Two days ago, on Monday, August 31, a historic event took place: An Israeli commercial airliner took off from Tel Aviv Israel, flew over Saudi Arabian airspace, and landed in the UAE.
This flight is the first tangible outcome of the Israeli-UAE peace agreement. It was met with fanfare for some, disdain from others, and loud silence by a few more.
Why is this a big deal? Because no Israeli commercial airliner has ever had a direct flight from Israel to an Arab land and Saudi Arabia traditionally did not allow Israeli flights, on their way to anywhere, to use its airspace—thus adding hours to many flights heading east.
And while Saudi Arabia was largely silent on the topic—pro and con—after the historic flight, the fact that a 7-hour flight was turned into a 3-hour flight with the airspace permission is telling.
But what is all this telling us?
That hearts and minds in the Arab world, from ordinary citizens to leadership, is turning towards the notion that normalization of political and economic dealings with Israel is a good thing for everyone. The Palestinian problem, as a result, is being set aside. The Palestinian Authority and the Fattah party (largely behind the PA) is beside itself with anger because the cornerstone of hate and hostility towards Israel by Arabs has always been the Palestinian problem. But that problem is unraveling as Arabs themselves are frustrated with the lack of leadership and progress for unity among the PA and its people and its devotion to terrorism and violence; it is draining of sympathy from Arab neighbors, who had little to begin with in my estimation.
This is making the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement, and its foundations, crack. Normalizing political and economic relations between Israel and Arab nations as well as public exposure of the PA’s own lack of leadership, corruption, and even downright oppressive acts too obvious to mask in the name of social justice is gaining traction.
The Israeli airliner had “Peace” written in Arabic, Hebrew and English on the windshield. Certain Arab TV outlets hostile to the agreement did not mention the words on the windshield if they mentioned the flight at all—other than to curse it.
An Emirati official told Israel Hayom on Monday morning before the flight, “These are historic days, and we all feel great pride in the part each party has played in the peace agreement between us and Israel.” The flight carried the teams that will work on the details of the accord announced two weeks ago between the UAE and Israel. Everyone in his country, the official continued, is “very excited about the possibility that we will soon have to visit Jerusalem and all of Israel.”
But the Palestinian leadership is not so happy: They have openly cursed the union and the flight.
In an opinion piece in Israel Hayom, Jalal Bana, a pro-peace Arab Israeli, noted that he believes it is “forbidden” for his co-religionist countrymen “to fall into the trap of populism” and condemn the UAE-Israel pact as the PA has done. “The nascent agreement has so much potential and opportunity, especially for Israeli Arabs,” he wrote. They should be at the forefront of such relations between the two worlds in which they coexist – the Arab one of culture, religion and language, and the Jewish one of citizenship, he said.
Bana continued, “Due primarily to the failure of the Palestinian leadership throughout its history to create Palestinian unity and present a constructive alternative to the armed struggle” the Palestinian issue is no longer seen in the Arab world as the main problem standing in the way of a relationship with Israel.
So what is going to happen on college campuses when student groups led by hostile professors and terrorist organization-funded student groups such as SJP continue to drum beat Israel as evil and continue to threaten Jewish students when history is unfolding right before us all? Top Arab leadership is reaching out an olive branch to work with Israel on topics such as counterterrorism, COVID19 mitigation, technology advancement, cultural exchanges, tourism, environmental advancements in water and agriculture as well as energy and more!
Moreover, and less publicized, prior to the flight on Monday, over the weekend the UAE cancelled its Boycott of Israeli goods!
How is BDS going to respond to the wealthiest and arguably the most powerful of all the Arab nations in terms of military and financial might decides to work with Israel, trade with Israel, shake hands with Jews and have Jews visit their soil and they theirs?
I know many college campuses are still convening classes virtually and many on-campus student events are relegated to the Zoom app. May our prayers be that good news find its way into the newsfeeds and online discussion forums of students and faculty alike as well as the general public. Antisemitism is still a problem but undermining the BDS movement is one pathway to its erosion.
Shavua tov, have a great week.