The images were touching. In early October, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin with his Israeli and Emirati counterparts. How better to celebrate the recent normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates? In fact, the establishment of diplomatic ties under this summer’s Abraham Accords had little to do with honoring the past. If anything, the deal is an attempt to escape from history altogether.

For most of my lifetime, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the defining issue in the Middle East. From the Western perspective, ensuring Israel’s right to exist was a way of repaying an historic debt to the Jewish people: Israel, as a homeland for global Jewry was insurance against future anti-Semitism. But in the Arab world, the displacement of the Palestinians in 1948, and the ongoing experience of Israeli occupation since 1967, was a perpetual rallying cry for successive regimes, most of which capitalized on Palestinian suffering to divert attention from their own failures at home.

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