With dozens of panels to choose from, it was difficult to choose which ones to go to, and as with a lot of these things, there were scheduling conflicts galore. So I decided to go to the major ones (and those I could find). But first, I needed a cup of coffee…
There was a buffet with bagels and cream cheese. Grabbing some of that and a cup, I went down to the lobby where they had the “huckster room” as these areas are generally known, and looked at the booths set up by various groups.
What I found was mostly innocuous, but what really piqued my interest were all the maps….
Now I love maps, I’ve got a huge collection and there in front of me was a gold mine. Most countries have at least two sets, one for the tourists and international community and one for the nationalists and internal use. Such is the case with Israel.
J Street itself was giving out maps. These were big and were relatively detailed and had the green line easily visible in, what else?, green. Now Israeli maps don’t show the green line. While most showed the Gaza strip and some showed “Areas A and B”, not a single one shows the Green line. J Street was giving these out to be posted in synagogues and Hillels and the like because it’s important to understanding what the situation is. Maps are good for things like that.
Other groups were also giving out maps. For example The New Israel fund had one showing all it’s current projects, such as promoting healthcare for the poor and the rights of Reform and Conservative Rabbis, fighting growing inequality between rich and poor in the land of the Kibbutz and the like. (On a side note, When I asked them about their participation in the lawsuit against the PLO, they said the their witness for the terrorists, Michael Sfard, was actually a ringer who’s testimony deliberately helped the plaintiff.) , and he most interesting was their blurb supporting “the women of the wall” movement. I say it’s strange because they show the Old City in Israel and don’t mention, as the BDS movement (which NIF claims to be very much against) likes to, that the Kotel is in “illegally occupied Palestinian territory”.
“Americans for Peace Now” has a slick, two-sided map with “East Jerusalem“ on one side and the West Bank on the other, which shows the where all the “settlements” are. It also shows the Barrier wall. The Jerusalem side attacks “Ideological tourism projects” that threaten to transform the conflict into a religious conflict where no compromise is possible” I thought that was pretty funny.
The best of the bunch (on a technical level at least) was B’Selem’s. It was detailed and easily color-coded. You can see the facts on the ground much better than on the other maps. They weren’t there, another group, who was more on the Kumbaya” side of the argument was. There were lots of those, lots of whom were offering trips.
There were lots of groups who like that, only the “Free Hillel” table seemed to be genuinely pro-BDS. The guy was really defensive. So was one fellow who said that Hamas was merely elected to the “municipal administration” of the district and wasn’t really the government. (You can’t really argue with these people without being tempted to punch them in the face).
The “Kumbaya” people were promoting neighborliness and understanding between Jewish and Muslim Israelis for the most part and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However they generally make excuses for the Palestinians, such as Bikom, which does some amazing maps, who tried to explain why the Arab Jerusalemites, who can vote, don’t (they don’t want to look like they accept Israeli sovereignty).
After filling up my knapsack with give-aways and my face with food and coffee, I went to listen to the speeches….