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Palestinian-Americans Rally against Gulf Accords with Israel
Protesters from numerous Palestinian and Arab rights organizations march outside the White House on September 15. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Palestinian-Americans Rally against Gulf Accords with Israel

Protest held near White House during signing ceremony amid claims that normalization pacts ‘further occupation, apartheid’

As US President Donald Trump hosted Tuesday’s White House signing ceremony for normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, more than 50 Palestinian rights organizations and other groups, many of them led by Palestinian-Americans or Arab-Americans, gathered nearby to protest.

The accords were signed by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani.

In a joint statement released ahead of the ceremony, the protest organizers said: “Activists will gather to protest these deals, which are not about peace but about furthering Israel’s systems of occupation and apartheid.”

The organizers called the agreements an “underhanded way” to maintain the status quo of “land theft” by Israel.

“Supposedly, the UAE-Israel normalization deal, which is part of the Trump Administration’s fake peace plan, will benefit Palestinians by halting the de jure annexation of the West Bank,” the statement continued. “But not only is de facto annexation a daily reality for Palestinians, Netanyahu, in his Israeli press conference announcing the deal, said that de jure annexation was ‘still on the table’ and something he was ‘committed to.’”

The organizations noted that within a week of the August 13 announcement of the UAE-Israel deal, a secret clause was revealed to sell tens of billions of dollars in weapons to the Emirates.

The groups also slammed Bahrain, calling it “another repressive Gulf country involved in the brutal war in Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia, too, came under scathing criticism.

“It is understood that Bahrain would not [have been] able to make such an agreement without the tacit approval of Saudi Arabia, the leader of the war in Yemen,” the statement noted.

Hanna Hanania, founder of a coalition of Palestinian-American organizations, told The Media Line that there will be similar protests against normalization across the US, in particular outside consulates of the two Gulf states.

Hanania said the goal was to deliver a message “to the American public” that only if the Palestinians get their “full rights” can real peace be achieved.

“We need to work on pushing for Palestinians rights and to end their suffering, and not worry about normalization. We need to treat the disease, not the symptoms,” he stated.

We need to work on pushing for Palestinians rights and to end their suffering, and not worry about normalization. We need to treat the disease, not the symptoms

He noted that the protests were also a message for others: “For the Arab world, that we do not want normalization and these acts do not represent us. To the Palestinians, that our community stands together, where unity is our way to accomplish our goals.”

Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science on New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, told The Media Line that the UAE-Israel accord cannot be blocked.

“The denunciation by 50 [groups] does not mean anything,” he said. “Even if a statement of condemnation was issued by 1,000 [groups], it would not stop the course of reconciliation.”

The denunciation by 50 [groups] does not mean anything,” he said. “Even if a statement of condemnation was issued by 1,000 [groups], it would not stop the course of reconciliation

Abdulla clarified that the accord was a sovereign Emirati decision stemming from national interests, but at the same time emphasized Abu Dhabi’s continuing concern for the Palestinians.

“It is certain that even after the normalization of relations with Israel, it isn’t possible for the Emirates to turn its back on the Palestinian issue, and it is out of the question for the UAE to end its support for the Palestinian people,” he said.

“There is no one who beats the Emirates in its support for the Palestinian cause,” he added.

Sana Siddi, manager of policy and advocacy for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), told The Media Line that Israel was formalizing a de facto annexation of Palestinian lands.

Israel, Siddi said, knows that the US would not go beyond expressing “concern” over its “violations of international law, Palestinian rights, lives and land, while simultaneously providing Israel with political cover at the United Nations and writing it blank check after blank check.”

The UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, highlighted the positive impact the agreement would have for Arab countries in a video posted by the Emirati Embassy.

“The UAE is delighted and privileged to play a role for peace, not only for us in the UAE, but for the whole region,” he said in the video.

Nedal Awad, a Palestinian-American businessman based in Kansas City, told The Media Line that after 50 years of struggle, peace was the only solution as it would make things better.

“Palestinians need to understand that a solution can only be achieved through peace and communication,” Awad stated. “Also, they need to understand that after all these years, other nations are ready to make peace with Israel, and they can’t blame these countries for doing so.”

Palestinians need to understand that after all these years, other nations are ready to make peace with Israel, and they can’t blame these countries for doing so

Last month, the United States Council of Islamic Organizations (USCMO) condemned the Trump Administration’s mediation between the UAE and Israel and expressed full support for “freedom” for the Palestinian people.

“We condemn the initiative of Trump, Israel and the UAE, which undermines global Islamic solidarity in the struggle for peace and freedom in the region,” it said in a statement.

“Despite its unprecedented hostility to Palestinian freedom, the UAE praised President Trump and actively allied with the racist Netanyahu government without obtaining any rights for the millions of Palestinians who suffer the brunt of the actual occupation,” the USCMO went on.

The Palestinian Authority considers the two accords a “betrayal,” not only of the Palestinian cause and people, but of Jerusalem. It has recalled its ambassadors to the two Gulf nations.

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