When the Emirati Ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, spoke about the strategy of his country’s government and those that have allied with them on what he called seeking a vision for a new Middle East in the next decade, governed by strong and stable secular governments, it was clear, on the outside, that his speech attempted to provide a political vision that would satisfy the influential Western forces which are concerned about their interests in the region. However, if we look closely at what this man said and link it to the events in the region, it directs us to key points between the lines that Al-Otaiba tried to cover up by trying to pass multiple inaccuracies to the receiving audience.
The secularism of the governments in the Arab region is nothing new or a ground-breaking demand. All of the Western research centres know that the majority of concerned Arab governments referred to in the ambassador’s speech are secular countries in terms of reality and actions, even if they do not explicitly state this in their constitutions. We can call this distorted secularism in the sense that it utilises religious discourse to add legitimacy to their governments and justify their political practices. The only government of the four boycotting countries that explicitly states its adoption of Sharia law, considers it the basis for the government’s legitimacy, and source of legislation is the government of Saudi Arabia. Was the ambassador referring to this country that it is in alliance with? Is he on the verge of disowning all Islamic approaches in an attempt to say that the political future will change the structure of any government that announces its religious identity will move towards a secular vision in an Arab manner, where political tyranny is accompanied by forms of religious isolation?
On the other hand, the ambassador is ignoring a fundamental issue that every objective observer recognises, i.e. that the Arab countries’ crisis is not due to the acceptance or failure to adopt secularism, as Al-Otaiba believes as much as it is essentially related to their tyrannical nature and individual policies that disregard public opinion and do not allow them to contribute to political decisions regarding their countries. Crises such as sectarianism, identity conflicts and the popular discontent experienced by the countries of the region, including those of the alliance on whose behalf Al-Otaiba claims to speak, are basically due to the absence of effective policies that reflect the public will and respect popular choices.
What is hidden in the speech that the ambassador is trying to adopt and promote as one of his ideas and political creations is that this is basically what Shimon Peres put forward in his book “The New Middle East” (published in 1993), expressing the same concerns as the ambassador; the need to fight the Islamic fundamentalist political forces on the one hand, and the emergence of Arab regimes with the potential to cooperate with the Zionist entity to build a new Middle East.
Because Peres’ ideas did not find enough resonance among the Arab public, it seems that certain Arab regimes were quick to restore this discourse and promote it practice and thought. This proposal supports the acceleration of the rapprochement between the countries of the siege of Qatar and the Zionist entity in an alarming manner, from the participation in the demonisation of all forms of resistance, through the siege of Qatar as a state supportive of the forces of liberation against the Zionist project, and to talk about stable Arab regimes, to pass the hidden agendas that serves the interests of the Zionists in the region.
A quick look at the current events shows us common concerns and the symmetry between the state of Ambassador Al-Otaiba and the Zionist state of the Arab Spring, and try to abort it before it gets stronger. At the same time, we see that the countries of the blockade and its affiliates have taken steps to further tighten the resistance, beginning with the destruction of the tunnels on the borders of Gaza, and then stigmatizing the resistance by describing it as terrorism and finally the siege of Qatar and demanding the closure of the Al Jazeera channel.
The Zionist entity then said it would close the office of Al Jazeera in Jerusalem, justifying its decision to the Arab decision to do likewise. The idea of a new Middle East dominated by systems that do not have an identity and serve the policies of the Zionist occupation is the essence of the proposition presented by Al-Otaiba, especially since the idea of secularisation does not mean anything in real terms. It is an attempt to add an aura of ideological justification that has no meaning.
The attempt to pass a Zionist project in the region, this time through an Arab dress, will not pave the way for the Arab public to practice forms of political bullying against a neighbouring Arab state. The facts proved that the fate of all these options is failure.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 18 August 2017.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.