Gaza war: The end of Middle East status quo

*Sami Ramadani (researcher, author and commentator) 

**Stephen Bell (trade unionist) 

***Dr Daud A. Abdullah (academic and political commentator) 

The protracted war on Gaza that has been raging for over a month has the potential to end the status quo in the Middle East. It has demonstrated the limitation of the Israel invincibility despite being in possession of the most sophisticated American weaponry. The Palestinian resistance movement has withstood the Israeli onslaught that did not limit itself to military targets but caused massive civilian casualties. The devastation of Gaza brought back the memories of WW2 in Europe when whole cities were wiped out of existence. Yet the resilience of the Palestinians has surprised the world and forced new realities that rendered the Israeli military campaign a political failure. Israel remains under existential threats while the Palestinians who have endured the onslaught have remained an inspiration to their admirers. After one of the most destructive military campaigns of recent years, the Middle East may witness an end to the status quo and the emergence of new political realities. 

 14th November 2023     

Dr DaudAbdullah: I would like to express my deepest thanks to Dr Saeed and all those who have taken the time to organise this seminar to discuss what is a very important issue.  The topic of this evenings proceedings is the end of the Middle East status quo. My own view is that it is a bit early to assert that the status quo has ended or will end after the war. The region was in a state of transition before 7th October. We can  revisit some of those changes that were underway.  The statement that the status quo has ended is partially true. So it is a mixed picture that we are about to examine in more detail.

The immediate  cause of the current  events has been the colossal failure of the Israeli intelligence and of course the massive blow that was dealt to their prestige and image both in the region and beyond. It should be noted that on the very first day after the assault on the settlements, Netanyahu himself said that we will remake the Middle East. It is a bold statement but it tells us something about the  mindset and the ambition of the Israeli political establishment to remake the Middle East.

So  they have the opportunity to embark on this grand project or to continue from where they have left off before. One of the projects that was  central to this project of remaking the Middle East was the normalisation process between Israel and several other countries. The UAE, Bahrain and Morocco have done so and of course Sudan. This is part of the initiative to remake or redraw the security and protection of the region.

Al  Aqsa flood dealt a major blow to this and  Israel’s ambitions in the region as a policeman on behalf of the United States and its allies. The failure which we saw has exposed the inherent  weaknesses and the inherent unpreparedness of the military. This is not  something that was spoken about before. If you were to go back a few months you would hear or see reports from intelligence which concerned intelligence officers from the military establishment –  they feared for the army and the army was not ready for the conflict. Of course  it came on the back of the political instability caused by Netanyahu’s policies. Many soldiers said we will not serve and the weakness was beginning to show. The assault on October 7th exposed that even more.

Israel cannot become a viable contender  to support and defend Western interests in the region – not in the manner which they desire. One of the issues that they aspire to again in  the normalisation process was to take Palestine off the international agenda. Palestine would no longer be spoken of in the region and beyond in the United Nations. This current episode of fighting has restored  the Palestinian issue right at the very top of the global political agenda. In a sense their aim to change the status quo and to marginalise  Palestine as if it never existed. Netanyahu himself bragged about this in the general assembly in 2022 when he said that this issue has been resolved. There is no such thing as the Palestinian issue any more.

However the other issues and targets of the normalization process which in my mind can be questioned at the moment is the aim to  marginalize the role of Iran and to create the perception, the view that the real  problem in the Middle East is the so called Iranian threat.  So  those that have signed the accords: Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco, they have done so for various national interests: Morocco because  of the Sahara issue, Bahrain and the UAE for human rights reasons.  They think if they can have a good relationship with Israel then the Americans will totally ignore what they are doing on the issue of  human rights. And the same applies to Sudan.

The Middle  Eastern countries have this view of feathering their own nest and protecting their own interests The United States had a different vision. Their vision was to have a military alliance in the region again Iran.  The Central Command Chief in the region Frank Mckenzie said that  the US would welcome the creation of a Middle East air defence alliance that  includes Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf states. So that is their thinking. They are hoping to create this military alliance targetted against one regional country. The Gulf states in particular have asserted that this is not their view. They have no intention of becoming part of a military alliance.

But if we go back over the last decade and a half we will see some of the changes taking place and this conflict is going to accelerate those changes. There is a shift in the power balance in the region. Traditionally Egypt and the countries of the  Levant, Syria and Lebanon played a major role in the region. What we have seen is a shift in the Gulf, in Qatar particular.  It continues to play a major role in resolving conflicts.  There is a shift. It does mean that Egypt has been dispensed with but there are other major players who have come to the fore, not to mention of course Turkey which has played an increasingly important role in the region.

So the notion that  the Middle East is an open theatre for the Western powers to impose their policies is no longer the case. The countries from Iran to Turkey and of course others in the region have begun to show a greater measure of independence  in the light of what is happening in Gaza. It is like the rapprochement  between Iran Saudi Arabia will go a step forward in the future particularly if the resistance remains standing and in control of the Gaza strip after all it was supported by Iran. It was one of the axis of the resistance movement.

So that is one of the scenarios that we may see unfolding in the future. Ironically when the Americans signed up to the joint agreement to take on the nuclear progamme in Iran in 2015 Biden signed up to it. He is subjected to pressures from Israel and he has gone 360 degrees back.

In my  view the manner in which some of the countries have handled this matter it exposes the moral weaknesses and the lack of commitment to human rights and that will not go down well in the region in the aftermath of what it has seen, the duplicity  with which they handled Ukraine and the way in which they want to handle Palestine. This tells us  that there are different  standards and rules for some people and it  depends on which side of the fence you are. So resistance has become unlawful in Palestine, dishonourable and in Ukraine it is noble and it is legal. This type of double talk has been exposed the people are aware of this.

Today however it ends it is creating opportunities for rivals of the United States in particular to consolidate their position in the Middle East already. Russia has a strong military presence in Syria. It has immense political influence over the government there. In Algeria in has strong relations with Algeria and it has reinforced those in recent months.

So in this conflict as America loses credibility  in the region and it will become less supportive of the inhuman policies they will look for other allies in the political sphere or the economic sphere. We see this with regard to the Chinese.  Beijing has had diplomatic ties with most of these countries since 1945. The Chinese have agreements with all the states in the region and China is a major investor.  Countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular  move in that direction of closer ties with China economically. They will be followed I am sure in my view and both the Chinese and the Russians will seize the opportunity provided by the current conflict and  the  loss of credibility and influence of the USA in the region. Investment and trade ties between China and the Arab countries have increased with the Gulf countries in particular.  Between 2010 and 2021 the trade ties between the Gulf states and China doubled. This is one of the shifts we see in terms of the status quo and I think it will be accelerated in the months to come.

A word of caution here. Despite the fact that there is this drift and tendency to forge stronger ties with China it does not mean that they will abandon the United States entirely. You have to be clear. They will continue to have relationships and ties in various fields.

One of the issues was that the UAE wanted to buy F25 fighter jets with the USA but because of its closer ties with the Chinese the Americans have stalled on this.  With the Saudis also there will also be a   price to pay for them due to their closeness to China but they will continue  to exercise a measure of independence. Let us take the question of oil. The USA because of its sheer production  in the last decade undermined the share of the price of oil for the OPEC countries. So the OPEC countries with Saudi Arabia  brought Russia on board in 2016. That was a message to the USA that we have friends elsewhere and we can pursue a course that is more independent of Washington and other European  capitals. It came to a head in 2018 when they slashed the oil production and made rise significantly.

To conclude we have seen the signs and what happened in Qatar during the World Cup and the way in which there was this outpouring of support for Palestine and the waving of the Palestinian flag. That sent a message clearly to America and to the Israelis that this agenda of normalisation is not working. It may take off on governmental level, on a political level but the people of the region will have nothing to do with this until the rights of the Palestinian people have been restored.

Stephen Bell: As always, it is a privilege to address the Abrar House audience.  Tonight is a particular challenge, as I agree with Daoud’s remarks about the complex nature of the question.  It is also a challenge to share a platform with Daoud and Sami who have a different order of expertise to mine.  Nevertheless we must address the issues.

Beginning with the role of imperialism in the region, I think the Gaza war has accelerated the decline of US influence.

We can trace the definitive rise of US imperialism, replacing British imperialism in the region, through 3 key events.  Firstly, the ARAMCO oil concession in Saudi Arabia in 1933 and the subsequent political agreement between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud in February 1945.  Secondly, through the US carrying out the coup against Mossadeq in 1953, ending the British oil monopolyin Iran, and securing the pposition of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.  And finally, through the Eisenhower ultimatum against the British,French and Israeli war on Egypt in 1956.  Thereafter it was obvious to the world who was hegemonic in West Asia and North Africa.

The decline of US imperialism has most clearly expressed itself in the world economy.  According to the World Bank, China surpassed the US in 2017 as the largest economy in PPP dollar terms.  Today, China is 20% larger than the United States.

Equally, the power that the US exerted, through its alliance with the other major imperialist powers, no longer dominates the world economy.  Thus, in1990, the G7 countries had a combined value of just under 24 trillion dollars – while the BRICS economies had a combined value of just under 7 trillion dollars.

By 2022, this imbalance was reversed.  The G7 economies, last year, had a combined value of just over 42 trillion dollars – while the BRICS economies, even before their recent expansion of members, had a value of just under 44 trillion dollars.  In the poast 32 years, the G7 economies have nearly doubled, while the BRICS economies have grown sixfold.

Despite attempts to present matters otherwise, the data reveals a relative decline of imperialism, and a qualitative growth of the developing countries of the Global South, with China at its core.

In the last five years, the Chinese economy has grown on average 4.5%, compared to an average growth of 1.8% in the US.  That means that China is growing two and a half times as fast as the US.

All the evidence, including the fact that the US is the most heavily indebted nation in the world, suggests that this historic shift is irreversable by purely economic means.  The US cannot out grow, or out compete, its competitors.  That being the case, the US is using the one capacity it has which is undiminished – its huge military power.  That which it cannot achieve by economic or diplomatic means, it is now trying to secure by military means.

For West Asia and North Africa the past twenty two years has seen the most sustained intervention by the US in its history.  In these circumstances, the Israeli state plays a pivotal role as the most reliable ally and military support in the region.

In particular, for the US it is most important to stabilise Israel’s relations with the surrounding Arab states.  Hence the role of the Abraham Accords, and the efforts to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia.  This was Trump’s priority, and Biden has continued with this approach – where the Palestinians are by-standers who can be appeased through improving their living standards.

In the context of US decline, we can understand the ferocity of the current war.  The US and allies need Israel to stabilise the region.  The Palestinian Unity Intifada of 2021 demonstrated that the Palestinians could not be ignored.  The US government, however, did ignore that fact.  Instead it focused on driving NATO eastwards into Ukraine creating the outbreak of war there in February 2022.

When Netanyahu came back to power in December 2022, the Biden administration may have disapproved, but was content to let him continue the policy of annexation and dispossession.  The provocations of his government made inevitable a Palestinian response.  The timing, scope and audacity of that response on October 7th took Netanyahu, Biden and much of the world by surprise.

This is the first element of disruption in the status quo.  The US can only envisage the military destruction of the Palestinian resistance.  It has no capacity to manufacture a diplomatic settlement to its liking.  Pal;estinian resistance has assumed a much more disruptive role than US imperialism bargained for.

The second element of disruption is the continuing constitutional crisis of the Israeli state.  The long process is rhe continuing rightward shift in Israeli society through a succession of coalition governments from frequent general elections.  Between 2019 and October 2022 there were five general elections.  From the last of these Netanyahu’s government is clearly the most right wing in Israeli history.  It is also one of the least stable.

The crisis before October 7th was not just driven by Netayahu’s judicial review.  But also by the instability arising from the greater initiative allowed to the settler movement in Israeli society.  This movement had been encouraged by the US.  Trump’s “Deal of the Century” had explicit annexionist anbitions, particularly for the Jordan Valley.  This has made the Israeli government more aggressive – witness the number of new settlements and demolitions in the West Bank this year.

Make no mistake, the expansionist and provocative nature of the Netanyahu government was made possible by the US and its European allies making no efforts to restrain him since December 2022.  Nor did the domestic opposition appear capable of removing him despite the breadth of demonstrations this year.

However, after October 7th that has changed.  Suddenly Netanyahu has had to make a deal with part of the opposition, bringing Ganz into government, and weakening the far right position.  The editorial of Haaretz on October 8th reads: “The disaster that befell Israel on the holiday of Simchat Torah is the clear responsibility of one person: Benjamin Netanyahu.  The prime minister who had prided himself on his vast political experience and irreplaceable wisdom in security matters, completely failed to identify the dangers he was consciously leading Israel into when establishing a government of annexation and dispossession, when appointing Bezalel Smotrich and Itmar Ben Gvir to key positions, while embracing a foreign policy that openly ignored the existence and rights of Palestinians.”

Regardless of the outcome of the war, Netanyahu’s popularity has collapsed.  Post war there will be a reckoning, Israekli politics will be changed.

Another element of the status quo that has been disrupted is the pattern of economic and state relations.  Just as the US aimed to “normalise” relations between Israel and the Arab states, so too it hoped to contend the influence of China by creating alternative economic paths for the region.  In both these aims it has registered a setback.

As far as “normalisation” of state relations go, the process has been disrupted at least. The Saudi regime has put the process on hold, although most likely wants to later resume.  The regime is pursuing a course which is not acceptable at present to the US and Israel.  On its own accord the Saudi regime had called for a ceasefire.  This was followed through in the decision of the Arab League/Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in Riyadh.

It is also notable that two states which had already established treaty relations with Israel, Bahrain and Jordan, have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel.  It may be these are temporary moves.  But they are moves made under the compulsion of mass opposition from the population of the Arab states.  What is surely permanent is a legacy of hostility to the Israeli state for its crimes in Gaza. Judging by the experience of decades of normalisation in Egypt and Jordan, the people cannot be won to turning a blind eye to the oppression of the Palestinians.

The US does not have much to offer as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative.  But it is attempting to construct some new economic pathways for the region.  At the G20 summit in September this year, a memorandum of understanding was signed on the establishment of an India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.  India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would be directly part of the corridor, Israel would act as a hub and there would be a terminal point in Greece.

The idea is to increase the flow of goods between India and Europe with increased investment in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.  This is directly opposed to the Belt and Road and aims to isolate both Iran and China.

The project itself suffers from the absence of state funding – relying primarily on private investment.  This is far from convincing, private investment usually demands government subsidies for infrastructure investment.  Equally, the project is lagging behind other economic developments.  Belt and Road investments between 2013 and 2023 total $1.04 trillion, and are spread over 148 countries.

Indeed the pre-cursor to the India to Europe corridor was the so called I2U2 group.  This involved Israel and India (I2) alongside US and UAE (U2) in projected infrastructure projects.  It has produced negligable results.

Now, after the Gaza war, it is inconceivable that the Saudis and Emiratis will quickly engage in major projects with the Israelis.  Yet both states are desperate to find effective investment outlets for the “2030 Vision” diversification programmes.  Immediately, it s most likely that desperation will find an outlet by investing eastwards rather than towards Europe.

The final element in the status quo is the position of the Palestinians.  How has their resilience, and the October 7th actions, changed their position?

Certainly their position before October 7th appeared extremely bleak. The US, EU and Israeli governments were united in neglecting their problems; the worsening legal position of Palestinians inside Israel; the disappearance of any semblance of negotiations towards a Palestinian state; the provocations against Al Aqsa, the continued siege of Gaza; the settler offensive in the West Bank; and the total neglect of refugees outside of Palestine – together represented a scandal for humanity.  October 7th reminded the world that the Palestinians existed, and refused to be consigned to oblivion.

The popular mobilisations across every continent have shown that the majority of the world stands with the Palestinians.  The elites in North America and Europe who are enabling the Israeli government’s genocidal war are a minority – most certainly not the real international community.

The hope for the Palestinians lies in the fact that their resilience, and the popular mobilisations, have created fractures amongst the elites.  Inside the US Biden’s Democrats and the Republicans are supporting Israel. But there is a growing opposistion inside the Democrats.  Democrats voters are abandoning Biden – who has an election in sight.

Israelcan continue the war because the US government is allowing it to.  It does not have an indefinite amount of time to do so.  The more Biden feels the heat of a domestic opposition, the more he will be forced to constrain Israel.

Today’s Wall Street Journal contains an article from two Israeli Knesset Members calling for population transfers from Gaza to other Arab countries.  This, of course, is being argued on humanitarian grounds – claiming that UN resolutions for a ceasefire are “doing nothing to help Gaza’s residents”.  This proposal has been endorsed by Israeli Minister Smotrich who also has apparently humanitarian aims, stating: “…the absorption of refugees by countries of the world that truly want their best interests, with generous financial support and assistance fromthe international community, including the state of Israel, is the only solution that will bring an end to the suffering and pain of both Jews and Arabs alike.”

Such a solution is not acceptable to Biden’s administration.  It would absolutely destroy any chance of maintaining serious influence with evenfriendly regimes in the Arab world.  Therefore Biden will have to work on lowering Israeli government expectations.

In these circumstances, the mobilisation of Palestine’s world wide supporters is crucial.  Already we have seen the apparently solid EU front fracture – with 8 EU governments voting for a ceasefire at the UN – including France, Spain, Belgium and Ireland. 

Inside Britain the bipartisan position of the Tory and Labour leaderships is definitely under strain from mass mobilisations.  There will be a rebellion inside Labour on the “ceasefire” amendments in the Commons.  THe Lib Dems will suppoert the SNP proposals.  The organised lobbying, particularly by the Muslim community, is having an impact in many Labour held, or potentially Labour held, seats.

Despite the daily horrors we are witnessing in Gaza, the future is being changed by the international movement in support of the Palestinians.  Where it will end, we don’t yet know.  But things are changing – our activity matters now more than ever.  Keep working for Palestine! Thank you for listening.

Sami Ramadani: I will try not to go over points that were made by Steve and Daoud. As I list the factors that I think have changed the Middle East  to start with I believe that 7th October has completely changed the map of the Middle East.  And I will try to explain why. I think we do and can talk about the Middle East before 7th October and after 7th October. A similar moment but not as epoch making as this one in relationship to Palestine and Israeli aggressions in the area was in 2006 in Lebanon when the Lebanese resistance repulsed the Israeli invasion forces. That was a victory that still stands today as a major victory for the Lebanese peoples and the people of the Middle East so much so that Israel has not dared to invade  Lebanon again. So the Lebanese resistance has created a deterrent force for the Lebanese people and has become a bulwark for supporting the Palestinian people.

But this 7th October event I think the very first point we need to make is that it has punctured the Israeli invincibility so called.  Israel has always projected this incredibly powerful force within the Middle East, nobody can touch it, nobody can hurt it and so on  and so forth. This was actually found to be an  illusion. A few hundred Palestinians have  done what Israel  could not dream that this could happen to it. It became a nightmare and it has shaken Israeli society to its roots.

The settlements around Gaza are empty today. They have moved deeper into occupied Palestine and in the north with the Lebanese border again some 65,000 Israeli settlers had to move south. And the Israelis literally lost their balance. You could see it in the first few days when contradictory statements were coming out. Netanyahu  could not even face the media for six hours after the 7th October attack. So the first one is the destruction of this so-called invincibility of  Israeli military might.

The second one which has changed the status quo I think is that it has now become absolutely clear that Israeli military might cannot defend itself against the rise of the Palestinian people and the resistance forces in the region. Hence the rush by the United States and Western powers to go to Tel Aviv and try to bolster Israeli political morale and also to create a military bridge of  advanced supplies of US and other Western military weapons. And in addition to that bridge there are  also reports that US special forces are actually operating in occupied Palestine. This has demonstrated  to the entire world and especially the Arab world that this facade that the United States can bring peace to the region is an illusion, it is a fallacy because ultimately the United States is the guarantor of Israeli aggression.

Just like in the war in 2006 the USA is actually running this war. They can stop it tomorrow if they so wish. I do not think that Biden and the US administration want to show that they have the upper hand but I believe that the United States can stop this war because Israel depends completely on US financial and military backing. Withdraw that and there is no such thing as an Israeli veto against a decisive US intervention. So it has become very clear to the  entire region and especially to the people’s of the region that the United States is the guarantor of Israeli expansion and aggression in the region.

 The Palestinian people ,which is a fair point but related to the first one, for the Palestinian people themselves they have taken for the first time in years the initiative. They are no longer a force that is watching events happen. They are no longer  passively watching even though they have been struggling for decades with various uprisings, military operations and so on but this is the first time that the Palestinians have not only taken the initiative but the whole world looks at them. They are  the ones who are leading the field in terms of their own destiny. That is historically very critical and very important.

The other resistance forces in the region and they declare it openly that they look as supportive forces to Palestine and the Palestinian resistance. They are not conducting this war – they are actually acting as supporters and backers of the Palestinian people.

Now what is also important is that for the first time there is a massive shift in terms of the Palestinian resistance movement and that shift is the  emergence of a strategic depth for the Palestinian struggle. The natural strategic depth of the Palestinian people was always taken to mean the Arab world.  But the Arab states have repeatedly betrayed the  Palestinian people. That  strategic depth was denied to them by various Arab regimes. There was the so called buffer state of Jordan and various Egyptian governments or the Gulf states and so on.

They have acted as a hindrance to the struggle of the Palestinian people  instead of providing that all important strategic depth to the  struggle of the Palestinian people. But today the strategic depth does exist and it exists in the Lebanese resistance and the power of the Lebanese resistance which is a very powerful deterrent force. They command enormous power to really hurt Israel if Israel dares to expand this war in a strategic sense.

The other bulwark for resisting Israeli domination is Syria itself, the Iraqi resistance and this amazing resistance force in Yemen. The poorest nation in the Arab world, the poorest nation in the Middle East has brought them down to their knees. The Yemeni people have proved that no amount of bombing in a US backed war led by the so called Saudi regime can vanquish them  but again I believe it was the United States that instigated that war. And the Yemeni people have become part and parcel of this strategic depth for the Palestinian people.

And when I say they are a strategic depth for the Palestinian people they are not only there for the Palestinian people. They are there to defend the people of Yemen and the people of Iraq – there is a resistance in Iraq in terms of the US bases in Iraq. They are there in Lebanon to defend Lebanese sovereignty, they are there in Syria to prevent the terrorist gangs that were sent by the US and its allies in the region to destroy Syrian society. So these are some of the formidable forces in the region which have become the strategic depth of the  Palestinian people’s struggle.

Now another important shift is that the PLO leadership and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has their authority in terms of popular support  almost vanished in terms of the Palestinian people because they have proved to be ineffectual. The path they followed and this has  become clear now to all Palestinians or most Palestinians or  at least the vast majority  is  that this path followed by the leadership of Abbas and his friends is not producing results. It has not liberated an inch of Palestine. Since the Oslo Agreement was signed, the first accord in 1993 and the second accord in 1995 hundreds of thousands of settlers have invaded the West Bank. Every hill top in the West Bank is occupied by a settlement armed to the teeth. They are the auxiliary forces of the Israeli army. They have divided the West Bank into little chunks. There are 500 checkpoints in the West Bank subjecting the Palestinian people to the worst form of occupation.

So unless the Palestinian leadership changes course and shows the Palestinian people that they have woken up to the fact that the old path of relying on the kindness of the United States to create an independent Palestinian state is a pipe dream. There is no such thing. On the contrary the United States continued to  back Israel and the settlement building across the West Bank. So this leadership I think is now before the opinions of the public, the Palestinian people and the Arab world where are you standing? They are saying good  things but in practice they have proven again to be ineffectual and they need to take a new stance.

Another shift which is quite important to the status quo is that for the last 20 years or so the Palestinian cause has receded in the Arab world mainly because of the Oslo Agreements, mainly because of the brutality of the Israeli occupation and the various weaknesses that existed within the Palestinian movements themselves.  This has shifted public opinion in  the Arab world. Not so much that they don’t like Palestine any more and so on but there  descended a feeling of depression of saying that big  Palestine is lost forever. Such defeatist talk started appearing in some Arab media and regimes. It even went as far as campaigning against the Palestinian people and  accusing them of being trouble makers in the region, that they have sold their land and so on and so forth.

This has changed over night. A new generation of Arab youth and children can see that the Palestinian people have risen. They have risen in the most dramatic fashion and this has had a tremendous impact on the Arab street. And this is historic change. It is a historic change because a new generation has woken up to the fact that Palestine and the Palestinian people will continue their struggle for a free Palestine and that the struggle for Palestine is also a struggle against their own reactionary regimes who listen to the United States and they can recognise now that US imperialism is the protector of this aggressive occupation in Palestine and the region. They occupy Syria, they still occupy bits of Lebanon as well. So the Arab street change is quite historic and quite important.

I think the question of Saudi normalisation was touched upon. All I add is this – that Saudi Arabia as a state is an extremely important state because of its position in the Islamic world, because  of its large population and  because of its riches. Normalisation  between Israel and Saudi Arabia would  have been a big political defeat for the Palestinian people. And the timing of  the 7th October attack also had in mind this impending announcement by the United States, by the Biden administration of normalisation between the Saudi regime and the Israeli regime. This has been knocked off the agenda at least for the foreseeable future.

That is important and it has also shaken those who already normalised relations like the UAE and Bahrain. You can  see public opinion especially in Bahrain is quite powerful. The Bahraini government  is already trying to say different things  and they might even withdraw their ambassador.

The other impact which is quite important is that for the first time in a while Egypt and Jordan feel the threat of Israel.  They feel it because they see that  if Israel succeeds in expelling the Palestinians in Gaza to Egypt then this threat threatens Egyptian national security and Egyptian army officers, even Sisi himself, has pronounced that. That his posses a state threat despite their betrayals of Palestine and so on. But they also recognize that if Gaza is defeated whereby the Palestinians are expelled than Egyptian national security is under threat.

And similar noises were being made by the Jordanian royal family who is  also saying that if Israel succeeds in Gaza they will start expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank and that will threaten the crown state of Jordan.

So these are quite important changes that have to be watched. Even these regimes that are allies of the United States  are feeling the threats if Israel is allowed to get away with it.

Iran has consolidated its position in the Middle East.  There is no doubt about it. Its diplomatic moves, its support for the Palestinians and the resistance movement is unmatched by  any state in the region so they have acquired quite a prestigious  status in the Arab street as well as recognising that this power is quite formidable as well. So Arab regimes are welcoming the participation of Iran in any political moves in the region which we witnessed in the summit meeting in Riyadh.

World public opinion was mentioned by Steve in details so I will not go over it except to say that the cause of Palestine has become the litmus test for humanity. Where do you stand in relationship to your own humanity? As a human being where do you stand?  Do you stand with the killer of babies? Do you stand with an apartheid state? Do you stand with destroying an entire nation in front of the world? This is being televised day and night. They bomb churches and hospitals and entire buildings being brought down on top of their residents.

So  this kind of change is quite deep across the world. There is a proper understanding by tens of millions of young people across the world that there is this aggressive expansionist power that has no human values, that  recognises no international law and that it must be stopped.  The Palestinian people have a right. So this slogan of  free Palestine is echoing across the world and this an important change. It is as important as world opinion that helped bring down the apartheid regime in South  Africa. It was after the massacres in Soweto in the 70s that world public opinion started shifting until the entire Western world had to abandon the  South African apartheid regime and that regime collapsed and I think a similar fate is going to be meeting the Israeli regime.

There is also a shift in the status quo in terms of Jewish opinion. This should not be under estimated. There are lots of  Jewish organisations and young  Jews who are also waking up to the fact that this state does not really represent them. This  so called protector of Jewish people is no more a US base in the region, it is built on expansion in the region and murdering innocent people. This opinion is gaining momentum. It is gaining momentum abroad but also I think it will gain momentum within Israeli society itself. Those 600,000 settlers who are occupying  the West Bank –  A lot of them will start fleeing I believe. A lot of those inducements they have received in terms of free housing and financial support and so on is gradually going to evaporate. They will not be such a bulwark for Zionist expansion in future.  So these divisions within Israeli society is quite important.

And I finish on this. Nasrallah the leader of the Lebanese resistance of Hezbollah mentioned something quite important and strategically because it also shows what they are up to the resistance forces.

He said in his speech last week that  liberation movements across the world have historically won in stages and they have weakened their enemy until they won. And he summarised it in  this way. He said we shall also win by points and not by a knock out. This is strategic thinking because Israel and the  United States are massive nuclear powers and any resistance movement also has to be responsible in conducting the struggle.

I felt this was quite important and this business of weakening this expansionist occupying power and sending a signal to the United States that they cannot face the entire might of the various resistance  movement in the region. Free Palestine.

**Sami Ramadani is a senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University. Sami was born in Iraq and became an exile from Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1969, as a result of his political activities in support of democracy and socialism. He opposed the sanctions imposed on the Iraqi people (1991-2003) and the invasion of Iraq (2003). He is active in the movement to end the US-led occupation. He is a member of the steering committee of Stop the War Coalition. 

*Stephen Bell is a life-long unionist, human rights and political campaigner. He is currently Treasurer of Stop the War Coalition. He was Campaign Officer for Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He was also Head of Policy for Communication Workers Union 2002-2015. 

***Dr Daud A. Abdullah Daud Abdullah is a well-known British academic, and political and social commentator. He writes and lectures on issues relating to Middle Eastern and British politics, Islam, and Muslim-Western relations. Dr Abdullah received his BA in history from the University of Guyana in 1981 before completing a PhD in History at the University of Khartoum in 1989. He is currently director of the London based research institute Middle East Monitor. From 2003-2011 Abdullah was a part-time lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London and from 1990-1993, he lectured at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria. He has been a guest lecturer on Islamic and Palestinian affairs at many universities in the UK including Queen’s University in Belfast. Dr Abdullah is the author of several books. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *