GEW Reports & Analyses

In the West, some have grown so presumptuous that they take Arab-Israeli “normalisation” for granted. But even in Egypt – despite 45 years of diplomatic relations – “normalisation” is not granted, and it will not be granted – ever – until the people, through their representatives, agree to have normal relations with the Zionist entity (That’s how it is called widely in the Arab world, for nobody recognises Israel, except for a minority). Enter a coffee shop in Cairo, Tunis, Algiers, Rabat, Tripoli, Khartoum, Doha, Jeddah, Sanaa, Beirut, Damascus, Basrah, or Sharjah, or go to the souks and ask any citizen, “Do you recognise Israel?” or “Do you think Israel is a good neighbour” to the Arabs? And whether the answer you receive is polite or a little tough, you will understand that you should not even ask the question on an Arab street. Maybe you have not heard about the Israeli genocide in Gaza that the Western media are trying to hide under a mass of insipid local reports that wouldn’t even exist if the genocide occurred in Europe. For much less in Ukraine, the Western media shook earth and sky and ended up muted when the USA gave up on fighting Russia, as it will also give up on fighting China. So, Don’t indulge in delusions. 

To come back to earth, no. The Arabs are not ready to normalise with Israel. And here’s why.

Israel is a colonial project on an Arab-Muslim land

Through the prisms of historical grievances, religious significance, and ongoing political disputes

The perception of Israel among Arabs is complex and influenced by historical, religious, and political factors. The Arab minority in Israel, which includes Muslims, Christians, and Druze, generally does not see Israel as both a Jewish state and a democracy, with majorities from these groups preferring democracy over Jewish law when conflicts arise. This view is also reflected in the broader Arab world, where a significant majority disapproves of their countries recognising Israel, citing Israel’s policies towards Palestinians as a major reason for their stance.

Historically, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been a central issue shaping Arab perceptions of Israel. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the subsequent displacement of Palestinians have left a lasting impact on Arab attitudes, with many viewing Israel as a colonial and expansionist state. The Arab citizens of Israel themselves face discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages, which contributes to their sense of alienation and shapes their identity and political narrative.

Religiously, Jerusalem holds significant importance for Muslims, and the control of religious sites by Israel is a point of contention. The religious dimension of the conflict is also evident in the opposition of many Arabs and Muslims to recognising Israel as a Jewish state, as it challenges the religious narrative of Islam’s relationship with Judaism.

Public opinion surveys show that the Palestinian cause is seen as a concern for all Arabs, not just Palestinians, with widespread opposition to the normalisation of relations with Israel. However, there have been shifts in some Arab states, with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries developing open relations with Israel, which is a significant change in the regional dynamics.

The Arab elite’s attitudes towards Israel are diverse, ranging from outright rejection to pragmatic acceptance of the reality of Israel’s existence. Intellectuals and civil society leaders often express solidarity with the Palestinian cause and criticise Israel’s policies. However, there are also trends of Israelisation among Arab citizens of Israel, with some seeking greater integration and equality within Israeli society.

In summary, Israel represents a contentious and polarising entity for many in the Arab world, viewed through the prisms of historical grievances, religious significance, and ongoing political disputes.

 

Arab intellectuals consider Israel a colonial project.

 

Arab intellectuals’ views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are diverse and have evolved over time, reflecting a range of perspectives from outright rejection to pragmatic acceptance of Israel’s existence. Historically, the conflict has been a central issue shaping Arab perceptions, with the majority of Arab intellectuals viewing Israel as a colonial and expansionist state, particularly after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the displacement of Palestinians. The religious significance of Jerusalem and the control of religious sites by Israel also contribute to the conflict’s religious dimension.

The Arab elite, including intellectuals, writers, scholars, and civil society leaders, often express solidarity with the Palestinian cause and condemn Israel’s policies. The political and intellectual elites of Arab society in Israel and abroad were divided about the Oslo process and the decision of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to recognise Israel. Some rejected it outright and called for continuing the struggle until independence (for example, Azmi Beshara, Edward Said, Ibrahim Abu Lughd, and many others ), while others considered it a significant step, although this has been met with various reactions within the Arab world.

In recent years, there has been a shift in some Arab states, with countries like those in the Gulf Cooperation Council developing open relations with Israel, indicating a change in regional dynamics. However, public opinion surveys show that the Palestinian cause is seen as a concern for all Arabs, including the citizens of the Gulf, Egypt, and Jordan, with widespread opposition to the normalisation of relations with Israel without addressing Palestinian rights.

The Arab public response to the Israel-Hamas conflict, for instance, showed clear support for Hamas and a preference for the two-state solution, with over 90 per cent of Arabs opposing and condemning violence and genocide perpetrated by Israel in Gaza.

Arab intellectuals and officials have historically been critical of Israel’s behaviour in the conflict. The minority that have shown a willingness to engage with Israel have faced isolation and condemnation in their own countries.

 

You can read more about the subject in the book “How Do the Arabs See Israel?” By GEW Reports & Analyses Team.

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