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Israelis in the UAE, before and after October 7

Israelis in the UAE, before and after October 7

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Politics History The Truth

Tuesday 19 December 202305:11 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

إسرائيل وإسرائيليون في الإمارات... ما قبل الحرب على غزة وما بعدها


In August 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel signed the Abraham Accords, setting off swift strides in regional economic and political cooperation. According to data from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the UAE-Israel trade volume surged to approximately $1.154 billion in 2021, and doubled to $2 billion in 2022.

Israel leverages this collaboration to showcase and promote its products and institutions within the UAE. This commercial, trade collaboration takes various forms, most notably in the military-defense sector, healthcare, trade of electronic and electrical machinery, agriculture, universities, and technical institutions, among others.

According to the Times of Israel, the volume of commodity trade between the UAE and Israel is the largest among all other Arab countries covered by the Abraham Accords, including Morocco, Bahrain, and Sudan.

Bilateral trade between Israel and the UAE soared by 510% in 2021. In the first half of 2022, trade volume reached $1.2 billion, a 117% increase compared to the first half of 2021.

Israeli products in Abu Dhabi and Dubai markets take various forms, with a focus on large industrial products such as medical and agricultural machinery, besides technological institutions. What are they, and how have they been affected with the war on Gaza?

In early 2022, the two countries signed a free trade agreement as part of a comprehensive economic partnership, the first of its kind between Tel Aviv and an Arab state. The agreement stipulated the immediate or gradual exemption of 96% of customs duties on all goods. This came two and a half months after the UAE announced the establishment of a $10 billion investment fund dedicated to strategic sectors in Israel.


Prominent Israeli companies in the UAE

Israeli products in Abu Dhabi and Dubai markets take various forms, with a focus on large industrial products such as medical and agricultural machinery, in addition to widely-present technological institutions.

In the medical sector, there are 11 Israeli medical companies operating within the country, with the majority based in Dubai. Among them, the startup Tyto Care stands out, developing an artificial intelligence-based device for remote healthcare, enabling doctors to perform procedures remotely.

Another company, BrainsWay, has developed non-surgical treatments for brain disorders based on deep transcranial magnetic stimulation. They manufacture portable ventilation devices for home care, emergencies, transportation, and hospitals.

The Israeli institutional agricultural sector has an increasingly notable presence in the UAE. According to GCC Business and Times of Israel, the startup Vertical Field has been actively operating for two years in several regions of the Emirates. This startup has developed a vertical farming system and manages vertical farms in the Emirate of Umm Al-Quwain, recently expanding to Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Within these farms, Israeli agricultural engineers oversee the cultivation of crops tailored to the local market.


Ambiguous and unclear food commodities

It can be said that food items and other products that the consumer obtains directly from the market and which, of course, come from Israel, are unclear. More precisely, they do not carry the "Made in Israel" label, given that the majority of Arab residents would not purchase them. Instead, they are identified through the barcode feature, although technology experts can uncover the serial number of the product, indicating its country of origin.

With the onset of the aggression on Gaza on October 7th, activists published information stating that the Israeli Chamber of Commerce had changed the code of goods imported from Israel from 729 to 871.

With the onset of the aggression on Gaza on October 7th, activists published information stating that the Israeli Chamber of Commerce had changed the code of goods imported from Israel from 729 to 871.

These products have not been stocked in well-known malls in the UAE or in major stores such as Carrefour, LuLu and Giant.

However, a number of stores, specifically of Emirati origin, have openly displayed Israeli food products. For example, Fresh Market, an Emirati grocery chain with a number of locations across Dubai, openly sells Israeli food products, such as vegetables, fruit, meat and more. Even dates from Tel Aviv are now sold in the UAE (rather than the other way around) at remarkably high prices.

When it comes to Israeli products, especially food imported into the UAE, the Israeli company Tnuva stands out. Regardless of nationality, the average consumer is generally more concerned about the price of the product than its country of origin, except for those consumers committed to the boycott of Israeli goods. Specializing in dairy products, Tnuva, which operates a center in the UAE, labels its goods "Manufactured in the United Arab Emirates". In doing so, the Israeli company does not lose customers.


Israeli medical and tourism facilities

In late 2021, the AVIV Hospital was inaugurated in the prestigious Jumeirah Lakes Towers area in Dubai. This hospital caters to patients with bone and muscle disorders and brain problems. It also treats post-COVID symptoms through oxygen therapy and attracts citizens and residents of various nationalities, not just Israelis or Jews. It even employs individuals of some Arab nationalities. However, it cannot be determined whether there was a boycott of the medical center following the Gaza events, as the directors refuse to comment on this matter.

On the other hand, the Israeli tourism sector in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is represented by hotels and restaurants with unsuspecting names that do not reveal their origin. However a simple Google search reveals more. For example, the AVANI hotel chain which is prominent in the UAE is operated by the Nakheel Palm company. The chairman of its board is Ali Lootah, and it is co-founded and led by William E. Heinecke, an American-Israeli businessman, according to the American media outlet Al-Monitor.


The private life of Jews in the country

The UAE is home to about two thousand Israelis. The first kosher speciality store in the region, Rimon Market, opened in the Safa area of Dubai at the end of 2022. However, after the war on Gaza, the store shifted its operations to online services only. It remains unclear whether this shift was a proactive measure to avoid potential sensitivities among the Arab population, or due to the fact that the Jewish population in the country does not necessarily require a large physical store for direct shopping.

Prior to 2020, there were two hotels in Dubai and another in Abu Dhabi which catered to the dietary needs of Haredim Jews (Charedim, or Ultra-Orthodox Jews). Additionally, some villas in the Jumeirah area (Dubai), Port Dubai, Oud Metha (Dubai Metro), or villas on Al Reem and Saadiyat Islands (in Abu Dhabi) had been designated places for their prayer. After the Abraham Accords, numerous synagogues were built inside the villas of the rabbis, making it possible to conduct funeral prayers, weddings, purification ceremonies, and other religious events explicitly. Abu Dhabi has its own, separate community leader, but both community leaders follow the instructions of the Chief Rabbi.

In a statement to Al Monitor, Rabbi Elie Abadie, head of the Jewish community in Dubai, explained that “so far, there is no official synagogue for Jews in the UAE, but there are currently procedures to build a Jewish synagogue in a separate building.” The UAE government allows the issuance of licenses to rent places in hotels for prayer purposes.

In 2021, the Mini Miracles Kosher nursery was opened, specifically for Jewish children, located in a private villa in Jumeirah. Additionally, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) opened its doors in 2021, along with the Emirates Agency for Kosher Certification.

Israel actively participated with its pavilion at the COP28 climate conference, prominently featuring a direct propaganda campaign that framed the events in Israel as "terrorist acts planned to kill Israeli children"!

There are five Kosher stores in the country, mostly located within hotels and restaurants, to allow Jews to maintain certain religious dietary requirements. These shops are usually visited by people of various nationalities and religions.


The Jewish presence disappeared

Years before the Abraham Accords of 2020, there was a muted presence of Israelis in the country, as they carried other nationalities. At the time, Emirati law criminalized dealings with Israel. Jewish individuals did not publicly display their religious symbols or attire in malls, stores, and other public places, which made their religion, ethnicity or nationality unknown.

From 2020 until October this year, Israelis began to openly and proudly showcase their identity in the UAE, whether by displaying their flag inside their cars and occasionally on balconies at home, or by speaking Hebrew in public. Since October 7th, these expressions seem to have vanished. There were no visible signs of Israelis at Global Village Dubai, where Israel was scheduled to have a pavilion. The project was abruptly canceled after the war on Gaza began.

On the other hand though, Israel actively participated in the COP28 climate conference. Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited the pavilion on December 2, 2023. The pavilion prominently features a direct propaganda campaign that framed the events in Israel as "terrorist acts planned to kill Israeli children". The pavilion featured stuffed dolls symbolizing children allegedly abducted by Hamas, according to the pavilion's representative.

Itai Shahier, the same representative, consistently reiterated to journalists and political and environmental figures that “initially, we had no plans to participate in this conference of parties. However, we decided we had to use this forum to address the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas.”

After the severity of the situation in Gaza escalated, Israeli embassies requested their citizens in certain countries, including the UAE, leave immediately. This move sparked resentment and discontent among certain Emiratis, expressed indirectly or, at the very least, in muted language, especially considering that their country is one of the safest and most peaceful, and anyone within its borders should feel secure and protected.



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