The newly found public infatuation of certain Arab states with their former Israeli nemesis is better understood phenomenologically as a historical attempt to redefine the “self” and its “enemy” rather than simple normalization deals. The Arab is undergoing an epistemological metamorphosis as he/she writes a new script for their identity where the Ajam (Persians) are the new adversaries and the Israelites the long-lost brotherly allies.
Far from trying to undermine the validity and legitimacy of the Palestinian claims over their rightful lands nor the symbolic enormity of normalizing with Israel, what I propose here is to move away from passionate tautological debates and the classical mutual treachery accusations to see the Fresco painting coming together as we try to decipher the meaning of this deep shift in paradigms that is revealing itself before our shocked eyes.
The Arab is undergoing an epistemological metamorphosis as he/she writes a new script for their identity where the Ajam (Persians) are the new adversaries and the Israelites the long-lost brotherly allies
The Umayyad Xenophobe Within US
An accumulation of political and ideological tensions between Iran and surrounding regional powers paired with a US fixation to destroy any ambitious theocracies in the Middle East have paved the road to this drastic change of narrative. UAE, Bahrein, Sudan, and Morocco’s coming out of the closet about their ties with Israel should only come as a surprise to the alienated naïve populace that was spoon-fed years of pan-Arabism soup while their governments were negotiating a new identity and courting the Hebraic mistress in the shadows of London and Washington lobbies.
There was always an Arab predisposition to this animosity against Iran dating back to the pre-Islamic epoch, which became more fragrant as the Islamic empire continued its expansion. The root word of Arab ‘araba, meaning “to speak clearly”, is itself coined in opposition to the term ‘ajam, which pejoratively describes foreigners, mainly Persians, who "mumble and speak indistinctly". Same old antagonists but with a fresh glossary of hateful words and geographies that have been sketched by the despicable hands of Gertrude Bell and Sykes-Picot.
During the Umayyad period, Ajam was a xenophobic expression used derogatory to signify “illiterate and uneducated Persian second degree citizens”. Ironically these same Mawalis gave birth to the most prominent figures that made the glory days of Islam, including orthodox clerics that Sunnis ardently venerate today like Al-Bukhari, Moslem, Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, to cite only a few. From their side, Iranians haven’t been exactly the exemplary neighbors, as they have been mobilizing their own proxy actors and militias within the Arab Shia axis, creating a tense climate that seemed to culminate towards World War III at multiple occasions.
An accumulation of political and ideological tensions between Iran and surrounding regional powers paired with a US fixation to destroy any ambitious theocracies in the Middle East have paved the road to this drastic change of narrative
Not Against Palestine But Despite It
After decades of banal nationalism and cowardice towards Palestine, the tide is changing towards Israel as a new strong regional ally with developed military arsenal, notorious intelligence services, and infamous international lobby. This transformation is being operated not against Palestinians but rather despite them. There is undeniably a political fatigue from the thorny Palestinian conflict but also a growing pressure from the US to redesign regional alliances in anticipation to potential clashes with Iran.
The only catch is that Arab sentimental citizens have not been properly conditioned to accept this novel pragmatic approach. Even with territorial, military, and economic incentives the pill is still too hard to swallow. The crafty American PR machine promoting the Abrahamic Accords as a fraternal intercultural movement is only good for catchy media headlines, while Arabs know too well how the brotherhood of Isaac and Ismael ends in the holy scriptures.
The harder slap that we will all have to face sooner than later is that nation states, their borders, and the Arab Umma itself are sheer constructs that are doomed to break and mutate at some point in time. Most Arab countries did not exist in their current forms a century ago and will not probably survive the historical mill that restlessly reshapes empires, interests, and human movements. In Benedict Anderson’s 1983 theory, nation states are imagined political communities that are glued together by the power of socio-cultural symbols and an amalgamation of political discourses that perpetuate a certain “official” narrative that is most probably inconsistent with the historical truth.
The only catch is that Arab sentimental citizens have not been properly conditioned to accept this novel pragmatic approach. Even with territorial, military, and economic incentives the pill is still too hard to swallow
If nations can be imagined, they can also be reimagined, which is what is happening today in many Arab states. In ancient times, we were hunter gatherers with allegiance to a clan or tribe; yesterday we were part of the Roman, Moguls, or Ottoman empires; today we are semi-sovereign countries with ridiculous straight-lined borders drawn with a ruler; and tomorrow we might be Chinese colonies or even humanoid federations ruled by alien entities. I am not saying let’s forget our martyrs, burn our Kufiyahs, and surrender our land to any invader. I am only trying to deconstruct stubborn concepts that may obstruct our vision so we can understand better our position in history and the fatality of changing geopolitics and meta-geographies around us.
The last time we attempted to recreate ourselves, we brought to the world hideous leviathans like Al Qaeda and ISIS or aborted revolutions with potent smells of burned jasmine and abandoned trashcans. We should admit our epistemological failure so far to collectively imagine ourselves as a plural, cohesive, and dignified Umma of the future, but all in not lost. It may be true that historical and geographic changes are unavoidable, however, we have the power to influence their shapes and outcomes by establishing a community that does not exist in opposition to any alterity, an active civilization that drives changes instead of undergoing western patrons’ agendas that dictate who should be our allies and adversaries and at what cost.