Israel is facing a problem it is reluctant to acknowledge. Perhaps it does acknowledge it, but it refuses to make it public. In either case, the policies it is pursuing suggest that it is not only not interested in solving the problem but bent on making it worse. The problem is that, even as Israel pushes signing what have been described as peace treaties with some Arab countries, hostility to it is mounting at the grassroots level day by day. The sentiment manifests itself in many ways, from armed conflict to boycotts of and opposition to normalisation. Clearly there is another factor that has a greater impact on Arab public opinion of Israel than peace agreements between governments. That factor is the continued Israeli occupation, Israel’s flagrantly racist and brutal policies towards civilians in the occupied Arab territories and its moves to annex those territories in violation of all relevant UN resolutions and international laws.
The most recent outpouring of grassroots anger at Israel occurred several days ago in Morocco which, according to international surveys, is the least anti-Israel country in the Arab region. Last week, Israel dispatched Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, who is of Moroccan origin, to Rabat for a “historic” visit that was reportedly to pave the way to raising diplomatic relations between the two countries to the ambassador level. As soon as he arrived, he encountered protest demonstrations in which protesters burned Israeli flags and shouted, “No to normalisation. Resistance is the solution. Morocco is a free land, Ohana get out! From Rabat to Palestine, the people are one!”
Perhaps what has contributed most to increasing popular hostility to Israel, including in countries that have signed peace agreements with it, is that the occupation’s aggressive and belligerent actions and policies are, in fact, in line with the long-established strategy of the Zionist state. That strategy remains unaffected by any agreements with Arab governments and those agreements have done nothing to lead Israel away from those policies towards peace.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 15 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly