According to Aljazeera, in June 2021, “Israel’s new leader has received “warm greetings” in a letter from Morocco’s king as Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh visited the country for discussions on the Palestinian cause.”
“The message sent by King Mohammed VI congratulated Naftali Bennett on becoming Israel’s first new leader in 12 years after the coalition government he cobbled together ousted long-serving leader Benjamin Netanyahu this week.”
Husnain Heikal, President Nasser’s confidant and editor of the Cairo daily Al Ahram, mentions in his book “Autumn of Fury” that Nasser, contrary to his public pronouncements, had never wanted to destroy Israel. He considered Israel as another crusader state which would, in due course of time, die its own natural death.
We can understand why Nasser compared Israel with crusader states. According to the Israeli writer David Ohana (2006):
Before the outbreak of the 1967 Six-Day War, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was compared to the legendary leader Saladin, who in the distant past had defeated the foreign invaders. The weekly journal El-Howdat informed its readers that “since Salah Ed-Din el-Ayyubi (Saladin), the Arabs have not had a leader like Abdel Nasser.”
Saladin was viewed as a mobilizing symbol of the liberation of Jerusalem, “of Muslim unity, religious sacrifice, selfless struggle, and the victory of faith.”
Read more: Withering unity of Muslim Ummah
The crusader states before Israel
According to some historians, crusades were started by the impoverished kings of Christendom, goaded by the Pope, to grab the fabled riches of the Muslim Middle East. The crusader states were created after the First Crusade (1095-1102) in order to keep hold of the territorial gains made by Christian armies in the Middle East. The four small states were the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the County of Tripoli, and the Principality of Antioch (Cartwright 2018).
The crusader states managed to maintain a political presence in the region until 1291 but were constantly hampered by dynastic rivalries, a lack of fighting men, underwhelming support from Western Europe, and the military prowess of such Muslim leaders as Nur ad-Din Zangi and Salah ed-Din.
Starting in 1268 with the sacking of Antioch by the Mamluks, these crusader outposts on the Middle East soil were gradually wiped out by the Muslim armies. Acre fell in 1291 CE and the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Latin East now only existed as states in exile on Cyprus; what was left of the Crusaders States was absorbed into the Mamluk Sultanate which would rule in the region until 1517.
Israel as the new crusader state!
The state of Israel was proclaimed in May 1948 and was immediately attacked by armies of its Arab neighbors. And what armies they were. Syrians were represented by bands of marauders headed by Fawzi el Kawaukji, an ex-Ottoman Army officer. The Egyptian army, according to Nasser, was busy making toilets for the king.
Only Trans- Jordan had a British-trained army which, under Glubb Pasha, its British commander, could take on the far better trained Haganah and Stern Gang, and occupied the West Bank of the River Jordan and East Jerusalem.
With the passage of time, helped by the ineptitude of the semi-literate and corrupt Arab leadership, Israel gradually expanded its boundaries and today has its teeth in the entire formerly British mandated Palestine, in addition to the Golan Heights which it grabbed from Syria during the 1967 War.
Between the creation of Israel in 1948 and the Camp David Accord in the aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the world did not take these monarchies seriously. KSA owes its existence to the Sykes-Picot Line drawn by Britain and France after defeating the Ottoman Empire in WWI. UAE and Qatar gained independence from Great Britain in September and December 1971 respectively.
Whereas Saudi Arabia and UAE are today playing an important role in the Arab Middle East, till after 1970 these Gulf monarchies were overshadowed by the charismatic leadership of Egypt’s Jamal Abdel Nasser. They, whether they liked it or not, had to toe the line determined by Cairo.
During Nasser’s rule (1952-70), Egypt, then officially designated as the United Arab Republic (UAR), was a bulwark of Arab nationalism and nerve center of the Arab world. A towering personality, Nasser commissioned Nazi scientists who helped UAR in producing supersonic fighter aircraft, biological weapons, and a delivery system (providing the backdrop for Frederick Forsyth’s thriller “The Odessa File”).
Hinting at Israel while witnessing a military parade, Nasser had commented that his rockets could land south of Lebanon. While considering the threat from Israel, perhaps Nasser ignored that during WW II many of the future Israeli military commanders had served on the Allied general staff.
After its defeat during the 1967 Arab-Israel War, Egypt gradually lost its clout in the Arab world. In 1973, Anwar Sadaat, Nasser’s successor, tried to partially restore the status quo ante by attacking Israel in a two-front war planned with Syria.
The myth of the Arab siege
Egypt had recognized Israel in 1979 as a quid pro quo for the return of Sinai and Sharm el-Sheik. As a result of the peace process initiated after the second Gulf War, Israel was formally recognized by Jordan in 1989. The Gulf states and Morocco also ended Israel’s economic boycott the same year and established mutual trade relations with it.
Although the Israeli trade missions in Bahrain, Oman, and Morocco were closed in 2000 due to Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians, trade and economic ties continue. Also, Israeli tourism to Morocco is encouraged by the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry, a Jewish NGO. Whereas Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel; this does not deter it from continuing with back door diplomacy with the latter on how to deal with Iran.
Talking about Iran, its anti- Israel rhetoric is just that – rhetoric, aimed at currying favor with militias like Hezbollah. Otherwise, it had been receiving arms, notably TOW anti-tank missiles, from Israel during the first Gulf War.
UAE and Oman’s recognition and establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, while Saudi Arabia waits in the wings, is not a new phenomenon. The so-called Arab boycott of Israel was for the consumption of illiterate Arab masses only. The back door channel with Israel was never closed.
Where does Pakistan fit into this algorithm? Pakistani rulers, even as their Arab counterparts, have a common DNA when it comes to hypocrisy. Nawaz Sharif did not have business relations with India’s Jindal only. He had also bought Israeli machinery for his Jeddah steel mills. Folks! Grapevine has it that Pakistanis, ranging from politicians to bureaucrats, to maulanas, frequently visit Israel. In the past, Maulana Ajmal of JUI had created news when his secret visit to Israel was exposed in the media.
Read more: What deal Nawaz Sharif stroke with Israel?
At the Ben Gurion airport, Pakistanis request the Israelis not to stamp their passports. Then, depending upon their preferences, they pay homage at the Aqsa Mosque, the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange, or frequent the cat houses at Tel Aviv.
Saleem Akhtar Malik was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honors degree in War Studies, an MBA, and an M.Phil in Management Sciences. He is the author of the book Borrowed Power. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.