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WATCH: Why does a Palestinian speak at a J Street conference?

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at J Street’s Making History conference. The first panel they wanted me to join was about the Palestinian perspective. I was also asked to moderate a session on Palestinian citizens of Israel. I had no hesitation when I accepted both requests. I was happy that a large Jewish crowd was interested to learn about the Palestinian perspective and to pay attention to the Palestinians citizens of Israel.

American Jews hear much about Palestinians but many have not had the chance to meet them directly and ask about their views, beliefs and passions. These panels are important if we are to correct stereotypes about the Palestinian community. Even lefty Jews must not just speak about us or “learn” about us, but speak directly with us and learn about our lives from us.

Therefore, it is essential for more Palestinians to come to these kinds of events. I know that some Palestinians criticized us for speaking at J Street. However, shifting public opinion and spreading awareness about the Palestinian cause will not happen without engaging Jewish and Christian communities.

I have attended the J Street conferences for the past 3 years and have met many Jewish, Arab and international activists who work tirelessly to end the occupation. I am not always in agreement with J Street. I spoke at the panel of my disappointment at J Street’s decision not to support the September 2011 Palestinian statehood bid at the UN. Last year, I wrote about feeling that J Street wasn’t open to hearing other voices, and too focused on the two-state solution. However, I was encouraged to see some changes this year.  J Street was willing to invite speakers who do not support the two-state solution or didn’t fit neatly within their political views. For an organization that supports an open conversation within the Jewish community, it is vital that they don’t silence those who disagree with them.

J Street’s efforts are remarkable, but it is organization swimming against the current. The two-state solution is losing momentum on every side. Many Israelis see no harm in the current status quo. Palestinians are shifting toward the one-state solution and America has not been leading the peace process for over a decade. The challenges before J Street and two-state solution supporters are monumental.

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    COMMENTS

    1. alessandra

      I respect and appreciate so much Aziz and his constant work.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Sinjim

      No, Aziz, you weren’t criticized for participating. You were criticized for what you and Mustafa Barghouti said.
      .
      When you say forget about the Nakba, when you argue against Palestinians using legitimate violence for the purpose of *self-defense*, when you call yourself pro-Israel, when you give advice on how Israel can best be a Jewish state, you are not presenting “the Palestinian perspective.” You are offering your Zionist perspective.
      .
      I long for just a single Palestinian leader who defends the rights of his people and their history without being wishy-washy. I just wish there were public Palestinian figures who go to Zionist events and don’t throw the refugees under the bus and then back over them again and again.
      .
      JStreet offers a vision of limited Palestinian rights and provides cover implicitly or explicitly for those who would deny Palestinians all their rights. And what your and Barghouti’s words did was legitimize that.
      .
      As a Palestinian whose grandparents were driven out of Jaffa, Ramlah, and Lydda, whose family has lived in refugee camps with nothing to their name but a Gaza ID card, whose grandfathers’ dying wishes to be buried in their homelands was unfulfilled, you don’t speak for me.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Philos

      Sinjim, I thought there is a Palestinian leader who isn’t wishy-washy on these issues. Ismail Haniyeh or Khaled Meashal come to mind.
      .
      Although if you are not interested in Hamas leadership I’d be quite interested to read why. I hope you’re not insulted. I’m just curious.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Steve

      SINJIM: Move on.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jeremy

      SINJIM: So what would be your perspective than, Pan-Arabist?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Jeremy

