March 6, 2022 — Abu Dhabi
American Jewish Committee (AJC ) officially opened its first office in an Arab country, AJC Abu Dhabi: The Sidney Lerner Center for Arab-Jewish Understanding, on March 2, with a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony in the UAE capital.
“AJC played an essential role over the years in laying the foundation for the Abraham Accords. I cannot overstate the significance of its contribution, which makes its new office here so natural and also so necessary, as we work together to expand regional peace and understanding,” said Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee of the UAE Federal National Council. He joined with AJC CEO David Harris, AJC Abu Dhabi Director Ambassador Marc Sievers, and AJC Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer Jason Isaacson to cut the ribbon at the entrance to the new office.
“The opening of AJC Abu Dhabi is the culmination of a process of trust-building and cooperation in pursuit of common goals that began years, in fact decades, before the Abraham Accords,” said Isaacson, who has led AJC consultations in Bahrain, the UAE, and other Arab states for more than 25 years. “In a region and a world that has known too much war, it manifests our commitment, in concert with partners in the Arab world and Israel, to wage peace.”
At a reception celebrating the opening of AJC Abu Dhabi, AJC CEO David Harris addressed the diplomats, business leaders, Emirati and Israeli diplomats-in-training, and Gulf Jewish community representatives who filled the Four Seasons Hotel ballroom. Diplomats from 12 countries -- Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Poland, Bahrain, the UAE, and the United States -- attended the reception.
“We are the answer to war -- all of us in this room. In whatever language we speak, we are pursuers of peace. Real peace -- not just signed pieces of paper, but the actualization of peace, mutual respect, mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation, coexistence, standing up for one another. Those are the elements of peace,” Harris declared.
The AJC Abu Dhabi opening reception came during a weeklong visit to the Gulf, first to Bahrain and then to the UAE. In Manama, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa received the AJC delegation at the Royal Palace and spoke of the importance of U.S.-Bahrani friendship and partnership, and the need for greater regional cooperation in the Middle East. AJC honored the King of Bahrain with its Architect of Peace Award in 2019.
In Bahrain the AJC group also met with Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, Advisor to His Majesty the King for Diplomatic Affairs; Shaikh Mohamed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister; Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Undersecretary for Political Affairs; and Ambassador Houda Nonoo, a leader in Bahrain’s Jewish community who served as the country’s ambassador to the U.S. (2008-2013). They also met with U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Maggie Nardie, Israeli Ambassador to Bahrain Eitan Na'eh, and French Deputy Chief of Mission Emmanuel Mayer, and visited the newly restored House of Ten Commandments synagogue -- the only working synagogue in the Gulf.
Following the one-day visit to Bahrain, the AJC delegation arrived in the UAE, where they met in Abu Dhabi with Dr. Al Nuaimi, Minister of Education Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, and Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.
The group also met with U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Sean Murphy and Israeli Ambassador Amir Hayek.
At the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy (AGDA) AJC CEO David Harris and Nickolay Mladenov, AGDA Acting Director General and Director of Research and Analysis, who formerly served as UN Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process, engaged in a conversation with Emirati and Israeli diplomatic cadets studying at the UAE institution.
Based in Abu Dhabi, AGDA is the principal training center for Emiratis pursuing a career in diplomacy and continuing education for UAE diplomats. Last September, on the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords signing, AGDA and AJC launched an educational cooperation that aims to explore the multidimensional components of emerging Emirati-Israeli relations by engaging the next generation of American, Israeli, and Emirati leaders in political, economic, scientific, and diplomatic discussions on the future of the Middle East.
The AJC delegation also visited Dubai Expo 2020, including the Israeli Pavilion -- the presence of which was announced by UAE authorities even before the historic Abraham Accords normalization of relations with Israel in 2020.