Question from Tel Aviv
Writing a web site on Fujairah and the UAE I get asked many questions. Here is the latest question that came over the weekend.
An Israeli man wrote to ask if he can get a tourist visa to visit the United Arab Emirates. It is difficult to get information on this question and sometimes there are conflicting answers.
Some College web sites and travel advisory services state that Israelis wanting to visit the Emirates are not allowed to enter the UAE but some Israelis have been given a visa.
Israelis Entering the UAE
An international uproar broke out in February 2009 when Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was denied a visa to attend a tennis tournament in the UAE.
A few days later the decision looked as if it had been overturned when a male player from Israel was granted a visa to play in Dubai’s men’s competition. The Dubai organizers received a significant fine, a protesting TV network withdrew from giving coverage and the UAE was threatened with having the annual tournament taken from it.
In October 2009 Israeli representatives to an Abu Dhabi meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) were granted access to the UAE.
New Restrictions in 2010
Jewish people on passports issued by countries other than Israel (e.g. US passports) have in the past been eligible to get a UAE entry permit but since the death of a Hamas operative in February 2010, new restrictions have been issued by Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai’s police chief.
Now travellers suspected of being Israeli are not allowed to enter the UAE even if they arrive with a passport from a country other than Israel.
It is unclear whether Israeli sports people wishing to compete in UAE tournaments or trade representatives from Israel will be granted an entry visa to the UAE. One suspects that these might be treated on a case by case basis as ‘special circumstances’ and exceptions to the rule.
Verdict of UAE Immigration
Today I called the Dubai Department of Naturalization and Residency and the same office in Sharjah to put the question from my Israeli correspondent.
Both Dubai and Sharjah spokespersons said that people holding Israeli passports will not be granted a tourist visa to visit the UAE.
When I asked the reason for this rule I was told that Israel is not a friend of the UAE and other Muslim countries.
Long Term Consequences
These visa denials express the unwillingness of the UAE to recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel and, along with many other Muslim countries, they are a way of disciplining Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
The UAE has the freedom to make its rules about who may enter its borders but this law is likely to have serious consequences.
The international outcry resulting from Shahar Peer’s visa denial is a signal of how other countries might use the ‘No Entry’ rule for Israelis to block bids by the UAE to hold international conferences and host major sporting competitions such as the Olympic Games.
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