As Israel signed historic diplomatic pacts with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Palestinians and their supporters around the world took to the streets and to social media to denounce the deals, which they say bring them no peace or end to generations of violent Israeli oppression.
At the U.S.-brokered White House ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani. President Donald Trump hailed the peace deals, which usher in normalized relations between Israel and the two Gulf Arab monarchies, as the "dawn of a new Middle East."
After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East. Congratulations to the people of Israel, the people of the United Arab Emirates, and the people of the Kingdom of Bahrain. God Bless You All! pic.twitter.com/gpeqFDtr0S
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2020
However, critics were quick to note that human rights violations perpetrated by all three nations—by Israel against its Palestinian and other neighbors, and by the Bahraini and Emirati regimes against their own people—will continue unabated.
"I love peace, but this is not peace," tweeted Palestinian American human rights attorney and legal scholar Noura Erakat. "Neither was Israel's support of Apartheid South Africa or to El Salvador leading up to civil war or to Bahrain which denies its people freedom."
I love peace, but this is not peace. Neither was Israel's support of Apartheid South Africa or to El Salvador leading up to civil war or to Bahrain which denies its people freedom. https://t.co/DgG23KGT5a#UAE #Bahrain #Israel #Normalization #Imperialism #AbrahamAccords
— Noura Erakat (@4noura) September 15, 2020
They call it a peace deal, peace for whom? Not the Palestinians living under occupation, not the Bahraini’s living under oppression.. the only supposed peace is between two parties who weren’t at war to begin with and who should both be on trial.. #بحرينيون_ضد_التطبيع
— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) September 14, 2020
Ramzy Baroud, the Palestinian American author, journalist, and The Palestine Chronicle editor, told Common Dreams Tuesday that the peace deals are "the outcome of years of hidden normalization between several Arab countries and Israel with the aim of strengthening the anti-Iran alliance and to counterbalance the rise of the Turkish-Russian influence."
With the US on the retreat throughout the Middle East, starting with the seismic shift in Washington's foreign policy priorities after the Iraq fiasco—which began taking shape in 2012 under the Obama administration—US Arab allies felt betrayed and beleaguered.
The normalization between Arabs and Israel was Jared Kushner’s answer to the dilemma of rich, but militarily weak Arab countries that relied on Washington for protection. It integrates Israel into the region without the latter having to make any concession to the occupied and oppressed Palestinians, while reassuring Gulf states that they are now safe, thanks to Israel's US-financed military and intelligence capabilities.
"This so-called 'peace for peace' style normalization shall have dire consequences on an already unstable region," warned Baroud. "While a just peace would naturally lead to stability and security for all, unjust 'peace' shall naturally garner the exact opposite."
Others, including the Israeli American journalist Mairav Zonszein, warned that any peace deal that fails to address the issue of Palestinian sovereignty is inherently flawed.
Israel has not, to this day, recognized the Palestinian right to self-determination and an independent state.
— Mairav Zonszein מרב זונשיין (@MairavZ) September 14, 2020
In Palestine and around the world, there were protests Tuesday denouncing the pacts. In Gaza, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City.
"The UAE-Israeli normalization deal is denying all Palestinian rights, Palestinian land, as well as the issue of Jerusalem," protester Ahmed Helles, a member of Fatah's Central Committee explained, adding that "the Palestinians have several chances to act against the deal."
There were also protests in the West Bank, where demonstrators waved banners reading "traitors" and "no to normalization with the occupier" while stressing that only an end to Israel's illegal 53-year occupation can bring peace to the region.
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"If Israel wants peace, then the only way real peace can happen in the region is through giving us our freedom and ending the occupation," protester Ibrahim Ouda told Al Jazeera.
The protesters' sentiments were echoed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who said in a statement that "peace, security, and stability will not be achieved in the region until the Israeli occupation ends."
Hundreds of Palestinians and their supporters rallied outside the White House in Washington, D.C. as the leaders met on Tuesday, chanting slogans including "No hate, no fear, Bibi is not welcome here," and "Occupation is a crime, normalization is a crime."
More than 50 groups including the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and American Muslims for Palestine supported the Washington protest.
"We're here obviously today because there can be no normalization with Israel without Palestinians being at the table," Jinan Deena, national organizer for the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, told Middle East Eye.
"These countries that are working to normalize with Israel are in fact harming the Palestinians more by signing these deals and coming out, and stating clearly, what their intentions are," Deena continued. "And the fact that they say that this is actually to help Palestinians doesn't shed light on the fact that they're doing it more for their own gain, whether it's monetary, whether it's military, and Palestine is not even a second thought to them."
Some of the protesters referred to the history of the establishment of the modern state of Israel—which was achieved largely through European settler colonization, terrorism, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians—as an unresolved obstacle to peace.
"They stole our capital, they keep on stealing our lands and it's not okay," said Mohammed Awad, a 13-year-old protester at the rally, referring to the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem.
On social media, Palestine advocates called for a "Black Day" to protest the peace deals.
Pro-Palestine activists worldwide call today, 15 Sep., the day when UAE, Bahrain, and the Israeli occupation will sign the peace deal, the #Black_Day #اليوم_الأسود, calling for supporters of the Palestinian cause to condemn the deal on social media and through demonstrations. pic.twitter.com/pa14vsn79Y
— Days of Palestine (@DaysofPalestine) September 15, 2020
The international hacktivist collective Anonymous weighed in on the news, calling the deal "a win for human rights violators worldwide."
Four countries, not at war sign a "peace agreement" to normalize the illegal occupation & apartheid of Palestine by Israel, increase trade/tourism, and the sale of weapons of war.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonCentral) September 15, 2020
Back on the streets of the West Bank, demonstrators sounded hopeful despite their ongoing oppression by Israeli occupation forces. Osama Hasan, who took part in a protest in Hebron, told Al Jazeera that normalization is "a stab in the back of the Palestinians."
However, he added that "despite the heartbreak over it, we have always known the road to freedom is long and hard, and needs patience and sacrifice."
"We will keep walking that road and keep fighting until we earn our freedom and establish the Palestinian state," Hasan vowed. "The Palestinian people are here to stay. Our resolve, resilience, and steadfastness will not be affected by those who let us down and abandoned us."