People-to-people relations are central to progress of Abraham’s accords, advocates say

The Abraham Accords made headlines in 2020 as historic normalization agreements between the governments of Israel and the Arab states were reached. But more than a year later, proponents of the agreements are highlighting their impact on everyday relationships between people.

In the second week of November, Sharaka, an NGO launched by Israeli, Emirati and Bahraini social entrepreneurs following the signing of the agreement, brought a delegation of young activists, leaders, thinkers and entrepreneurs from the region from the Middle East and North Africa on a speaking tour of California to promote the accords and a “new model of peace in the Middle East”.

“We were founded to ensure that the government agreements of the Abrahamic Accords are translated at the people-to-people level and create a warm and lasting peace,” CEO and co-founder of Sharaka, Amit Deri, told JNS.

According to Sharaka’s Head of Communications and Global Affairs Dan Feferman, many observers were surprised to hear this message during the tour, which included meetings and events with institutions of the Jewish community, the Democratic Party. , politicians and activists, university and high school students, business and civic leaders and the media.

“People in the United States are more focused on conflict, while we in the region are looking for ways to work together and have a dialogue,” said Feferman, an Israeli scholar, speaker and podcaster.

The member of the delegation Hayvi Bouzo, an American journalist of Syrian origin, also underlined that the agreements of Abraham “represent another type of peace, a peace between the peoples”. Although Syria has not normalized its relations with Israel, the agreements “actually made a lot more people in Syria talk about wanting to have peace with Israel in a way that we have never seen before.” she declared.

Bouzo noted that on her talk show, titled “Middle East Rise”, she was pleasantly surprised to see an increasing number of Syrian listeners asking questions and being open about the Abraham accords. She said this marks a step forward from the “entrenched culture of hatred in the Middle East and especially Arab countries” due to the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric promoted by the media and education systems.

The CEO of Sharaka in the United States, Omar el Busaidy, a Fulbright scholar and Emirati entrepreneur, said that “it will always be important for an Emirati to be present in discussions like this” because the United Arab Emirates were the first country to normalize relations with Israel. While he initially believed the agreements would focus primarily on security, Busaidy said today their most important achievement “is the depth of cooperation in so many different areas between these two countries,” such as education and health care.

Following the initial agreements of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two other predominantly Muslim countries quickly signed: Sudan and Morocco, the latter housing before 1948 up to 250,000 Jews.

“To lead the work of the Judeo-Muslim dialogue”

Amazigh-Moroccan activist and artist Chama Mechtaly, an expert in Judeo-Muslim dialogue, explained that the difference between Morocco and Israel’s other nascent Arab allies is that Morocco has already maintained high-level diplomatic relations. inferior with the Jewish state since the signing of the Oslo accords in the 1990s.

“In this sense, the Abrahamic Accords represent a renewal and rekindling of these relationships,” she said.

With more than 470,000 Moroccan Jews living in Israel, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, as well as tens of thousands of Israelis visiting Morocco each year, the agreements offered a healing opportunity in already relatively deep relationships.

“For Israelis with a difficult personal or family history, given the way they left Morocco, even these people feel very reconciled with the culture and delighted to come back as visitors,” Mechtaly said.

At the same time, during Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s recent visit to Morocco, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita asserted that the government is approaching normalization with Israel in a way that strives to advance a two-state solution. Bourita said Israel and the Palestinians “really need to start rebuilding trust between the two sides.”

Yet Mechtaly believes that government membership remains a victory in itself when it comes to the Abrahamic Accords. “As we are in a region that needs leadership support, we can finally conduct this work of Judeo-Muslim dialogue in a way that is hopefully more sustainable and scalable,” she said.

Nonetheless, interpersonal relationships remain the cornerstone of the long-term vision of agreements.

“Even when politics fail and political agreements crumble, we want to have enough social and cultural relationships between people that they always have something to fall back on and something that will continue to deepen that Judeo relationship. Muslim, ”Mechtaly said. “The Abrahamic Accords open the door to reclaiming the region’s pluralist and multicultural past.

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