      SINJIM: It seems like Aziz is taking a perspective which leaves room for love, mutuality, and reconciliation and it seems like you take a perspective which encourages hate, bigotry, and emotional detachment on both sides.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Steve, you have a habit of taking comment threads off topic by leading everything back to your favourite topics (Hamas chief amongst them). These form the lens through which you view the conflict, and nothing else is worth talking about – the concerns of a Palestinian who is descended from refugees can be brushed off with ‘move on’. But you don’t get to define the parameters of the discussion like that. During any process of reconciliation, people often have to listen to stories and experiences that they find uncomfortable or challenging, things that they may never have discussed or even heard of before. A few days ago I was speaking to an Israeli activist (now twenty-seven) who was sixteen before she even heard the word ‘Nakba’, let alone knew what it meant. Palestinians have experienced their history being bulldozed, ploughed over, planted up with pine trees, and ultimately denied. This is something that needs to be faced, not pushed deeper under the earth.
      .
      Jeremy, I have a lot of respect for much of Aziz’s work (particularly what he’s done with the Parents’ Circle/Families Forum) but it’s hard to see how this speech advances reconciliation when it glossed over the experiences of people like Sinjim and his family. Reconciliation doesn’t mean just telling your listeners what they’re comfortable with hearing. You can discuss challenging subjects without being unloving, or emotionally detached. The Parents’ Circle is a perfect illustration of that. Listening to a bereaved person from the other side is often very difficult for people at first, but it works, and it works because those people aren’t told what is and isn’t worth talking about, what they should and shouldn’t do. Both Aziz and Mustafa Barghouti fell into that trap during their conference presentations.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Sinjim

      @Philos: No, I don’t support Hamas because I believe in the possibility of a just future with full equal rights for all under the law.
      .
      @Jeremy: You don’t know the first thing about me, and yet you accuse me of hatred and bigotry. I did not speak out against love, mutuality, or reconciliation. I took issue Aziz’s politics, which is not divine revelation nor above criticism. If that makes me a monster in your eyes, I’ll just have to find a way to live with myself.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Aziz

      @SINJIM
      you said ” you are not presenting “the Palestinian perspective.” You are offering your Zionist perspective.”

      You can disagree with me and you have the right to do so, but you don’t have a monopoly over the Palestinian perspective. There is no one unified Palestinian perspective and you trying to push your ideas as the only Palestinian way is humorous. I said in my speech that many Palestinians are shifting to support the one-state solution. I did criticize J Street at their conference. I don’t expect you to agree with me but don’t lecture me about “palestinian perspective”.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Sinjim

      Aziz, ya azizi, you’re the one who wrote the words “*the* Palestinian perspective” in your article here, not me. I was responding to *your own words.* I’m not pushing my own ideas as the only Palestinian way nor do I claim that there is a single unified Palestinian perspective. The fact that we’re arguing demonstrates this fact quite clearly.
      .
      But let’s be perfectly clear: I criticized what you and Barghouti said at the conference, and I said that you don’t speak for me. That is entirely legitimate. And describing your perspective as Zionist is entirely legitimate as well, since you call yourself pro-Israel and give Zionists advice on how to preserve Israel as a Jewish state.
      .
      You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but you are not entitled to never be criticized.

      Reply to Comment
    11. AYLA

      I, too, have tremendous respect for Aziz and his work. I haven’t heard/read what he (you, Aziz) said at this conference. I can that it’s hard to find the right (and true) line when speaking to that audience, given that the average Jewish American Lefitst is still really far behind in having any understanding of the effects of the Occupation, so to come in as if you’re speaking to an audience with full awareness would make you someone no one in that audience could hear.
      *
      Still, Sinjim, your comments disturbed me, not because I don’t respect and empathize with where you’re coming from–I appreciate everything Vicky wrote, as always–but because we have to get unstuck, and as usual, you and I disagree about how. I am more and more convinced that we cannot be for one side without being for the other. the only way out is to be for all. I’m not asking you, Sinjim, to speak out for Israel; I’m asking you to consider this when you respond to people such as Aziz. Many Israelis and American Jews feel that when people such as myself protest in favor of Palestinian rights, we are anti-Israel. Peace Now and all the Israeli leftist orgs are accused of this constantly; they’re accused of being a threat to the State. To me, you’re voicing the inverse response. Being for one is not being against another. And it’s possible that it’s that very idea that is holding us back from breaking free of ourselves even more than extreme hatred.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Jeremy

      @ SINJIM. You are right about my comment and I apologize for accusing you of anything; I do not know you. I never considered you or called you a monster, I meant to imply someone caught up in the common stream on both sides, a one-and-other stance in which emotions reign supreme. It was reactionary of me to imply something about what seemed like your demeanor toward Aziz. I see Aziz as bridge-connector, not a friend of the “Zionist perspective,” and when someone dismisses his work as simply that, I am inclined to defend his digging right into it. What are you doing to increase dialogue?

