By Prof Mohd Nazari Ismail, Ph.D.
The Israeli and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently signed a free trade agreement. The purpose of the agreement is to boost trade between the two countries. This development is not really surprising since the two countries have already been engaging in activities to cement the so-called US-brokered Abrahamic Accords signed on September 15th, 2020.
Moreover, long before the Abraham Accords were signed, the Israeli occupation and the UAE have long maintained trade relations in various areas including diamond trade, and high-tech industries. But the accords resulted in even more business deals between the two countries. Even Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank decided to sign an agreement to explore business opportunities with Bank Leumi, the second-biggest lender from Israel. In other words, the announcement of the free trade agreement is simply a natural progression in terms of friendly relations between the two countries.
However, for people around the world, especially Muslims, the development is seen as nothing less than treacherous and abhorrent. This is because many international human rights organizations have openly and publicly declared that 'Israel' is guilty of crimes against humanity due to its apartheid policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. The organizations include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B’Tselem. These organizations are calling on the international community to do whatever they can to stop the crimes, including engaging in moves to boycott Israel.
The reality is the occupation entity has been guilty of a litany of crimes against the Palestinians since its formation in 1948 including massacres of thousands of innocent Palestinians, destruction of thousands of Palestinians' homes, theft of their lands, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are now refugees in camps. These crimes have been described by Prof Ilan Pappe, the Israeli director of the Center for Middle East Studies at Exeter University in the UK as `ethnic cleansing’. In addition, Prof Pappe also describes 'Israel' as a settler-colonial project which seeks to cleanse the land of its indigenous people and replace them with immigrant Jews from Europe.
In order to ensure that the indigenous Palestinians that remain will never be able to have any political power in the area, millions of Jews from all over the world have been welcomed and given automatic citizenship while Palestinian refugees which also number in the millions now are not allowed to go back to their homeland.
Moreover, the Zionist settler-colonizers also embarked on a strategy to eliminate any form of Palestinian statehood, physically or emotionally, including erasing the names of Palestinian villages from maps, destroying graveyards, and schools, and prohibiting the public display of Palestinian flags. The Palestinians are also continuously subjected to severe oppression, including targeted killings of their leaders, curtailing their freedom of movement, and other forms of apartheid crimes. Palestinians in Gaza have been subjected to an inhuman blockade since 2007.
Unfortunately for the Zionists, the Palestinians are made of sterner stuff. They have resisted the Zionist attempt to steal their country from the very beginning of the settler-colonial project and have continued with their resistance till today. Of course, there is a heavy price to be paid. Thousands have lost their lives, and thousands of others have been injured and imprisoned.
The process of confiscating Palestinian homes is ongoing, including in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan districts in East Jerusalem which recently have been receiving a lot of publicity from the international media. The killings have also continued. One of the most recent victims was Aljazeera’s Palestinian journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. Since she was also an American citizen, her killing has caused a huge international outcry even among the American public. Even CNN produced a special report on her death which concluded that she was a victim of targeted killing by the Israeli military.
The call to boycott Israel is getting louder by the day, as reflected by the increasing support for the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement. The increase in support is most notable in the United States, especially in university campuses and among trade unions. In 2016, forty Columbia University faculty members signed a petition urging the university to divest from companies that “supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people.” According to the petition, the signatories “stand with Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as well as with Jewish Voice for Peace is calling upon the University to take a moral stance against Israel’s violence in all its forms.”
Recently at Harvard University, The Crimson, an official publication of the umbrella student union publicly expressed support for the BDS movement by publishing an op-ed that condemns the Israeli government for the crimes of apartheid being perpetrated against the Palestinians. At the City University of New York (CUNY) Law School, Ms. Nerdeen KIswani, a very well-known Palestinian activist and self-declared supporter of the BDS movement, was invited to give a speech at the graduation ceremony on behalf of the graduating students, reflecting the strong support for the anti-Israel movement.
All these prove that even in the US, a country whose government blindly supports Israel due to the presence of a strong Zionist lobby, millions of ordinary Americans are very clear that Israel deserves to be boycotted due to its inhuman and cruel apartheid crimes against the Palestinians.
Therefore, the only words that can describe the announcement of the free trade agreement between UAE and Israel are `Shameful and Abhorrent’.