Susan Abulhawa: ‘Palestine is the test’

By Susan Abulhawa
September 24, 2020

The following is a lightly edited transcript of a Sept. 19 talk by Palestinian novelist and Workers World Party member Susan Abulhawa during a “Free Palestine! No Normalization with Colonization or Occupation!’ webinar sponsored by WWP.

We’ve known for years that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations had cooperation behind closed doors with Israel. It was an open secret. Over the last couple of years there have been campaigns, some subversive, to prepare the Arab public for this moment.

For example, every year during Ramadan there is a series – basically a soap opera – that captures the imagination of the Arab world. You have 300 million people sitting down after breaking the fast to watch the Ramadan series. It’s wildly popular.

This year’s series, called “Um Haroun,” basically hinted at and supported rapprochement with Israel. It also denigrated Palestinians in a lot of ways. It pushed this propaganda myth that we Palestinians “sold our country” or “ran like cowards.” This is the kind of stuff that gets pushed in popular media in the Arab world by state actors who control the media to a large extent.

A lot of us were watching this on the sidelines and understood this moment was going to arrive. It didn’t make it any less painful. In some ways it’s good for things to be out in the open. This normalization agreement is really going to polarize the Middle East in ways we haven’t seen before.

Why are Arab nations doing this? The UAE has been saying they’re helping Palestinians, that it will take annexation off the table, while prior to that Israel was about to annex the Jordan Valley. But Netanyahu immediately showed that to be a lie. Literally that day or the next day, Netanyahu said annexation is not off the table but on a temporary hold. Israel right away stabbed them in the back.

They did the same thing a couple of days later. A weapons contract for F-35 military jets was part of this UAE deal with Israel. Even though this deal was supposedly brokered by the U.S. and the UAE was supposed to get F-35 jets, Israel turned around and blocked that. There were reports that the UAE were hugely dismayed, but they didn’t do anything about it.

Israel has no friends. Israel cannot be trusted. The United States is supposed to be its closest ally, but just last year so-called “stingray” cellphone spy equipment was found placed around the White House to intercept White House calls. Everybody knew it, but nothing happened to Israel.

Likewise, during the Obama administration, Netanyahu came here to undermine the foreign policy of a sitting president on U.S. soil when he addressed a joint session of Congress and went on U.S. news shows to undermine the Iran deal. That’s what Israel does to the United States! So it’s a matter of time until things come to a head. Whatever business deals, whatever military deals come of this new normalization agreement, it’s going to be for the benefit of Israel. It’s never a two-way street with Israel and they’re very good at entangling people in their own laws.

And Israeli society is going to freak out if they see a lot more Arabs coming to Jerusalem at al-Aqsa, especially if they’re arriving in traditional Arab dress, because Israeli racism is frankly medieval. I predict that’s going to be an issue. And likewise whatever business deal is going to be a siphoning of resources to Israel, because that’s what they do.

So I’ve been talking about what’s going to happen to these newlyweds on their honeymoon. I think it’s going to end in divorce, frankly.

Solidarity is the key

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, it’s definitely a dark time for us. But it’s also replete with hope and inspiration and ideas of a new generation and this growing international solidarity. I do believe that ultimately the kind of internationalism that is occurring among likeminded struggles for social justice, climate justice, economic justice, political justice — this arena is what occupies the minds and the passions of the masses.

Israel has no standing in this arena. I do believe that we will prevail. No matter how dark it looks for us, history has shown us time and time again how quickly the powerful can fall, the swiftness of it. People and regimes we think are immensely powerful have crumbled numerous times overnight. So I am not despairing.

I am counting on the kind of solidarity that we can foster among the masses by educating people. By pushing for socialism, pushing anti-colonial ideals, pushing for justice. Because on the international arena the question of Palestine is at the heart of every social justice movement. Because if we fall, other people will fall. Palestine is the test of how we can succeed and how we can push forward.