Even by the low standards of Middle Eastern politics, this stinks. A perfume
named after the Hamas-produced M75 rocket is apparently all the rage in Gaza
Journalists from Reuters, among others, sniffed out the story and
reported that the citrus-scented perfume, which comes in special fragrances for
men and women, is the flavor of the month for Palestinians looking for a memento
of the eight-day conflict in November in which missiles launched from Gaza
landed in Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem area.
“I hope the smell is strong
enough for them to whiff in Tel Aviv and remind the Jews of the Palestinian
victory,” Ahmed Hassan, a customer from Egypt, told a Reuters reporter as he
bought 30 vials of the perfume as souvenirs in a Gaza City shop.
certainly got up my nose.
If the Palestinians in Gaza are so intent on
celebrating their attacks on Israel – including on the holy sites – that they
name a perfume after their missiles, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to
figure out that another round of hostilities is inevitable. It is particularly
worrying at a time when Israelis have been equipped with gas masks – not against
the aroma of anything Palestinian parfumiers have concocted, but because it’s
not clear which of our enemies are now in control of Syrian chemical
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Gerida has reported that the missile
depot demolished in an explosion in southern Lebanon on December 17 contained
Syrian missiles capable of carrying chemical and biological warheads, and
Iranian ally Hezbollah is known to be stockpiling weapons under the noses of the
international peacekeepers for future use against Israel.
I am, however,
almost bemused at the reminder that the Gazans, who have turned claims of a
humanitarian crisis into an art form, have shopping malls and gift shops. And,
despite the accusations that Israel holds them under siege, there are obviously
visitors crossing the border from Egypt. How the average Egyptian woman feels
about receiving a bottle of perfume named after a weapon I have no idea. A rose
by any other name might smell as sweet, but a cheap vial of M75 is not exactly a
bottle of Chanel No. 5.
The perfume that rocketed to fame would be funny,
if it weren’t so deadly serious. It is another symptom of the cult worshiping
and perpetuating the conflict in the Arab world.
In this column last week
I noted the travel advisory to Israelis warning that it is unsafe to wear any
open signs of being Jewish in the Danish capital. This week, I feel compelled to
point out that it’s not just in Denmark that something smells
It’s not the smell of the perfume that bothers me, it’s the
message it exudes. Talk about a base note.
I don’t expect the UN to
convene to condemn the Gazan parfumiers for their marketing gimmicks. It hasn’t
even been able to take any meaningful action against Bashar Assad’s Syria – even
when his forces bombed the Yarmouk refugee camp just outside Damascus, a camp
populated largely by Palestinians.
If the world community can’t cope with
the stench of death that hovers around Assad as he clings to power, it’s not
going to take the smell wafting out of Gaza seriously.
Anyway, the world
is too busy with Israel’s building procedures. And here lies the rub of another
matter that got up my nose this week.
The US and Europe were clearly
upset by construction plans in the Jerusalem area.
Or the announcement of
the plans. Or something.
To the outsider – go find a impartial observer –
it must seem like Israel’s plans continue to grow and grow. Actually, these are
the same plans making their slow way through the bureaucratic process. Much like
town plans in other developed countries, housing schemes here have to be brought
for approval by the relevant authorities. The main difference is you don’t get
to hear of it in the world press every time a meeting is held on, say, a new
housing project in a British suburb. This week, there were four days of
municipal and Interior Ministry meetings to discuss approval for some 6,500
apartments in what is commonly but misleadingly known as “east
Ironically, among the projects being censured by the global
village were plans for some 700 units for residents of Beit Safafa, an Arab
neighborhood so close to where I live that the sound of their muezzins is as
much a part of the background noise as the traffic outside my window.
condemnations, like the plans, are not new. They are kneejerk reactions – and
you can decide on what syllable to put the emphasis.
Although I don’t
rule out certain Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem coming under Palestinian
control within the framework of an eventual peace agreement, no such agreement
seems to be on the horizon – and it’s not because Israel is building new
It’s because there are forces out there that still want to destroy
the Jewish homeland itself.
By the way, the residents of Beit Safafa I’ve
spoken to are not in any hurry to lose the free health and education benefits
that come from living under an Israeli government for the uncertainties of life
under a Palestinian regime.
The world might believe that peace will come
to the Middle East if only Israel and the Palestinians would sit down and talk
to each other, but I think peace – or at least calm – would have been much
closer had the Arab countries built residential units instead of refugee camps
for the Palestinians in the first place. That’s why I am encouraged when I see
housing being built in places like Ramallah. This is not “an obstacle to peace”
and neither are homes in Ma’aleh Adumim.
On December 15, masked men
carrying models of M75 missiles – not bottles of perfume – marched in Hebron and
announced the start of the third intifada. The following day, Palestinian
Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on Palestinians to boycott all
Israeli-manufactured goods. His call followed the Israeli government’s decision
to withhold tax revenues belonging to the PA and use the money to cover the PA’s
debt to the Israel Electric Corporation.
But Fayyad – an acclaimed
economist – would do better to work out ways to benefit from economic
cooperation, both imports and exports, instead of pandering to parochial
Palestinian political needs and further fanning the flames of war and hatred.
And while I don’t consider Israeli housing plans in areas well within the
national consensus dangerous, I am very wary of acts that could bring down
Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah-controlled government.
Leaders on both sides should
consider ways to encourage healthy development rather than stymie growth. It’s
time to wake up and look at the Hamas-made M75 replicas. I smell
The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem