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The Bizarre Assault by Israel Haters on the Playing of Hatikvah in the UAE

Music to Hatikvah

Isaac Herzog, the President of Israel, recently went on a state visit to the United Arab Emirates, cementing a new era of peace following the signing of the historic Abraham Accords in September 2020. On January 30th Herzog posted on Twitter a moving video of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, played at the UAE presidential palace to greet his delegation. Herzog wrote: “Israel’s national anthem, HaTikvah, playing in the United Arab Emirates—that’s what peace between nations sounds like.”[1] To anyone who understands the history of decades of Arab rejectionism of Israel – from the 1967 Khartoum Resolution where the Arab League declared “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it,” to Arab athletes withdrawing from events rather than compete against an Israeli, to some Muslim nations refusing entry to those with an Israeli stamp on their passport – the warmth displayed by the UAE was a special moment. Sure enough, this musical gesture of peace, which would seem to be exactly the goal that everyone on all sides would have for the region, brought out only derision from the usual group of anti-Zionists and Israel haters. Only in the bizarre world of obsessive Israel hatred does the playing of a national anthem to signal peace and friendship between nations merit such harsh criticism.

The Abraham Accords were a major setback for the Israel haters as it shattered their hopes for increased isolation and delegitimization of Israel. Israel haters in this context are not those that merely criticize Israeli actions such as settlement growth and military control in the West Bank; they consider the Jewish state of Israel illegitimate, embrace false labels such as apartheid and settler-colonialism, and promote the end of Jewish sovereignty. Israel haters typically support BDS, which does not merely call for an end to the “occupation” or for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but sees Jewish sovereignty as inherently evil and seeks to replace Israel with a majority Palestinian state. It is this thinking that informs the absolute rejection of the Abraham Accords, since this agreement promotes recognition and normalization with Israel, contradicting a core tenet of BDS.

The playing of Hatikvah once again brought out the raw instincts of the Israel haters who could not help but launch a renewed verbal assault on Israel and the Abraham Accords. The chief criticisms of the agreement, both of which are preposterous, are that Israel made peace with dictatorships and that it undermined peace with the Palestinians. In reality, the anger stems from the fact that the accords undermine the goal of ending the Jewish state. No explanation is provided as to why Palestinians cannot make the same choice that UAE and Bahrain arrived at – accept loudly and clearly the permanence of the Jewish state and end all efforts to overturn its creation – and watch peace flow with an eventual two-state solution of some type. But as noted, this is not what the Israel haters actually want.

The Israel haters demonstrate plain hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty by inventing new standards for international relations applied to Israel alone, harshly criticizing it for making peace with authoritarian regimes. Suddenly there was special attention paid to the actions of UAE and Bahrain and the sale of technology by Israel to these nations. The Israel haters of course never address why no other nation on earth is wrong for active diplomatic relations with UAE and Bahrain or responsible for calling out the repression in these nations as a condition to the relationship. The double standard is stark when one examines the diplomatic calendar of the UAE and notices who else has had recent state visits, with not a word from the community that is so concerned about UAE’s regime.

Just two weeks prior to Herzog’s visit, South Korea held a state visit in the UAE where a major arms agreement was signed whereby South Korea will provide UAE with surface-to-air missiles and a missile defense system as part of a $3.5 billion deal – far greater than the total value of all Israel/UAE trade.[2] In fact, South Korea-UAE ties are strong, with major new energy development deals also in the works. Amazingly, not a single article or tweet about South Korean support for the UAE can be found by any of the American based pundits so concerned about human rights in the Middle East. South Korea is a critical U.S. ally, the recipient of more than $4 billion in indirect military aid – more than the U.S. spends on Israel – with the presence of more than 28,000 U.S. troops on South Korean soil.[3] The fabricated argument that special attention is paid to Israel due to U.S. aid thus does not hold water here given the massive U.S. spending to defend South Korea.

Here are some samples of the many absurd comments in reaction to Herzog’s Hatikvah tweet:

Mehdi Hasan, the popular host of his own show on MSNBC with over 1 million Twitter followers, retweeted the video of the Israeli anthem adding: “For years, supporters of Israel trumpeted the fact that Israel was a democracy surrounded by dictatorships. But as soon as those dictatorships got onboard with Israel and its occupation, suddenly it’s ‘wow’ look at our national anthem being played in the dictator’s palace.” Hasan’s willful ignorance is on display as he ignores decades of Arab rejectionism in his amazement that so may Israelis and Jews worldwide say “wow” when Hatikvah is played in an Arab capital. His double standards come to the forefront when he expects Israel alone to call out UAE’s authoritarian regime, but not South Korea or other nations like Sweden, which is listed as one of UAE’s top arms providers.

Peter Beinart, a well-known columnist for The New York Times and perhaps the most prominent anti-Zionist Jew in the United States, also got in on the action, using the nefarious playing of Hatikvah to suggest that the only reason Israel was able to make peace with UAE and Bahrain was due to their status as dictatorships. He wrote that “if they were liberal democracies they couldn’t normalize because they’d have to pay attention to popular opinion, which still cares about the Palestinians.”[4] Israel of course has normal relations with numerous democracies, many of which have warmed up to Israel recently (e.g. India abstained in a recent UN vote against Israel after years of voting only against Israel and Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem), so Beinart’s comment is not supported by any evidence and is merely a rant against the Abraham Accords. Beinart first railed against the accords when announced, asserting that Israel not only benefits from repression in Bahrain, but has “actively abetted it in the UAE.” In this strange accusation, Israel is partially at fault for UAE’s authoritarian policies – evoking antisemitic tropes of Jewish influence stoking evil in foreign nations.[5] Of course no article has ever been written about any other country on earth abetting UAE’s repression.

Another anti-Hatikvah tweet came from Jessica Montel, former head of anti-Israel NGO B’tselem and now of another NGO called HaMoked. She wrote, “Pegasus spyware sales were explicitly used by the Israeli government to advance the Abraham Accords. So persecution of dissidents is not a bug, it’s a FEATURE of these agreements.”[6] In the usual double standards applied to Israel, only its relationship with the UAE is problematic. No matter that the largest suppliers of weapons to the UAE are (in size order, data from 2016):  U.S., France, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Turkey, Germany and Switzerland – none of these bilateral relationships apparently FEATURE support for human rights violations.

The final example comes from Dalia Hatuqa, an Arab journalist with numerous bylines in publications such as Time, The Economist and The Washington Post. She tweeted a copy of a “like” by Tom Nides, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, of Isaac Herzog’s posting of the Hatikvah and added a snippy comment: “That’s what peace sounds like? Seriously? And the US ambassador agrees? We’re never going anywhere with simplistic ideas like these.”[7] Her tweet, which received many hundreds of likes, cannot accept the reality of this peace and even sees the U.S. as “simplistic” for supporting a regionwide peace agreement. Only in the absurd world of obsessive Israel hatred is a peace agreement signed by four nations derided. What do Hasan, Beinart, Montel and Hatuqa want if not regional peace? The answer is depressingly simple: the opposite of anything that legitimizes Israel and maintains its status as a Jewish state.

[1] https://twitter.com/Isaac_Herzog/status/1487797982418419712

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/south-korean-president-visits-uae-showcasing-deep-ties-82295844

[3] https://www.airforcemag.com/u-s-pays-most-of-shared-defense-costs-with-japan-south-korea/

[4] https://twitter.com/PeterBeinart/status/1488190189059153924

[5] https://jewishcurrents.org/israels-repressive-diplomacy

[6] https://twitter.com/JessicaMontell/status/1488159102912061450

[7] https://twitter.com/DaliaHatuqa/status/1487824101431549955

About the Author
Salo Aizenberg is an author and writer, having published "Hatemail: Anti-Semitism on Picture Postcards" which was nominated as a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards, and other insightful articles about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Salo owns and manages Downtown Investment Advisory, an investment firm based in White Plains, NY.
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