Photo: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/Wikimedia Commons
Over the last year, we’ve seen substantial shifts in the Middle East. Many Arab states have established diplomatic relations with the state of Israel. While this advancement is often seen as a positive, many anti-Zionist groups falsely believe these developments to be harmful not only to the countries involved, but also to the neighboring nations.
The Abraham Accords are a joint normalization agreement between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United States. The colloquial name of the 2020 agreement has since been invoked to refer to collective agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain (Sudan and Morocco later normalized relations with Israel as well). This was the first public normalization agreement between any Arab country and Israel since the treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
Saying the Accords are a big deal is an understatement.
Some were afraid the UAE-Israeli relationship was bound to crumble – according to Yoni Michanie during a talk with ClarkU Hillel in April 2021 – due to its alleged sole purpose as an election prop for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, for example, noted that Netanyahu “‘benefits” from the agreements by, among other things, “[buttressing] his reputation among Israeli voters as a statesman on the world stage.” Michanie added that others have argued that the antisemitic undertones prevalent in the Middle East for decades may, in light of the Accords, subside in favor of relationships between Israel and Arab countries.
Indeed, rather than labeling the country as a hostile entity that maliciously expelled entire ethnic groups or treated entire populations unethically, Israel is now regarded by many as a place for collaboration. In the wake of the Accords, there is potential for a strong alliance against Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East. In this sense, the Accords are neither detrimental nor damaging to the countries involved.
Importantly, there is also a developing “social peace” aspect to the agreement – it’s not merely political. For instance, tourism has already begun to flourish between the nations. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Abu Dhabi last month as part of a historic trip. Flights to Israel from Bahrain have left the runways for the first time. More than 130,000 Israelis have now visited the UAE since the Accords’ signing. All this leads to – and will continue leading to – more collaboration between the countries in the spheres of diplomacy, defense, and even medicine.
The Abraham Accords can also become a positive influence for Israeli-Palestinian relations, as a new framing of Israel is taking hold in the Arab world. The Accords could trigger a domino effect of sorts that will inspire others, including Palestinians, to become more cognizant of Jewish history, the Holocaust in particular. Palestinian textbooks, for instance, have misconstrued the Jewish historical narrative. “Far from remembering the Holocaust as a warning against antisemitism, the PA [Palestinian National Authority – the interim self-governing body that exercises partial civil control over the West Bank] weaponizes it against the descendants of the survivors and the Jewish people at large, using the genocide to promote antisemitism,” as Palestinian Media Watch reports. People should understand that for more than 2,000 years, the Jewish people have been persecuted and scapegoated. Understanding Jewish life and history enables people to come to terms with the bigotry of the past, helping to prevent similar recurrences in the future. There is hope that, one day, the Palestinian leadership will follow the example set by the Abraham Accords.
It is time that people put aside their anti-Zionist and antisemitic sentiments and acknowledge what Israel has to offer. It has not only contributed to countless technical advancements – from voicemails to vaccines – but Israel has also sought, and continues to seek, peace with its neighbors. Friendships can, and should, blossom among the nations of the Middle East. We just need leaders who are brave enough.
A slightly different version of this article was originally published in The Scarlet.
Contributed by 2020-2021 Clark University CAMERA Fellow Monica Sager.