Arabs and Israelis Are Fighting a Common Enemy: The Red Palm Weevil

While much has been made of how the threat of an ascendant and bellicose Iran has fostered better relations between Israel and several Arab states, there are other shared dangers these former foes can best fight together. Among them is a species of weevil that attacks date palms, which has caused much destruction to Levantine agriculture in the past decade. Matti Friedman recently traveled to the United Arab Emirates—home to some 40 million date palms—in the company of a representative of an Israeli firm that produces high-tech sensors for detecting the pest. He describes the exuberant atmosphere of the journey to a country long closed to Israelis, through the airspace of another country, Saudi Arabia, long closed to their planes:

The novelty, and a brief break from pandemic travel restrictions, was enough to generate 30 flights a day and a minor Hebrew pop hit, [which begins with the Hebrew/Arabic word meaning “Let’s go!”]: “Yalla bye, I’m going to Dubai, not Miami or Hawaii.” The four people sitting closest to me on the plane were in the kitchen-appliance business and had a few meetings set up with potential customers. None of this was imaginable a few months ago. The atmosphere was festive, though tempered by having all the flight attendants in hazmat suits. It felt like a group outing with a giddy Semitic plague ward.

The founder of the company that builds the sensors—who, like many of Israel’s high-tech entrepreneurs, brings with him valuable experience from his IDF service—is the child of parents from Morocco, and, when he visited that country, bonded with a border agent over their shared connection to the city of Fez:

In that personal anecdote is a story of reconnection, one that’s missed if these new accords are analyzed solely through the lens of American policy and the Iranian threat. Jews have always been around this region, farming and trading like everyone else, and it’s not the past few months of renewed contact that are the anomaly, but the past seven decades of isolation.

David Ibn Maimon, brother of Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish philosopher who lived in Cairo, was on a business trip not far from Dubai when he was lost at sea in the 12th century. Some of the 6th-century Jews around Arabia in the time of Mohammad were date farmers. The capital city of another date-palm power, Iraq, was about one-third Jewish into the 1940s. Most of those people’s descendants are now Israelis.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Abraham Accords, Israeli agriculture, Israeli technology, Moroccan Jewry, Morocco, United Arab Emirates

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion