The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – Overcoming Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism: The Abraham Accords

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: 120 years of Antisemitic Propaganda

Panel Summary – Overcoming Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism: The Abraham Accords

The symposium’s lunch roundtable in the second half of the conference analyzed how historic accords between Israel and Arab states served to help combat antisemitism worldwide. The panelists, Ambassador Dennis Ross, Ed Husain, and Michael Doran, participated in a conversation led by the Director of the Center for Jewish Civilization, Dr. Bruce Hoffman. An underlying current of the panelists’ opening presentations was that the regional shift to see Israel as a contributor to the shared Abrahamic and Quranic heritage of the Middle East did not happen in a vacuum; rather, it was a process over the last seven years primarily led by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. From a 2015 celebration of Hanukkah between King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain and a rabbi from New York to the thriving Jewish communities living and practicing their faith in the UAE, there are many cultural- and faith-based narratives that laid the foundation for the Abraham Accords, despite the extremist messaging from Iran and al-Qaeda claiming that Jews and Christians don’t belong in the Arabian Peninsula. Our panelists noted that establishing normal relations with Israel from the ground up, rather than the bureaucratic top-down ‘normalization’ of relations, is opening the door for Saudi Arabia to gradually publicize its relationship with Israel – in pursuit of its broader attempts to increase tourism and influence – thus opening the door for other states like Jordan and Egypt to follow suit. However, the US is seemingly missing an opportunity to use the Abraham Accords as a springboard for creating a new security dynamic in the Middle East, with its allies – Israel in particular – stepping up to combat Iranian influence through regional cooperation. This is key to countering the Iranian critique of Israel as an illegitimate state, especially as the US’s own conception that progress cannot be made in the Middle East until the Israeli-Palestinian problem is resolved additionally hinders regional cooperation. Yet it is important to note that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict undoubtedly amplifies tension, China is inserting its influence in the region, and the Biden Administration must weigh its choices with the risk of consequences related to Iranian oil or military escalation if they take a more aggressive policy stance. Our panelists sought to balance sobering reality, driven by recent headlines, with hope for the future, leaning on the shared heritage and historic tolerance and diversity of the Middle Eastern region.

Notable Quotes

Dennis Ross – “I get asked the question, ‘How are the Abraham Accords changing the region?’ And what I say is that it’s a good question but not the right one. The right question is, ‘How did the region change to make the Abraham Accords possible?’ And what we know, what we see, is that increasingly, especially among the Gulf States but not exclusively there, you have more and more Arab States come to the realization that they have their own interests that they need to pursue, and they looked at Israel as actually being a country that could contribute greatly to that.”

Ed Husain – “The Abraham Accords was called a word called Abraham for a reason: and that is because there is a common inheritance across the Middle East that celebrates our fathers – Ishmael and Isaac. Both lines, as the Bible says, will produce great civilizations and great nations. And we see that Biblical and Quranic inheritance at play here.”

Michael Doran – “There is an opportunity that’s being missed by the Biden Administration right now with regard to the Abraham Accords. When they came into power, they didn’t even want to acknowledge the Abraham Accords; they downplayed it because it was an achievement of the other team, an achievement that they had always said was impossible without an advance on the Palestinian track. And they’ve come around on that, which is all for the better, and they now are embracing normalization. But what’s missing from their approach is the security dimension, a full development in the security dimension. They don’t want to actually aggressively contain Iran. So the Abraham Accords is there as an integration of Israel into the region – especially an economic integration, but it’s only partially there with regard to missile defense. We can now see the foundation being laid for a region-wide missile defense network, but you can’t have a real containment of Iran without aggressive countermeasures. And I think that this is hindering the development of the Abraham Accords as the nucleus of a really serious defense relationship.”

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University

Bruce Hoffman is the Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis senior fellow for counterterrorism and homeland security at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has been studying terrorism and insurgency for four decades. He is a tenured professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he is the director of the Center for Jewish Civilization. Hoffman was previously director of both the Center for Security Studies and the Security Studies program from 2010-2017.

Ambassador Dennis Ross, Georgetown University

Ambassador Dennis Ross is Counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process within the H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians to reach the 1995 Interim Agreement, successfully brokering the 1997 Hebron Accord, and facilitating the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Ambassador Ross has worked closely with Secretaries of State James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright. He was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton.

Ed Husain, Georgetown University

Ed Husain is a British writer and political advisor who has worked with leaders and governments across the world. He has held senior fellowships at think tanks in London and New York, including at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) at the height of the Arab uprisings (2010-2015). While at CFR, his policy innovation memo led to the US-led creation of a Geneva-based global fund to help counter terrorism. Husain was a senior advisor to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (2015-2018). From 2018-2021 he completed his doctoral studies on Western philosophy and Islam under the direction of the English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton. He is the author of The Islamist (Penguin, 2007), The House of Islam: A Global History (Bloomsbury, 2018), and Among the Mosques (Bloomsbury, 2021). His writing has been shortlisted for the George Orwell Prize. A regular contributor to the Spectator magazine, he has appeared on the BBC and CNN and has written for the Telegraph, The Times, the New York Times, the Guardian, and other publications. He has traveled to more than forty countries.

Michael Doran, Hudson Institute

Michael Doran is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East at Hudson Institute. He specializes in Middle East security issues and co-hosts the Counterbalance podcast. In the administration of President George W. Bush, Doran served in the White House as a senior director in the National Security Council, where he was responsible for helping to devise and coordinate United States strategies on a variety of Middle East issues, including Arab-Israeli relations and US efforts to contain Iran and Syria. He also served in the Bush administration as a senior advisor in the State Department and a deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Pentagon. Born in Kokomo, Indiana, Doran went to elementary school in Carmel, outside of Indianapolis, before his family moved to Fullerton, California, where he graduated from Sunny Hills High School. He received a BA from Stanford University and an MA and PhD in Near Eastern studies from Princeton University. Before coming to Hudson, Doran was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has also held teaching positions at New York University, Princeton University, and the University of Central Florida. His latest book, Ike’s Gamble, was published by Free Press in 2016. He appears frequently on television, and has published extensively in Foreign Affairs, the American Interest, Commentary, Mosaic, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.