In a recent move, Palestinians have begun resorting to Islam to justify their vehement opposition to normalization of relations with Israel. Palestinian leaders and activists have long cited political and nationalist reasons to explain their opposition to any form of normalization with Israel — but Islam is a new factor in the mix.
The increased talk about the possibility of some Arab countries normalizing their relations with Israel has prompted the Palestinians to wage a campaign aimed at pressuring Arab leaders to refrain from embarking on such a move. The most recent campaign is titled: “Normalization is a Crime.”
Palestinian Authority officials who are not known as particularly religious have been warning Arab states that normalization with Israel is tantamount to treachery. Mahmoud al-Aloul, Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction (headed by Mahmoud Abbas), went as far as describing Arab normalization with Israel as a “stab in the back of the Palestinians.”
Aloul and other Palestinian officials say they are opposed to Arab normalization with Israel because the Palestinians are afraid of being abandoned by their Arab bothers. Their main argument is that normalization with Israel should take place only after, and not before, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat urged the Arab states to abide by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which states that Arab countries would establish normal relations with Israel after a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, including the Golan Heights, and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.
The Palestinians, however, apparently feel that their appeals to the Arab countries are falling on deaf ears. They are convinced that the US administration is continuing with its efforts to persuade some Arab states to establish normal ties with Israel before solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last week, these Palestinian fears were reinforced when the US administration envoys Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner visited the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Palestinians perceive this tour as part of the US administration’s upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East which, they claim, is mainly aimed at promoting normalization between the Arabs and Israel “at the expense of the Palestinians.”
Apparently as part of their effort to thwart the prospective, but as yet unseen, plan, also known as the “Deal of the Century,” and to prevent Arabs from establishing normal relations with Israel, a group of Palestinian Islamic scholars issued yet another fatwa (Islamic religious opinion) on March 3 warning against any form of normalization with the “Zionist entity.”
The scholars are hoping that their fatwa will rally Muslims worldwide to the Palestinian campaign against normalization with Israel. By issuing such fatwas, the Palestinians are clearly hoping to turn the conflict with Israel into a religious one.
The Gaza-based group, called Palestinian Scholars’ Association, said in its fatwa that according to the rulings of Islam, “normalization with the Zionist enemy, and accepting it in the region, is one of the most dangerous penetrations of the Muslim community and a threat to its security, as well as a corruption of its doctrine and a loss of its youths.”
The scholars go on to explain that “normalization and reconciliation means empowerment of Jews over the land of the Muslims, surrender to the infidels and loss of religion and Islamic lands.”
Nothing new here: these Palestinian scholars are simply reminding the Arab leaders and governments of what Hamas lays out clearly in its charter:
"The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Muslim generations until Judgement Day."
The Palestinian scholars also warn the Arabs that reconciliation and normalization with the Jews contradicts the Koran, especially Surah An-Nisa (4:74), which says:
"How is it that you do not fight in the way of Allah and in support of the helpless -- men, women and children -- who pray: 'Our Lord, bring us out of this land whose people are oppressors?'"
Addressing Arab leaders and governments, the scholars ask, in wake of this Koran verse:
"If God makes it a duty to fight to save the helpless, how can we make peace with the Zionist occupiers and allow them to be superior over the Muslims in Palestine?"
The scholars are also sending a warning to the Arabs who have already signed agreements with Israel, including the PLO, Jordan and Egypt. The scholars’ warning said that the Arabs who signed agreements with Israel have “reaped only disappointment and humiliation and did not liberate the Islamic holy sites.”
The current peace and the current normalization with Israel “represents injustice and aggression against the Palestinian people,” the scholars added.
"It denies the right of the Palestinian people to its land and falsely recognizes the right of the Jews to it. Reconciliation and normalization with the Zionist enemy is considered null and void and an explicit violation of the provisions of Sharia [Islamic religious law]."
The ruling by the Palestinian Scholars’ Association is also aimed at sending a message to the US administration that Palestinians and the Muslims will have nothing to do with the “Deal of the Century.” Moreover, it serves as a reminder that even if some Arabs do sign peace treaties with Israel, there will always be those Muslims who will denounce them as “traitors” and accuse them of acting against the Koran and the rulings of Islam. In light of this threat, it is hard to see how Abbas or any Palestinian leader would be able to agree to any form of reconciliation and normalization with the “Zionist enemy.”
Abbas, meanwhile, is acutely aware that Muslims will condemn him — and perhaps issue a fatwa calling for his death — if he ever dares to make peace with the Jews. That suspicion might explain his recent comment during a visit to Egypt, when he was reported to have said that he does not intend to end his life as a traitor by making concessions to Israel. It now remains to be seen whether the Arab and Islamic world will endorse Abbas’s stance and allow themselves to be intimidated by Palestinian Islamic clerics.