At a rally in Erbil, Kurdistan, where 300 Sunni leaders, activists and military personnel expressed their support for normalizing relations with Israel
Chemi Peres, Chairman of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, addressed a rally of 300 Sunni community leaders and activists in Erbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan, calling for normalization with Israel.
The rally, the first such event of its kind, was organized by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications (CPC) this was the first such event of its kind. Iraq, a historic foe of Israel where Iran has a strong influence. The CPC advocates for normalising relations between Israel and Arab countries, alongside working to establish ties between civil society organisations.
The participants at the conference came from across Iraq, according to CPC founder Joseph Braude, a US citizen of Iraqi Jewish origin.
Addressing the plenary virtually, Peres used the platform to call to advance the vision of his father, the late Israeli President and statesman Shimon Peres, of normalization and peace across the region. Calling the event historic and inspirational, Chemi Peres sait it was an opportunity to solidify the historical ties between Iraq, or ancient Babylon, and the Jewish people, whose culture was influenced significantly by the ancient Jewish community which once thrived there.
He also noted the recent normalization trends as a model which he hopes can positively impact Israeli-Palestinian relations and the prospects for peace.
“Holding such a meeting alongside this initiative serves as an inspiration for many Israelis. As you surely know, many Israelis have deep historical and familial ties to Iraq, my own family included. There exists today, and there will continue to be, a deep connection between those residing in the Holy Land and those living in Iraq, the land of the two rivers, where the historic Jewish text, the Babylonian Talmud was written. This is a text which continues to play an enlightening role in the lives of our people to this day,” Peres said.
During the event, Wisam al-Hardan, a Sunni tribe leader from the Anbar province in Iraq, declared: ”We demand full diplomatic relations with the State of Israel and a new policy of normalization based on peole-to-peope relations with the citzens of that country.”
He criticized the law against delaing with Israelis and Zionists, saying it violates the fundamental rights human rights of Iraqis. ”The so-called ant-normalization law in Iraq are morally repugnant and have been repeateldly exposed by the international community as an assualt on human rights and freedom of expression and association,” said al-Hardan.
Sahar al-Tai, one of the attendees, reading a closing statement said: “We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords. Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel.”
“No force, local or foreign, has the right to prevent this call,” added Tai, head of research at the Iraqi federal government’s culture ministry.
However, Iraq’s federal government rejected the conference’s call for normalisation in a statement on Saturday and dismissed the gathering as an “illegal meeting”. The conference “was not representative of the population’s (opinion) and that of residents in Iraqi cities, in whose name these individuals purported to speak,” the statement said.
Iraq’s Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr urged the government to “arrest all the participants”, while Ahmed Assadi, an MP with the ex-paramilitary group Hashed al-Shaabi, branded them “traitors in the eyes of the law”.
Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Court announced Sunday that it issued arrest warrants for three people who publicly called for their country to make peace with Israel, including Sahar al-Tai.
So far, four Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — last year agreed to normalise ties with Israel in a US-sponsored process dubbed the Abraham Accords.