UAE ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba wrote an article promising normalization on the condition that Israel does not annex parts of the West Bank. Jamal Juma’ of Stop The Wall pushed back with an opinion piece in Middle East Eye exposing the reality of Israeli apartheid.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.
Marc Steiner: Welcome to The Real News. This is Marc Steiner. Good to have you all with us. Something is afoot that could transform the political dynamics in the Middle East. Israel’s pending annexation of Palestinian land is at the heart of it. But, it also involves countries like the United Arab Emirates, officially in a state of war with Israel, but they have no diplomatic ties. But, it clearly allies and efforts to apply sanctions and do damage to Iran. It seems maybe the desire to keep Palestinians from becoming totally free.
On Friday, June 12th, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, published a letter in the Israel newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, expressing his government’s desire to have better relations with Israel and concerned that a unilateral Israeli annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank could harm their budding friendship between those two nations. Two weeks later, on Thursday, June 25th, as annexation plans were being moved forward, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Israel and the UAE we’re coordinating health responses to COVID-19. Let’s hear this.
Prime Minister …: [foreign language 00:01:07].
Narrator: In a few moments, the health ministers of the United Arab Emirates and the state of Israel will declare a cooperation in the struggle against corona. This cooperation will be in the fields of research and development, in technology, in fields that will preserve the health security in the entire region. This is a result of long and intensive communications over the last months, and it will bring a blessing to many in our area. The stronger we are, the more mighty we are, so do we deter our enemies better and bring our friends closer.
Marc Steiner: You may have noticed that Netanyahu referred to the UAE as a friend, even though it’s still officially registered as an enemy state by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The UAE quickly published a clarification that the health cooperation agreement is only between private companies, not between governments. Well, there’s more to it than just that. Jamal Juma wrote an article in Middle East Eye called UAE efforts to normalize Israel’s apartheid should never be tolerated. We’re now joined by Jamal to discuss his piece and the wider significance of the warming relationship between these two countries and other countries throughout the Middle East and the Arab world in Israel. Just for clarification, Jamal Juma was born in Jerusalem. He’s a Grassroots organizer and has been since the first Intifada. He coordinates the Palestinian campaign against the apartheid wall and since 2012, coordinates the Land Defense Coalition. Jamal, welcome. Good to have you with us here on The Real News.
Jamal Juma: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Marc Steiner: Let’s just begin, why do you think that UAE was making such an effort to improve relationships with Israel? Is there something wider going on here, in terms of a budding alliance between them and Israel, maybe even other Arab nations? Do you think the UAE really consider the annexation a problem? Or, is this a political liability that for them in a larger effort, to do other things with Israel? How do you think this really works out?
Jamal Juma: Yeah, exactly. I think the problem for the Emirates is not the annexation. The annexation [inaudible 00:03:03] is the Palestinians. They are not crying that the Palestinians would be harmed from this. In fact, what will be harmed in a way, from their point of view, is their relation with Israel and their relation with United States. That’s why they were trying to beg Israel that like, “Please, don’t do the annexation, at least in this way, and now, because this is mainly will harm our main activities, our main actions that we are taking toward normalizing with Israel, toward [inaudible 00:03:36] Israel became an ally. Which is they are [inaudible 00:03:39] is a lie.
The normalization of Israel by the Emirates has been taking, [inaudible 00:03:44] years it has been taking [inaudible 00:03:48]. So their problem, and even, this is the worst, when they talk about, this is we’ll explore the violence, even the Palestinian resistance in the eyes of the eminence, it’s for them as a violence. In their eyes it’s an in another way, it’s also a terrible. Like Palestinians was like fighting and trying like to, to, to save their existence, even in their land, since over now, 70, 72 years. Why they are struggling and see how the land has been taken step by step from there, from, from them. Taken out from there under their feet, until the end we get up in now, or it has been offered to us, this apartheid colonial apartheid understands that they are. And in spite of this, if the Palestinians will say no, and they will try to go to demonstrate against this, pause this in the eyes of the Emirates is a, it is a, it isn’t, you know what? We don’t want anything from them, from these countries from Buena. And you want anything from Saudi Arabia, from the gun. We want them just to keep silent.
Please just let don’t interfere in the Palestinian issue. Not for good and not for bad. Please, and just like, leave the Palestinians, go on with their struggles, without trying too hard to harm them. That’s what you are asking. These people just like do your normalization, but like not in a way that you harm the Palestinian people. Dance with them, whatever you want, but like not on the expense of the Palestinian people in this very critical time.
Marc Steiner: Well, that’s why I was trying to estimate. Let me push it a little bit further. I mean, in the past, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, UAE, many others, helped fund the Palestinian resistance against occupation. And that, and they, at the very least, they would do things like, hundreds of thousands of educated Palestinians could not get a job in Palestine became guest workers in different Gulf States. They sent remittances back to the families. There’s a whole economic movement going on there. The last 10 years or so though, with efforts with Netanyahu and others, both pillars of support kind of crashed, you know? So would you say that the Gulf States have changed sides? Are they now trying to suppress the Palestinians? What is the complexity that you see coming out of this in terms of an Alliance between Israel, certain Gulf States and the push against Iran and how Palestinian is just caught in the middle of that? They seem to being left hanging out to dry. What do you think the political dynamic is here?
Jamal Juma: I think it has to do with the United States politics in the Middle East. We’re trying to form this angle against Iran and Saudi Arabia wants to lead them. The Gulf countries want to lead this angle against Iran. Unfortunately, there have been bar, to feeding all this racism between the Shiites and the Sunnis, all this hatred has been, it has been feeding into this. Particularly the Saudis and the Emirates that has been doing this. Unfortunately this is, we have to pay the price as the Palestinians, because by having this Alliance with Israel, it’s just like anyone, it’s at the expense of the Palestinians.
Even when they talk about Palestinians, who were getting back their money to their homeland. You know, the Palestinians has been not there begging for money. They were working, they were building in those countries. They were from the early beginning, from the early 60’s, and 50’s even, they are part of the developing, part of building those States. What they have been- many of the Palestinians, take their wages, this is not like a kind of, that you say that you are, we are the one who’s feeding you. We are the one who is supporting you, your life as a Palestinian. Our cost is an obligation to the Arab countries. They can’t, the Arab countries, they can’t in any way, deal with the Palestinian issue like what the Saudis and Emirates is doing. When Israel has been started in this land, this doesn’t start, but just against the Palestinians, it’s the cornerstone for the imperialism. From the British then to the United States.
They are the one who’s exploiting, supporting the Arab resources. They are the one who’s just do with the United States behind this dictatorships that has been destroying any possibility for the Arab world to have a civil society, to have a normal, a normal life like any other people. From the colonization into dictatorship, it’s continued. It’s continued the same. Even when the Arabic people try to revolute, even, even though it had been co-opted this and turn it against the people by this, it’s such countries like, Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Marc Steiner: So one of the things though, I mean the Saudi Arabian government, the Egyptian government, some of the other Gulf States, Egypt is not a Gulf state as we know, and some of the Gulf States as well. I mean, these are powerful economic entities. They are clearly aligned with the United States and the West.
Do you think they were going to end up seeing a larger real alignment take place with Israel, if they can kind of finesse this annexation, so it doesn’t look like an annexation? Is that what’s about to happen?
Jamal Juma: The annexation is going on since 1967. It’s not from now.
Marc Steiner: I understand that. I’m not saying that. I’m saying, the present move supported by Trump, that Netanyahu wants to make, annexed large portions of the Jordan Valley, other places. That’s what I was referring to when I say annexation.
Jamal Juma: If I understand your question, right? Like the annexation, that Israel want now, this move, they want mostly, they want legitimacy for all their colonization steps that has been through a project that has been taken part from 1967 until now. The annexation in a way, it is like any make the civil, the Israeli civil law, apply to the Palestinian areas in the Jordan Valley, as well as in Jerusalem, as in the [inaudible 00:10:20]. That means changing the status, jurisdiction of the laws in those languages in a way destroying the Palestinian dream of state and Mousiff Bank and Gaza Strip.
Cementing, the whole ghettoization that they are building around the Palestinians now, or they are already starting constructing it on the ground?
Marc Steiner: So let me just close with this, because one of the things that was emblematic of all this going on was the UAE sent, these two shipments of a medical aid to Palestine, to deal with COVID-19. We’ve got Palestine government reject to the aid and we can talk about that. But when you also think about the context and explain, why do you think it was rejected, and what was really afoot there with you UAE making such an effort to kind of improve its relationship with Israel? That was part of this thing is going on as well. Give us some context to that?
Jamal Juma: I think the message, the message for the United Arab Emirates and as well… I think it’s like this moves has been also coordinated, definitely coordinated by the US Administration and Israel. In the middle of the Palestinian standing, all of them together with consensus against the annexation and the annexation of land and the Trump land, of course. As well as international wine, it has been almost consensus against the annexation and against the Trump plan. So they are bringing from the heart of the honor board, somebody to break this. Somebody to challenge this in a very, in a very, in a very bad way. Why did the Palestinians take this position? They will bring the aid through Israel, as if the Palestinians want their aid. We don’t want their aid.
The Palestinians want the political support. We don’t want like any, we don’t want medicine. We don’t want food. In a way it’s a humiliating for the Palestinians. What they did, this is absolutely humiliating and I don’t understand even politically why the personal authority with not go loud against this. Why they just like their criticism has been, go very soft.
So you can’t accept this in the middle of like, your future has been affected. In the middle of like any over like any, a century of the Palestinian struggle is, became under risk, by what’s happening now. And you are, you just like any allow such, such a thing to happen. We are in a very, very need for people to stand us with us politically. We are not starving. We don’t want food from anybody. We don’t want any, any humanitarian assistance. Now we want political standing. The world shouldn’t accept it. I gave to us under apartheid system. That will be, that will be done by honesty. Israel is just complicating the whole situation for the Palestinians and for the Israelis and for the [inaudible 00:13:16] .
Marc Steiner: And we close here. But I think that clearly this is just the beginning of the story. When you have thousands of Israelis, themselves, Palestinian Muslims, and Christians and Israeli Jews demonstrating against the annexation and this happening, there’s something, there’s something, a foot. And just very quickly, we only have a couple minutes left. Where we, how do you think that’s going to play out? You’ve been in the struggle for a long time. So how do you think it’s going to play out?
Jamal Juma: I don’t think that they will succeed in doing this. If they do that. I think in a way, I think they are doing for us a favor because, because this… We’ll put an end to the whole gambling on the United States and the whole no opposed to agreements that has been for 25 years sitting on our shoulders and allow us to go on in deep, this cannot be done with their colonial approach. It’s enough. We need to finish this, but a senior authority has to change. It can’t continue like this. Otherwise, they will be easily and openly collaborating with Israel in implementing the system. We can’t continue after this, like before. It’s enough. We have to go back again to the, as we say, the first circle, we have to organize ourselves for a long term resistance against this, the system against the United States policies against Israel, Israel policies. And they have to know, we are not going to accept another apartheid system after it’s fallen from South Africa. We are not going to have to be a slaves in this bank of stands. And cantons, we are not going to accept to be a workers in there, in their streets. We are a people who have a dignity who are a people, that we have high sense of our future and our rights. And we want it, we demand it. We are ready to resist until we get it, until the last month.
Marc Steiner: Jamal, Jamal of course. Thank you so much for joining us, once again, here, on the Real News. It’s a pleasure to have you with us and appreciate your analysis and your passion on all this as well. Thank you. Have a good evening. Thanks so much for taking your time.
Jamal Juma: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Marc Steiner: And you know, this is one of the issues we’ll be covering and stay on top of here at the Real News and I’m Mark Stein for the news. And thank you for watching this and take care.
Marc Steiner, interim co-Editor at TRNN, is a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has spent his life working on issues of social justice. He walked his first picket line at age 13 and at age 16 became the youngest person in Maryland arrested for Civil Rights protests, in the Freedom Rides through Cambridge. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, Marc helped organize poor white communities with the Young Patriots, the white Appalachian counterpart to the Black Panthers. Early in his career he counseled at-risk youth in therapeutic settings and founded a theater program in the Maryland State prison system. He also taught Theatre for 10 years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From 1993 through 1997 his signature “Marc Steiner Show” aired on Baltimore’s public radio airwaves, both WYPR – which Marc co-founded – and Morgan State University’s WEAA.