      Reply to Comment
    13. palestinian

      Why does a Palestinian speak at a J Street conference? mmm personal interests…,few Palestinians enjoy being the “open-minded” “peaceful” “moderate” “Arabs”(aka Palestinians but Israelid are israelized to refer to us as Arabs for several reasons so..)…anyways Aziz (and people like him) dont represent us and esp Palestinians in refugee camps,we are too far from the level he has reached (lel asaf),maybeI’m wrong (although I’m not) but lets conduct a survey

      Reply to Comment
    14. AYLA

      @Palestinian–Sinjim said that he was not criticizing the fact that Aziz spoke at the conference; are you?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Tal

      Aziz, I respect you a lot for coming to speak in front of a Zionist audience in these times of darkness and deterioration of democratic values in Israel. I very much respect your willingness to understand the oppressor’s narrative and offer painful concessions.
      I wonder which way has more popular support among the Palestinians – yours or the one represented by Sinjim’s. I have a feeling that your way has more support among Palestinians living in the Israel/Palestine than among Palestinians on the outside, but I may be wrong.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Richard Witty

      Thank you for presenting Aziz.

      Anger in a body, thought in a body.

      Which accomplishes more?

      Anger in a body covers more distance. Thought in a body gets to a destination.

      Reply to Comment
    17. palestinian

      @ Ayla , I object his mentality and the way he presents(pretends)himself just like the few Palestinians I was referring to.Maybe if someone else participated I wouldnt object ,but that person wouldnt have been allowed to participate…can Aziz say Zionist Jews stole our land ? in J street

      Reply to Comment
    18. Tal

      @Palestinian – Yes, Zionist Jews stole your land and I think that the J street crowd already knows that. So what good would it do to say that in front of them? Would it make them give up their zionism? You know it won’t. So all it would do is make you feel good inside for a very short while. What next? Will BDS and “Mukawama” make the Israelis agree to ALL your demands?

      Reply to Comment
    19. ohad

      thank you !!! amazing conference

      Reply to Comment
    20. palestinian

      @ Tal ,and reminding them of this fact will hurt their “feelings”? if we want to find a sustainable solution ,we have to build it on solid ground.You treat the disease not the symptom.If they cant handle a simple fact then what can we expect ? they have to bear in mind Yafa is a palestinian land that was donated by the UN and England to a bunch of thieves,we have to be clear.And notice there is a difference between rights and demands.

      Reply to Comment
    21. I have so much respect for what Aziz and Dr. Bargothi presented. They are brave and you have no idea how much awareness and knowledge they brought to the audience in the conference. Most of the audience by the way are (youth) who NEVER MET A PALESTINIAN BEFORE !! Also, all respect to Aziz and Dr. Bargothi history resisting the occupation. They did not sell out on the Palestinian right or comprise by going to the J street conference. Aziz lost a brother and 4 cousins! please let’s not judge without being in his shoes.

      Finally, the work that Aziz and Dr. Bargothi did (does not) contradict with the resisting that is happening on the ground in Palestine. On the other hand, its completes it.

      We have to realize as Palestinians that we are not the only player in this conflict! And try more to focus on people like Aziz and Dr. Bargothi who are bringing the Palestinian struggle back on the international map.

      WAKE UP!!

