June 7, 2021
American Jewish Committee (AJC) has opened an office in the United Arab Emirates and named Ambassador Marc Sievers as the office’s inaugural director. AJC Abu Dhabi: The Sidney Lerner Center for Arab-Jewish Understanding is the leading global Jewish advocacy organization’s first office in an Arab country, and its 13th overseas post.
“AJC Abu Dhabi is truly historic,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “It will enable AJC to expand on our decades of bridge-building in the region and create a wider network of stakeholders in the new relationships made possible by the Abraham Accords.”
The announcement that AJC’s Abu Dhabi office is now open came in a conversation today at the 2021 AJC Virtual Global Forum between Jason Isaacson, AJC Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer, and Ambassador Sievers. The organization initiated discussions with UAE officials in 2019 on the possibility of establishing a permanent presence there, and announced in September 2020 that the government welcomed AJC’s plans.
“I’ve had the privilege in my career to open doors and open minds across the Middle East and North Africa over more than 25 years, building trusting relationships with governments, and business and civil society leaders, addressing misconceptions about the Jewish people and educating ourselves about Arab realities, introducing the bold idea of common interests and potential synergies with Israel,” said Isaacson.
Among the many American envoys AJC delegations have encountered in the region over the years, “one who stood out as the consummate diplomat, deeply knowledgeable, pragmatic, straightforward, and persuasive, was Marc Sievers,” said Isaacson.
Sievers, who recently retired after 38 years in the U.S. foreign service, served in 12 posts in ten countries, including in Rabat, Ankara, Algiers, Cairo, Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Baghdad, and Muscat. He served as Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman until November 2019.
“I am deeply honored to be the first director of AJC Abu Dhabi. This is a very exciting moment, a unique opportunity,” said Sievers. “It’s wonderful to be based in Abu Dhabi not long after the Abraham Accords and the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.” Sievers thanked the UAE government and its ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, “for their support for this new venture in the Arab world.” Ambassador Sievers also thanked the Sultanate of Oman for the warm welcome and cooperation extended to him and his family and for Oman’s longstanding support for dialogue and peace.
The AJC office in Abu Dhabi is named after the late Sidney Lerner, who, together with his widow, Helaine Lerner, have been longtime friends and partners of AJC. Mr. Lerner had been particularly focused on advancing relations and understanding among the Muslim, Arab, and Jewish worlds, believing this can be an important contribution to advancing regional and global peace and harmony.
The AJC office in Abu Dhabi will, among other activities:
-- Promote and advance Arab-Jewish and Muslim-Jewish dialogue, mutual respect, and cooperation;
-- Represent AJC to governments, civil society, business leaders, and media throughout the Gulf, and relay regional concerns to AJC constituencies in the United States and globally;
-- Combat antisemitism wherever it appears;
-- Support the further development of the Abraham Accords and strengthening of relations between Israel and the states of the Arab Gulf based on mutual interests;
-- Partner with Jewish communities of the region – in particular, with the Manama-based Association of Gulf Jewish Communities and the Dubai-based Jewish Council of the Emirates – to preserve, celebrate, and enrich Jewish life in the Gulf.