Not only did I get a chance to connect with MEPeace.org founder Eyal Raviv, but I also met Mitchel Plitnick and other peace activist writers at the 2nd annual JStreet convention at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC. The first day's session, Saturday, featured many inspirational presentations including by JStreet President Jeremy Ben-Ami and by award recipients that included journalist Peter Beinart, Israeli activist for Palestinian rights in Sheikh Jarrah Sara Benninga and author and founder of Daughters for Life Foundation Izzeldin Abuelaish.
I was moved by all of them. Ben-Ami clinically detailed the JStreet position on peace: supporting Israel, supporting two-states, supporting Palestinian rights and most importantly supporting the need for diversity in our debates and discussions, something I don't see often on the Palestinian Side. I've been to many Palestinian and Arab conferences and many feature angry, emotional speeches that are directed at reacting rather than reaching out or leading.
JStreet's first day conference reached out in an inspirational manner. So unique. So moving. So powerful in restoring and re-energizing the belief in peace based on two-states. More than 2,500 people including 500 Jewish students, attended and packed the convention center hall. And they listened not only to people who advocated for Israel but also Benninga, whose life sacrifices on behalf of Palestinian civil rights as a basis of Israel's own democracy and civil rights structure are beyond words. Her speech -- and I will get it soon, hopefully, to share -- was very moving.
Abuelaish lost four daughters when an Israeli tank shell slammed into his home and the room where his children sat, killing them. And yet rather than seek revenge driven by hatred and anger, Abuelaish sough to turn their lives into something to help others and open minds. He has written a book which I have called "I will not hate" detailing how he overcomes the temptation that too often ravages the survivors of Palestinian-Israeli violence.
This is a Palestinian who presented a keynote opening session address to Jews and supporters of Israel, one who advocates peace but did not hold back on the tragedy of the events. Where would such an Israeli speaker have been invited to address a Palestinian audience in the same way?
Here's a link to the column I've written at PalestineNote.com that I hope you'll check out. (Make sure to also read the postings of Mitchel Plitnick, too, and hopefully from Eyal Raviv who is touring the US to raise funds for this wonderful oasis of peace on the Internet, MEPeace.org.
-- Ray Hanania