We called every right-wing Arab trend in the 1980s and 1990s “Likudian”, in reference to the Israeli Likud party, led by Menachem Begin, who crossed over to the Israeli left-wing in the late 1970s without looking back. The label seemed metaphorical or exaggerated, as what did the (reactionary) ruling Arab right-wing and its political and “intellectual” powers have in common with the leader of the Zionist Haganah? It was a confusion that had no truth to it.
However, this severely ideological label was (perhaps unconsciously) more of a prophecy. A bad omen for what the future held. This is the nature of prophecies. They are a combination of magic and reality, as well as desires and truth. Prophecies do not predict the impossible otherwise they are not believable. In order for a prophecy to be believable, it must be based on realistic factors that are believable and perhaps even achievable. In order for the reactionary Arab right-wing to be labelled as Likudian, there must be realistic factors behind this label. There are things in common between the Arab reactionary right-wing (I insist on using the label used in the literature of the 1960s and 1970s) and any right-wing in the world, i.e. revolving in the imperial orbit. There were obstacles hindering the exposure of this Arab Likud. There were still nationalistic countries (Iraq and Syria) that were strong in the Arab world. There was the Palestinian revolution. The Arab left-wing still had a strong presence in this life that would later witness major political coups.
The Arab Likud did not have the chance to emerge until after the siege of Beirut in 1982, the defeat of the Palestinian resistance, and Saddam’s Iraq engaging in exhausting war adventures. The siege on Beirut would not have been possible had it not been for the hidden role of the Arab reactionary right-wing, in the Gulf specifically in the Israeli expedition. We, the ones who were behind the fence of Ariel Sharon’s tanks, lived this role in all of its details: cutting off the water, electricity, medical supplies, etc. in West Beirut. The US and Israeli representative, Philip Habib, received a call, at the request of Prince Fahd Bin Abdulaziz, the de-facto Saudi ruler at the time, telling him to run the generators and open the water taps.
Some are surprised by Saudi Arabia’s “sudden” love for Israel, but this is not surprising. It was preceded by an introduction over 20 years old. This began in Saudi Arabia’s media aboard. Remember that the first Arab television interview with Netanyahu was with MBC during the Madrid conference. Before that, and after it, the Saudi media in London opened a window for Sadat’s media, which was boycotted by the Arab world, to the Arab life. The Sadat pens found a platform in Saudi newspapers published abroad (especially in the Middle East). The long-term preparatory doses of normalisation with Israel were being tried and tested.
This coincided with the withdrawal from the Arab “idea” and “association” and began to create an alternative identity: the Gulf identity. The Gulf, protected by America, had a collective identity, despite the rivalling internal identities. The “liberal” Gulf pens began theorising this identity, different to the previous Arab identity. The latter only brings evil, milks money and chronic issues, anyone who is surprised by the smear campaigns against the Palestinians who “sold their land” and “lurk in London and Paris nightclubs” should not be surprised. When the “people with a cause” are deformed (claiming they sold the cause), the cause itself becomes deformed. Israel becomes closer to you than the Palestinians “who did nothing” for their cause. This reminds me of what Mahmoud Darwish said about these people: They love the Palestinian cause but they hate the Palestinians!
I am not surprised by the hostility of a writer, such as Turki Al-Hamad, who was suppressed by the Saudi authorities several times, towards the Palestinian cause. The enemy in his mind, today, is Iran, not Israel, and there are some amongst the Palestinians who are opening the door to Iran. This is a poisonous and extraordinary combination, with nothing like it in history, nor in reality and the influential powers in it. The Gulf writers are doing a complete 180, because everything bad that had come to them came from the Arabs. Perhaps even from the Palestinian cause and the “ungrateful” Palestinians. However, Turki Al-Hamad and those like him forget that the Arab world came about from the policies of his country, from the “Islam” of his Wahhabi country that injected the Arab and Muslim world’s body with takfirism, extremism and terrorism. It was the sword used by the US to hit the structures of progress and prosperity in the civilised Arab world, from Cairo to Damascus. This is the Gulf identity and these are the narratives that make up its myths.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed on 21 May 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.