Why Biden needs to fight, not appease, the enemies of peace

Does the Biden administration really want as its legacy that it backed, encouraged and funded unscrupulous, violent regimes?

By Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute

The enemies of peace in the Middle East are continuing their efforts to destroy any effort to normalize relations between Israel and the Arab and Muslim countries.

The enemies of peace want Arabs and Muslims to remain in a continual state of war with Israel. They want more violence and bloodshed, not Arabs and Muslims and Jews working together in various fields, including technology or anything that might bring economic prosperity.

Does the Biden administration really want as its legacy to be that it was the first in American history aiding oppressors and against human rights, freedom and prosperity for the downtrodden?

There are no human rights to speak of in entities such as Iran, Pakistan or the Palestinian Authority.

Iran, on the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism since 1984, has been called by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken a “leading sponsor of state terrorism” — as detailed just weeks ago by America’s own State Department. On April 13, the United States Institute of Peace reported:

“Iran’s human rights record was extremely poor in 2021, the State Department reported. Security, judicial and political officials carried out extrajudicial killings, conducted torture and arbitrary detention, restricted free expression and religious freedom, recruited child soldiers and discriminated against women and minority groups, among other offenses. ‘The government took few steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or corruption,’ the 2021 Country Report on Human Rights Practices report said.

“‘Governments are growing more brazen in reaching across borders to threaten and attack critics,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted. ‘Iranian intelligence agents plotted to kidnap an Iranian American journalist from her home in Brooklyn.'”

Sensing Biden admin’s weakness

Iran, among other atrocities, imprisons attorneys for defending human rights, executes minors, and criminalizes human rights activism. If that is how Iran’s regime treats its own people, what makes anyone think it will treat other countries — in the region or Europe — any better?

And in a rare occurrence, according to the veteran Iranian journalist Amir Taheri, demonstrators in Iran have recently been publicly calling for regime change.

The Lebanese, last month, voted that they have had enough of Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah. The only question now remains what to do with Hezbollah’s masses of “peaceful” weapons.

Another Iranian proxy, Yemen’s Houthis, showed their gratitude to the U.S. for removing them from the U.S. List of Foreign Terror Organizations, by attacking Abu Dhabi with drones and missiles and striking a Saudi oil depot.

All signs now indicate that most people in the region are fed up with the anti-peace camp in the Arab and Muslim world, especially with Iran’s proxies Hamas, the Houthis and Hezbollah, all of which have offered the region, including the Palestinians, nothing but violence and bloodshed.

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The enemies of peace sense that the Biden administration is weak, so apparently they are now feeling confident to increase their campaigns of terrorism and intimidation against those Arabs and Muslims who would like their countries to enjoy “a new era of peace, stability, and prosperity across the region,” as the Emirati trade minister, Thani al-Zeyoudi, said on Twitter.

Iran continues to encourage its proxies to launch terrorist attacks against neighbors in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Iran, too, seems to view the Biden administration as being weak and obsequious.

Abbas feels encouraged by the US

While Hamas and the Houthis target Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership, in addition to that, continues to act against the interests of its own people. PA President Mahmoud Abbas appears to be encouraged by the unconditional support he is receiving from the Biden administration, to the point where he feels free to continue denying his people good governance and judicial due process.

Last year, Abbas called off the PA general election after realizing that Hamas’s chances of winning the vote were higher than those of his Fatah faction. Shortly after, Abbas’s security officers beat to death an anti-corruption activist, Nizar Banat, in the city of Hebron.

The murder was followed by protests from Palestinians “calling for the resignation of the Palestinian president.” Fourteen officers involved in the murder have gone on trial, but the family of the slain activist and legal experts say that the trial is moving too slowly, is “incomplete,” and that the PA security forces are harassing and intimidating some of the witnesses.

Whenever Abbas feels encouraged by the U.S., he sees that support as a green light, this time from the Biden administration, to impose more suppression on his people and to whip up violence in the region.

Does the Biden administration really want as its legacy that it backed, encouraged and funded unscrupulous, violent regimes – the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Chinese Communist Party, the state sponsor of terrorism Iran, the illegitimate rule of Venezuela’s Maduro – and the corrupt government of Mahmoud Abbas?

Hamas’s elimination of peace

Meanwhile, Iran’s proxy, Hamas — whose charter calls not only for the elimination of peace but also of all Jews — continues to urge Arabs and Muslims not to normalize their ties with Israel.

Here is what Hamas’s charter says: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before.”

Its charter also warns against any attempt by Arabs and Muslims to make peace with Israel:

“Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas]. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against any part of the religion.” (Article 13, Hamas charter)

A few months ago, Hamas praised Mauritania for refusing to establish relations with Israel. Last month, Hamas praised the Iraqi parliament for passing a law that criminalizes normalization with Israel.

