Enlightenment Or Hunger Games: It’s Our Choice

Dexter Van Zile
5 min readAug 14, 2020


The UAE Space Agency runs space summer camps to introduce students to the space industry. (Photo: Emirate News Agency)

So there’s a peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The Israelis suspend their efforts to affirm sovereignty over the West Bank in exchange for diplomatic relations with the UAE. Other countries in the region may soon follow suit and recognize the Jewish state.

Apparently, decades of fruitless conflict in the Holy Land convinced Emirati leaders that it was time to make peace with Israel and continue building a future for the people they govern. When it comes to building a future for their people, the Emiratis have a good start.

The UAE has already sent a probe to Mars, constructed the Burj Khalifa, which for now is the tallest building in the world, and even constructed an indoor ski slope in the middle of the desert. They’ve built islands shaped like palm trees. The UAE has a space agency which runs summer camps for high school students.

They’ve made the desert bloom.

Emirati leaders have decided to pursue a transcendent purpose more meaningful and hopeful than depriving the Jews of their future as a sovereign people.

This is the cue for the ghost of Edward Said to appear and shame me for “exoticizing” or “idealizing” the Emiratis. (Shut it Edward. The UAE has chosen hope and agency over grievance and resentment and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.)

It’s too soon to tell, but it sure looks like somebody in the Middle East has decided to kickstart an enlightenment by making peace with the Jews and reaching for the stars.

God bless them.

One group of folks that has been particularly silent about the UAE deal is the conglomeration of so-called “peacemakers” in the “progressive” Christian world who have been telling everyone for the past few decades that bringing an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians — who have refused to negotiate in good faith — was the only way to bring peace to the Middle East.

The notion that the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the most important or central conflict in the Middle East was a common trope among progressive Christian “peacemakers.”

One egregious example of this trope appeared in a discussion guide produced by Sojourners, a magazine that caters to progressive Evangelicals (and to a lesser extent, mainline Protestants in the U.S.). This 2007 guide, titled “Christians and the Middle East,” included an article, “The Urgency of Middle East peace,” by Jim Wallis, who declared, “In a private meeting, one of the most respected Western leaders said, “I believe up to 70 percent of the conflicts in the world today stem from the still-unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The implication was that Israel’s alleged refusal to make peace with the Palestinians was an obstacle for peace for the rest of humanity, akin to the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the messiah. (“Things would have been so nice if it weren’t for those damn Jews … excuse me, those Zionists.”)

Then came the Syrian Civil War in 2011. As the number of deaths in this conflict approached and then exceeded 500,000, this assessment was no longer tenable.

That didn’t stop the Sojourners crowd from acting like the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the center of the known universe. Christian peacemakers largely ignored the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Assad regime in Damascus while continuing to bang away at Israel with lies and one-sided stories about the Israel-Palestinian conflict that made Israel look bad.

Now that a prominent and influential Arab polity has decoupled itself from the anti-Israel jihad, Palestinians are furious, reportedly calling the leaders of the UAE “dogs” and “traitors” on their social media accounts. The PA has declared, in effect, that the UAE is Israeli-occupied territory, with one anonymous official telling the Jerusalem Post, “Israel has annexed the United Arab Emirates instead of annexing the West Bank.”

Palestinian elites have made their decision and so have the folks who govern the UAE. The Palestinians have chosen to stymie the Jews trying to pursue their destiny in the Land of Israel; the Emiratis have chosen to build a future for themselves.

The Palestinians blame Israel for their suffering; the Emiratis have taken responsibility for their own welfare.

Who do you think the “progressives” will condemn and who do you think they will praise in light of this deal?

You know the answer.

If, by some miracle, the Palestinians followed the Emirati example, it would leave Christian peacemakers — who have devoted their lives to enabling Palestinian failure — in a lurch. They would have no one else’s failures to distract them from their own.

Here’s a prediction: It will probably take a few days, but sometime early next week, Christian peace organizations like Sabeel and the World Council of Churches will issue statements that will go along the lines of, “This isn’t what we had in mind. Other countries in the Middle East can’t move on until the Palestinians say they can.”

They will, in effect, follow the lead of Churches for Middle East Peace, a so-called “peace” organization that serves as the mouthpiece for the PLO since its mission in Washington, D.C. was shut down in 2018.

In a statement issued the day after the Israel-UAE peace deal was announced, CMEP declared that while it “affirmed” the peace deal, “Of course, it would also be better if the U.S. government worked to support such negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to end the Occupation.” (As if the Israelis haven’t already tried to negotiate.)

In these statements, there will be no warning to the Palestinian Authority that “the window of opportunity” for a peace deal “is closing” and that the rest of the region has bigger fish to fry, like sending a probe to Mars.

These privileged Western Christians will, in effect, be telling Arabs in the Middle East that they must give the Palestinians the right to veto the future for everyone else in the region until they are able to bring Israel to heel.

For the next few days, I’m going to offer up one of the weirdest prayers I’ve ever made.

I’m going to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the success of the UAE probe to Mars, which by the way is called “Al Amal.”


“The Hope.”

Where have we seen that word before?



Dexter Van Zile

Managing Editor of Focus on Western Islamism (FWI), published by the Middle East Forum. His opinions are his own.