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Israel living standards protest gives way to settlement expansion argument

 

The Israeli protests about high living standards have opened the chasm between secular and ultra-orthodox Israeli Jews once again. West Bank settlers argue that expanding housing in the West Bank would reduce prices — a typical lesson in supply and demand that probably carries some value. The Israelis who started the protests, however, oppose that logic.

Most Israeli Jews are secular and hold an unfavorable view of the settlers who believe the West Bank is a necessary part of the Jewish state. I was reporting in Jerusalem in 2009 and witnessed this dynamic firsthand — that summer, ultra-orthodox Jews began demonstrating outside a Jerusalem parking lot that was open on Shabbat. Those protests continue today.

I am not advocating for settlement expansion. Still, while unpopular, the ultra-orthodox Jew’s comments in the video above make sense at a surface level — expand housing to meet demand. It’s a politically toxic argument to focus that expansion in the West Bank, but Jerusalem already is stretched pretty thin when it comes to finding land to develop new high-rises. The areas surrounding Tel Aviv — a mere 45 minutes from Jerusalem — are too arid for sustainable development.

But I do think the last person interviewed in the video above makes a prescient observation — ultra-orthodox Jews will try to co-opt this living standards protest and make it about settlement expansion. The argument ultra-orthodox Jews have pushed is easy to understand. Ultimately, there are few people on the fence in Israel when it comes to settlements. Even former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin called settlers crazy, although in more colorful terms. Therefore, the simple answer posited by ultra-orthodox Jews is not likely to convert anyone disinclined to settlement expansion.

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UAE opens more housing for women

June 6, 2011 2 comments

The United Arab Emirates will expand housing opportunities for women under an amendment to the gulf nation’s housing code, bringing the nation more in line with textual rather than customary interpretation of the Qur’an.

Several groups of women who previously could not own a home in the UAE will now have the chance. Those groups include Emirati widows with children, divorced wives with children, single women without parents, unmarried women 30 years or older with deceased parents and Emirati women married to non-Emiratis.

Many people may (incorrectly) think that Islam does not allow women to own property. That is not the case, as the Qur’an states: women “shall be legally entitled to their share” (Qur’an 4:7) and that “to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn.” Take it for what you will, but to me that seems like the right to property.

What has happened in many Arab nations with strong Islamic faith an emphasis of Islam based on custom rather than religious text. Those interpretations call for a more patriarchal society. To that point, if Christian nations were to abide by the customs that existed during Biblical times, those standards on women’s rights would not be much different.

The United Nations Human Development Index ranks the UAE 32nd in the world, making it the second best Middle East nation behind Israel. But the UAE’s gender inequality ranking is 47th, meaning there is certainly room for improvement.

Housing is one of the easiest ways to bridge the UAE’s gender inequality gap. After all, UAE women are clearly going to school, as a 2005 report showed 65 percent of the university students in that country were female. But just 15 percent of the workforce was female, which I suppose is not all that surprising in the Middle East but still shows some inherent discrimination against women in the workforce.

The UAE is not at risk for the types of revolution that has spread throughout the Arab world. But the government’s decision to open up housing to what are considered a taboo class in customary Islam — single women and single mothers — shows the UAE’s relative progressivism in that region.

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