We also want to go to Mars!: How the Arab World is responding to the UAE-Israel peace deal

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In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the matter is entirely different from the rest of Iraq. The region, which gained semi-independence by a decision of the United Nations in 1991. There is no official relationship between the Kurdish region and Israel. The reason for this, according to observers, is that the region fears that Baghdad will cut federal aid if the region officially announced its relationship with Israel. Still, it is a secret that everyone knows anyway. There are already formal and informal relationships.

 

Once the United Arab Emirates announced the normalization of relations with Israel on August 13, 2020, a great division occurred in the Arab region between those who reject the idea and others who support and want all Arab countries to do what the UAE did.

The refuseniks believe that Israel is the cause of all the problems in the region. “It occupied Palestinian lands and was behind the USA war on Iraq in 2003 and the change of the political system in it. It also has a hand in all the security problems that happen in Libya, Syria and Yemen”. They deem any normalization in the relationship between any Arab country and Israel represents a betrayal.

Supporters of the peace agreement believe that it is a crucial step on the road to achieving security. They encourage all Arab countries to conclude peace agreements with Israel to benefit future generations.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Today, a new era in the relation between Israel and the Arab world begins.” He added, “In 1979, (Menachem) Begin signed a peace agreement with Egypt. In 1994, (Yitzhak) Rabin signed one with Jordan, and I am credited with signing the third peace agreement with an Arab country in 2020. It is a real peace agreement, not a slogan.”

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said, “What we have done is a bold step to ensure the two-state solution,” he means (Palestine and Israel), noting that the Emirati embassy will not be in Jerusalem, and opening it “will not take a long time.”

Arab criticism of the UAE was limited among the general public. There were no official comments from other Arab countries. This suggests that many Arab countries may do the same thing: sign a peace agreement with Israel.

In Iraq, the Shiite religious parties affiliated with Iran, which control the government, have announced their rejection of any relations with Israel. Moreover, there are representatives of Shiite parties in the Iraqi parliament who proposed drafting a law to criminalize normalization with Israel. However, this did not happen, and it probably never will.

As for the Iraqi intellectuals, it seems that many of them will not object if there is an official relationship with Israel. In recent years, we find many titles in Iraqi libraries on Jewish novels, books of history, politics, art. Before 2003, under Saddam Hussein’s rule, this was a crime punishable by death.

Iraqis have changed after 2003; they are tired of the wars. The prevailing belief is that everything that happened since the war with Iran and Kuwait’s occupation, and the international economic blockade from 1990 to 2003, and even the security deterioration and the emergence of Armed groups — all because the Iraqi regimes defended the Palestinian people against Israel. So they think!

On Iraqi social media, the matter is continuously discussed. They post videos of Iraqi Jewish artists and writers. We can read from time to time phrases like “Iraqi Jews, like Arabs, Kurds and Christians, have the right to remember their country and even return to it, why not?”.

Jews in Iraq were subjected to a process of killing and looting of property. These operations were known as the Farhoud, in which many Jews were killed and their property plundered in the early 1940s. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the government increased its pressure on the Iraqi Jews. In the beginning, emigration was not a straightforward option among all Iraqi Jews. The prevailing current among them was a trend that did not agree with Zionism. In Baghdad, several Jewish worship places were bombed, which sparked a state of panic among the sect’s members. Zionist activists were later accused of encouraging emigration from Iraq. At first, the Iraqi government did not allow Jews to travel. Still, later, it issued a decision allowing Jews to travel.

The majority of the community emigrated from Iraq during 1949 and 1950 in Operation Ezra and Nahmiyeh until the door to emigration was closed to them. At the beginning of the fifties, about fifteen thousand Jews remained in Iraq. When Abd al-Karim Qassem came to power, restrictions were lifted on the remaining Jews in Iraq. Their situation began to improve, and things began to return to normal. But the Ba’ath Party coup and its seizure of power reinstated persecution and restrictions on them. In 1969, it executed several merchants, mostly Jews, on charges of spying for Israel. This led to the acceleration of the emigration campaign among the rest of the Iraqi Jews, which witnessed its climax in the early 1970s.

In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the matter is entirely different from the rest of Iraq. The region, which gained semi-independence by a decision of the United Nations in 1991. There is no official relationship between the Kurdish region and Israel. The reason for this, according to observers, is that the region fears that Baghdad will cut federal aid if the region officially announced its relationship with Israel. Still, it is a secret that everyone knows anyway. There are already formal and informal relationships.

Therefore, we cannot rule out that Iraq will announce a peace agreement with Israel in the coming period, just as the Emirates and Egypt and Jordan accepted. Some Iraqis joke about the matter; they say the UAE concluded a peace agreement with Israel in 2020 and succeeded in 2021 by sending a space shuttle to Mars! We also want to go to Mars!

 

 

Nawzat Shamdin, is an Iraqi Kurdish journalist, novelist and lawyer from Mosul, Iraq. He has penned eleven books, including four novels. He currently lives in Norway as an ICORN guest writer.

 

 

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