizations, while structurally disempowering the Arab and Muslim states, as well as weakening the American Arab and Muslim minority populations. At the core, all politics is local, which means that buying and contracting influence is a faulty strategy if long-term policy shifts are needed. Empowering the Zionist Organization of America, Friedman and Mr. Dershowitz to provide a momentary relief will lead to stoking and setting the stage for a prolonged and more permanent crisis and fragmentation in the region.
The American Zionist organizations and national spokespeople are concerned with one and only one issue – how to provide maximum security and influence for Israel in the US and in the region. Thus, the American Zionist organizational engagement in the affairs of the Arab and Muslim world is structured to advance Israel’s interest and security at the expense and beyond all other considerations. To think for a moment that torture courts supporter “liberal” Dershowitz, supporter of wars Thomas Friedman and settlement expansion advocate Mort Klein are interested in peace and security for the Arab and Muslim world is a sick joke masquerading as sincere diplomacy. This delegation consists of individuals that supported every Israeli attack on the Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Egyptians, Tunisians, and Syrians, and who are major advocates for a regional war on Iran.
The more problematic part of this current engagement is the proclivity of American Zionist organizations to be in the forefront of Islamophobic discourses and demonization of the Arab and Muslim presence in the West. Consequently, the engagement with these figures that have had a long history of demonization of Arabs and Muslims leads to conveying a garb of legitimacy to their voices and organizational affiliation at a time of intense islamophobic attacks facing minorities in the US and Europe. Other Islamophobic figures that have been given a red carpet reception in parts of the Arab and Muslim world include Daniel Pipes and Brigitte Gabriel, two leading characters at the hub of the Islamophobia industry.
The intra-Arab and Muslim world conflicts, both ideologically and politically, have witnessed this shift and embrace of Israel on one hand and American Zionist organizations on the other by all parties in the hope of securing an elusive victory. This approach is both delusional and short-sighted. Israel is not interested in a stable, unified and cohesive Arab and Muslim world because such a development would undermine its hegemonic position in the region.
More importantly, a unified region will be far more able and ready to center Palestine and the Palestinian struggle in their regional and global political, economic, and social agendas. The demands by Israel and the American Zionist organizations are to normalize the economic and political relations with the settler colonial state and to suppress the freedom of the press that highlights the daily atrocities committed against the Palestinians. Precisely on this point is the constant demand that Qatar and other Arab media outlets stop critical coverage of Israel while reducing every aspect of it to accusations of anti-Semitism. This is evidenced on the demands on Qatar that Al-Jazeera’s completed documentary on the US and Israel’s lobby organization AIPAC will be censored and will not be allowed to be aired.
The media in the Arab world should not be censored or managed to clean Israel’s Apartheid image and the American Zionist organizations are the wrong partner to foster and facilitate intra-Arab and Muslim relations. Furthermore, the relations with the American Zionist organization are not the same as forging relations with the American Jewish communities to combat and address issues of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and to foster religious understanding and cooperation. Merging Israel’s agenda and priorities through the engagement with the Zionist Organization of America and the Case for Israel author Dershowitz does a disservice to any attempt at confronting real and substantive anti-Semitism in the US and across the world. This engagement is about Israel’s interests and only that, with everything else being immaterial, including Arabs and Muslims, as well as any efforts towards resolving current regional conflicts.