A few weeks ago I took my first post-corona trip to Dubai. I thought it was going to be about luxury hotels, infinity pools and shopping. What I found was markedly different. You don’t see many Emirates on the streets as 90% of the population is made up of foreign workers from around the Persian Gulf, with a sprinkling of Europeans. I conversed with Indians, Afghans, Iranians, Syrians, Egyptians, and broke bread with a Lebanese Druze, a Ukrainian, an Italian and a Brazilian. What is it that attracts these people to this crossroads in the Middle East? My Lebanese Druze acquaintance told me that when he returns to Dubai after a visit home, he is grateful for the quiet and orderly pace of life. The tour operators are delighted with the fact that tourism is the country’s main source of income, and the Indians and Afghans are grateful to be able to work freely in a tolerant society and send their hard-earned money home to their families. The UAE is of course an absolute monarchy – something of a benign dictatorship even – and there is a certain price to pay for its orderliness, lack of crime, and pristine beaches. Nonetheless, for my part, it is one of the few places where I have not been wary of announcing that I am Israeli. To the contrary, now that the region has open borders thanks to the recent normalization treaties between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, they are only too eager to interact with us. So why have our Arab neighbours become so amenable? Well, first of all they secularized fairly quickly since the Emirates united in 1972, and due to their geographical position they see only opportunity lying in wait. Consequently, Dubai is a hub of commercial and cultural possibility. Regional politics is not the issue; collaboration is.
Is it so inconceivable that the Arabs of Gaza could one day do the same? Imagine a busy port of Gaza, importing goods from other shores around the Aegean basin and beyond. Imagine the wealth they could amass resulting merely from their own unique geographical position. Imagine the freedom they would have to work and prosper in Israel.
Alas, it can only be imagined.
Possibility for Hamas means only one thing: the next opportunity to vacate the land they term, ‘from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea’. Since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas has done nothing except to amass more weaponry to be used against Israel. Over the last two nights Hamas has lobbied close to 1,000 missiles at its civilian heartland. The sirens are enough to spike your heart rate and some older people indeed have been hospitalized with panic attacks and have died. There have also been several direct hits that iron Dome did not manage to intercept which have also proved fatal.
The general citizenry in Israel is angry. Angry that we have enabled this cat and mouse game with Hamas to continue for so many years when we have the capability to simply end it. But there lies the rub. The IDF could wipe out Hamas in a single day, and clearly there are reasons why we haven’t. One consideration is the 1.2 million civilians that also live in the narrow strip of land called Gaza. They would undoubtedly suffer disproportionately to their fanatical leaders simply because Hamas fires its rockets from the rooftops of residential buildings, school compounds, and even hospitals. On the other hand, it is absurd that Israel’s sovereignty is being undermined by a terrorist dictatorship that is also manipulating violent unrest amongst Israeli Arabs who live in mixed urban areas and are, at the time of writing, vandalizing Jewish stores, burning synagogues, Torah scrolls, cars, and inciting nothing less than anti-jewish pogroms in our own land.
At the heart of it all lies Jerusalem. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has declared ‘a victory in the defense of Jerusalem’ from the Zionist ‘occupiers’. The irony is that the name given by the IDF to the current military operation is similarly, ‘Guardian of the Walls’ – a juxtaposition that begs the question, whose Walls, whose Jerusalem? A Muslim Jerusalem that refuses to allow Jews to ascend the 3,000 year Temple Mount? Or a Jewish Jerusalem that protects Muslim rights at the much younger Al Aksa?
The mistake made by European players in the Middle East is that there is symmetry in the war of words with Hamas who freely fill their coffers with EU funding. There is not. We must indeed stand our ground and not be confused by a consensus ruled by cultural relativism or fueled by a ‘narrative’ propagated by the foreign media that willingly blurs historical fact into fiction.
Even if it means a ground incursion.