The signing of the Abraham Accords a year ago signified the end of an era of modern Middle Eastern history and the ushering in of a new, yet-to-be-grasped era. If the fall of the Berlin Wall was a watershed moment in European history, the fall of the Arab-Israeli cognitive wall will do the same for the region. The Abraham Accords are the first major step in burying an inauspicious era of Arab and Muslim romanticism and signal a defect from delusion to reality.
From Arab nationalism, Arab socialism and postcolonialism to Sunni and Shia Islamism and destructive sectarianism, all modern Arab and Muslim political thinking revolved in the idealist orbit of mythical romanticism. Middle Eastern romanticism advanced a complete and utter rejection of modern liberalism, capitalism and sensationalist rhetoric of self-idealization, idealist presentation and the abstractions of metaphysical dignity leading to absolutist, and often nihilistic, declarations.
The sad and tragic result of such a way of thinking was the sacrifice of objective reality on the altar of Arab and Muslim romantic idealism with no regard to the amount of human suffering caused on the way. This Hegelian journey, which is no doubt influenced by much continental philosophy and thought, of realizing a self-conscious Muslim or Arab ideal led to a journey of self-destruction which is still echoing today.
Nowhere was this romanticism apparent more than in the myth of the “Palestinian Cause,” where the constant denial of reality, with its epitome in the bizarre formulations of the “Zionist entity” and the likes, brings constant blowbacks which in turn lead to even stronger denials leaving mind and rhetoric trapped in the lands of fantasies and delusions. The “Palestinian Cause” summarizes a paradigm shared by secular and Islamist Arabs that led to the destruction of reality in the name of sacred causes seeing human action as nothing more than a way to return to a glorified past or achieving a utopian future.
This rejectionism, denial, and systematic delusional thinking enshrined a whole edifice of political mysticism, theoretical speculation, sensationalism, eternal victimhood, and imaginary essences that covered the reality of a gradual and persistent social and political disintegration hitting rock bottom in the nihilistic violence of the so-called Arab Spring.
The Abraham Accords undoubtedly included an important geopolitical guardrail against an Iranian threat. But to only see it in that way is to expose the profoundly flawed ways in which the Middle East is commonly viewed. The main importance of the Abraham Accords to Arab Gulf leaders is the decisive move from a delusional thinking paradigm; the triumph of reality over romanticism. A revolt against the right and wrong way to do history and a commitment to bringing words closer to reality. The Abraham Accords understood this way is a radical turn from the prescribed way of doing or saying things that has been established in the region for a century. This is a much more effective tactic against Iran and Islamism than missile batteries.
The end of the grand delusion of pan-Arab identity finally permits different Arab societies to explore their different identities rooted in reality and not mythic conceptions. This will hopefully distance Arab society for pan-Islamic ideologies and provide a new foundation for the regional political order; one that won’t just accept Israel, but takes the existence of Israel as its pre-condition.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Arab societies languishing in the darkness of delusions for nearly a century with their antisemitism, existential conspiracies and self-worship will still require a herculean effort to exist in such a dark place. More likely than not, the result will be societies with asymmetrical levels of development and self-conceptions. But the question remains whether the Palestinians will be freed of their own delusions to explore realistic new possibilities.
This optimism must not ignore that Iran and Sunni Islamism still loom large. Through innovative technology, Islamist propaganda seeks to chain Arabs and Muslims in the delusions of the past century to win their loyalty to the “axis of resistance.” But hopefully, as more Arabs take note of the destruction that this is bringing to places like Syria and Lebanon, more will defect to reality.
It is truly fascinating that it took a businessman from New York and his entourage to facilitate such an urgent twist, bypassing the preoccupation with traditional foreign policy establishment with Palestinian Cause hermeneutics. Was this also part of the story of the triumph of reality over theory? Regardless, the same old peace process is back in town in Washington, but new ways to do things and to see the world are emerging in the Middle East, and it is not unclear whether American experts are fully aware.
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