Ikhras Responds To Hussein Ibish

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[Ikhras Note: As we continue to advance the ikhras mission and critique “ikhras responds” will be a recurring feature in which we respond to House Arabs & Muslims commentary and views, if they can be called that, on current events and issues of importance to the community. This feature in our ongoing coverage of the establishment Arabs and Muslims will serve to highlight their subservience and ignorance, counter-defeatist tendencies, and promote discussion that goes beyond the strictly defined parameters of mainstream US political discourse. We are launching this feature with a response to an article titled “Time For Honesty About Dialogue With Israel” by anti-Arab activist and Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, Hussein Ibish.] 

As everyone who doesn’t live inside a warm cocoon of willful ignorance knows, the Arabs and Israel are in constant contact. They talk about everything from security to trade, intelligence to diplomacy.

The only person that appears to be living in “a warm cocoon of willful ignorance” is Hussein Ibish himself who seems to be totally unaware that the Arab public is, and has always been, fully informed about the contacts between Arab collaborators and Zionists. Since the early days of Zionist penetration into Palestine there have been a handful of Arab collaborators pursuing narrow interests willing to accommodate and work with the Zionist colonizers.  Zionists were able to find Palestinians willing to sell them land, inform on resistance fighters, and promote the acceptance of the establishment of the Zionist entity.  When the pre-Israel Jewish Agency was looking into penetrating further East across the Jordan River some members of local trans-Jordanian tribes were also willing to enter into business relations with Zionist organizations or sell tribal lands. The first King Abdullah was on the Zionist payroll and the endless meetings between the late King Hussein and Israeli political, military, and intelligence leaders were always the worst kept secret in the Arab world. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 it found willing Arab collaborators as right-wing, Christian fascist militias fought alongside the Israeli terrorist army against the joint Palestinian and Lebanese resistance forces.  Anwar Sadat entered into a peace treaty with Israel and cooperation between the two governments became the norm culminating in decades of close collaboration between the ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s intelligence services and Israel.

So it’s not surprising to anyone that Arab regimes continue to collaborate with Israel.  What is most significant, and what appears to be most frustrating for Ibish, is that 65 years after the establishment of the usurping Zionist entity, peace treaties with two Arab states, and massive Arab media empires promoting “normalization” with Israel, such meetings and collaboration must remain private. This is a testament to the fact the overwhelming majority of the Arab public remains opposed to the very existence of the Zionist regime in Palestine and refuses to recognize its alleged legitimacy or presumed permanence.

Self-serving collaboration with colonial projects and foreign military occupation is not unique to the Arabs collaborating with Israel. In Algeria the French colonial power found willing collaborators as did the British in Iraq. The German Nazi regime in Europe found a few willing collaborators in every country it invaded and occupied.  Self-serving, indigenous collaboration with foreign colonial powers and military occupation is not strange or new. What’s strange is Ibish’s open support for such collaboration and his continuing effort to make it respectable.

Even its supposedly most implacable foes, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and, yes, Iran, are always in touch – somehow or another – with Israel.

This is simply not true. Hizballah has never been “in touch” with Israel and all negotiations between Hizballah and Israel to exchange Lebanese POWs for Israeli terrorist soldiers were conducted through a third party intermediary. The only contact between the Syrian government and Israel was conducted openly as part of the “peace process” between enemies.

One can have sympathy for Arab officials who may wish to keep these contacts discreet and even secret. They are understandably concerned about public opinion that is primed to misinterpret these contacts as untoward “normalization” rather than the normative reality in the Middle East.

By “Arab officials” Ibish is presumably referring to the representatives of Arab tyrants at the Gulf security conference in Abu Dhabi that was addressed in secret by career war criminal and butcher of Qana Shimon Peres. Ibish may sympathize with Arab officials, especially officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which, it was recently revealed, donated almost $150, 000 to his American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), but Arab citizens and Arab-Americans have no sympathy for Arab dictators, tyrants, and collaborators.  What is interesting in this passage is Ibish’s own admission that the collaboration he describes as the “normative reality” remains anathema to the vast majority of the Arab public, and therefore, must be kept in secret.

And, sometimes, such as in delicate negotiations, even full-blown secrecy can be a virtue. So skittishness about acknowledging talking to Israel can be understandable, and sometimes even wise.

Not sure what “delicate negotiations” he’s referring to, but what Ibish appears to be saying here is that the vast majority of Arabs do not know what’s in their own best interest, and therefore, the Arab tyrants should forget about democracy, transparency, and the consent of the governed, ignore their own people’s public opinion and continue their secret collaboration with Israel which all reasonable and serious people would agree is in everyone’s best interest.

What’s not understandable is when those same officials condemn others for doing in public what they do in private: talk with Israelis. The hypocrisy of flinging “accusations” of “normalization,” “collaboration,” or “treason” at those who publicly and unapologetically engage in this unavoidable conversation is breathtaking.

Ibish does not speak, read, or write Arabic and it often shows in statements such as the one above. Arab officials do not condemn others for collaborating with Israel nor do they accuse them of normalization and treason, words Ibish places in quotes to indicate his rejection of the very notion that Arab acquiescence to Zionism should be condemned. On the contrary, official Arab discourse, especially from the US-approved Arab regimes that support the ATFP, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Jordan, is supportive of “peace” with Israel. These Arab regimes and their state-controlled media, including the two most watched news channels in the Arab world, the Saudi AlArabiya and Qatar’s Aljazeera, have been spending billions of petrodollars on media campaigns designed to convince the Arab public that Zionism is not an enemy and the cause of liberating Palestine should be officially abandoned.

Even more reprehensible are private Arab citizens – particularly those engaged in business – who scarcely leave a European capital without intensive consultations with Israeli counterparts for the sake of maximizing profits, while rushing to condemn any political conversation with Israelis or their Jewish supporters. Such double-dealers pocket private profits and public approbation simultaneously, but only through stigmatizing publicly what they find privately indispensable.

A few Egyptian and Jordanian businessmen have always been prepared to take advantage of the “peace treaties” by entering into profitable business relations with Israelis, and today businessmen from Arab Gulf states are also willing to do the same even without a formal “peace treaty” institutionalizing relations between their countries and Israel. However, in many instances these so-called “private Arab citizens” are linked to the Arab regimes through political or family ties. This is especially true in the Arab city-states of the Gulf where the lines between state, government, and family hardly exist. This capitalist class represents the 1% of their own population, which in most of these statelets amounts to no more than a single extended family presiding over a large investment fund with a chair and flag at the United Nations. Moreover, and here again Ibish’s lack of Arabic language skills comes into play, these Arabs are not the ones “rushing to condemn any political conversation with Israelis or their Jewish supporters” (Ibish’s interchangeable use of “Israelis” and “Jews” will be discussed below). Like the Arab officials themselves they are forced to conduct their relations with Israel in private, and would welcome the opportunity to intensify their dealings with Israel and expand these relations out into the public realm. It is Arab public opinion that prevents them from doing so.

A policy-driven Arab perspective cannot be more oblivious to the irreducible reality of Israel in the region than a profit-driven one. Arabs and Israelis need to deal with each other, and all serious people in both societies know it.

Israel as an “irreducible reality in the region” is a common theme for Ibish. Hardly a week goes by without him repeating the mantra that the racist, colonial entity in Palestine is a permanent reality and one that must be accepted as legitimate by the Arab public. Unfortunately for Ibish, and his Zionist friends in Washington, it is only the colonized people that can bestow legitimacy on any colonial project, and that has not and will not happen. The usurping Zionist entity will never be accepted as legitimate or permanent, and it’s becoming increasingly clearer year by year this last remaining colonial project is quickly heading towards its inevitable collapse to take its rightful place in the trash heap of history.

There is, of course, another option: dealing with each other publicly, unapologetically, and indeed proudly, because it is the only way to get things done.

What Ibish is calling for is accepting the Zionist colonial project in Palestine, abandoning Palestinian and Arab rights including the right of return, and accepting as normal a racist, settler colony in the heart of the Arab world.  What Ibish is advocating is unprecedented and abnormal, and there is no way for anyone committed to universal human values to “proudly” defend colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and racism.  And what “things” exactly is it that Ibish thinks the colonizer and colonized need to get together to “get done?”  The only realistic and moral objective colonizers and colonized can come together to work on is the total dismantlement of the racist, colonial structures and institutions.  The Palestinian consensus which offers the colonizers the opportunity to remain in post-Zionist Palestine is a vision of ethical decolonization firmly grounded in universal human values, and stands as the most magnanimous offer a colonized people has ever offered a colonizer.

Arab-Americans, especially, are free to do openly what many Arab officials and prominent persons feel constrained to keep private: to pursue their policy goals by engaging and building bridges with Jews and Israelis.

Ibish has grown frustrated in recent years with his inability to convince Arab-Americans to support his model of self-degrading activism and has been increasingly lashing out against Arab-American and Palestine solidarity activists. Arab-Americans have rejected Ibish and his brand of unreasonable reasonableness. He’s now evolved into a parody of moderation with a worldview based on an extreme, militaristic American nationalism rejected not only by Arab-Americans, but by almost everyone in this country except the most militant, pro-Israel fanatics and neocons.  Ibish’s frustrations will continue to increase as his chances of winning over Arab-Americans to his cause will remain just as bleak as those of the Arab dictators that support the ATFP of convincing their public to accept their own collaboration with Israel.

The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) – where I serve as a senior fellow under the leadership of its President, Ziad Asali – has a strategy of public, open engagement with Jewish-Americans, Israel, and Israelis, in pursuit of its mission to help end the occupation and create a Palestinian state. Hence ATFP simply cannot be intimidated or bullied by “accusations” of “normalization.”

The ATFP as we all know by now started out as the Washington lobbying arm of the Israeli-sponsored, Western-funded, American-supervised Palestinian Authority, and later evolved into the Arab-wing of the pro-Israel lobby.  The “strategy of public, open engagement” which Ibish and Ziad Asali have pursued amounts to hobnobbing with Zionist think-tankers, collaborating exclusively with the most extreme anti-Palestinian elements of the pro-Israel lobby, dining with the Israeli Ambassador, and celebrating “Israel Independence Day” at the Israeli embassy. This is not a “strategy”, but rather a self-serving, self-debasing approach for Ibish and Asali to ingratiate themselves with the pro-Israel community and Washington officialdom.  After ten years in existence the ATFP has not earned any support among Palestinian-Americans, cannot point to a single accomplishment, and without the generous support of the Saudi and UAE embassies in Washington would have probably closed shop long ago.

And notice how Ibish uses Israelis and Jews interchangeably.  If Ibish is suggesting refusal to collaborate with Zionists and the pro-Israel lobby is tantamount to rejecting engagement with Jews then he’s being deliberately dishonest. Ibish and his fanatic Zionist friends, which include former Israeli prison guards and a Daniel Pipes’ protégé, are the ones that need to understand we will not be bulled with explicit or subtle accusations of anti-Semitism.

On the contrary, ATFP has been able to demonstrate how constructive, positive dialogue with all potential partners – in the open and without any pretense – can make real headway in developing a broader, stronger constituency for the creation of an independent Palestine.

Ibish writes about “all potential partners“, but the ATFP engages in “constructivepositive dialogue” exclusively with Zionist fanatics, and Ibish’s claim that his two-man shop has developed a “broader, stronger constituency [presumably in the US] for the creation of an independent Palestine” is laughable. We would welcome any evidence the ATFP can provide about its development of a “broader, stronger constituency for the creation of an independent Palestine” or examples of any “constructive, positive dialogue” it has engaged in with anyone other than fanatical supporters of Israel.

ATFP is sometimes accused of engaging in “normalization.” Its policies indeed seek to normalize all the peoples of the Middle East, above all the Palestinians, who are in the least “normal” political situation possible, living for decades on end under Israeli occupation. Resolving this abnormality will also require normalizing Israel and its diplomatic relations with the other states in the region.

If Ibish wants to “normalize” all the peoples of the Middle East then he needs to call for an end to the racist, colonial entity in Palestine, support the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and land, and end his futile efforts to legitimize and make respectable a racist, colonial enterprise.

The UAE, and all those in attendance, are to be commended for doing in public what so many others prefer to keep private

In other words, we thank the UAE ruling family for its $150, 000 donation to the ATFP and look forward to its continuing support.

What could be a more reasonable goal, for all the peoples of the Middle East – Arabs, Israelis, Turks, Iranians, Kurds and others – than normalcy?

Arabs, Turks, Iranians, and Kurds are all indigenous people in this area and there presence is part of the natural landscape of the region. However, Ibish and the ATFP advocate for a racist, exclusivist state in Palestine inhabited solely by colonial-settlers, the abandonment of the Palestinian right of return, and the normalization and legitimization of this state of affairs. Not even by any stretch of Washington imagination can this be the new definition of “normalcy.”

If Arabs doubt it’s possible to speak with Jews and Israelis with mutual respect and dignity – and with a clear, focused aim, such as ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state – they need to take a closer look at ATFP.

Again, Jews and Israelis are not interchangeable terms. Further, Arabs and Jews have been speaking and living together for centuries prior to the advent of Zionism, and they will continue to live and speak together in a post-Zionist Palestine. The notion the ATFP can have any influence in the Arab world is ludicrous. The ATFP hasn’t been able to influence any Palestinian-Americans, and in the Arab world nobody has even heard of this shop. Ibish is free to praise his benefactors in the UAE, but these Arab tyrants that collaborate with Israel are as representative of the Arab public as the ATFP is of Palestinian-Americans. And before Ibish lectures anyone about “respect” and “dignity” he should take a closer at his own behavior and that of the ATFP and decide whether those annual “galas” and monthly cocktail hours with US officials and Zionists were really worth sacrificing his own self-respect and personal dignity.