      Reply to Comment
    22. Sinjim

      @Ayla: You are not for all people if you as a Palestinian stand before Zionists and say, “I am pro-Israel.” You are not for all people if you as a Palestinian stand before Zionists and give them advice on how best to preserve Israel as a Jewish state. You are not for all people if you say, “Forget about the Nakba,” and throw our refugees under the bus.
      .
      Even though none of these issues are a big deal to you, they matter to people like me. If someone can’t even bring himself to offer even rhetorical support to his own people’s needs as they suffer in exile and under occupation, why on Earth should he be trusted as a spokesperson for us?
      .
      Here Aziz is praised for offering “painful concessions” on behalf of Palestinians. This from the people who will never have to make any comparable concessions themselves. Sure, the liberal, cosmopolitan Israeli supports the removal of some settlements. Sure, she can live with Hebron being entirely inside a Palestinian state. But let’s face it, these are not issues that such people care about anyway. They have no interest in keeping or maintaining these settlements. These are the kinds of “painful concessions” that liberal Israelis would love nothing more than to offer.
      .
      So they sit back and praise Palestinians who are willing to give up everything that is central to our well-being as a people. If other Palestinians object to this, if Palestinians talk about the pain and suffering they’ve experienced at the hands of Israel, Philos will tell them to go support Hamas. Jeremy will call them hateful, bigoted, and emotionally detached. Ayla will say they are the equivalent of Im Tirzu and Likud. Richard Witty will accuse them of being angry.
      .
      But not a single one of you will actually attempt to address the substance of these criticisms. Not a single one of you has an answer when a Palestinian asks, “Why must we be the ones to concede so much while Israelis concede nothing in comparison?” This is the liberalism that you offer us and that Aziz legitimizes. I want nothing to do with it.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Richard Witty

      And still, we thank Aziz and Mustafa for affirming that we, liberal Zionists, are human beings as well.

      Reply to Comment
    24. AYLA

      Sinjim–First of all, do not tell me what is or isn’t a big deal to me. You are wrong on all counts, but I won’t bother with that. I just listened to the embedded video. I didn’t hear the words “Zionism” or “Nabka”. Re: your insinuation that Aziz suggested we forget about the Nabka, are you talking about when he said that we shouldn’t keep going back to the past, but rather work from where we are, now? If so, do you realize that Israelis and Jews, too, are constantly fueling their arguments for the necessity of the occupation based on wrongs committed against them in the past, and that people making Aziz’s argument would make the same argument to Israel in order to end the occupation? I would never ask you to forget about the Nabka, and I can’t imagine that Aziz would, either. I also didn’t hear Aziz making any particular or specific concessions; are you referring to support of the TSS in general? As for Israelis conceding nothing, that is not the Israeli experience. You can argue that their experience is not fact-based; you would be making exactly the argument that Israel supporters make about the Palestinian narrative. You seem to assume, Sinjim, that I’m on one side. And like I said, Israelis tend to assume I’m on yours. Turns out that the arguments I made in my original post to you, having not yet listened to this video, are the same ones I’d make now, having listened. That doesn’t mean that listening was a waste of my time, though. I may have nothing new to say, but I’m much more inspired, and encouraged, and impressed, having listened.

      Reply to Comment
    25. It’s fascinating how we, Palestinians, can complain that JStreet hasn’t done enough to invite Palestinians to participate in the discussion when it has been the fact of life of most major Palestinian organizations to exclude anyone who challenges their views, such as al-Awda. Maybe al-Awda should start allowing a discussion with Palestinians they disagree with … and they are not the only group. Just one good example. There is no diverse discussion taking place in the Palestinian community, just a cacophony of anger.
      Ray Hanania

      Reply to Comment
    26. palestinian

      Ayla …”wrongs committed against them in the past” ..by who ? You have to understand that there is only one true narrative regardless of what people believe.When what you “call” the Israeli narrative is based on religious beliefs/myths then its no longer a narrative ,its a fairytale.I dont want to go through “we are a people” ,”its our homeland given to us by God” bla bla bla but whenever we argue (not discuss)with Zionists they rush to bring up their fairytales !

