And we're the xenophobic pitchfork-wielding ones? No doubt my old pal David Brooks would think so. In a New York Times column unforgettably called, "Kicking Arabs in the Teeth," Brooks seethes about the "collective mania," the "xenophobic tsunami" that threatens to wash out the ports deal. "The oil-rich nations of the Middle East," he writes, "have plenty of places to invest their money and don't need to do favors for nations that kick them in the teeth." Favors? What are we -- the United Supplicants of America? But I digress.
Besides, he adds, "the United Arab Emirates is a modernizing, globalizing place."
This week, the UAE modernized and globalized by seizing 100 sixth-grade social studies textbooks at a private American school in Abu Dhabi. Why? Because, as the Khaleej Times Online put it, the books "promoted Israel as one of the few democracies in North Africa and the Middle East, and some Arab countries as sponsors of terrorism."
Horrors. Or perhaps I should say: xenophobes and nativists. In a pro-book-banning editorial called "What about damage that's already done?" the UAE newspaper said the books gave off the "smell of racism," adding: "The ministry might have withdrawn copies of the textbook ... but will it be possible to withdraw the information already fed into the minds of students?"
Nobody will know for sure until the kids pick up their first pitchforks.
Of course, everybody gets carried away sometimes. After the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a UAE columnist named Hamed Salamin was moved to write that the death of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was "enough to arouse joy in every heart that beats Arabism and Islam." Then there's Ali Al-Hamadi, the founder of something in the UAE called "The Creative Thinking Center." According to a MEMRI translation, Al-Hamadi waxed rhapsodic in 2005 about mothers of Palestinian suicide bombers who, he maintained during an Iqra TV interview, actually listen in on their offspring's detonation via cell phone ("then she utters cries of joy ..."). Maybe it's nativist or tsunamist to mention this, but I found a Creative Thinking Center client list online that includes -- can you guess? -- our pals at the Dubai Ports.
If that's modern and global, I'm sharpening my pitchfork.