mepeace.org

JStreet's phenomenally inspiring Conference in Washington DC

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.

Click here to read the column.

-- Ray Hanania

www.TheMediaOasis.com

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Comment by Stewart Mills on March 3, 2011 at 2:40am

True John, what is happening on the ground in Palestine should be enough to convince people of the moral requirement to help those in need.  

 

The reason I shared stories from other conflict zones was due to my concern at the statement Palestinians were not innocent.  Whilst I agree that within the broader Palestinian struggle for freedom war crimes have been committed eg the firing of rockets/mortars onto towns etc (and therefore an aspect of responsibility for the perpetuation of violence) I do not believe it is fair to try and simplify the struggle to one of equivalence of violence.  

 

There are vast demographic and military differences at play that caused the Palestinian Arab reaction (1920-48).  Until that is fully comprehended long-term sustainable peace is a dream.  The reason for introducing other nation state stories is to provide some perspective and offer lessons from the struggles and mistakes of fellow human beings.  

 

Again, I agree it is good to focus on immediate causes for concern, however, there needs to be a broader framework to contextualise the day to day violence we see.  Sharing stories from other conflict zones is often a therapeutic way to helper people struggling today. The events we see in North Africa today are inspired by people's revolutions from throughout history.  The past can be a way to motivate, inspire and encourage.  There is a vast repertoire of human experiences out there where we can learn from.  My point was simply to expand the horizons as a means to get to the heart of reconciliation.

Comment by John deCoville on March 2, 2011 at 7:31pm

I am not as moved by the legal arguments nor comparisons with Liberia nor Australia.  I AM interested in Palestinians' experiece on the ground, the expropriations they are experiencing. 

 

Ray's comment moves me: "

The big problem with Israel is they say they buy the land but they do not. Like my land which is choked between Gilo's settlement expansion ... I have no rights to my own family lands because 1) I am Christian not Jewish and 2) because, they say, I don't live there (the land is in the West Bank, but has been annexed and is now subject to the so-called absentee property law -- but I am absentee ONLY because Israel does not recognize my residency there or my family's residency there anymore and will not permit me to become a non-absentee resident/citizen."

 

This is injustice that hurts all including Israel and Israel's legitimacy.

 

Any serious negotiation must include counterbalances so that parties are equal partners to the negotiation.  Any construction by Israel in the West Bank will be negotiation chips, part of the "interest" paid to families deprived of their homes since 1967.

 

This Sunday the Jewish Muslim Peace walk takes place here in Tucson, Arizona.  My sincere wish is that what survives on the ground has "buy-in" to its survival. 

Comment by Stewart Mills on March 2, 2011 at 2:25am
True Ray.  Legal fictions are the typical means dominant powers legalise occupation.  The legal fiction used by Europeans in Australia was the legal principle of terra nullius.  This European principle legalised the occupation of land if no person was there.  How did the English get around the fact that there were over 250 different Aboriginal nations on the land.  The English limited 'man' to 'civilised man'.  The English said the Aboriginal people were not civilised therefore the land fell within the terra nullius doctrine.  For the same reason Aboriginal Australians were denied the vote as a class of people until 1967.   It took 200 years to overcome this principle in the High Court of Australia case of Mabo in 1992.  My hope is the next generation of Israeli jurists will look for ways that the Supreme Court can return land back to those dispossessed.  The evictions of Sheikh Jarrah is not what I am talking about.
Comment by Ray Hanania on March 1, 2011 at 10:55pm

The big problem with Israel is they say they buy the land but they do not. Like my land which is choked between Gilo's settlement expansion ... I have no rights to my own family lands because 1) I am Christian not Jewish and 2) because, they say, I don't live there (the land is in the West Bank, but has been annexed and is now subject to the so-called absentee property law -- but I am absentee ONLY because Israel does not recognize my residency there or my family's residency there anymore and will not permit me to become a non-absentee resident/citizen.

 

Ray

Comment by Stewart Mills on March 1, 2011 at 10:41pm

Comment 2 ctd.

...A counter response to this (ie another example of settler states) is to consider the 'return' of African Americans to Africa in the 1800s.  This is perhaps the closest settler state example to Israel.  Yes, there are differences, but if you look at the history of Liberia and Sierra Leone you can gain an insight into the feelings by group A vs group B when one group enters a land on the premise it will not take over and then within a few generations breaks that promise and takes over control of the land despite the wishes of the demographic majority.

 

In the case of Liberia and Sierra Leone both were countries were dominated by former African American slaves who were emancipated and were actively encouraged to return and settle within Africa.  Remember Liberia is named in honour of the 'liberation' of freed slaves.  Colonies were set up, land was bought and treaties were made with the local community.  However, within a short time these treaties were broken as the returned African Americans (and their descendants) sought to obtain greater control of land.  It has only been in the last 30 years that control of Liberia returned to non-African American control.  Of course the denialists will neutralise this example and continue to assert the absolute uniqueness of Israel's ancient connection to the land.  The response to this is noone denies the absolute uniqueness of Israel or Palestine's story, just as it would be wrong to deny the uniqueness of the colonisation stories of N America or Australia.  Each of these events were unique.  The point of the comparison is to identify what lessons can be learnt in how human beings behave in situations of violence?  What can we do today to acknowledge the violence of the past?  What can we do today to put in place systems to help those hurt by violence and who continue to be marginalised in the community?

 

Comment by Stewart Mills on March 1, 2011 at 10:38pm

Great to hear of such a positive conference Ray.

 

John, I agree that care is required in order to prevent demonisation of 1 national group or the other.  I agree that solutions based on love rather than hate or revenge is the key.  I would add that in phrasing questions of blame or innocence (or non-innocence of one party) there needs to be care.  Is it appropriate to say that Native Americans were not innocent during advances by Europeans during the 1400-1800s? For example can people today equalize the violence of 'both' sides?  What effect does this have?  Does this have an effect of neutralising responsibility, so that present victor generations do not feel compelled to retribution and restitution for past acts? Who would say that Aboriginal Australians were not innocent during the European advances of the 1700-1800s?  And if so is that a fair comment in the context?

 

In any situations of comparing Israel to other settler states the typical counter response is to say that the establishment of modern Israel is not an example of European colonisation.  The fact that x% of Jewish-Israelis parents or grandparents came from Europe, N America, Australia or places in the Middle East, outside present day Israel is often minimised (despite the demographic significance and military significance) because of the connection to the ancient Hebrew nation.  This is regardless of the connection of Palestinian-Israelis or Palestinians to the land within recent generations and within ancient generations (in the same way as the Jewish claim).  That is the claim to land by ancient historical connection is not unique to one 'people. 

 

A counter response to this (ie another example of settler states) is to consider the 'return' of African Americans to Africa in the 1800s.  This is perhaps the closest settler state example to Israel.  Yes, there are differences, but if you look at the history of Liberia and Sierra Leone you can gain an ins

Comment by John deCoville on February 28, 2011 at 11:03pm

Thank you Ray Hanania for what I believe is the right attitude towards Israel that has a higher chance for success than others I have read.  Demonizing Israel is a non-starter.  Are they innocent?  No.

 

Neither are the Palestinians.  An important step in the Peace, Healing and then Reconciliation process is the Third Way between blanket forgiveness and the blame-game.  Just before the 1967 war, I witnessed first hand, the carefully savored and warehoused grudges nursed on both sides of the Arab Israeli divide.  History is the enemy, blame does not work.

 

We are doing this so the children of Palestine and Israel may have a peace with dignity that opens the door to their potential.

 

Thank you,

 

 

Comment by Irit Hakim-Keller on February 28, 2011 at 10:31pm
Thank you for being there..
Comment by Linda Feldman on February 28, 2011 at 1:32am
Narine, thanks for the link.
Comment by Linda Feldman on February 28, 2011 at 1:31am
Thanks for posting this. Very informative!

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