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MIDDLE EAST: Dubai police chief's warning that Israelis will be profiled spurs bigotry charges [Updated]

March 1, 2010 | 12:20 pm

Dubai-tamim-ap Dubai's police chief reportedly said the Persian Gulf city-state would start racially profiling visitors in hopes of ferreting out Israeli dual nationals, a proposal that was immediately met with charges of racism by Israelis. 

According to a report by the Associated Press, Dubai police Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim vowed on Monday that his police would "develop skills" to recognize Israeli dual nationals trying to enter the United Arab Emirates by discerning "physical features and the way they speak."

The reported statement, which followed allegations that Israeli Mossad agents infiltrated the country to kill Hamas figure Mahmoud Mabhouh last month, immediately raised eyebrows.

Israeli officials condemned the threat as anti-Semitic and dismissed Tamim as “out of control.”

“How are they going to know if someone is Israeli?’’ asked one government official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“Long noses? Pockets full of money?” he said sarcastically, in reference to racist stereotypes leveled against Jews. 

[Updated, March 1, 12:55 p.m. PST: Dubai-based Gulf News has a slightly different version of Tamim's comments. "Earlier, Israeli dual citizens could easily enter the country even if officials recognized them as Israelis from their accents and traits," he said, according to the daily newspaper. "But [from] now on they will be carefully scrutinized, regardless of what passport they hold." According to the paper, he also said immigration officials will study Israelis to discern their traits, accents, body language and manners.]

Diplomatic relations between Israel and Dubai are already practically non-existent. Israelis can’t visit the UAE unless they receive special permission.

It was only after a big fine and pressure from international tennis groups that the Dubai Tennis Championship permitted Israeli players to compete this year. With his near-daily press conferences revealing the latest alleged details about the Jan. 19 hit, Tamim has been trying to keep up international pressure on Israel.

Tamim spoke to reporters Monday along the sidelines of a security conference in neighboring Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, and not at his more formal press conferences in Dubai.

"We will not allow those who hold Israeli passports into the UAE no matter what other passport they have," Tamim said.

So far Israel has refused to deny or admit any connection to the killing. Some analysts have speculated that Tamim hopes Israelis will be goaded or badgered into just 'fessing up.

Not likely. In Israel, officials privately call the police chief a “loose cannon” and predict he will soon be reined in by a UAE government worried about damage that the ongoing negative publicity could cause to its trade and tourism industries.

Moreover, they see his recent threat as a sign of desperation, indicating that he has no solid evidence linking Israel to the assassination.

Even the much-watched videotapes only show people moving through hotel lobbies and elevators, not conducting a murder, some Israelis say.

And they scoff at what they say the police chief’s ever-changing narrative about how Mabhouh was killed and how many assassins were involved.

“First it was 11, now nearly 30,’’ the official said. “Next it will be a battalion.”

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut and Edmund Sanders in Jersualem

Photo: Dubai police chief Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim. Credit: Associated Press

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