View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Time to Review How the UAE Protests About Israel

The University of Connecticut has recently put on the backburner its proposal to establish a satellite campus in Dubai because of its concern about the UAE policy which prohibits entry to Israeli passport holders.

This comes on the heels of protests about Yale University’s decision to establish an arts institute in Abu Dhabi and the 2005 decision of Harvard University Divinity School to return a $2.5 million donation from the UAE President, who was alleged to have connections with an openly anti-Semitic organization in the UAE.

UAE academics, Dr Ebtisam Al Kitby and Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah have condemned the move of the University of Connecticut, charging the decision as being politically motivated, ‘anti-Arab’ and demonstrating a lack of human rights when the university fails to protest Israel’s atrocities towards the Palestinians.

It is time to review the way the UAE makes its protest about the Israeli government. To deny Israeli passport holders the access to the United Arab Emirates is to incorrectly suggest that all Israelis are supportive of their government’s policies. The UAE’s entry policy is contrary to anti-discriminatory laws and this makes it difficult for international universities and businesses which are seeking to uphold basic human rights.

It is the students of the UAE who are penalized most when educational institutions decide not to establish a campus in this country and, at a time when the Ruler of Dubai has recently expressed his disappointment in the development of the education sector of the UAE. Furthermore, granting Israelis access to this country and its educational institutions would increase valuable opportunities for conversation and mutual understanding about the conflict in the Holy Land.

There are other ways, including trade embargoes, that the UAE can maintain a strong protest towards the policies of the Israeli government.

While calling for a change in the closed door policy towards Israelis, the UAE and Gulf States should change their policy in which an Israeli stamp in anyone’s passport will keep them out of the Arabian Peninsula. A stamp in the passport and a visit to a country is not a sign that proves that the traveler endorses that country’s policies. Their visit may have been to build understanding or to call attention to the violation of human rights.

Passport and entry policies which keep people from talking to each other only maintain the status quo.

Geoff Pound

Image: Israeli passport.