Emirati Builds Bridges of Peace Through Business
In the most recent installment of Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) IsraelCast’s Abraham Accord Series, host Steven Shalowitz sat down with Thani Al-Shirawi to discuss what the Accords mean for both Israeli and Emirati communities.
The Deputy Managing Director of the Al-Shirawi Group and an innovative business leader within the Emirati community, Al-Shirawi spoke fondly of his interactions with Israelis throughout his life and optimistically considered the newfound capability to build bridges between the UAE and Israel in the business world.
He recounted his first interaction with Israeli dealers during a global marketing conference. He claims that the two countries were among the best dealers at the conference, and despite a sense of healthy competition, they freely exchanged best practices. It is apparent from his experience that businesses in Israel and the UAE did not view themselves as adversaries even before the official agreement, and the Abraham Accords allow for expansive opportunities both for business and friendship.
Al-Shirawi spoke to the importance of being a propagator of peace. He believes that the signing of the Abraham Accords is just the first step, and now it is the people’s turn to build the relationships and create a “new band of brothers.” He wants to turn talk into action through successful business partnerships, and he believes that others will follow suit.
When asked about specific areas of cooperation, Al-Sharawi said he is looking forward to the environmental sphere and exploring Israel’s success in water filtration technology. Both the UAE and Israel face the problem of water scarcity and filtration, and while the technology is emerging in Dubai and other parts of the UAE, businesses and industry can benefit from the Israeli mastery of this technology.
He also discussed cooperation at the cultural level, saying that it is more than just signing contracts and memorandums of understanding (MOUs), but a beautiful display of learning and unity between Emirati and Israeli communities. He noted the importance of places such as the Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith center that serves as a beacon of coexistence, peace, and goodwill. Places like this emphasize the familial bond between peoples that Al-Shirawi believes has existed for a long time.
While he acknowledges the years of mistrust and misinformation between Israelis and Emiratis, Al-Shirawi believes that it’s time to turn the page and start anew. Rather than focusing on the misconceptions about the UAE, the conversation must shift towards commonalities, so we can move forward together and benefit from one another.
His desire for peace is in balance with his business mindset, as he cited the influence of Sheikh Zayed: “G-d has given us the gift of oil, and it is not only for me, it is for everybody.” The Abraham Accords presents the opportunity to share wealth and prosperity between the two countries and work towards peace for a better world.
Near the end of his conversation with Shalowitz, Al-Shirawi provided an analogy to the parting of the sea: G-d parted the sea and provided the path toward peace, but it is the people who must take the first step and keep going. He alluded to their courage to step onto the seabed and move forward, yet moving forward is the only option toward a better world. He believes the Abraham Accords parted the sea; now it’s up to us to take the next steps.
JNF-USA’s IsraelCast comes out every other Wednesday, available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Visit jnf.org/israelcast.