An Israeli and an Emirati made history earlier this year when they led the first-ever delegation from the United Arab Emirates to participate in the March of the Living campaign at a concentration camp in Poland.
The Jewish-Israeli entrepreneur – Eitan Neishlos – and the former Emirati lawmaker – Ahmed Obaid Almansoori – drew international attention when they jointly lit the Torch of Remembrance while pledging “Never Means Never” in Hebrew, English and Arabic.
“It was very important for me to go there and also to show my commitment, my solidarity, even I made my speech in Arabic there,” Al Mansoori told ALL ISRAEL NEWS in an interview with senior correspondent Tal Heinrich.
He recalled that his visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland took place during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
“It was very important just to be there in-person and with my identity. I was fasting at that time... We believe that the prayers in Ramadan are much more blessed and can be heard more when you are fasting, sacrificing your time,” he said.
Referring to the Holocaust as the biggest crime ever committed, Al Mansoori expressed his disdain for comments made recently by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who said that Israel has committed “50 Holocausts” against the Palestinians.
“You cannot politicize the issue of Holocaust,” he stressed. “There is no equivalent to it as a crime against humanity, which was unfortunately, against the Jews.”
Al Mansoori is a former politician who served as member of the UAE Federal National Council. A thought leader in the region, he decided to dedicate his efforts to promoting peace, coexistence and tolerance throughout the Middle East and the world. He is the founder of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai, which is one of the world’s leading hubs for coexistence and culture, as well as for Jewish history and Holocaust education in the MENA region.
“When we talk about peace, it's not only peace at political and economic level or at the military or security level. It's a complete peace with compassion, with feeling for one another,” Al Mansoori noted.
The moving initiative to travel to Poland came from Neishlos. At 42, he has established himself as young leader and entrepreneur in the Jewish world. He is the president and founder of investment house Neishlos Capital and its philanthropic arm, which advocates for Israel, combats anti-Semitism and provides Holocaust education. He was recently appointed founder and ambassador of International March of the Living in the Gulf states and is currently based in Dubai.
Later this year, Neishlos and Al Mansoori will host the first March of the Living event in the Gulf for the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues that took place in Germany on the night on Nov. 9, 1938. Neishlos and Al Mansoori are planning to illuminate a synagogue, church and mosque in Abu Dhabi. In addition, they will fly in a Tunisian Holocaust survivor to speak with students representing many religious denominations.
“Some other project that we are working on is the restoration of children's shoes at Auschwitz to ensure that Holocaust deniers can never bury the truth,” Neishlos revealed.
Their important shared initiatives have been made possible thanks to the historic Abraham Accords that were signed two years ago. At their core, the peace deals were based upon the concept of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” However, a new looming agreement between world powers and Iran may soon pose a new challenge to this partnership.
Earlier this week, the UAE announced that it is set to reopen an embassy in Iran and reinstate its ambassador. According to Reuters, the UAE is now the top exporter to Iran, with bilateral trade rising to $21.4 billion in four months from March this year, compared to just $7 billion for all of 2019.
Nevertheless, both Neishlos and Al Mansoori feel positive about the stamina of the Israeli-Emirati alliance to withstand the changing regional dynamics and interests.
“I'm a businessman, not a politician. But that's it. Peace equals prosperity,” said Neishlos. “Why does Iran have enemies? Of course, there are geopolitical considerations, but I think at the heart of the matter lies a common shared value in peace. I'm concerned that Iran is not a party to that common value. They've made it very clear their support of Hezbollah, the support of the Houthis in Yemen. At the end of the day, the Iran deal, whether it's signed or whether it isn't signed, it stands in such contrast to the Abraham Accords, which were signed by the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, by the leaders of Israel in good faith, with trust and a shared belief in a better future.”
As a resident of Dubai, Neishlos emphasized that he has “trust in the leadership of the United Arab Emirates to do what is right for the region, for Israel and for the alliance. They have proven their commitment and their loyalty to Israel and to the Jewish people and to the stability and to the prosperity of the region.”
Al Mansoori said the dynamics of the Middle East are complicated.
“When you make wars, you make enemies. But when you make it involved in peace, you make more enemies. So, we are trying to reduce these things as we try to exhaust all diplomatic efforts,” he said.
On the shaping deal with Iran, he said, “We have concerns. We are very concerned. But at the same time, we trust our judgment with our capabilities.”
When asked where they wish to see the Abraham Accords going next, Al Mansoori said he hopes to see other countries joining. He believes it is only a matter of time before this happens.
“The Abraham Accords is, of course, named after the biblical patriarch Abraham,” Neishlos said. “And we all know that his sons didn't get along and they didn't build a shared future together. I feel that we can correct this mistake of the past, and we can make sure that our children continue on the path of peace. That means more cooperation. It means more partnership. It means more economic integration, more economic interaction. The future holds so much potential.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.