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Alarmed by the rapprochement between Israel and the Arab countries, several Palestinian and Arab researchers earlier this month recommended the establishment of an “Arab and Islamic Front” to boycott Israel and oppose normalization with it.

New strategy against Israel

This came during a virtual conference held in the Gaza Strip by the Council of International Relations in partnership with the Palestine-Malaysia Center for the Strategic Initiative and the Anti-Normalization Campaign.

The participants of the conference, held under the banner of “The New Wave of Normalization, Repercussions and Confrontation Strategies,” stressed the need to:

“… reject, criminalize and prohibit normalization with the [Israeli] entity in all fields, and work to activate popular resistance in all regions of Palestine and the diaspora along with armed resistance, in addition to activating Palestinian diplomacy in defending the interests of the Palestinian people.”

They also called on the Arab League to prevent Arab countries from concluding normalization agreements with Israel, support Islamic countries that reject normalization, work to cancel peace agreements signed with Israel, and issue decisions and legislation that prevent governments from normalizing with it.

Senior Hamas official Ahmed Bahr said at the conference that Israel was seeking to “penetrate the Arab cultural heritage through cultural and economic normalization.”

The head of the Council of International Relations and head of the boycott and anti-normalization campaign, Basem Naim, called for devising new strategies to counter Israel’s alleged effort to “penetrate” the Arab and Muslim countries.

Boycotting Israel does not contribute to peace

Sadly, some countries such as Pakistan have also begun to heed the calls to prevent peace. The Pakistani government announced that a journalist and broadcaster, Ahmed Quarishi, working for its official television outlet, had been dismissed from his job after visiting Israel, despite subsequent calls to rehire him.

The announcement was made by Pakistani Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, who said that Pakistan’s policy is clear and that it will not accept any kind of normalization.

According to Aurangzeb, “the reported visit in question was organized by a foreign NGO which is not based in Pakistan.”

The Palestinian Media Forum, a group affiliated with Hamas, expressed its “great appreciation” for the decision to expel a journalist for visiting Israel, stating:

“This step reflects the authenticity of the Pakistani position in support of the Palestinian people and their just rights, and a rejection of the media normalization policy with the Israeli occupation.”

The Pakistani minister, however, is mistaken if she thinks that firing a journalist will support the rights of the Palestinians. Such myopic measures only support and embolden the enemies of peace, stability and human rights in the Middle East: Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis, the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey and Iran.

Contrary to her belief, boycotting Israel and combating normalization with it do not contribute to “lasting peace” or the “two-state solution.” On the contrary, such moves harm any prospect of achieving peace and security in the Middle East and play right into the hands of those seeking aggression, instability and destruction.

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People who say they care about the Palestinians can genuinely support them by defending journalists and human rights activists who are being persecuted, harassed and even killed by the Palestinian Authority.

People who claim they are “pro-Palestinian” can truly help the Palestinians by coming to Judea and Samaria and defending freedom of speech and the press, and teaching Palestinians about democracy and respect for human rights. Spreading hate against Jews does not make one “pro-Palestinian.”

The Pakistani government’s decision is a big prize to despots and tyrants in the region, such as Iran and its many proxies, and a severe blow to attempts to build bridges between Arabs and Muslims and Christians and Jews.

Seek allies wherever they can be found

These increased efforts to foil peace are the main reason that the Biden administration needs to work toward strengthening and expanding the entities in the Middle East that want peace. President Joe Biden’s planned visit to Saudi Arabia is a praiseworthy first step. Saudi Arabia may not be perfect — no country is — but at least it not aggressively trying to take over its neighbors.

The Biden administration must throw its full weight behind encouraging Saudi Arabia to be a leader for peace, stability and, as it has been doing, if slowly, advancing human rights.

A sure-fire way for Biden to get immediate and full cooperation from the Saudis would be, on his planned visit, to commit to entirely eliminating Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The U.S. has the capability, apparently just not the will.

To begin with, any country that is officially on the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, should not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons, period. It is what all serious discussions in the region are about. For everyone in the region except fundamentalist Qatar — and including the Iranian people, the mullahs’ regime is a mortal threat.

If Biden, as the leader of the Free World, would totally remove this threat, it would not only go a long way in preventing a nuclear war and regional arms race and persuade the Saudis to export more oil, but after the threat is eliminated, it would send a message of deterrence to Russia, China, North Korea and other adversaries about what they could expect, and turn Biden’s poll numbers around overnight.

Any efforts to cozy up to Iran will only be seen as hugging and empowering ruthless despots. It is more important to seek allies, wherever they can be found, that are eager to discard aggression and violence.

Failing to do so will just plunge the region into a massive war — which Iran, its terrorist groups and the U.S. administration, unfortunately, seem to be working toward day and night.