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Diplomatic Spotlight: Moment of silence at iftar dinner in DC

Diplomatic Spotlight: Moment of silence at iftar dinner in DC
National U.S. - Arab Chamber hosts thirteenth annual iftar dinner at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, DC.

Chiefs of mission from Arab nations celebrated the Muslim holy month of Ramadan alongside U.S. government officials and businesspeople at the National U.S. – Arab Chamber of Commerce’s 13th annual iftar dinner on March 26th.

But amid the celebratory mood and words of praise for NUSACC’s role in promoting relations between the United States and Arab world, participants in the dinner, held at the opulent Ritz Carlton Hotel, held the people of Gaza and the extreme hardship they are facing in their thoughts.

NUSACC iftar dinners “are always contemplative, but this year’s gathering was especially respectful, acknowledging the ongoing suffering in Gaza and elsewhere,” NUSACC said in a statement.

From left, NUSACC’s President & CEO David Hamod, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the
Environment Jose Fernandez, Chef and founder of the World Central Kitchen José Andrés Jordanian Ambassador to the US Dina Kawar.

“Ramadan is a time of celebration, but it is also a time of reflection and remembrance,” said NUSACC President and CEO David Hamod.

“This has been a very challenging year in the Middle East and North Africa, with more than 50,000 people losing their lives to wars, failed migration, disease, starvation, and natural disasters,” he said. He concluded his remarks with a call for a moment of silence for all the victims of violence, hunger, illness and disasters in the MENA region.

Renowned chef José Andrés, who has restaurants in cities across the United States, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York, was seated at the main table. Perhaps best known now as the founder of World Central Kitchen, the non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides food relief to people in war zones, affected by natural disasters or community crises, Andrés spoke of the security challenges inherent in delivering food aid in conflict zones such as Gaza – and the dedication of WCK workers to effectively carrying out their dangerous mission.

In March, WCK delivered several hundreds of tons of food and water by ship to Gaza, where international officials have warned of famine.

Days after the iftar dinner, seven WCK workers were killed in strikes carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces as they delivered food aid in central Gaza.

From left, Tunisian Ambassador to the US Hanéne Tajouri Bessassi, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves.

More than a dozen Arab chiefs of mission representing the MENA region attended the dinner, along with U.S. government and international business officials.

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment José Fernandez hailed NUSACC “as a bridge between the United States and the Arab world” and said its “annual Iftar … is just one example of the Chamber’s outreach.”

The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates was the lead sponsor of the dinner. Other top sponsors included Abaris Capital Advisors, LLC; the American Council of Life Insurers; Alsulaiman Group; Assured Communications Advisors; Boeing; the Shafik Gabr Foundation; Islamic Services of America; Kuwait Finance House; and the Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry.


Karin Zeitvogel

Karin Zeitvogel started her journalism career at the BBC World Service and has worked since then for international media outlets and organizations including Agence France-Presse, U.N. agencies, Voice of America, RIA Novosti and the National Institutes of Health. She's lived in nine countries, speaks fluent French and German, good Spanish and a smattering of other languages.