As was further elaborated in Sunday’s New York Times, Israel and more and more Arab Atates have begun to find ways to constructively interact with each other especially on security matters. Despite long-standing bitter hostilities, Israel has helped Egypt lessen the presence of radical Islamists in the Northern Sinai. Coordinating with the Egyptian military, the IDF has significantly reduced ISIS activity and in fact eliminated much of the ISIS threat posed to Egyptian forces as well as to the Israeli borders.
Similarly, Israel has developed growing contacts among Gulf states and even American Jewish leaders have been so successful with their relationships with the Emirates that some of the Israeli leaders appear now to be disturbed by how cordial the relationship has become. There was almost no pushback in the Arab world—as had been expected–over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The most remarkable exchange in the field of Jewish/Israeli dialogue occurred in conjunction with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Dr. Mohammed Al Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League in Saudi Arabia, the most important clerical group which has been the leading advocate of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hate speech in the Arab World, made a dramatic shift on the occasion of Remembrance Day. At the suggestion of the Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Al Issa wrote an extraordinary letter to Sara Bloomfield, the director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Not only did he agree to meet with her at the Museum when he visited the U.S. in the spring but his pre-Remembrance Day letter recognized and acknowledged the Holocaust without any equivocation or qualifications. The letter, which he agreed to be published, stated, in part:
This Human tragedy perpetrated by evil Nazism won't be forgotten by history, or meet the approval of anyone, except criminal Nazis or their genre. True Islam is against these crimes. It classifies them in the highest degree of penal sanctions and among the worst human atrocities ever.
One would ask, who is in his right mind would accept, sympathize or even diminish the extent of this brutal crime. However, our solace is that the memory of history is fair and vivid; and a justice, free of any other inclinations, would mourn this crime on behalf of all humanity. The victims have sacrificed their innocent lives to pen a memorable reminder of freedom and determination, an example of the extent of Nazi hate which has sunk the world into wars and disasters.
Al Issa even addressed Holocaust denial:
…we consider any denial of the Holocaust or minimizing its effect, a crime to distort history, and an insult to the dignity of those innocent souls who have perished. It is also an affront to us all, since we share the same human soul and spiritual bonds.
Lest one assume progress and change is rampant in the Arab world, however, there are several observations which need to be made. First, much of the activity between Israel and Egypt and other Arab states is not reaching the people in the street; certainly not yet. This is an important constraint on any euphoria concerning the effective changes in policy by some of the Governments.
Second, Israel is indeed making effective changes both in the economic as well as the security realm with many of the Arab States. There remains, however, little progress between Israel and the Palestinians. Ultimately, this standoff will need to be broken as well, so some form of viable modus vivendi can be created. At the moment, neither side appears genuinely interested in moving ahead in peace discussions. Meanwhile, the possibility of a two state-solution appears to be fading into the night.
Finally, there is a growing hostility developing on a global level vis-a-vis Israel, just at a time that segments of the Arab world appear to be adopting a politically more moderate and constructive approach to the Jewish State. While no one can or should be abandoning the needs and concerns of the Palestinians, it seems to be ironic that they are receiving more support from the European States, Russia, and the non-aligned left in the developing world than from many of their own brothers.
Within the European community, there is a genuine danger that at least some of the basis for the pro-Palestinian movement and support for BDS is emanating from European anti-Semitism now manifesting itself as anti-Israel activity. Having been largely dormant and quiescent, the classic models of anti-Semitism appear now to be emerging again in Western Europe.