Peace Dove

Israel, the UAE and Bahrain―Is this Peace? Who Are They?

Penny S. Tee Article

I was excited last time writing my article “United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel are New Peace Partners―L’Chaim!” Now Bahrain has joined the party too. The Peace agreements called the “Abraham Accords” were just signed between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, and brokered by the United States. They were called the Abraham Accords because of the three Abrahamic religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. This is a great way to end the Jewish New Year and begin the next.

Is this Peace? Nothing in the Middle East ever seems like a clear outcome, the water is always murky. Many believe calling this a Peace deal is a sham and just a ploy for both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu to look better in a dismal political and COVID-19 landscape. President Trump was thought to make this move pre-election to help favorably influence pro-Israel evangelical Christians. Perhaps, but no matter the motive Arab countries improving relationships with Israel is definitely moving in the right direction.

As Jews, we pray that Netanyahu’s words yesterday that “This day is a pivot of history,” will truly play out in reality and the new norm of Peace will become mundane.

Merriam-Webster says Peace is “a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity.”

Israel and these countries have never been at war with each other―but ill will? Certainly. Both the UAE, Bahrain and all the Gulf States in the Arab League supported the Palestinians’ rejection of the Jewish state at least until, or if, what they term “occupied territory,” was resolved.  For now, Netanyahu has put annexing the land on hold. Some say the UAE, Bahrain and Israel have had a clandestine relationship for years. Instead now, with the influence of President Trump, they are normalizing relations publicly. And Israel, the UAE and Bahrain all share a common enemy―Iran.

And it sounds like a benefit for the United States and these two Arab countries are the possibility of purchasing F-35s for their defense. At $82.4 million dollars per plane, being oil-rich countries, they can afford this advanced technology.1 Israel has always maintained that they needed to have military superiority in the region for self-protection. We’ll see how that goes in the months ahead.

President Trump said there are even five to six other Arab states who are anxious to join their Peace Circle. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Who might be next? Saudi Arabia is the big prize. Although supportive of the deals, it seems like it will take more negotiations for them to enter their own agreement. We can only hope.

But of course, Peace with Israel is not desired by the Palestinian leadership, who consider the Peace deals a betrayal. Missiles have again started being shot at Israel from Gaza and there is threat of the Third Intifada. Although it does seem like it began already, with so many attacks from Hamas exploding incendiary balloons and missiles just this year.

Sometimes these weapons land near playgrounds. The perpetrators have used balloons evilly decorated with Disney characters in case the balloon lands without exploding in the chance that a child will find it and happily embrace their cause of death.

California is currently ablaze from fires, but the difference is that these fires were intentionally set by Gazans launching the balloons toward Israel to kill and maim Israelis or at least damage property.

In fact, a couple of rockets were launched during the signing of the Abraham Accords. One missile was intercepted and the other landed.3 Two men were treated for injuries from broken glass.4

Will more Israeli civilians face increased attacks from Palestinians retaliating now that their Arab brethren are growing weary of their stalls and prefer Peace?  President Trump already showed he has no patience for their anti-United States, anti-Peace attitudes and he said that he had stopped paying the ungrateful Palestinians.  He said, “We used to give them $750 million, and they treat us badly. And I said, why do they treat us badly when we give them all this money?  Nobody ever did this. I took it away.”5

He didn’t explain more than the total withheld from the United States to the Palestinians, but I do know that at least part of those millions were withheld for the Taylor Force Act. The Taylor Force Act was signed March 23, 2018. I talk about it in my book, “Blasted from Complacency: A Journey from Terror to Transformation in Israel.” The reason for this law was one of the shocking realities I had learned on our family’s vacation in Israel in 2014 that is what my book is about.

The Palestinians pay monthly salaries to terrorists or their families (if they had killed themselves intentionally by their terrorism). The more Israelis killed, the higher the salary. For years, the United States provided the Palestinians funds that were used to make these payments. At least now our tax dollars were not paying for these heinous acts, although other nations continue to make their payments to the Palestinians.

If you are like me, although I have heard of these Arab countries, the UAE and Bahrain, I really didn’t know much about them. I was thrilled that both have decided to sign Peace agreements with Israel and wanted to know more. I decided to check them out because I thought you might be curious, too.

I was puzzled when I saw such a modern, beautiful skyline juxtaposed against ancient social norms for both the UAE and Bahrain. But I should not have been―at second thought, it reminded me of Israel.

Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel

Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel

They too have incredible ancient traditions and architecture mingling with modern day technology, structures and beliefs.

The UAE and Bahrain are two extremely oil-rich countries. The UAE is the richest Arab country and Bahrain is the fifth richest Arab country following Saudi Arabia, who is fourth. They are known for their modern architecture with buildings that are easily recognizable world-wide such as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building located in Dubai.

Burj Khalifa Dubai

Burj Khalifa Dubai

Another novelty is that both countries have a penchant for expanding their land by building artificial islands. I have to admit that until I wrote this article, I didn’t realize that Balboa Island in Southern California, a place I’ve visited many times throughout my lifetime, is also an artificial island.

The islands of both the UAE and Bahrain are used to house people, conduct business and provide recreation with their hotels, golf courses and theme parks. Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi’ is the world’s largest indoor recreation park which comes in handy since the outdoor summer temperature often soars to 105 degrees.6

In the UAE they expanded their coastal real estate by building The Palm Jumeirah, The World Islands, The Palm Jebel Ali, and Palm Deira Islands. The Islands that have Palm in their names are built―you guessed it, in the shape of palm trees.

And the World Islands? They look like a world map, only a bit skewed as they have an island named Palestine instead of Israel.7 I wonder if there will be any adjustments now with the Peace agreement.

Israel being left out of books and maps is nothing new for the Middle Eastern Arab market, and the publishing houses like HarperCollins are more than willing to oblige.8

The Kingdom of Bahrain is an island nation, which is made up of an island chain of forty natural islands and an additional fifty-one artificial islands. They are centered around Bahrain Island which makes up approximately eighty-three percent of the country’s landmass.9

Durrat Al Bahrain is a string of fifteen artificial islands in Bahrain. Of the fifteen islands, there are six Murjan Islands that are shaped like atolls; five are formed like fish (Fayrouz Islands); one is shaped like a crescent; and three are in Durrat Marina.10

The UAE11 and Bahrain12 have no income tax which is attractive, but there also are very strict restrictions in living your life because they follow the rules of Islam, including no alcohol (although some hotels serve alcohol to non-Muslims), drugs and smoking only in specific locations. Dancing in public or holding hands is considered indecent.

Dress is conservative, if you are a woman that means loose-fitting clothes that covers shoulders, arms and legs.

Punishment is according to some civil and Sharia (Islamic) law in both countries. Just reading the possibilities even though I don’t drink, take drugs or smoke made me leave them off my list of places to visit.

Being a woman and reading what women can be subjected to was upsetting. I hope I don’t have nightmares. In a Shari’a court a Muslim woman’s testimony is worth half of that of a Muslim man.13 Reading this gave me empathy for Muslims and especially their women.

Examples of punishment: Flogging is a punishment for criminal offences such as adultery, premarital sex and alcohol consumption. Stoning is a method of capital punishment where a group throws stones at a person until the subject dies from blunt trauma. Amputation is a legal punishment.14

Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction over family law and some criminal cases: including adultery, premarital sex, marriage, divorce, child custody robbery, alcohol consumption and related crimes.15

Domestic violence is legal because Islam allows a husband to chastise or discipline his wife and minor children. Unfortunately, when women report violence to the police, sometimes they don’t take claims seriously, because they are thought to be a private domestic matter. Wives are obligated to obey their husbands. Rape victims seeking support can be, and have been, charged with illicit sex–which is illegal and criminalized.16 Incredibly, these women are victimized by the assailant(s) and then again by their legal system.

Emirati women must receive permission from a male guardian to marry and remarry. Kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation. A marriage between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is punishable by law. It is considered a form of “fornication.” 17

Homosexuality and apostasy is punishable by death.

During the month of Ramadan, it is illegal to publicly eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset.18 Sometimes specific areas are provided for non-Muslims.

The UAE government has been accused of carrying out forced disappearances, which the government denies.19

Although I wouldn’t be breaking any of their rules, none of these points made me want to hurry and get my airline ticket.

UAE Skyline

UAE Skyline

UAE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Although Muslim, the majority of Emiratis are Sunni with only 15% practicing Shia Islam.20

There are 9.5 million residents in the UAE, made up of emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah.21 72% are male and 28% are females―women are outnumbered 3:1.22 The probable reason for this is that many who live there have come from other countries to work. I was shocked to learn that expatriates make up 88.52% of the country.23

I wondered what it was like to have a huge majority of the population of your country be from other nations and speak other languages. Most were Indian nationals (2.62 million) followed by Pakistani nationals (1.21 million) and then Bangladeshi nationals (.71 million). I pondered how Emiratis felt about them.24

In Israel, Jews from all over the world are offered the opportunity to move to Israel via the Law of Return. It is viewed that Jews are returning to their homeland, not just looking for a job, and that they are always welcome.25 I’m sure it must take getting used to from both sides, the new immigrants and the Israelis.

Bahrain

Durrat Al Bahrain

Durrat Al Bahrain

Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam, during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad in 628 CE.26

Although the majority of the population in Bahrain is Shia (70%), most mosques located there are Sunni because the ruling regime is Sunni.27

Here too, the majority of people living in Bahrain are not native and 55% are immigrants, although it’s not as extreme as in the UAE.28 The majority come from South and Southeast Asia, similar to the UAE with the most coming from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Indonesia. There also are many people from the United Kingdom.29

Although Jews lived in what is known as Bahrain for centuries since the time of the Talmud, there are less than fifty Jews living in Bahrain today.30

Nonetheless, there have been two influential Jewish women that Bahrain’s king has appointed to their Parliament in recent history. In 2008, Houda Nonoo first served in Parliament and then as the ambassador to the United States.31 Nancy Khedourif, another Jewish woman, then replaced Nonoo in Parliament in 2010.32

Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilization. They were renowned for their pearls and it was debated whether the mixture of salt and fresh water accounted for the unique luster of Gulf Pearls. The pearl divers held their breadth and dove to find the beautiful pearls in the oyster beds.33

Once Bahrain became an oil producer, the water pollution resulting from spilled oil and over-fishing of oysters ruined the pearl producing waters of the Gulf and the pearl industry was discontinued.34

Interestingly, the United States Navy’s regional headquarters is located in Bahrain. The U.S. Navy has had a presence in Bahrain since WWII, but in 1971 when Bahrain gained independence from the British Empire, the Royal Navy left and the United States took over the facilities.35

I truly enjoyed researching what Israel’s new Peace partners were like, I hope you enjoyed reading about them and that you learned at least one thing you didn’t know.

Friday we will be ending the Jewish New Year 5780 and beginning 5781. This year has been a doozy and it doesn’t seem like it will be letting up any time soon. You and your families have my sincerest prayers for a healthy, happy New Year, Jewish or not.

May you live in Peace, שלום, سلام.

I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…

Endnotes

1 By Mike Stone, “Pentagon announces F-35 jet prices for next three years,” Aerospace and Defense, October 29, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-lockheed-f35-idUSKBN1X81I5

2 By Sean Durns, “The Deafening Media Silence: Hamas’ Terror Attacks on Israel,” The Alegemeiner, September 11, 2020, https://www.algemeiner.com/2020/09/11/the-deafening-media-silence-hamas-terror-attacks-on-israel/

3 By Yaacov Benmeleh, “Two Rockets Fired From Gaza Into Israel During Peace Ceremony, The Bloomberg Report, September 15, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-15/two-rockets-fired-from-gaza-into-israel-during-peace-ceremony

4 By Jeffrey Heller, “Palestinians Fire Rockets at Israel, Wounding Two, During White House Ceremony,” Reuters, September 15, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2020-09-15/rocket-warning-sirens-sound-in-southern-israel-during-white-house-ceremony

5 By Susan Jones,Trump Says Palestinians ‘Are Going to Make a Deal, You Watch,’” CNS News, September 15, 2020. https://www.cnsnews.com/article/international/susan-jones/trump-says-palestinians-are-going-make-deal-you-watch

6 “Ferrari World,” https://www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com/

7 The World Islands, UAE Google Maps, Palestine,

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Palestine/@25.2279676,55.0951524,12z/data=!4m8!1m2!2m1!1sthe+world+islands+palestine!3m4!1s0x3e5f40e5fefb176f:0x428bce5d734b5bf0!8m2!3d25.2254996!4d55.1708722

8 By Sandy Fitzgerald, “HarperCollins Left Israel Out of Atlas to Appease Gulf Customers, Newsmax, January 2, 2015, https://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/HarperCollins-atlas-Israel/2015/01/02/id/616045/

9 “Bahrain,” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahrain

10 “Where to Go in Bahrain: Top 10 Things to Do in Durrat Al Bahrain, Weetas Blog, April 22, 2020 https://www.weetas.com/article/top-10-things-durrat-al-bahrain/

11 “International Tax UAE Highlights,” Deloitte, January 2020, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Tax/dttl-tax-unitedarabemirateshighlights-2020.pdf

12  “International Tax Bahrain Highlights,” Deloitte, January 2020,

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Tax/dttl-tax-bahrainhighlights-2020.pdf

12 “Application of Sharia by Country,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_of_Sharia_by_country#Bahrain

14 United Arab Emirates, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Arab_Emirates

15 United Arab Emirates, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Arab_Emirates

16  By Valentine Sergon,Women’s rights in the United Arab Emirates,” Expatica,  August 6, 2020, https://www.expatica.com/ae/living/gov-law-admin/womens-rights-in-the-united-arab-emirates-71118/

17 United Arab Emirates, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Arab_Emirates

18 United Arab Emirates, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Arab_Emirates

19 United Arab Emirates, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Arab_Emirates

20 “Shia Muslim in the United Arab Emirates,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shia_Islam_in_the_United_Arab_Emirates#:~:text=Shia%20Islam%20is%20practiced%20by%20a%20minority%20of,as%20some%20Arabs%2C%20Pakistanis%2C%20Indians%2C%20and%20other%20nationalities.

21 “Population of the UAE 2020”, Edarabia, https://www.edarabia.com/population-uae/

22 “Population of the UAE 2020”, Edarabia, https://www.edarabia.com/population-uae/

23 “Population of the UAE 2020”, Edarabia, https://www.edarabia.com/population-uae/

24 “Population of the UAE 2020”, Edarabia, https://www.edarabia.com/population-uae/

25 By Jason Shvili, “SHVILI: THE PROBLEMS WITH ISRAEL’S LAW OF RETURN,” The Canadian Jewish News, November 18, 2019, https://www.cjnews.com/perspectives/opinions/shvili-the-problems-with-israels-law-of-return

26 Portal: Bahrain, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Bahrain#:~:text=Bahrain%20was%20one%20of%20the%20earliest%20areas%20to,with%20Ahmed%20al%20Fateh%20as%20Bahrain%27s%20first%20hakim.

27 “Shia in Bahrain,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shia_in_Bahrain

28 “Demographics of Bahrain,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Bahrain

29 Moving to Bahrain | British Expat Guide

britishexpatguide.co.uk/guides/moving-to-bahrain-from-uk/#:~:text=The%20expat%20com

30 “History of the Jews in Bahrain,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Bahrain

31  “History of the Jews in Bahrain,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Bahrain

32  “History of the Jews in Bahrain,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Bahrain

33 “Pearling in Bahrain,” Class9NotesandProjects,” weebly.com, http://class9notesandprojects.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/7/6/12762893/pearling_in_bahrain.pdf

34 “Pearling in Bahrain,” Class9NotesandProjects,” weebly.com, http://class9notesandprojects.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/7/6/12762893/pearling_in_bahrain.pdf

35 Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Support_Activity_Bahrain

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