On the Ideology of « Non Normalization »!


A  famous « no reconciliation » cartoon, depicting reconciliation as a « stab in the back of Palestinians »!


Contrary to a romantic narrative on the presumed origins of Fateh movement in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Syria or Lebanon, one could emphasize the role of rich Palestinian entrepreneurs in Kuwait in particular (including Yasser Arafat and most of his group) in founding what, later, was called the Palestinian Resistance movement.

This article by METransparent regular contributor, Fakher Sultan, might be the first attempt in recent times at opening a rational discussion on Kuwaiti (and Gulf) attitudes towards normalization with Israel. In conclusion, he stresses « the religious hegemony » project underlying the non-normalization ideology.

P. Akel


Suddenly, it now seems the famous claim, circulating in political and social circles and on social media platforms, that the vast majority of popular positions in favor of normalization (with Israel) in Gulf societies came “either out of fear or subservience”; that normalization will only be between regimes, while the majority of individuals have no  interest in it; it, now, seems that assertion has been shaken down to its roots and has, suddenly, become refutable!


Although there are opponents to « normalization » in the Emirates, Bahrain and even in all Gulf states, with claims of a majority opinion here and a minority opinion there, it is noticeable that- both in social and political circles, or on media platforms- there is clear and explicit popular and elite support for normalization with Israel. That support is often justified on the basis of political and economic interests, or even from a religious standpoint! It is remarkable that many Gulf elites supported normalization with Israel in a conscious political and economic manner without being subject to threats and intimidation- even if one admits the presence of people used to follow official positions, including on normalization with Israel.

While the elites rejecting normalization with Israel have different political or ideological (religious or Arab nationalist) considerations, and while it is possible, to some extent, to accommodate Islamic or Arab nationalist rejection of normalization, it is inconceivable that many people in the Gulf countries reject normalization of relations with Isreael on the basis of what they call “humanitarian” reasons!

In fact, the Palestinian Cause, whatever its origins and the various solutions put forward to address it, is not the only « humanitarian cause » in the world. There are many similar « causes » that could also have been defended for humanitarian reasons, whether the cause of kashmir, the Kurdish cause, the Western Sahara cause (in Morocco), and the “Ceuta” and “Melilla” cause in Spain. How about » humanitarian attitudes » towards towards such « causes » and many others?

On the other hand, the numbers of victims of wars and internal conflicts that took and are taking place in several Arab and Islamic countries far exceeds the number of Palestinians who have been killed, wounded or displaced. In Syria alone, there are hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded and millions displaced in a period not exceeding 11 years- much more than the total of Palestinian victims. These events and figures reveal to what extent the fate of the Arab or Muslim man seems humanely « cheap » and to what extent the phrase “defending the Palestinian human being” is contradictory. Such tragic events, whether in Syria or elsewhere, also reveal that it is the religious ideology, as well as Arabism, that represents the most dangerous threat to the Arab and Muslim man, Palestinians included- especially to the man seeking a decent life.

A remarkable trait in the positions of Kuwaiti political and cultural elites opposing normalization with Israel from a “humanitarian” standpoint is their failure to adopt a clear and explicit supportive stand towards the first humanitarian «cause » in Kuwait itself-  and, here, I mean the “Bidoun (or, « Stateless ») cause » in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf region.

That said, there is no doubt that the Palestinian cause is, first and foremost, a humanitarian cause. But is “non-normalization” the only way to defend this humanitarian cause? Is it necessary to defend the « Palestinian humanitarian cause » in accordance with our own « national interests considerations », or do we have to submit to outdated solutions and outdated slogans even if that comes at the expense of our national interests? Of course, there are many ways of defending the Palestinian cause. But whoever defines it as « non-normalization » and as a call to “criminalize” the so-called « traitors » advocating normalization,  unconsciously belongs to one ideological school and to one ideological establishment that does not hesitate to suppress « the other », if that « other » is incompatible with its ideological or so-called “sacred » solutions.

Analysing the many stands against normalization with Israel, in Koweit and elsewhere, it is starkly clear that they are led by the ideology of the Political Islam and by a group of « internationalist » Arab nationalists, who « stone » reality and national interests by outdated slogans, even if that comes at the expense of the interest of the citizen and the homeland. What is important to them is the victory of  their ideology and of “the First Cause (of the Arab Nation)”-  even if that contradicts the solutions proposed by the legitimate owners of the « cause », such as a two-state solution, negotiations with the Israelis, or even the establishment of relations with the Israeli government!

Thus, so many observers have concluded that the majority of Islamists who adhere to the discourse of political Islam and to the Islamic State project, do not, in fact, defend the Palestinian cause as « the Cause of Muslims » as they  claim, but rather  as part of a religious “hegemony” project-   the Palestinian cause being just a slogan in support of  their “Islamic State ». Otherwise, what are their positions regarding the rights and « causes » of Muslims in various parts of the platet, whether the Chechen Muslims, the  Uighur Muslims in China, the Kashmir C$cause and other « causes » of self-rule for Muslims in East Asia?

The slogans of the sixties, seventies and eighties of the last century can no longer keep pace with contemporary realities. Life in its various aspects, including politics, have changed, and old alliances have faded, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. New ideas, cultures and alliances have emerged, along with a different distribution of forces, and, thus, it has become  imperative for Kuwait to override much of the old and to build a political stand compatible with the new realities. Therefore, the sixties, seventies and eighties, their circumstances, events, and alliances cannot be relied upon or viewed as untouchable « constants » upon which we must continue to build.

Consequently, the pursuit of our national interests cannot remain « constant » in its principles and implementation tools. Rather, policy mechanisms must be utilized in a realistic manner and based on their effects, as constants may not be valid for all time, but, rather, are governed by interests and controlled by circumstances.  There is no harm in taking action. Noting that politics is the art of the possible,  it is necessary to have the courage  to transcend the old principles and slogans along with new strategies and interests.

Resorting to « « normalization is part of « the art of the possible » and it has been adopted by countries that have a respectable record in matters of  human rights. So, how come it is considered a reprehensible act if Kuwait resorts to it to serve its national interests? Especially when we are aware that adherence to « non-normalization » may harm national interests through its opposition to new developments, changes and alliances! It is even possible that « non-normalization » could become an obstacle in the way of defending the rights of Palestinians,  as well as a threat to regional security and even an obstacle to the development of rights and freedoms in Kuwait and other Gulf countries.

In conclusion, it is obvious that the ideological, religious and Arab Nationalist political groups and their affiliates are the ones that insist on « hijacking » political positions, and considering those who stand against them, inevitably, as either « traitors » or  «criminal »!


To read the original Arabic text,  published in September 3, 2020, click here

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