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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A sombre tone set and New Year's Eve cancelled in Dubai

In response to the recent, dramatic escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza (read this excellent on-the-ground account by Ashraf Khalil and Rushdi Abou Alouf reporting for the LA Times), Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed has ordered that New Year's Eve celebrations be cancelled in Dubai in solidarity with the Palestinians (read about it here on The National and IHT). I love the way the leaders there can just do that. And while I pity the hotel managers, events coordinators and PRs who will be tearing their hair out as they call off glitzy parties, cancel just-flown-in DJs, tell the Beckhams they'll have to have a quiet night in with the Cruises at their Atlantis suite on The Palm (perhaps they can invite Shakira over?), and pray those 200 dozen oysters haven't been shucked yet (because in Dubai every hotel has a huge glamorous party - or three), the sombre tone the Sheikh wants to set will probably be welcomed by most Emiratis, much of the large Arab population, and the substantial number of Palestinians living in the UAE. Many would have been feeling guilty about celebrating tonight; I was feeling sorry for those who had to work. The Palestinian conflict is another thing I've been mulling over and, being in Australia, feeling a little helpless about. If I was in the UAE everybody would be discussing the crisis endlessly, on a daily basis, throughout the day. I worked in education in the UAE for many years, and I know from experience that the students would have been raising money for Red Crescent to send medical supplies, food, clothes, and so on. In Australia, everybody is focused on the holidays and the cricket, shark attacks, Paris Hilton, and best fireworks-viewing spots dominate the media. Nobody has reported yet on Israel posting video footage of their air strikes on YouTube. Air strikes in which over 370 Palestinians have been killed, including 40 children, and another 1,720 people have been wounded. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty sick. Here, it seems as if for Australia the rest of the world doesn't exist. As much as I love my country, it's a reminder of why I don't live here. I want to know what's going on. I want to feel part of the global community. And that its problems are also mine.

Pictured? In keeping with the tone, an acacia blossoming after the rain last month in Alice Springs, an image of hope from the road.


Anonymous said...

It's a tricky one, I know. I've been mulling it over too, and I think like a lot of Aussies, it's been in my mind a lot over the last few days. So... three thoughts, none of them really about solving any issues, but just some thoughts.

1. The last comment... Aus is bad, everywhere actually is pretty bad about broad reporting... Australia isn't really worse than anywhere else. The UAE reports what matters to it, Europe (big country that one, ah, you know what I mean) does the same. The big exception, and a great reason to watch it, is SBS News that have done a good job of gathering footage. They really are the leaders. The ABC is shocking in it's aping of the commercials, and the commercials are aus-focused.

2. The whole thing is crazy... the whole conflict makes so little sense... but (here's where I kind of try to solve the world's problems), of course Hammas is a terrorist group, simply because Palestine isn't a country. And, in the end, it just should be. Israel needs to finally define it's borders, and it needs to set up real exclusions. There you go, that's my total fence sitting/everyone is both right and wrong answer.

3. Finally, I agree with you about the whole celebration stuff. I don't even know what we are celebrating anymore. I don't mean this in some kind of earnest kid way, I mean that the calendar doesn't really control how the world is, no matter how much we want it to... and New Year's Eve was bad timing for the Middle East. You know?

Thanks heaps for this Lara, I had no idea about the UAE not being in on the action. But, and I don't mean to be defensive of Australia, there is no country that is so totally unconcerned with its own small place in the world that it doesn't protect its own regional life by managing and reiterating it. It's a funny old thing eh?

Anonymous said...

Interesting to hear Dubai has canceled their celebrations. I'm sure the hotels and restaurants are in a panic. Here in the U.S. things are moving forward for the New Years celebration, but on a much lower key this year. I guess we're all just hoping to leave 2008 behind for better days in 2009.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Sandy

Are you in Australia? If so, let's catch up. Email me. Thanks for the thoughtful response... I see you were also in a reflective mood on NYE.

1. Agree with you, but find it kind of sad that so little out in the world seems to matter to the Oz media - SBS excluded and it is fantastic. Thank god for SBS. Also digging Radio National and ABC Rural as we've been driving around this gigantic country of ours.

2. Well, I think the answer is in a two-state solution with an independent properly governed Palestine alongside Egypt. And it needs to happen SOON. But once those borders are defined, well, then there's the issue of compensation isn't there? A path nobody wants to take, one reason (aside from his racism) that Howard didn't apologize to indigenous Australians... Rudd has apologized, but with that admission of wrong-doing there has to be compensation.

3. Yep, totally agree with you. Just couldn't get into the Christmas spirit this year. Despise the crass commercialization. I'd like to see more of a focus on just enjoying down time with people we care about and giving something to people who need to be cared for.

Thanks again for the response!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Travel Muse

Yes, I haven't yet heard how things panned out in Dubai last night... no doubt I will soon... will be interesting to hear what went ahead (if anything) and what didn't.

Here's to better days!!

Happy New Year!

Happi Traveler said...

I am so sad for the the 60 year ongoing troubles in the middle east. Too bad Arafat wasn't a selfish idiot and did right by his people and brokered that deal with Bill Clinton 10 years ago. I also wish Hamas would stop flying missles into Israel. And expecting no retaliation which esentially means that Hamas is killing their own people. Since Obama thinks Israel has the right to exist and Hamas doesn't, it looks like Obama won't make any inroads either.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Happi Traveler

Thanks for commenting. I think you're right, but I think the Middle East needs to take a greater leadership role and broker its own deals. I think it's time they stopped waiting for the US to get involved. The leaders have gradually been playing more of a leadership role - the Saudis, Jordanians, Emiratis...gosh, the Israelis and Syrians had began to talk and were making diplomatic roads this year, which was extraordinary. They need to just get on with it and come up with a two-state solution. As Sandy suggests above - if the Palestinians had a state and a strong legitimate government that had support, then there would be no need for Hamas.

Thanks again for checking in.
Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I assume nobody cares about missiles that were shot into Israel before this last escalation? And that people is Gaza, by allowing Hamas to keep doing it, (or participating) are not totally devoid of blame as everybody in the world seems to assume? And even now, Hamas is saying the precondition to a ceasefire would be for Israel to stop first - shouldn't they care about the people of Gaza?

Lara Dunston said...

Hello Anonymous

I do care - I oppose any violence - but I think the reaction by Israel has been heavy-handed and has far outweighed the initial actions of Hamas. Both sides need to stop. Some 800 people have died in Palestine now, a quarter of them children, sadly.

Anonymous said...

Laura, yes both sides do need to stop but I think you are unreasonable to think that Hamas starts up again and when Israel "fights back" they "fight too hard". I think this viewpoint is stunning. It would be like everyday for years, your neighbor and his children walked by your house and threw rocks at your window and damaged your property. Every day. And you beg them to stop, you throw rocks back, you ask for help from the community but nothing helps. The only thing that would help is if you moved away but you like it there and you don't want to move away. Each day, rocks are thrown at your window. After a while (let alone 60 years), in desperate attempts to get them to stop, you fire a gun. Just out of pure frustration because you can't make the rock throwers stop. I don't know what else Israel can do. It's unreasonable to think they should just throw rocks back. Reason and respect doesn't seem to be the answer, nor does throwing rocks back. Frankly, I would like to hear your exact position on what you think Israel should do.

Lara Dunston said...

Hello 'Anonymous' - it's Lara by the way, not Laura. If you'd like to have a discussion about this, I'd appreciate it if you actually posted your name rather than hid behind the mask of 'Anonymous'.

I think the only answer is the two state solution. If the Palestinians had their own state and self-rule, these problems wouldn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Lara, I am not hiding behind anything...your comment seems almost acusatory. I don't know why my name is not automatically popping up as it has before. But in any case, it's rather ridiculous to need a name on a blog board or else you won't discuss your position. What sense does that make? On these boards, if anyone wants to "hide", we can make up fake monikers. You should be more interested in presenting a thoughtful position not worrying about names. Although you didn't address my question, I will address your thoughts. Yes, we need a two state solution. What is your point of view that there isn't one yet? Would you mind addressing this or do you insist on my name first?

Lara Dunston said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure what you think I'm accusing you of - if I objected so strongly to anything you were writing I simply wouldn't approve your comments, but in the name of free speech I am. This isn't a disussion board, however, this is a personal travel blog written by a travel writer (myself) that aims to create a community of like-minded readers who share a passion for travel and all that travel, places and people inspire.

My blog is not a forum for the discussion of politics as you'd know if you were a regular reader, and I have no interest in expressing a position more detailed than that I've expressed already on a space devoted to travel.

While I respect people's preference to remain anonymous if they are commenting on aspects of the travel publishing industry for instance, in a forum such as this most readers use their real names or monikers. If you choose to continue to contribute comments, but for whatever reason are having difficulty selecting from the Google/Blogger ID, Open ID, Name/URL and can only use Anonymous, then simply put your name within the message.