In 2019, the New York Times published a report describing, “A small group of liberal-minded individuals” who push towards cooperation with Israel because they think that boycotting Israel has failed, “The Arab Thinkers." The group calls itself “The Arab Council for Regional Integration,” it includes obscure individuals. However, the report portrays them as brave who risk everything due to their opposition to the public opinion in the Arab world against Israel due to “Unreasonable” reasons, according to the newspaper.
While the narrative of the article serves the international messages to Israel, there was no indication that the Israeli government was behind this effort, at least superficially. It was presented by the group “The Center for Peace Communication” (CPC), the organization that sponsored the conference of this group.
The aforementioned center did not receive much attention until September 2021, as controversary arose after organizing “Peace and Recovery” conference in Erbil, where more than 300 Iraqi people were invited including tribal sheiks and calling for normalization between Iraq and Israel, to the first time in Iraq. The concluding statement of the conference said, “We call access to Abraham Accords, which stipulated to establish diplomatic relations between signing parties and Israel, we also demand to normalize relations with Israel and to have a new policy based on civil relations with the people of Israel in order to achieve development and prosperity.” This has led the government of Kurdistan to abandon the conference and open an investigation into it.
In last January, Al Arabiya channel, which is part of MBC, broadcasted a series of 30 short episodes entitled “Whispered from Gaza." It showed testimonies from Gazans telling different details about their lives inside the Gaza Strip under Hamas government. Today, as the war worsens on Gaza and is becoming top news all over the world, people are showing scenes of the series blaming Hamas for how things turned to be.
The show focused on testimonies that describe “Violations of Hamas” against civilians and completely ignored the Israel siege imposed on Gaza since 2007 and its impact on the deteriorating economic and social aspects of life, for example, one of the testimonies said, “I want Gaza to be free from Hamas… we will then have tourists and a theatre."
The show, which was co-produced by journalists from Times of Israel, is one of the most prominent and widely spread productions of CPC, which identifies its mission to “Resolve identity conflict in the Middle East and North Africa-whether between monotheistic faiths, competing sects, conflicting ideologies, or national movements- it is important to build national support for reconciliation. Where diverse populations are invited to compromise and partnership, the countries have the freedom to negotiate these compromises, then new civil relations will become possible. Without this support, the culture of intransigence and exclusion obstruct diplomatic progress and frustrates Civil society.”
Although the center is registered as a nonprofit in the U.S., and it does not show clearly that its mission is to polish the image of Israel and bring it closer to its Arab neighbors, all its 9 projects revolve around Israel and normalizations efforts and the benefits of peace agreements with Israel.
Along with “Whispered from Gaza,” CPC, with its motto “Safety and Prosperity require peace among nations,” has worked on several occasions to promote Israeli narratives through media, social media, and artworks, like the song “Peace Neighbors” which Tunisian singer Noamane Chaari and Israeli singer Ziv Yehezkel both sang in 2020.
In all projects, websites, and social media of CPC, the center focuses in its speech on peaceful language, it always calls for the “Establishment of peace between national and ending hostilities between Israelis and Arabs, which promoted their initiatives among Israeli organizations to use the arguments to support the idea that Israel seeks peace and that Palestinians are the ones to refuse that. So, the question is, to what extent are these goals consistent with the center’s management?
The Peace Communication Center is chaired by Joseph Braude, whereas the board of management consists of 4 members, Denis Rous – Board Director, Georgette Bennett, Heath Grant, and Jonathan Schanzer. Along with several employees, most are Israelis, who are closely connected to Israeli lobbies, while others promote narratives and opinions that serve the Israeli narrative.
Joseph Braude: Founder of the Peace Communications Center Supporting Israel’s Ambitions
CPC was established by writer and businessman Joseph Braude, who is American-Jewish with Iraqi origins. He is popular among activists in regard to normalization between Israel and Arab countries in the U.S. He is also a fellow researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, which was established and still funded by AIPAC, the biggest Israeli lobby in the world.
Braude has a leading role in what is called the “Arab Council for Regional Integration” has conducted several major events with prominent politicians in the United Kingdom, U.S., and France to convince decision-makers to allocate resources for “legitimizing” Israel in the Middle East, which is funded by Washington Institute for Near East Studies as well.
Braude’s activities are completely consistent with his book “Reclamation: A Cultural-policy of Arab-Israeli Partnership," which was published by the Washington Institute for Near East Studies in 2019, in which he promoted the “Outside-in” approach to confront the Palestinian rejection of Israel, claiming that the Palestinians will not give in to Israel’s ambitions unless other Arab countries normalize their relations with Tel-Aviv and give up on the Palestinian cause.
The Washington Institute for Near East Studies describes on its website the book of Braude to be “The first step towards establishing CPC.” Braude called in his book to create a list of Arab voices supporting normalization, and urged to support these names, “The Americans and Israelis need to know more about them.” He concluded by calling for the establishment of a “center” to coordinate normalization efforts, which was presented in around 200 pages of his book. This center has become CPC.
Dennis Ross: A Former Negotiating Mediator Aligned With Israel
Denis Ross, the former U.S. ambassador in Tel-Aviv, chairs the Board of Directors of CPC, he is also a consultant and fellow at Washington Institute for Near East Studies. Before joining the Institute in 2011, he worked for 2 years as a special assistant to former U.S. president Barak Obama, and senior director of the National Security Council for the Central Region, he also worked for a year as a special consultant for Secretary of State at that time, Hillary Clinton.
Ross has played a leading role in the policies of the U.S. in the Middle East on different occasions. He played a role in the Oslo II temporary agreement in 1995, and in the Hebron agreement in 1997, he also facilitated the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan in 1994 and worked hard to try to bring Israel and Syria together.
Before his role as a special coordinator of the Middle East during Clinton’s presidency, he worked as a director of policy planning at the State Department during Bush's first term. He played a prominent role in the U.S. policy towards the Soviet Union, and in unifying Germany and including it in NATO.
In a paper published in 2006 entitled, ”The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," John Mearsheimer, a political science professor at Chicago University, and Steven Walt, Dean of Kennedy Academy at Harvard prepared one of the literature reviews that dismantled Israeli lobbies in the U.S. and their impact on the U.S. foreign policies.
In the 83-page paper, the researchers described Ross as an active member of the “Israeli Lobby” in the United States. On the other hand, Ross criticized the writers of the paper and told The New York Sun that the paper reflects a sad lack of knowledge by the researchers on this subject, describing the paper as “astonishing in its lack of seriousness” and that it is an attempt “to adopt a point of view and give it academic legitimacy.”
But in a memoir resealed by the U.S. Peace Institute including Samuel (Sandy) Burger, Clinton’s advisor on National Security of peace processes between Israeli and Palestinians, he said that in a certain stage of Camp David negotiations in July 2000, Denis Ross made a statement saying, ”If Ehud Barak offers anything other than what is stipulated in the articles of the agreement, I will be totally against it.”
In 2008, Time Magazine reported that former colleague of Ross, ambassador Daniel Curtis, published a study that included complaints or several Arab and American diplomatic negotiators which said that Ross was viewed as biased towards Israel and was not “An honest mediator.”
In addition to that, Ross wrote a part of Obama’s speech before the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee during the presidential campaign in 2008. The speech said that “Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel” and it should not be divided again. In November of the same year, the English-speaking Israeli Jerusalem Post newspaper that these are “facts” according to Ross.
Jonathan Schanzer: An Israeli Defender Calls for Bombing Hospitals in Gaza
Another CPC member of the board of directors who strongly supports Israel and its policies is Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the foundation of “Defense of Democracies.” He previously worked as a terrorism fund analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department, where he played a role in “Instrumental Role of Identifying several Terrorism Financiers,” according to his bio on the center’s website.
Jonathan has written hundreds of articles on the Middle East, along with research papers and a book, he also testifies before the U.S. Congress and publishes opinion articles in different U.S. and International newspapers. He regularly appears in a podcast broadcasted by the National Jewish Fund, an organization established in 1901 and facilitated building Jewish settlements on the historical land of Palestine in the West Bank and financially supported the Israeli army on several occasions, like the First Intifada and the War on Gaza in 2014.
Schanzer has always defended Israel and justified its aggressive measures and violations. For example, in the events of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem in 2021, Schanzer described in an article in the Jerusalem Post that the narrative which says “Israel’s legal decision to expel Arab families of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem is the flame which led to the late hostile acts” is a false narrative to justify “A violent Palestinian or Arab Israeli organized campaign.”
He also wrote that signs of tension were obvious long before the evacuation processes, so they were not the reason behind the events. According to Schanzer, there was “madness on TikTok in April by young Arab activists against Israel. Arab citizens in Israel and people of Gaza were very thirsty during Ramadan, which is a time for ongoing tension in the area. In addition to the Palestinian frustration after canceling the first Parliamentarian elections in over 15 years, and Hamas’s attempts to prove its superiority after being marginalized after the canceled elections through thousands of rockets ready to be launched”, all of these were factors to explode the situation in Sheikh Jarrah, not the Israeli measures.
In the same year, Schanzer published a book entitled “Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and 11 days of War” where he attacked the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and described it as a “Corrupt Agency," trying to fire the Israeli public opinion against it by accusing it of Antisemitism without providing solid evidence, he also wrote in his book that UNRWA has close relations with the “Terrorists” in the Strip, in an attempt to justify any attacks that may be directed towards it.
In the context of the recent Israeli war on Gaza, Schanzer considered Al-Shifa Hospital to be a legitimate military target to the Israeli army, repeating the army’s claims that the hospital is “Hamas’s center of leadership.” He confirmed in a series of tweets that Mohammed Deif, commander of Al-Qassam brigades, and Yahya Al Sinwar, commander of Hamas in Gaza, along with other Hamas fighters are there in the hospital. He called upon journalists to start gathering facts about the alleged center of leadership beneath the hospital, in addition to international legislation regarding the human shields to avoid “Media Failure” according to him, and describing what Israel will do to the hospital as a war crime.
Accordingly, although the goals of the CPC are built to promote reinforcement of bringing the Arab and Israeli nations together and dealing with Israel as a fact that can be cooperated with to “Achieve progress and prosperity,” the funding authorities of the center and its management are directly or indirectly involved in the colonial Israeli policies, hostile to its neighbors.