Former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit’s piece in Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week gave some good indications of the thinking and strategy of a certain influential segment of liberal Zionist elites.
In my previous column, I looked at what Shavit had to say about BDS, the Palestinian-led movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. The former spy chief found BDS was one of “the critical mass of the threats against us”.
A second notable aspect to the piece is that it argued explicitly for an overt alliance with tyrannical, US-funded dictatorships in the Middle East “led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt”. Farcically, Shavit characterises these oppressive regimes as “moderate Arab states”.
What a bad joke. The absolutist monarchy of Saudi Arabia is the worst, most fanatical and most powerful Islamic religious fundamentalist state in the world. Decades of solid US and UK support for this despotic regime makes a mockery of Western claims to be fighting the forces of sectarianism and religious fundamentalism when it goes to war against the “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In fact, the US and UK only oppose these entities for cynical reasons of power – they happen to be small, but growing, threats to US regional hegemony. The Saudi regime has the same ideology as the “Islamic State”, but but with a different, pro-American strategy.
The dissident Saudi researcher and activist Faud al-Ibrahim showed in an important essay in the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar earlier this year, that the “Islamic State” group shares exactly the same twisted vision of Islam as the Saudi state: Wahhabism.
Although al-Qaida, and later the “Islamic State”, now rejects the Saudi state, this dispute is over differences that are mostly minor and/or tactical rather than theological or ideological. Such opponents”criticized him [founder of the state ibn Saud] because he ‘neglected the obligation of jihad’ and introduced innovations (bidah) like the wireless and the telegraph into the land of Islam.”
Furthermore, “ISIS’ websites … reveal the ideological identity of the group … the writings of [co-founder of the Saudi state] Mohammed bin Abdel Wahhab such as The Book of the Unity of God, Clarification of the Doubts, Nullifiers of Islam and others are distributed in the areas under ISIS’ control and are taught and explained in private religious classes that the organization’s educational department holds.”
This is the type of regime that Israeli “liberal” elites like Shavit consider “moderate” – one with identical ideological foundations to the fanatic killers of the so-called Islamic State.
Saudi Arabia is a “moderate” state which has zero freedom of speech, sentences its critics and sectarian enemies to death, where women lack even the most basic of rights, where immigrant workers are treated like slaves and punished with hundreds of lashes, and where capital punishment (often for alleged crimes like drug smuggling or “sorcery”) is administered with beheading (much like in ISIS-controlled areas). The list of abuses goes on and on.
This is the type of fanatic despotism that Zionist fanatics like Shavit want us to consider as “moderate”. Nothing could demonstrate further how politicised this word has become in mainstream Western discourse.
In his opinion piece, Shavit argues that Israel should deflect international demands for Palestinian rights by employing a new regional negotiations track led by the Saudi and Egyptian despotisms. The point of this renewed alliance seems to be to remove Palestinians themselves from negotiating other their own destinies. Israel should “open a secret channel of dialogue with the United States to examine the idea,” Shavit urges.
I have argued before that, over the last few years, an increasingly open alliance between the Israeli and the Saudis has been on display. This alliance represents what I call a “permanent counter-revolution” in the region.
Until the Saudi and Israeli despotisms are overthrown, any progress towards genuine democracy and economic self-determination in the Arab world is likely to be strangled in the crib – as we saw happened in 2011, when Saudi cash and Israeli diplomatic agitation fairly sloshed around the region in order to thwart popular uprisings against Western-backed dictatorships
An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.