A tale of two cities and two ideological philosophies: Could Gaza become Dubai?

Opinion: The Israel-Hamas war is more than another round of fighting—it's a clash between fundamentalist views and Western ideology; post-Hamas, Gaza could emulate Dubai's success by prioritizing economic growth over violence and martyrdom

Ariel Goldgewicht |Updated:
The current war between the State of Israel and the jihadi fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization Hamas is much more than just another round of this conflict: it is the epicenter of a clash of ideological philosophies.
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Why is it that we see large pro-Palestinian demonstrations around the world, except among Arab Israelis? That is, why are the Arab (Palestinians) living in Israel, the only ones who are not fighting for the "freedom" of Palestine? Why is it that the Arab Israelis are the only Arabs who do not repeatedly shout: 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!', insinuating, de facto, the absolute destruction of the State of Israel? Certainly, this is a highly significant cognitive dissonance, which must be investigated and analyzed. On the other hand, I will also attempt to forecast, what the Gaza Strip could look like in the post-Hamas era.
5 View gallery
המלון בדובאי
המלון בדובאי
Everything is beautiful in Dubai
(Photo: Shutterstock)
It is quite amazing that, even though we all carry a magnificent device, our cell phones, in our hands, which provides direct access to accurate information and indisputable historical facts, we as a global society have never seen so much ignorance shared instantly. Worst of all, we live in an absurd age where the ignorant speak with absolute confidence while repeating lies without the slightest humility to question their words or educate themselves. For some reason, the multitudes are easily convinced of these falsehoods. It is truly breathtaking to see supposed "influencers" on Instagram and TikTok who are actively creating an entire generation of people who romanticize ignorance.
I come from the world of education and believe in a pluralism of thought and the essence of self-criticism. Things are complicated, therefore you must research, analyze, contemplate, debate and think before generating an opinion. I believe in the importance of listening and learning. I hope that these words will generate critical thinking, promote dialogue, and contribute to the constant search for a viable solution.
Let's start with the initial question, why don't Arab Israelis take to the streets?
Since the War of Independence, Arab Israelis have studied in schools according to the education curriculum of the Israeli Ministry of Education, have achieved academic degrees at universities in Israel and around the world, have built homes in Israel, have become judges in the Supreme Court, doctors, heads of hospitals, ministers in the government, entrepreneurs, bankers, policemen and all the other dreams they wish to achieve. They have become citizens with equal rights and duties as any other Israeli.
It is important to note that there are still many problems, and unfortunately, not everything has been rosy. The Israeli governmental parliamentary system has created a situation in which most of the political parties are "sectorial," that is, they are primarily concerned with the sector that votes for them. For this reason, very little has been invested specifically in the socio-political minorities in Israel.
A long-term strategic plan needs to be created to successfully develop the social integration of all minorities at the national level. In the meantime, I would like to try to offer an explanation as to why these minorities, particularly the Muslim Arabs, have not come out in support of Hamas and do not seek the destruction of Israel.
To understand this, one must focus on two essential aspects. On the one hand, the formal education system, and on the other hand the formation of hopes and expectations for the future.
In Arab-Israeli school textbooks in the State of Israel, children's education is based on Western ethical and moral values: they study mathematics, physics and chemistry, and they learn English and read novels by world-renowned writers. I am not implying that it is perfect; of course, it could be better. I am only pointing out that, for four generations, children have grown up in an educational environment where development and success are encouraged, while, contradictorily, in schools in Gaza and the West Bank they learn to idolize martyrs and receive a massive inculcation of constant and permanent hatred and rancor.
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מחנה פליטים אל-בורייג' עזה
מחנה פליטים אל-בורייג' עזה
Destruction in Gaza in the wake of Israeli airstrikes
This brings us directly to the second aspect. The reason we invest so much in our children in the Western world is because we want them, among other things, to succeed in their lives. Success is achieving our expectations, our dreams for a better life, the pursuit of happiness. However, to be successful, you must first have the strength and courage to dream and the backing to fight for your dreams. But what happens when your desire, what you have been taught all your life, what is considered in your environment as success, is to kill and die for honor, to be a martyr? What happens when acts of rape, beheading, murdering children, and kidnapping babies are considered representations and expressions of success?
Evidently, this is currently happening in Hamas-run schools in the Gaza Strip. Sadly, also to a certain extent in Palestinian Authority schools in the West Bank. In both, elementary school textbooks idolize national 'heroes', people who have committed suicide by killing Israelis while shouting Allah Akbar! In both the West Bank and Gaza, they name squares, fountains, monuments, streets and schools in the name of terrorists who have been killed by blowing up busloads of innocent children. Worst of all, the Palestinian Authority has a section of its budget, over $300 million a year, which is allocated in monthly salaries to the families of terrorists who have died or have been caught killing Israelis. The amount of this salary varies according to the number of Israelis the terrorists managed to kill before they died or were captured. The more innocent babies you manage to kill with your explosive vest, the higher the monthly payment your family will receive.
I invite the reader to reflect for a minute on the previous paragraph. Do you think this is right? Do you know of any other organization, country or society that gives the families of murderers monthly salaries according to a menu based on the number of innocent civilians the terrorist has murdered in cold blood? This has undoubtedly contributed to the creation of a society that considers murderers as heroes, thus generating that the "success" desired by every child is to become a martyr.
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מוהנד שחאדה אחד המחבלים מהפיגוע בעלי
מוהנד שחאדה אחד המחבלים מהפיגוע בעלי
Palestinian gunman in an attack at a gas station in Eli
Now let's put this in context. If the hope of being successful is based on murder or suicide, what sense is there in reading novels by legendary writers and authors such as Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway or Charles Dickens? Why study mathematics, physics and chemistry? What purpose is there in studying English or computers? None of what we consider "academic objectives" in Western society has any value, because the heroes of society are not engineers, authors, doctors, bankers or entrepreneurs.
This is also why, as a side effect, society is plagued with severe poverty. Here the influence is doubled, for not only do they live in severe poverty based on lack of academic ability, but they are subjected to jihadist fundamentalist religious ideological brainwashing. And when you mix academic ignorance, the heroism of the martyrs of Islamic fundamentalism, and the incentive of achieving some economic stability by obtaining a monthly salary, you are in essence creating with extraordinary efficiency another generation of children whose only desire is to be a martyr. This is how they were able to create a new generation of killers who could carry out the barbaric atrocities we saw last October 7.
In societies ruled by fundamentalists, where the population lives in extreme poverty, while their corrupt authorities (the 'mega-terrorists') are multi-billionaires. They become role models, and this is how children grow up dreaming of being one of these mega-terrorists.
Think about it: Kids learn that being a homicidal terrorist is the only way to excel in life. If he manages to die in the act, he will receive the 72 virgins in paradise, and his family will be financially stable forever. He will be famous, everyone will know his name, there will be banners with his picture and plazas will be honored with his name. And in case he does not die on the way, he has the option to ascend to a higher military rank, he will be known as a "successful terrorist that was able to kill Jews and make it back alive," he will be a hero, he will obtain a position of authority and he will also be able to access the corruption of the group and become a millionaire. Perhaps he will not have virgins in paradise just yet, but he will still be able to have extraordinary fame and economic stability for his entire family.
In short, what choice is left for a Palestinian child in Gaza? I believe this is the essence of the conflict. Theoretically, all other issues can be solved through negotiations: Settlements can be dismantled (as we have done several times in the past); borders can be moved from one place to another; and buildings and houses that were destroyed can be rebuilt. But changing the radical jihadi ideology of a person who has been subjected to systematic and efficient brainwashing for decades, even from their earliest childhood memories, is not something that can be altered easily. On a social level, it will take generations to correct, but it is possible.
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זירת הדריסה ברעננה
זירת הדריסה ברעננה
Scene of Palestinian car-ramming attack in Hebron
(Photo: United Hatzalah)
Having said that, there are some extraordinary success stories, such as the magnificent city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai is proof of the success possible when leaders focus on economic progress. It is a city that 25 years ago was not much more than sand dunes in a desert with a coastline. It was a small and relatively insignificant fishing village, but today it is a mecca of industry and top luxury tourism that boasts some of the world's finest hotels and the tallest building on the planet, the Burj Khalifa. In recent decades, Dubai has become synonymous with strategic economic success.
The similarities between Gaza City and Dubai City are striking. Both were fishing villages in the desert, they lack drinking water sources, the have very hot dry climates, and feature beautiful beaches. Why couldn't Gaza be like Dubai? Why couldn't there be artificial islands off the coast of Gaza where the world's millionaires could buy property and build luxury beachfront villas? What must happen for Gaza to be Dubai? Could the population in Gaza enjoy a beautiful seafront promenade, with Michelin star restaurants, luxury hotels, perhaps even casinos and shopping malls with the most exclusive stores, and thus become an exceptional tourist center with attractions for the whole family, creating a place that the whole planet would want to visit?
The initial response to why this has not happened, that you may have in your head right now, is that Israel is to blame', or perhaps the alleged occupation of the Strip, or the lack of natural resources and their respective petrodollars, or perhaps several other variables that have not been analyzed. But the most likely answer is that the leaders of Gaza simply are not interested.
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יחיא סינוואר איסמעיל הנייה חמאס עזה
יחיא סינוואר איסמעיל הנייה חמאס עזה
Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniya
(Photo: AFP)
The political leaders who have dominated the Gaza Strip for the last 17 years, since the disengagement of Israel, the fundamentalist jihadist terrorist organization of Hamas, have no interest in ending the conflict since for that they would have to recognize the State of Israel and unfortunately that does not coincide with the ideology they have been instilling so efficiently for so many years to the inhabitants of the Strip from an early age. They live in conflict and feed on hatred; they are motivated by resentment and the absolute poverty that keeps the entire population exclusively dependent on the authorities.
As the old Chinese saying goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” (Confucius). If they would educate the people of Gaza to figuratively fish, they could be economically independent of their authorities, they could engage in engineering, architecture, agriculture, medicine, science and the arts. But for that, they will have to choose life and not death. They will have to put aside their eagerness to acquire the 72 virgins in paradise, they will have to give up the notion of jihadist glory. They will have to choose to have a better life today, they will have to decide to invest in the present, in this life.
These ideas are not fantasy, they are real and even have a certain level of probability. But this is going to require a long-term strategic plan. The late Shimon Peres always said that you must dream big. He was convinced that economic cooperation would be the ideal conduit out of the cycle of violence. He said that you must invest to make progress. But his dreams were not realized, largely because the Palestinian side of the conflict, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, are unwilling to recognize the existence of the State of Israel. They continue in their struggle, with slogans like "from the river to the sea," seeking to destroy rather than to invest, they continue to educate to kill rather than to overcome.
This is not going to be easy, nor fast. It is going to take decades, even entire generations. But I do not doubt that it is possible. Furthermore, I strongly believe that Arab Israelis could serve as a social bridge that bridges the gap between these two very opposite systems of life. I believe that their successful example could motivate the Palestinians to opt for the creation of expectations for life, that do not include death. There are thousands of examples of harsh enemies who fought horrific wars in the past, who today are allies. One need only look at how the State of Israel and Germany are allied to understand that, in the macro picture of world history, in the distant future the Arab-Israeli conflict will be summarized on a page of some book.
The fundamentalist jihadist education systems destroyed all the essential fibers of human empathy and created the monsters who carried out the barbarities of October 7. Through education, we can also remedy it. What is needed now is for the world to unite to put an end to Hamas. The Israeli army must continue to fight to achieve the objectives of this war: the immediate rescue of the kidnapped hostages, and the absolute destruction of Hamas' oppression of the Palestinian population in Gaza. Then, the world, together, can begin the reconstruction of Gaza, both at the level of infrastructure, as well as at the level of education of values, of ethics, of morals and, thus, we can offer a possibility to generate expectations and dreams that have nothing to do with killing and dying.
Maybe it is naïve, maybe it is a dream, but I hope one day to be able to walk along the promenade of Gaza City.
  • Ariel Goldgewicht is executive director of the Department of Pioneering Youth and Future Generations at the World Zionist Organization
First published: 16:02, 02.14.24
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