Manama Conference.. Baffled, but not Surprised

Arab regimes harm their own interests by kow-towing to Trump

By Abdel Bari Atwan

It was baffling to hear that Egypt, Jordan and Morocco – according to a US official quoted by Reuters– have accepted the Trump US administration’s invitation to attend this month’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ conference in Bahrain. Baffling, but not necessarily surprising. Some Arab rulers are incapable of seeing the changes taking place in the region, or of understanding them if they do see them.

The news was baffling because these three countries have constantly reiterated, on every conceivable occasion, that they will never accept any deal for the Palestinians that the Palestinian people themselves do not accept, and will reject whatever they reject. How, then, can they decide to take part in a conference aimed at abolishing the Palestinians’ rights, and which is rejected unanimously by Palestinians of all political stripes? This is an act of abject capitulation to the Trump administration and a tacit endorsement of its ‘Deal of the Century’. Do these governments really think that the Arab public is too gullible to see that?

There was good reason to suppose the three governments would hold back from agreeing to attend the Bahrain conference, in which only two Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are willingly taking part. They have no interest in conferring legitimacy on the gathering, and are opposed to the ‘deal’ it is designed to promote, as it entails losing parts of their territory and serves Israeli schemes for the establishment of ‘Greater Israel’. But how wrong that rational supposition proved to be.

It should be utterly unthinkable for Arab states to fall into line behind a plan devised by an arrogant brat like Jared Kushner, whose only qualifications are that he is the president’s son-in law and his criminally convicted father is Benjamin Netanyahu’s chum. These countries have spent decades demanding the application of international law and UN resolutions to the Question of Palestine. Who is Kushner to trash all that at a stroke, convene conferences to liquidate the central Arab cause and one of the most just in history, and summon Arab rulers to come scurrying along to attend? To call this humiliating is to put it mildly.

For an Arab capital even to be hosting a discussion of this ‘deal’ is humiliation enough. It underlines the sheer extent to which the Arab world has declined in recent years. While other regional players are on the ascendant, drawing legitimacy from upholding Arab rights and championing the Palestinian cause, we Arabs are colluding in plans to liquidate that cause and perpetuate the occupation of Arab lands.  And while world powers are beginning to join forces to challenge US political and economic hegemony and arrogance, we Arabs are kow-towing to the most brazenly anti-Arab and anti-Muslim US administration yet.

Some Arab regime apologists argue that they are only attending the Bahrain conference as an information-gathering exercise: to find out what is going on and what the Americans are planning, the better to know what steps to take to counter those plans. This is the same self-deluding submissiveness that has led us to where we are today and turned us into a laughing-stock the world over. Is there a single Palestinian or Arab child who doesn’t know what the ‘Deal of the Century’ or its purpose is?

These and other Arab governments need not delude themselves about one thing:  The Palestinian people are not about to raise the white flag of surrender. Against all the odds, they have been standing fast and developing new methods of resistance. Their will is unbroken, and they have been left with nothing to lose. They are supported by the axis of resistance that has emerged in the region to fill the vacuum created by official Arab capitulation, and is gradually overturning the balance of power. But they are reliant essentially on themselves. Even while being starved and besieged, they have been largely alone in the Arab world in resisting the ‘deal’ and standing up to American bullying.  And despite much pressure and advice, they have refused even to meet with Trump’s envoys, at a time when supposedly sovereign Arab rulers vie for a chance to kiss his hands and feet.

There are the makings of an impending new Palestinian intifada in all this. The recent incident in Nablus — when members of the Palestinian security forces defied standing orders and opened fire on Israeli troops who attacked their headquarters, expecting them to submit as usual – was telling. It may have been limited, but it was a sign that change is coming. The Palestinians have begun breaking free of the Oslo straightjacket and the fiction of an Arab peace initiative. They are regaining their strength, and are capable of foiling the Deal of the Century and the US-Israeli scheme for the region, supported by the vast majority of Arab and Islamic peoples.

Don’t say you weren’t warned. Arab and Western leaders belittled the people of Yemen and their capacity to resist. They expected them to be defeated and surrender within a matter of weeks. But here they are, four years into the devastating war launched against their country, turning the tables and achieving miraculous feats of resistance. The same can be said of the people of Algeria, Sudan, Syria and Iraq. All have shown and are showing in their different ways that they are still capable of taking the initiative and foiling attempts to force them into submission.

Let the Arab governments go to the Manama conference, just as they went to the earlier normalisation conference in Warsaw. Let them squander billions more dollars complying with Trump and Kushner’s dictates. It will only bring them failure, shame and contempt. Just wait and see.

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