Abraham Accords: Time to Change the Conversation on Campus
In 2020, the world witnessed the signing of the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and four Arab states: Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and later that year, Morocco and Sudan.
In May 2022, I hosted Yoni Michanie, a researcher and lecturer, at the George Mason campus to discuss the significance of the Abraham Accords, namely how they signal an important shift in Middle East diplomacy. The agreements demonstrate the power that mutual recognition and respect can have on states and peoples with a history of conflict.
Despite the success of the Abraham Accords, they have been heavily criticized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace. Instead, these groups remain proponents of a hostile policy of “anti-normalization” to prevent dialogue with and respect toward anyone who claims ties to Israel, including Jewish students.
On January 26 of this year, Jewish Voice for Peace Action (JVPA) and many left-wing Jewish organizations signed a statement condemning the Abraham Accords. JVPA claims that the Abraham Accords are a cover for endorsing arms sales and political favors between authoritarian regimes.
That, however, is blatantly false. The Abraham Accords have contributed to peace and the formation of ties and bonds between communities in Israel and the Arab world. Over the last two years, the world has witnessed the establishment of economic and cultural relations and a flourishing tourism industry between the nations outlined in the agreement.
For example, in 2021, 22 major cultural and economic projects were launched between the UAE and Israel.
Normalization between Morocco and Israel is also of great significance. Morocco is home to a vibrant diaspora Jewish community. Many Israelis have ties to the country. The Abraham Accords have only made it easier for these communities to stay connected. For instance, this May, Moroccan Jews publicly celebrated Israel’s Independence Day, a feat made possible by the Moroccan government’s official recognition of the State of Israel.
Amit Deri, the co-founder and CEO of Sharaka, a cultural exchange project for young professionals in the UAE and Israel, had this to say about the Abraham Accords: “Four countries finally stood up and said no to boycotts and yes to dialogue and cooperation … The lack of any popular backlash further proves this. Promoting a regional peace first approach will do more to promote peace than seven decades of boycotts ever accomplished.”
It is disappointing that JVPA, the political activism wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that operates numerous chapters in colleges and universities across the United States, would use its platform to demonize Israel and denounce newly forged diplomatic ties between Israel and states in the Arab world, especially with so many projects that transcend formal diplomacy.
Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at American University and the University of Chicago are prime examples of student groups that continue to push for the adoption of fruitless and bigoted anti-normalization policies.
In February 2022, an SJP chapter at the University of Chicago posted a 27 multi-slide upload titled “Don’t take sh**ty Zionist classes.” On one slide, SJP claimed that coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict is “deceitful and propagandistic” to benefit Israel. However, the opposite is true; media outlets like the The New York Times and others are notorious for distorting the truth to malign Israel’s actions.
Even more heinous, SJP at UChicago calls for students to boycott several courses discussing Israeli society and culture in order to monopolize the narrative on campus, and for the Chicago Maroon, the campus paper, not to publish op-eds from a Zionist perspective.
Their intent is clear: control the narrative by omitting other opinions from the discussion. A CAMERA Fellow at George Washington University, Cole Knie, outlined these trends in a comprehensive analysis and response to UChicago SJP’s campaign.
The SJP chapter at American University (AU) has also been problematic. In an Instagram carousel published on April 21, 2022, AU SJP describes Zionism, the movement responsible for the founding of the State of Israel, as a “settler-colonial racist political ideology,” a claim they base on a fabricated quote attributed to David Ben-Gurion and numerous excerpts from Zionist leaders, which have been severely taken out of context.
AU SJP vilifies Zionism, the Jewish movement for self-determination, and the State of Israel by conflating them with contemporary evils like racism, colonialism, and ethnic cleansing to justify their antisemitic agenda that antagonizes Jewish students. In March 2022, AU SJP attempted to host an event on campus with known antisemite Mohammed El-Kurd, who has spread blood libels, condemned campus dialogue, and justified terrorism against Israelis.
In light of growing peace efforts between Israel and the Arab world, it is shameful to see organizations like SJP and JVP continue to sow animosity and discourage campus dialogue between Arab and Jewish students. If Israel and the Arab world can find peace and mutual understanding, there is no reason that students on campus cannot. Hopefully, Yoni Michanie’s briefing at George Mason is one of many positive steps that will take the conversation between communities on campus in a productive direction.
Brady Rudnick is a CAMERA Fellow at George Mason University.