UP EXPERT OPINION: Navigating the shift: Understanding the role of emerging Arab leadership

Posted on March 10, 2024

STOP blaming the new, younger Arab leaders for Gaza, for Palestine, for the weakened state of the Ummah. It is a collective blame. We all carry this burden.

The perceived inaction from Arab states regarding the Gaza genocide stems from ingrained, colonised thought processes marked by divide-and-rule tactics. Many of us remain ensnared in this trap, clouding our critical thinking with media noise. We are emotionally caught between spirituality and reality, between politics and religion. Failure to recognise the superiority of one’s tradition and values has resulted in Arab nations – and Muslims by default – being ridiculed, ostracised and bombed to oblivion at the drop of a hat. All the while, resources have been stolen and barbaric states like the US and Israel have been emboldened in their villainy. It also made Muslim nations turn on other Muslim nations. It’s time to silence the noise, foster critical thinking and understand the realm of realpolitik.

Why have Arab states displayed considerable restraint in taking what we understand to be decisive actions since October 7? To comprehend this, one must delve into the behaviour of states, alliances and their historical contexts. The adage ‘follow the money’ and inquire ‘who benefits’ remains pertinent advice for truth-seekers. Recognising that political elites prioritise personal gain over the masses’ needs serves as ample evidence that, globally, these elites are self-serving, neglecting the interests of the people.

Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the US and other warmongering, racist states sought a new adversary to legitimise the military-industrial complex, a lucrative source of income for political elites and their cadres. If one thought that cadre benefits were an ANC problem, it was time to school oneself. With the absence of the communist threat, Muslims became the most accessible and convenient target for racist agendas.

Many Muslim-majority countries possess abundant resources, yet their leaders lacked a coherent vision for their populations. Regrettably, many of these leaders had forsaken their rich cultural traditions for morally questionable Western values, undermining the inherent strength of their societies. If I can explain it simply it would be the equivalent of a verse in Surah Baqarah: ‘Do you exchange what is better for what is worse?’ (Surah Baqarah, 2:61). This sentiment was recently reiterated by Qatar’s Sheikha Moza bint Nassir, in her remarks at the second edition of the Renaissance of Arabic Language Forum when she said, ‘It saddens me when I hear foreign jargon from our children and sometimes between parents and children. It is as if we are telling them to embrace alienation. What do you want with a language whose speakers are falling behind other civilisations and who are worn out by wars?’

In Western nations where entertainment and exceptionalism have dulled critical thinking, the narrative of invading Muslim-majority lands under the guise of promoting democracy and liberating oppressed women finds fertile ground. It’s worth noting that over 23 years, three successive American presidents – Clinton, Bush and Obama – initiated military actions in nine Muslim countries, resulting in the deaths of more than six million civilians. Meanwhile, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has amounted to nearly 65 000 tons of explosives, equating to approximately 28 kilograms for every man, woman and child in the region. This is the everyday history of these terrorists. Yet the Muslims are called the terrorists. Hamas is called ‘terrorist.’

Again, for clarity, let it be known that the majority of the international community, including the UN does NOT consider Hamas to be a terrorist organisation. In addressing the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearings on the status of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, Ma Xinmin, China’s Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, speaking on behalf of China, said that the Palestinians have a right to resistance under international law, ‘including armed struggle’, which ‘in this context, is distinguished from acts of terrorism’.

Addressing CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani affirmed unwavering support for all Palestinians and explicitly declared that Hamas is an integral part of the Palestinian people and that Qatar does not deem Hamas a terrorist organisation. It is the gangsters and bullies within the international system of states who endorse each other’s lies and pat each other on the back for killing Muslims and black people or stirring conflict in the global South. Nothing changes. They revel in murder. The antagonism carried by the western elite for Islam is a long, old story. This animosity has developed along the same lines as Afrophobia and anti-black hatred making the propaganda of dehumanisation easier.

It is not coincidental that Netanyahu wrote a book in 1995 stating that ‘if the West doesn’t wake up to the suicidal nature of militant Islam, then the next thing you will see is the militant Islamists bringing down the World Trade Centre’. Lo and behold! 9/11 happened six years later. This started a string of attacks and wars on Muslim lands. For decades he has been war-mongering, constantly inviting the American Congress, with its Zionist politicians, to attack Iran, Iraq and Libya. In an interview in 1982 he said, ‘If you take away the Soviet Union and its chief proxy the PLO, international terrorism would collapse.’ In 2002 he said, ‘If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I can guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.’ In 2002 he also said, ‘I would like to see a regime change in Iran just as I would like to see in Iraq.’ When asked in 2002 if there were any other nations that the United States should launch pre-emptive attacks against, he said ‘The answer is a categorical yes.’ Then he mentioned Iran, Iraq and Libya. In 2015 he again called on his minions in the US Congress to ‘stop Iran’.

In the geopolitical landscape, Gaddafi and Saddam have fallen, leaving only the Iranian leadership standing. Over the past five months, a consistent narrative has emerged, echoing concerns about Iran’s influence in various regions – be it Syria, Yemen or Iraq. The discourse, urging military interventions, has resurfaced with a familiar pattern of shifting the ensuing costs to Arab states.

Nations like Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria and Turkey have criticised the immoral and illegal siege on Gaza. Collaborating with other Muslim states, they have actively contributed to Gaza’s reconstruction after Israeli incursions. Qatar alone has reportedly invested over one billion dollars in salaries, infrastructure, healthcare and education within the past decade. Turkey, Malaysia and Iran have also increased financial support for Gaza. Israel kills, bombs, destroys; the Arabs clean up, rebuild. Not anymore. Drawing parallels to Germany’s reparations post-Holocaust, it is argued that Israel should compensate Palestinians for the damages caused. It is time for Israel to pay the Palestinians. And no, the Arabs are not going to fix this mess. The US-backed apartheid state did it and the US and Israel must make reparations. This goes for any of the racist European states who supply arms to Israel knowing full well that the occupation is illegal and that the ICJ has indicated provisional measures because it is ‘plausible’ that a genocide in Gaza is happening. These sentiments have been repeated by many states giving evidence at the ICJ on Israel’s belligerent occupation of Palestine.

If the consensus to hold Israel accountable, impose sanctions, expel Israel from the UN and dismantle the occupation is not reached through International Law which governs all state parties, the Arab states will forever have to deal with the demon in their midst. The wicked Zionists murder children, rape women and young girls whilst IOF snipers kill young Palestinians going to school. Sadly, the Arab, African and Muslim voice on its own is not enough. It will only carry weight when the Europeans affirm the equality and dignity of all. The UN is still a racist system. Statements only have weight when the white man utters them. That is why going the international law route is strategic. Playing this dirty war game according to Israel and the US’s ‘rules-based system’ would be an all-out defeat and Arabs would constantly be picking up the pieces, whilst paedophiles and riffraff coming from all over Europe steal more Palestinian land. These are the squatters. They are criminals. The US and Israel are also criminal.

The US has been implicated in the theft of Syrian oil, as well as oil from Iraq and Libya. The appropriation of funds and resources from Iran and Afghanistan, frozen under sanctions, is attributed to the US. Reports on social media echo a similar narrative for Israel, where soldiers steal from homes and institutions they are bombing in Gaza. Against this backdrop of gangsterism, manipulation and pervasive propaganda promoting virulent Islamophobia, the new young Arab leaders have had to make difficult choices. Regrettably, past mistakes have strapped the new young Arab leaders into this toxic environment specifically because of their predecessors’ short-sightedness in fixing their currencies to the US dollar and the trade of oil in dollars instead of their currencies – what is known as the petrodollar. Wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait can be impoverished if their assets and bank accounts are frozen and sanctioned. These leaders have studied the violence of Western barbarity and the ugliness of the racist political elite who insult them, mock their culture, humiliate their women, kill their children and disrespect their tradition.

It is essential to grasp the depth of depravity exhibited by the political elite of both Israel and the US. Their readiness to instigate further conflicts in Arab regions, indiscriminately perpetrate violence and even contemplate the use of nuclear weapons underscores the urgent need for Arabs to forge a distinct path forward. Saying ‘Ja Baas’ [Yes, Boss] to these two miscreants is not an option. But how to exit this prison cage?

In part two we discuss why, in the aftermath of the Israeli attacks on Gaza post-October 7, the anticipated military responses from the Arab countries did not unfold as expected.

In the aftermath of the Israeli attacks on Gaza post-October 7, the anticipated military responses from Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, as well as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, Egypt and Qatar, did not unfold as expected. Rather than following the predicted scripts, Arab nations employed strategic deliberation. The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Arab League engaged in consultations, while alliances in BRICS considered their positions. This strategic decision-making did not materialise suddenly in October 2023; it marked the culmination of a gradual process, considering various factors.

The assessment of Türkiye’s role in NATO and how to leverage this position was also crucial. Türkiye, a NATO ally, holds significance as a transit country for energy pipelines crucial to global markets. Complicating matters, Germany staunchly supports Israel, is enabling the genocide and maintains an adversarial stance towards Türkiye, despite both being NATO allies. Erdogan’s visit to Germany in November 2023, advocating for a humanitarian pause in Gaza, revealed conflicting perspectives. Notably, Türkiye’s president, Recep Erdogan, had declared Hamas as a resistance fighter group, contrasting with the views of other NATO members.

In a significant development, four Muslim-majority nations, namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and Egypt, joined BRICS in 2024. Before this formal alliance, Saudi Arabia initiated conciliatory efforts with Yemen and Iran, indicating a regional realignment. Notably, Saudi Arabia extended an invitation to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to rejoin the Arab League. This geopolitical shift emphasises priorities such as de-dollarisation, establishing a BRICS bank and a commitment to peace and development. The underlying message is clear – Arab and Muslim lives cannot be trivialised, no more stealing from Arab nations and enough of the bullying.

Arab and Muslim rulers needed to restrain themselves to expose the savagery of the Zionists and keep the camera focused only on Palestine. If you paid careful attention, you could feel the frustration and desperation of the Americans and the Zionists. They are strutting like headless chickens and more recently, like rabid dogs. The plan had always been that they would continue their ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinians as usual, step up on the pace and brutality and use the Arab reactions to perpetuate the notion of Israeli victimhood and Muslim barbarity.

It would have been said, ‘You see, hostile Arab nations surround Israel, they hate us, they hate our democracy, our freedoms, our civilisation.’ Instead of seeing the humanity and suffering of the Palestinians, it would have been five months of Islamophobic gymnastics. The extent of their vileness has fully surfaced because their plans to blame the Arabs and vilify Islam backfired. The cost has been unbearable in terms of Palestinian suffering, but the veils have lifted. Gaza did this. Palestinians in the diaspora are unafraid to claim their identity and South Africans have been saved from a great disaster. Had Gaza not opened our eyes, we would have fallen into the trap of believing that apartheid could not come back. It can; if we give a greater vote to parties like the Democratic Alliance, ActionSA and Patriotic Alliance. The strategy, like Islamophobia and Afrophobia, has always been the same – divide and conquer.

Algeria has been actively advocating for a lasting solution to the Palestinian issue and also drafted a Resolution to the UN Security Council that asked for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The US vetoed the Arab-backed resolution, making it the US’s third veto of such a resolution. The Algerian resistance rejected French attempts at subtle reform, which were aimed at dividing the masses and curbing political autonomy in response to uprisings. The reformist tactics offered limited rights to select Algerians, perpetuating a colonial concept of superiority and the need to ‘civilise’ those deemed inferior. This is the same tactic and language of Israel and settler colonial states generally. Significantly, it is France who helped Israel build its nuclear capabilities and took the toughest line on counter-proliferation when it came to Iran.

In a strategic move, the young Arab leaders, in collaboration with their BRICS partners, are steering the global alliance towards International Law, distancing themselves from a rules-based system.

The Qatari representative at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearings said, ‘We believe that establishing international peace and justice is only possible through international law. We reject double standards and international law must apply to everyone.’ The International Law approach is the only viable option. South Africa, as part of BRICS, possessed the necessary credentials to address the issues of apartheid and genocide at the ICJ. Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, known for her ethical, eloquent and fearless stance, has diligently advocated for ending the occupation. China and Russia, despite their domestic challenges, recognise the significance of containing US influence in the region, aligning with their allies and friends to seek an alternative to the existing gangster-driven world order led by the US. India, part of BRICS, plays a role in this paradigm shift, despite its Islamophobic tendencies. A significant portion of its economy is buoyed by Indian workers in Muslim-majority countries, sending remittances back home. The first strategy in this waltz of diplomacy that would drive for a world order based on International Law, was to still the flames of conflict amongst themselves – Saudi Arabia, Yemen, UAE, Iran, Egypt, Hezbollah and Syria.

Yemen is in the company of the new kingmakers and is the ‘most valuable player’ (MVP) of the global friendship parade! Yemen controls the Bab-al Mandab Strait which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. This small strait is essential to global shipping. Yemen’s crew is the real force – an unsung alliance of resilience and camaraderie that makes even the mightiest geopolitical blocs look like yesterday’s news. Saudi Arabia and the UAE declined to join the US’s gangster coalition, Operation Prosperity Guardian, to bomb Yemen. Oman refused to open its airspace to the miscreants. The Omani people have also intensified boycotts of the multinationals identified by BDS as giving material support to the Zionist regime.

Then there is Egypt. Seven years after the initial order signed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2016, officially transferring the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia in September 2023, the geopolitical landscape reflects a significant move. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s visit to Cairo in 2023, accompanied by a multi-billion-dollar investment package for Egypt, signals Saudi Arabia’s endeavour to revitalise and strengthen Egypt as a strategic partner within BRICS+. The strategic alignment between Egypt and Saudi Arabia raises questions about Egypt’s involvement in potential initiatives backed by the US-supported Israeli state, such as the expulsion of Gazans into the Sinai and the proposed Ben Gurion Canal Project. Why would Egypt open its borders and do the bidding of the US-backed apartheid state of Israel which would not only strangle Egypt’s Suez Canal income but would be a new strategic route for deviant Western powers to continuously destabilise the Middle East?

With control over key global waterways now in the hands of Muslim-majority countries with robust leadership, united within the BRICS+ alliance, the geopolitical landscape undergoes a transformative shift. Russia’s consistent support for Iran and Syria further strengthens this coalition. According to President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981, Zbigniew Brzezinski, an anti-hegemonic coalition of China, Russia and Iran posed a threat to US dominance, as it would be grounded not in ideology but shared grievances.

By aligning themselves with the BRICS bloc, which draws substantial support from global South countries the recent ICJ ruling in favour of South Africa and the support thereafter serves as a testament to the international community’s solidarity with Palestine. Arab leaders have begun dismantling consensus by western states for the genocide and occupation. Brazilian President Lula da Silva’s comparison of Israel’s actions against Hamas in Gaza to Hitler’s action is resonating in Latin America. The move by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, February 7, to nullify the Biden administration’s attempts to normalise relations with Israel carries profound implications. The Saudi Foreign Ministry issued a statement emphasising their unwavering stance, asserting that diplomatic relations with Israel hinge on the recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia demands a halt to Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of all occupation forces from the region.

In a parallel commitment to humanitarian efforts, Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief signed a $10 million deal with the World Health Organization to support Gaza. Ambassador Reema Bandar Al-Saud, representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States, underscored the nation’s dedication to prioritising peace and prosperity in leading the Middle East toward stability amidst ongoing geopolitical volatility. On February 8, 2024, Saudi defence minister Prince Khalid Bin Salman noted to the US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to ‘promoting dialogue among parties to reach a political solution under UN supervision’. It was him saying: we are making peace with Yemen.

In this intricate orchestration, warmongering entities like Israel and the US find no foothold and deserve no quarter. Our collective vision, at times constrained by the influence of media oligarchs directing our attention to perceived chaos, may have obscured the meticulous dance of diplomacy, strategic alliances, regional realignment and the consolidation of a geopolitical shift unfolding before us. This choreography has effectively united most of the global South under the protective canopy of China.

Amidst the rhythmic movements of this dance, the central motif is the pursuit of freedom from occupation for Palestine. The key lies in the strategic response of Arab states to the nuclear-backed apartheid state of Israel, a response crucial for isolating Israel and dismantling the occupation through the channels of International Law and majority consensus.

Before we hastily cast blame upon the Arab nations, it behoves us to recall that succumbing to the divisive tactics wielded by racist, gangster states only inflicts harm upon ourselves and the Palestinian cause. Acknowledging imperfections on all sides, it becomes imperative to recognise the winds of change blowing a new generation of Arab leaders, marked by vigour and determination and concerted efforts. It is in these currents that our investments should be wisely placed.

As the Wise Creator exalts us in the Quran, ‘Prepare against them what you believers can of military power and cavalry to deter Allah’s enemies and your enemies as well as other enemies unknown to you but known to Allah. Whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be paid to you in full and you will not be wronged.’ (Surah al-Anfal, The Spoils of War, 8:60)


Dr Quraysha Ismail Sooliman is a NIHSS post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pretoria.

This article appeared in the Muslim Views  on 1 March 2024

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Pretoria.

- Author Dr Quraysha Ismail Sooliman

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