Palestine and the Middle Eastern Realignment

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Palestine and the Middle Eastern Realignment

Too few people fully appreciate the game-changing impact of the recent normalization of relations between Israel and the Gulf States of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.   It not only acknowledges the existence of Israel, but it removes Palestine from an almost mythical role in the Arab consciousness.  The implications are hard to overstate.

To the political and religious Arab minds of the 20th century, the idea of Palestine was everything. The dream of Arab nationalism, which had come to represent Arab-ness itself, and the "cult of Islamism," which posed as the religion of Islam, both chose Palestine as their primary cause. This essentially consecrated Palestine as the psychological bond between Arab identity and Islam.

But, according to George Washington University International Affairs scholar Hussein Aboubakr, “much has changed in the past decade, and we are now entering the age of a "post-Palestine Middle East."  And as the region moves on to its post-Palestine reality, the world will move on to post-Islamism, and Islam itself will exert an ever-smaller influence over international politics.   As result, the ideological forces that once caused terror in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, London, Madrid, and New York are slowly shrinking in history’s rearview mirror.”

A post-Palestine reality or post-Palestine-era in politics refers to "the concept of Palestine" which was a constant psychological phenomenon dominating the Arab political imagination. It was a consistent presence through consecutive and varying political projects.  As such, it has been at the core of Arab nationalism, secular Arab revolutionary ideology, the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist jihadism, Iranian Islamism, and Turkish regional aspirations, to name just a few.

In the Arab political vision, Palestine was the embodiment of moral truth. In the always-shifting Middle East, where every day can bring a new coup and yesterday’s heroes are suddenly today’s traitors, Palestine was an anchor. It was the object of longing for the anxious Arab and Muslim intellectual and a means of belonging for the Arab and Muslim everyman.  The status of Palestine was akin to that of the Messiah in Jewish tradition. “When Palestine is liberated” was a modern colloquial Arabic phrase analogous to “when the Messiah comes.”

It was in Palestine that the architects of Baathist Arabism, the engineers of Nasserism, the visionaries of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the pioneers of jihadism all chose to vest their competing claims.  For each, Palestine was the sole and final representation of the essence of the Arabs and of Islam.  It was also, more practically, what legitimized their own claims of eternal rule over Arab peoples...

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