Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on as he addresses the special meeting of Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland October 28, 2015. Photo: REUTERS / Pierre Albouy /NTB scanpix
As Palestinian leaders continue to condemn the United Arab Emirates for its agreement to normalize relations with Israel, Emiratis have responded by dismissing charges that the UAE betrayed the Arabs and Muslims, as well as Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue.
The main message the Emiratis and other Gulf citizens are sending to the Palestinians and the rest of the Arabs and Muslims is something to the effect of: «We did not betray anyone. We have a wise leader who has decided to do what is good for his country, the Palestinians and all Arabs and Muslims. You Palestinians need to get rid of your corrupt leaders.»
The Emiratis are also defending their leader’s decision to sign the normalization agreement with Israel by reminding everyone that the UAE is not the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. The Emiratis say they cannot understand why they are being harshly criticized by many Arabs and Muslims who have done almost nothing to assist the Palestinians.
«The UAE is not the first Arab country to conclude a peace agreement with Israel, and it will definitely not be the last,» wrote Emirati journalist Sami Al-Reyami.
«Many [Arabs] opened their doors to Israel and cooperated with it without achieving any real benefit for the Palestinian cause. It is very strange for the UAE to be subjected to criticism from governments and the media of countries that preceded it by decades in establishing and relations with Israel.»
Al-Reyami explained that when the Emiratis decided to establish relations with Israel, it did not do it out of the blue:
«Instead, the UAE did it after it received several requests from Arab, Islamic and other countries asking it to intervene to solve the problem and dilemma of Israel’s determination to annex lands in the West Bank. The Arabs, the European Union members and many countries were unable to stop the [Israeli] plan until the UAE intervened and did what the world did not do, and was able to make a difference and stop plans to annex Arab lands. So why are these short-sighted people now annoyed?»
Al-Reyami believes that the real problem the Palestinians and other critics have is not with the agreement itself. «Instead, the problem is in their hearts that are full of hatred for every step taken by the Emirates,» he said.
«This is not at all strange to them, and this will not stop the UAE from its progress and development, and its strategies and policies that take into account its interests and the interests of its people in the first place. The UAE is a sovereign state, and it has leaders who know exactly what they want and how to achieve what they want at the time they want. Since its establishment, the UAE has placed the interest of the Palestinian people at the top of its priorities. The Palestinians’ leaders may now ignore all the Emirati support, but the truth is clear and we do not need to prove it.»
Dr. Moza Alabbar, an Emirati writer, pointed out that the so-called Arab Spring in some Arab countries had «affected the progress of the Palestinian cause and caused it to regress.» Alabbar was referring to the series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab world in 2010.
Noting that the Palestinians have paid a heavy price because of the «foolish» policies of their leaders, especially the decision to support Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Alabbar wrote that the PLO, which claims to be the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians, has lost its credibility.
Meanwhile, she said, «the foreign policy of the UAE towards the Palestinian issue remains fixed and clear.»
«The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan [the ruler of Abu Dhabi for more than 30 years and the founding father and principal driving force behind the formation of the UAE] gave a lot for the sake of the Palestinians and their just cause, including political, material and moral support. The UAE continues steadfastly in its support for the Palestinian cause, because its goal is to support the Palestinian people as a whole and not a specific party. The UAE focuses in its support for the Palestinian people on important developmental sectors, which are directly related to the lives of Palestinians, in order to improve their livelihood and advance their future. For years, the UAE has provided billions to support the Palestinian cause and improve the living conditions of the Palestinians. The Emiratis continue to help the Palestinians. The UAE signed agreements with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to support education programs in the Gaza Strip.»
Alabbar said that the UAE is «a state of peace and peaceful coexistence and has proven over the past five decades that it served the Palestinian cause more than the so-called advocates of [Palestinian] resistance, who for years did not serve the cause, except for slogans that do not serve the Palestinian cause.»
Her message to «the haters of peace and tolerance: have you deliberately forgotten the Hamas movement, which is supported and embraced by Iran, and whose goal is to divide the Palestinians?»
Emirati journalist and poet Ali Obaid Al Hameli wrote that the UAE has always been supportive of the Palestinian people and their rights:
«The UAE remained faithful to its sincere position on the Palestinian issue, despite the change of Palestinian leaders. Some of the Palestinian leaders deny the UAE’s firm positions. The Palestinian cause has retreated because of the divisions and conflicts among the Palestinians. The Palestinian cause is lost and its blood is dispersed between the tribes, factions, militias, parties, groups, and the countries trading in the [Palestinian] cause.»
Hamad Al Kaabi, editor of the Abu Dhabi-based Al-Ittihad newspaper, defended the Israel-UAE deal and reminded Arabs and Muslims that Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians had also signed peace agreements with Israel.
«It is time for this region to enjoy peace, stability and development,» Al Kaabi remarked.
«Over the past decades, conflicts and tension have ravaged the region and many opportunities have been lost in order to find the right path that leads people to a prosperous life, and makes hope possible.»
The UAE, he added, has always adhered to peace and will remain supportive of the rights of the Palestinian people. «Emirati diplomacy is part of all the efforts that the region has witnessed to establish a just and honorable peace, and it has invested all its capabilities in this direction,» Al Kaabi said.
«In 1979, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel, and regained Egyptian and Arab rights. The Palestinian and Jordanian brothers concluded two agreements in 1993 and 1994, and Arab and Islamic countries established partial or full relations with Israel. The UAE has made the two-state solution the basis of its path towards peace with Israel. The UAE believes that peace gains cannot be compared to losses in conflict. In today’s world there is no alternative to scientific cooperation between countries to combat epidemics, climate change risks, and other disasters facing humanity. Peace in the Emirati vision stems from wisdom, moderation and rationality; it guarantees the rights of peoples and achieves their interests.»
The Emirati newspaper Al-Bayan also noted that the UAE has adopted positions in support of the Palestinian cause at all political and diplomatic levels as part of its commitment to a just and comprehensive peace:
«The UAE considers peace a fundamental pillar of stability and sustainable development and hopes to adopt new approaches in international relations to achieve justice, fairness, coexistence and tolerance, in which all enjoy prosperity and security… The UAE is working to spread the culture of security, peace and service to humanity and build of communication with various civilizations, nations and peoples.»
Yaqoub Al Rayssi, an Emirati security expert, said in a video he posted on Twitter that he saw no reason why the Arabs should make sacrifices for the Palestinian issue while the Palestinians are divided and fighting each other. «Why should we defend the Palestinian issue at the expense of our security, ideology and policies?» Al Rayssi asked. «We don’t care if the Palestinians are calling us traitors. [UAE Crown Prince] Mohammed Ben Zayed is doing what is good for his country, and we don’t care about the insults from the Palestinians.»
Reflecting widespread discontent with the Palestinians for condemning the Israel-UAE peace deal, several Emirati social media activists said that Palestinian leaders have brought to their people nothing but misery and corruption.
«[Former PLO leader] Yasser Arafat led the Palestinian struggle against Israel for many years,» commented one activist. «The result was that his wife and daughter inherited eight billion dollars.» In other posts on Twitter, the Emirati social media user wrote: «I was against Israel, but today I’m not. Time has shown us who the real friend is and who is the enemy,» and «The real treason is when you trade with the Palestinian people and not when you normalize relations with Israel.»
Commenting on the burning of UAE flags and pictures of Ben Zayed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Emirati security analyst Abudullah Al Mazroui wrote:
«If a group of citizens in the UAE or Saudi Arabia went out and burned the Palestinian flag or the photo of [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas, would our governments remain silent? The citizens would be immediately brought to trial and receive heavy penalties. Why are our flags and images of our symbols being burned in front of the eyes of the Palestinian government, while it remains silent?»
The reactions of the Emiratis to the Palestinian campaign of incitement against the UAE is another sign of the growing disillusionment of many Gulf citizens with the Palestinian leaders and the Palestinian issue. The reactions also show that for the first time in many years, Arabs have the courage openly to say that they prefer peace with Israel over continuing to support the Palestinians, who cannot get their act together and have chosen to align themselves with Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and the enemies of peace and stability.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute