Signatories hold up documents after participating in the signing of the Abraham Accords, at the White House on September 15, 2020. Photo: AFP / Saul Loeb

The problem with rotten narratives and prejudicial beliefs is that they are bound to collapse eventually. Perhaps this is happening to the narratives created by the Arab Gulf countries and Pakistan to protect their geopolitical interests.

Israel, long considered the root cause of the evils suffered by surrounding Muslim countries and never recognized by those states, is now the center of debate in these countries. A few months back the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel, and a couple of days ago reports of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) made headlines around the globe.

This perhaps was a shock for most Gulf countries, and for Pakistan, as not only had prejudice against Jews been taught through religious narratives and textbooks but it became obligatory for pious Muslims to hold Jews and Israel responsible for the failures of the Islamic world.

The jihad-based war industry that benefited many of the Arab monarchs and the deep state in Pakistan revolved around the atrocities in Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir. However, first the world accepting the annexation of J&K by New Delhi and the silence of Islamabad on the issue, and now the Saudi crown prince meeting with the Israeli prime minister indicate that the jihad-based war industry is no longer needed for the global players and their proxies in the Gulf.

Though Riyadh has denied any meeting between MBS and Netanyahu, Israel has not, and as the Saudi royals battle among themselves over the throne, it is safe to bet that the crown prince and his aides will keep quiet on this matter for now. But it is expected that at some point in the next year Saudi Arabia will accept Israel as a state and bilateral relations between the two countries will be announced.

So it seems that a new global order has been introduced and there is no place within it for religious-based security narratives. But the question remains whether the global powers will resolve the Palestinian issue, which up to now has been used as a proxy by both the great powers and the Gulf region for their own interests.

In Pakistan, the miseries of the Palestinians have long been exploited to engage youth in jihad and to keep the masses accepting the hallucination that Israel continually conspires against the Muslim world, and especially Pakistan, as it fears this country’s atomic bomb. Even educated minds buy this propaganda and believe that Jews are their real enemies.

That is how the thinking of many generations in the Gulf region and in Pakistan has been developed, and now it is like a ritual in these countries to pray for the destruction of Israel and to hate Jews on the basis of their beliefs and atrocities against the Palestinian people.

In Pakistan, the public has always been kept in dark by the deep state and the political elite about the true nature of geopolitical wars and strategies, with religion and patriotism used to brainwash the masses. So now, many people are finding it hard to digest the truth that jihad, religious narratives and a defense-centric state all were tools used to protect the interests of the global powers and Arab monarchs.

The self-delusional narratives of religious supremacy may have protected the interests of the establishment and the political elite, but they have proved horrible for the country.

The problem that will be faced by Pakistan and many countries in the Gulf will be the reactions of those who have nothing to hold to but narcissism about religion and race.

Criticizing Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for not maintaining cordial relations with the Gulf countries may satisfy the egos of those journalists who benefited from the governments of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), but the truth of the matter is that with the changing realities, not even Nawaz Sharif or Asif Ali Zardari would have been able to say no to the new global order.

For 72 years, Pakistan did not recognize Israel as a state, but that did not help the Palestinians, and in fact, extremism in Pakistani society grew and religious clerics and the conservative segment gained more power.

This futile exercise at some point had to be stopped, and it is time to allow Palestinians a life that holds some significance instead of dying for the interests of different countries. A settlement between the Palestinians and Israel will not only bring peace for both of them but it will deny radicals the opportunity to spew their venom of bigotry and prejudice in the Muslim countries.

Right now the Pakistani government is denying any possibility of establishing a bilateral relationship with Israel, but the fact of the matter is that not only have the UAE and other Arab states recognized Israel, but Saudi Arabia soon will as well. So whether under pressure from the Arab countries or to follow the new global order, it will be good that Pakistan instead of wasting time and resources on defense and self-created religious narratives will be able to concentrate more on producing objective and rational minds.

For the political leadership or the bigwigs of the military establishment, recognizing Israel will be an extremely unpopular notion, but then genuine leaders and true statesmen are never afraid of unpopular decisions as they know these will benefit the country in the future.

The same is true for journalists and intellectuals forced to decide whether they are happy with only going for ratings and clicks and views or are willing to take the unpopular route and tell the truth to the masses.

Since bigotry toward Israel is based on religious narratives, it will be very difficult for any Pakistani government to admit to the masses that they have been fed propaganda by the previous administrations. It will be difficult for the state to re-inform those minds who blindly believed in propaganda organized by the Arab monarchs that from the Afghan jihad to the war on terror, it was all about holy wars and the freedom of Palestine or Kashmir.

However, by changing the curriculum that is defense-obsessed and teaches people to see the world through the prism of religion and race, the next generations can be saved from bigotry and prejudice.

It is logical that a country where the main problems are poverty and the lack of health care and fundamental human rights, and where minorities are persecuted for their beliefs, needs to sort out its own problems first. Israel never was a threat to Pakistan, but the growing crisis within the social and political fabrics with a deteriorating economy is the real threat.

It is time to accept reality and to focus on shaping a strong economy and pluralistic society so the future of the coming generations can be saved.

For now, the current global order will prevail and like it or not, cordial relations of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan with Israel will be established sooner or later, and the old narratives that benefited the US and its allies will be ditched by the bigwigs of both the Gulf region and Pakistan.

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.