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A science-fiction Egyptian Ramadan drama, “The End”, set in the year 2120, has depicted what many in the Middle East wish would become a reality____ the destruction of Israel. In one particular scene of the drama a teacher informs students that all Jews in Israel have “returned to their countries of origin, and that the U.S. has splintered into many regions.” This scene and the theme of the drama have provoked angry reactions in Israel, but triggered a sense of joy in some quarters, especially on social media. Typical of the comments from those who favour this imaginary scenario was the question, “Don’t we have the right to dream?” – a sentiment echoed by several others on Twitter.
I learned the hard way that debating the Arab-Israeli conflict in our region does not lead to a productive discussion about possible solutions. It only triggers anger and hysterical reactions, and even accusations of treason. So, instead, let’s adopt a different approach. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that the illusory dream of the anti-Israel camp will happen, and that Israel will miraculously vanish at the behest of some divine power. What would happen then?
Let’s take a closer look at what would happen in the anti-Israel camp once the expected fireworks and grand celebrations are over following this epic vanishing trick.
There are three main factions within the anti-Zionist, pro-Palestine camp: The Muslim Brotherhood and neo-Ottoman Islamist camp, the Iranian revolutionaries and their “resistance camp” and the Arab nationalists and leftist camp. All have close links with various Palestinian groups.
All three factions, of course, share the anti-Israel rhetoric and dream of regaining Al-Aqsa mosque. Nevertheless, each faction within this eclectic camp has a different outlook for the future of Palestine. Some advocate a future Islamist Palestine that would be part of a grand Ottoman caliphate. Others dream of a revolutionary Palestine loyal to the Iranian Islamic regime. The third group dreams of a leftist nationalist Palestinian utopia.
None of them, however, will ever address the tough questions about their future beloved Palestine. How will they reconcile their conflicting views on the future Palestinian state? How will post-Israel Palestine avoid the fate of post-Saddam Iraq or post Arab Spring Syria? Will the allies of the various Palestinian factions leave the Palestinian people to decide their fate, or will they try to impose their vision in exchange for financial and political support?
Will Hamas, Fatah and the other Palestinian factions that failed to unite under occupation reconcile their differences after “liberation”? Will the Islamists in post-Israel Palestine accept the secularists and liberals, or turn against them as the Mullahs did in Iran, and as Erdogan did in Turkey? How will Islamists treat minorities, such as the Bahai community in Israel? What will the future of their beautiful Temple in Haifa? be? Will the prominent Palestinian diaspora, including Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and activist Linda Sarsour, leave their prestigious careers in the US and “return” to campaign relentlessly for the “right to return to Palestine” and serve their beloved new state?
These are tough questions, so let’s ask an easier one: Who will control the Al-Aqsa Mosque after the imaginary end of Israel? Hamas? Fatah? Jordan? Turkey? Iran? Will the mostly Sunni Palestinians allow Shia Muslims to practice and celebrate the death of Hussein inside Al-Aqsa Mosque? Or will Shia be labelled “apostates”?
I once asked a hardcore pro-Palestine Islamist those questions. He was angrily dismissive. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “What matters is that we destroy the Zionist State first, then think of the day after.”
The“dream first, think later attittude” is a common mantra in our region. It has dominated the Middle East for decades, if not centuries. “Let’s get rid of colonialism and then consider what’s next.” “Let’s get rid of authoritarian dictators and then think what’s next .” The outcome has been decades of bloodshed, civil war, persecution of minorities, and weak or failed states.
In our region, opposition is easier than governing, and blaming is easier than taking ownership of failure. Israel succeeded, not because of the Belfour declaration or American support; Israel succeeded because those who believed in it had a clear vision of how to govern their future state and were willing to put their differences aside to make their dream come true. On the other hand, although all the factions within the pro-Palestine camp are united in their contempt for Israel, the demise of the Zionist state is the last thing they want.
Without Israel, the Mullahs will have no excuse to channel money to Hezbollah and other regional terror groups. Hezbollah will have no excuse to maintain its military empire in Lebanon. Political Islam will struggle to lure Arabs to join its dystopian caliphate dream. And without Israel, the identity politics chorus in America will run out of fancy slogans and excuses for their emotional outbursts. All the pro-Palestine tweeps will be rendered useless troll, and all regional drama producers will run out of fancy populist ideas for their fancy movies and soap operas.
It may come as a shock to many, but Israel is a golden asset for every faction within the anti-Israel, pro-Palestine camp. Without Israel, they will run out of excuses to justify their celebratory status, fake brands, empty slogans, poor governance, divisive politics, populism, and regressive ideologies. So do not fall for their faux outrage and false patriotism to the Palestinian cause. It is as dystopian as the Egyptian soap opera that fantasized about it.
An Arabic version of this piece is published in Al-Hurra