Monday, April 13, 2015

Walking down J street, part three

"One thing you must understand is that when you support the BDS movement, you actually are helping Netanyahu, because Netanyahu is playing on that fear, that almost every Israeli Jewish citizen is feeling, that there is a possibility that the world will just turn against us,"— Stav Shaffir, ZU member of the Knesset.
That was a primary theme of the J-Street convention. I heard this over and over again.  The vast majority of the attendees weren’t anti-Israel, they were anti-Bibi, and that was the general consensus: Israel good, Bibi bad. Another consensus was the necessity of a two state solution. What wasn’t agreed to is what shape of the borders for the two (three?) states are going to be.
The first session I attended the first morning was on “Israel as a neighbor”, which was presented by the New Israel fund. The speakers all were in favor of land swaps to keep most of the settlements intact. , it was the same with the   main “plenary session”, called “The Choices Ahead, ” which had  seven members of the Knesset (by my count, nearly a fifth of the entire   Israeli   parliamentary opposition was there)   talking, and they all were very “hawkish” on security and lamented they didn’t get that message across.
Nobody was in favor of the green line as a permanent border. Not even the Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who specifically stated that Israel needed secure borders.   However, no speaker that I heard, and I missed quite a few panels so I can’t be certain about this, came out in favor of the Hamas plan or going back to Folk Bernadotte’s   “1935 borders.”
What everyone did come out against a ONE state solution that the Arabs and the BDS crowd (and Bennett) are in favor of. Nobody came out in favor of a binational state of Palestine from the river to the sea (although Noam Sheizaf, the guy from +953, came close.)
The panels that I was most interested were the Arab-centric ones. The panel entitled “Gaza: The Human and Political Costs of Deprivation and Disunity” is a case in point. Yes, the situation in Gaza is horrific, and yes, most of the people on the panel blamed Israel (Howard Sulka, who ran an NGO there, gave the case why HAMAS started the last war but came to the conclusion that “we can’t be sure”), but nobody had a nice word to say about Hamas’ government of the area. Even Maha Mehanna, who is Gazan and has to go back, didn’t say anything good about them (She explained that Hamas was elected because the Fatah regime was so corrupt).
However, they did explain how they had to go through diplomatic hoops because Hamas is a terrorist organization that may not be talked to. The holes in the narrative were amazing to behold.
I attended the Iran panel, which was both fascinating and unedifying to the mx, before going to the next plenum: “Does Liberal Zionism Have a Future?”
This is an excellent question, DOES IT?
The panel, led by Peter Beinart, wasn’t very optimistic, and they rightly blamed Netanyahu, Leiberman and Bennet. Which brings everyone back to which two-state solution is the best one? That particular question wasn’t actually addressed, what WAS, was the status quo, which everyone considers untenable.
The villains were fingered as not just Bibi, Bennett et al, but the Republicans as well, who are working to alienate Liberals/Progressives from the entire Zionist project and declare the 69 percent of the Jewish vote that voted for Obama “self-hating Jews” and guilty of treason.  Some of the issues were clearly articulated but not all.
There was no evening session, and Elder’s request that I attend the mincha prayers that day, but I didn’t get the request until after it was over. Just for the record, It took place at the Sixth and Eye Synagogue and was reportedly packed. Also the camera on my computer doesn’t work. Sorry.

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