My Word: So smells defeat?

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 City.

Hamas rally in Gaza Strip huge crowds 390 (photo credit: Suhaib Salem / Reuters)
Hamas rally in Gaza Strip huge crowds 390
(photo credit: Suhaib Salem / Reuters)
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 City.
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.
It 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 weapons.
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 rotten.
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 Jerusalem.”
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.
The 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 homes.
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 trouble.
The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.