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(Washington, D.C., February 22, 2021) Throughout the vary varied Arab world, there is one fundamental thing that unites most governments, irrespective of whether or not they are secular, nationalistic or radicalIslamist: using the ancient hatred of anti-Semitism as a way of unifying the people and diverting their attention away from domestic problems.

For far too long, irrespective of whether or not these governments have signed peace treaties with Israel, many promulgate classic anti-Semitism in their government-issued textbooks in the schools, the mosques and in the media. Many of these are governments have received billions of dollars in American aid, and in Israeli assistance in agriculture, medicine and high tech because they have signed peace treaties with Israel.

Yet, they continue to impose draconian anti-normalization laws, punishing their citizens with imprisonment, revocation of their citizenship and sometimes even execution, simply for engaging in normalized, direct people-to-people contact with Israelis. If they are not killed, many of these courageous dissidents are publicly shunned and humiliated with accusations of “treason.” This dooms their societies into a cycle of distrust and suspicion, reducing the possibility of a genuine peace that will endure for generations.

Thanks to Senators Cory Booker and Rob Portman this is all about to end. Today they introduced a bill that will require the State Department to issue, an annual report, as part of the Country Report on Human Rights, concerning the status of “anti-normalization laws” in each country within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; instances of persecution of their citizens or residents who engage in any way with Israeli citizens, or who call for oracle with Israel, or who visit the state of Israel; instances of extrajudicial retribution against their Arab residents and citizens who engage in any of these activities; evidence of steps taken by these governments towards permitting or encouraging people-to-people relations between their Arab citizens and Israelis; and finally: instances of Arab governments using their state-owned or state-operated media outlets to promote anti-Semitism.

We, at EMET, have spent months and months educating our elected officials about the risks of severe punishment that so many brave Arab dissidents expose themselves to just for wanting to engage in normal relations with Israelis. We believe that, as John F. Kennedy once said, “Peace does not exist in signed documents and treaties alone, but in the hearts and minds of people.” 

We are fortunate to have as part of our EMET team, Hussein Aboubakr Mansour. Hussein’s former life in Cairo serves as an abject case study for the horrific retribution, including imprisonment and physical torture that the Egyptian government had inflicted upon him, simply for an effort to find out about Israelis and Jews and reaching out to some of them in friendship.

Says Hussein, EMET’s Director of EMET’s Program for Emerging Democratic Voices from the Middle East, “This is a very encouraging step forward. For the State Department to scrutinize anti-normalization behavior by Arab governments is to offer some protection for those in civil society who want to help build bridges between societies. Hopefully this will encourage more Arab activists to try to guild ties with the Jewish state and can help in solving the difficult problem of anti-Semitism in the region.”

About the Author

The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) is a Washington, D.C. based think tank and policy center with an unabashedly pro-America and pro-Israel stance. EMET (which means truth in Hebrew) prides itself on challenging the falsehoods and misrepresentations that abound in U.S. Middle East policy.

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