A Papal Visit to the United Arab Emirates Bodes Well for the Region, and for Israel

On Sunday, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula when he arrived in Abu Dhabi for an interfaith conference sponsored by the United Arab Emirates’ Muslim Council of Elders. Sohrab Ahmari puts the visit in context:

The invitation to the [pope] solidifies the UAE’s status as the most responsible power in the Persian Gulf region. And it gives testament to the Emirati leadership’s determination to transcend the bloody, cruel fanaticism that has disfigured the House of Islam and brought ruin to Christians and other minorities unfortunate enough to dwell inside it. . . .

A reform vision defines the UAE’s geopolitical posture as well. Threatened by the expansionist Tehran regime, Abu Dhabi (along with Riyadh) has forged a strategic partnership with Jerusalem that is the region’s worst-kept secret. But in the UAE’s case, the ties go beyond “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Since 2010, three Israeli cabinet ministers have visited the UAE to discuss infrastructure, energy, and sports. As Zaki Nusseibeh, a minister of state and adviser to the late Sheikh Zayed, [the Emirates’ founder], told me: “There is no enmity between us and the state of Israel.”

Opinion polling suggests that the UAE leadership’s enlightened attitudes have begun to filter down to the populace. A YouGov survey conducted ahead of the pope’s visit found that Emiratis are much less likely to be concerned if a close relative marries a Christian than their neighbors in Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be. And while only about a third of Egyptians and Saudis expressed fears about Islamic extremism, more than half of Emiratis did. . . .

[T]rue, the country isn’t any sort of liberal democracy. Virtually all UAE Muslims, for example, hear the same sermon at Friday prayers—one drafted by a government-approved committee charged with countering radicalism. That goes against every liberal instinct in the West’s bones, but if it means fewer Islamic State atrocities here or in our homelands, I’ll take it. The common good isn’t always and everywhere served by our form of government.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at New York Post

More about: Interfaith dialogue, Israel diplomacy, Moderate Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Politics & Current Affairs, Pope Francis, United Arab Emirates

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat