What the Skeptics Can Learn from the Wedding Canopy in Abu Dhabi

Oct. 21 2022

In many ways, the wedding of Levi Duchman and Lea Hadad in September was a typical Orthodox Jewish wedding with a ḥuppah, traditional blessings, and much dancing. In other ways, writes Meir Soloveichik, it was an epochal event:

It was held in Abu Dhabi, the 1,500-person guest list made up of both Jews and Arabs, including Emirati royalty, with rabbis arriving from Israel, America, and Morocco. It was the largest Jewish event ever held in the Gulf region. One video captures a moment after the ḥuppah ceremony: the dancing with the groom in which all engage. As Jewish music is played and sung, we see Rabbi Duchman, a Ḥasid clad in kapote [caftan] and black hat, dancing in the center of the circle with an Emirati Arab guest, wrapped in his own traditional white thobe and headdress, with similarly clad Ḥasidim and Arabs surrounding them, holding hands and revolving to the rhythm.

It is striking therefore that as the wedding marked the anniversary of the historic agreement, the astounding success of the Abraham Accords still continues to be denied in publications whose own “expertise” was so challenged by the Accords themselves. We are told that the failure of the compact to address the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a fatal flaw. “Why the Abraham Accords Fall Short,” one headline in Foreign Policy declared several months ago, with the subhead: “Sidelining the Palestinians Is a Recipe for Violence, Not Peace.”

All this, of course, gets it exactly wrong. The further warming of the Emirati-Israeli relationship in the face of tensions with Palestinians—however regrettable those tensions might be—reflects the strength of the Accords, and their central insight: the fact that one localized conflict over the future of Judea and Samaria need not be “solved” in order to build bridges to the rest of the Arab world and to the Muslim world beyond.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Abraham Accords, Jewish-Muslim Relations, United Arab Emirates

Israel’s Friendship with Iraqi Kurds, and Why Iran Opposes It

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law “criminalizing normalization and establishment of relations with the Zionist entity,” banning even public discussion of ending the country’s 76-year state of war with Israel. The bill was a response to a conference, held a few months prior, addressing just that subject. Although the gathering attracted members of various religious and ethnic groups, it is no coincidence, writes Suzan Quitaz, that it took place in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

Himdad Mustafa, an independent researcher based in Erbil, to whom the law would be applied, noted: “When 300 people gathered in Erbil calling for peace and normalization with Israel, the Iraqi government immediately passed a law criminalizing ties with Israel and Israelis. The law is clearly aimed at Kurds.” . . . Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Coordination Framework), a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, slammed the conference as “disgraceful.”

Himdad explains that the criminalization of Israeli-Kurdish ties is primarily driven by “Kurd-phobia,” and that Kurd-hatred and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand.

One reason for that is the long history of cooperation Israel and the Kurds of Iraq; another is the conflict between the Kurdish local government and the Iran-backed militias who increasingly control the rest of the country. Quitaz elaborates:

Israel also maintains economic ties with Kurdistan, purchasing Kurdish oil despite objections from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A report in the Financial Times discusses investments by many Israeli companies in energy, development sectors, and communications projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to providing security training and purchasing oil. Moreover, in a poll conducted in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, 71 percent of Kurds supported normalization with Israel. The results are unsurprising since, historically, Israel has had cordial ties with the Kurds in a generally hostile region where Jews and Kurds have fought against the odds with the same Arab enemy in their struggles for a homeland.

The Iranian regime, through its proxies in the Iraqi government, is the most significant source of Kurd-phobia in Iraq and the driving factor fueling tensions. In addition to their explicit threat to Israel, Iranian officials frequently threaten the Kurdish region, and repeatedly accuse the Kurds of working with Israel.

Read more at Jersualem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, Kurds