Shifting Desert Sands

Like a mirage in the middle of a sweltering desert, nothing is exactly what it seems in the Middle East. With shifting desert sands, Arab attitudes are changing about Israel and their own place in the world.

In an incredible interview on Alrai TV, Kuwaiti writer Abdullah Al-Hadlaq gave a thoughtful and academic analysis, calling for an alliance with the Jewish state and praising Israeli values and its culture.

Al-Hadlaq acknowledged “the history of the Israelites is ancient, predating Islam. Therefore, we Muslims must acknowledge that the Israelites have a right to that land, and that they have not plundered it.”

As Iran becomes a bigger threat to the Gulf States, more and more Arab thought leaders and even rulers are encouraging cooperation and acceptance of Israel. This is part of an axis strategy between the US, Israel and the Gulf States to contain Iran and its aspiration toward nuclear weaponization and regional domination.

It was recently reported that pressure on Palestinian President Abbas is mounting for him to resume peace talks with Israel in order to cement a united front against Iran. Leading that charge is Egypt – a nation that enjoys peaceful relations with Israel, while dealing with domestic terrorism in the Sinai.

Saudi intellectual Hamza al-Salem, assistant professor at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, recently said, “I expect that if peace were made with…it (Israel) would become the top tourist destination for Saudis…when we have made peace with Israel, exploitation of it will become nonexistent.”

Similarly, Saudi Arabian TV host Waleed Al-Farai argued for Israeli sports teams to be allowed to compete in tournaments, which take place in the Middle East. Al-Farai was speaking on MBC, the Arab world’s most popular channel and is a former writer for the Daily Mail.

Indeed, more Arab journalists are openly tweeting and writing emphatically about peace with Israel. Since Gulf State media is mostly state owned, it’s clear writers have been green lighted to begin readying their citizens for cooperation with Israel.

Iran’s campaign to “wipe Israel off the map” is evaporating. In the glory days, a charge against Israel would easily garner enthusiastic support in Middle East. Now, terrorism and the impact of the “Arab Spring,” including in Syria, has made rulers and the masses weary.

Iran’s effort to destabilize the region (in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza) is creating opportunity for peace by bringing adversaries like Israel and the Saudis together.

Last month, in a show of faith and goodwill amongst Muslims and Jews, HRH King Hamad of Bahrain launched The Bahrain Declaration of Religious Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. A plain speaking attack against terrorism, the document calls for people of all faiths to show respect for, and protection of, the rights of everyone to practice their religious affiliation in dignity and peace.

The Middle East, like its deserts, is unpredictable. But imagine a day when a Saudi woman can drive from Mecca to Jerusalem to Cairo? Maybe it’s all just wishful thinking. But could it happen?

About the Author
Avi Benlolo is the President and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), a Jewish non-profit human rights organization. Avi is a prominent Canadian human rights activist dedicated to promoting tolerance, freedom, democracy and human rights.
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