The Puerto Rican-American General Who Gave the Abraham Accords Their Name

Jan. 12 2022

When he retired from the army as a two-star general last fall, Miguel Correa had spent years in special operations, trained troops for winter warfare in Alaska, and served as a military attaché in Abu Dhabi. In his final posting, to the National Security Council, he helped negotiate the peace treaty between Israel and the United Emirates, which he suggested should be called the Abraham Accords. Correa was born in Puerto Rico and spent part of his childhood in the U.S. and some in Kuwait—where his father worked out of the American embassy as an engineer, and where Miguel would return during the Gulf War—before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for high school. Gabby Deutsch writes:

Correa completed eighth and ninth grades at the American School of Kuwait, which catered to the kids of diplomats and wealthy Kuwaitis. It was there that Correa learned Arabic and studied Islam, and it was also the first time he learned about Israel. Sort of.

“You spent the first three or four days of every single semester taking your textbook, and you’d have a teacher at the front, and there was a Ministry of Education [directive] that would mandate what parts of your book you had to take out,” Correa recalled. Armed with a pair of scissors and a marker, he went through his textbooks, looking for offensive language and imagery. Any depictions of the Prophet Mohammad were cut out. Maps that showed the state of Israel were colored over in dark permanent marker.

A couple years later, he found himself staring at an Israeli flag hanging in a friend’s dorm room at the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, where he attended high school as a boarding student. He did not understand. “I remember taking this all in, like, ‘OK, what does this mean? He doesn’t have horns,’” Correa said of the first time he met Greg Wald, a Jewish teammate on the Pine Crest football team. Back in Kuwait, “anything that was derogatory to Jews was good.” His friends had taught him curse words in Arabic: inta kalb. You’re a dog. Inta yahoodi. You’re Jewish. “And that was at the same level,” Correa said. “Think about that.”

Correa’s understanding of the Arab world helped him during his stint in the United Arab Emirates, where he built the relationships that helped him during the normalization talks:

Throughout the negotiations, the Emiratis were not talking to the Israelis — everyone went through the Americans, and for the Emiratis, Correa was a key point of contact. . . .

The name came to Correa out of nowhere: the Abraham Accords. “All three of the religions have a different name. It’s translated in their religion, and we immediately make this people-to-people and religious,” rather than just a political agreement, said Correa. . . . Correa had insisted that the name be plural, aware of the fact that future normalization agreements might follow if his central thesis—that the Arab world could befriend Israel without solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—proved correct.

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Read more at Circuit

More about: Abraham Accords, Arab anti-Semitism, Kuwait, U.S. Foreign policy, United Arab Emirates

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion