As Arab Leaders Warm toward Israel and Jews, Are Arab Publics Following?

(Mosaic) Joseph Braude - In the Arab Middle East, even as some Arab leaders are visibly warming toward Israel and Jews, the widespread culture of rejectionism and anti-Semitism persists. Ingrained over generations, it permeates much popular sentiment. Yet the Israel Foreign Ministry's Arabic Facebook page, "Israel Speaks Arabic," has attracted 1.7 million followers in the Arab world. Of the 2,700 daily comments on the page, 1/3 are positive and 17% are neutral. Among the positive comments are tens of thousands of requests for tourist visas. "Let's be honest," wrote Muna Abd al-Aziz, a professor of media studies at Cairo University, in the Arab Telegraph in October 2018: "In every newsroom...there have always been voices...more skeptical of the wisdom of the 'boycott,' and more open to direct engagement. They know that when the Jews of Arab lands fled to Israel, we lost a piece of our collective soul. And they know that if we can somehow reclaim that connection - accepting our Jewish brethren for who they are, where they live, and what they believe - then we can gain something vital for our future." But the open expression of such attitudes is still rare. Today, four decades after the Camp David accords inaugurated a peace between governments without a peace between peoples, might the U.S. at last adopt the goal of fostering an Arab public discourse supportive of partnership with Israel and friendship with Jews, and pursue that goal as an interim strategic priority? The writer is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and senior advisor to the Al-Mesbar Center for Studies and Research in Dubai.

2019-02-08 00:00:00

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