      Reply to Comment
    27. AYLA

      @AlsoPalestinian and @RayH–thank you for being here. I (Ayla Adler, living in the Negev), long for us to fight together; only together is our fight relevant. The time is now.

      Reply to Comment
    28. AYLA

      Palestinian, I have to laugh, because your words are verbatim the words of many American Jewish Israeli supporters, only inverted. (and by the way, I’m not talking about the religious narrative, nor thousands of years ago; I’m talking about the recent historical narrative). I’ll tell you what I tell them: Actually, I do not have to understand that there is only one true history, thankyouverymuch. Both sides have one-sided narratives, and the only truth is that they are both/all true. (excepting the propaganda and blatant untruths, on both sides, of course). What do we have to lose by listening and learning the other side’s true stories? I’m not suggesting that there is nothing to lose, but, rather, that it’s good for us.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Palestinian

      @Ayla ,you can laugh as much as you want but at the end we arent equal in this conflict ,you work desperately to present it as if both sides are to blame and we should incorporate in a dialogue for the future of our children , wipe our tears and hug (like in movies) ! I am not sure if your history book mentions anything about palestinians terrorizing and stealing land from Polish and Russian Jews unless you borrowed it from a hasbara library .You Ayla Alder have no right to live in the Negev ,you are a colonist,you should take permission from the Palestinians not from the colonial power , if you have a problem in comprehending that then you are part of our problem with a different flavor just like peace now.

      Reply to Comment
    30. AYLA

      @Palestinian–absolutely: there is no symmetry in circumstance; Israel is occupying Palestine, and that plays out in insidious ways, daily, and it has been going on for half a human lifetime. I make no light of that, nor do I argue that we are equal in our responsibility out of this mess.
      *
      You and I have a pretty long dialogue history about me living in Israel. In fact, you defended me my very first day on 972 in a conversation with Deir Yassin. Do you remember that? It is, in fact, the very fact that I know the it is profoundly wrong that I, an American Jew, have the right to live here and you do not have the right to return that got me involved, politically, in this realm. I wasn’t involved before moving here. I feel a tremendous responsibility because I do live here. I do not believe that I have no right to be here. I do believe that you do have a right to be here, more than I do if your family was here until the Nabka.
      *
      I do not want to cry and hug (though I do both, often). The work that people such as Aziz are doing is a lot harder, braver, and more complex than that.
      *
      It is clear that you have no idea about the Jewish narrative on Israel. I’m talking about approximately 1948 until now, and here, not anywhere else. The Jewish narrative is very, very different than the Palestinian narrative. I am convinced that they are both true, just like you can talk to siblings from the same exact family, and hear very different stories about the same events.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Henry Weinstein

      @ Sinjim
      .
      “But not a single one of you will actually attempt to adrress the susbtances of these criticisms. Not a single one of you has an answer when a Palestinian asks, “Why must we be the ones to concede so much while Israelis concede nothing in comparison”?
      I don’t pretend to be “The One”, Sinjim. Besides I’m French. Just a thought I have, hope you will accept to understand my point of view, even if you disagree. It’s a political synopsis, an idea.
      .
      What is missing maybe, Sinjim, is a democratic Palestinian leadership proving to the Israeli people that freedom & human rights are compatible with the Palestinian struggle – independence or equality.
      Seems to me that as long Palestinians will be ruled by undemocratic politicians who deny freedom of expression & human rights to their own people, Israelis will stay on the defensive – I mean, beyond the Military Security Order, because they have no reason to trust any Palestinian leadership at the present time, even if they are disgusted by their own leadership.
      If there was in the future such a democratic Palestinian leadership & intellectuals free to express new ideas – if Hamas had been not elected, and then the rockets, to give you the counter-example -, Israelis would pay attention and would have less and less reasons to elect far right politicians denying justice to the Palestinian people.
      At the present time, even if I were an ultraliberal in Israel, I would have no reasons to gamble not knowing what the other side has in mind apart criticisms for chaos, and to give actually more power to Palestinian politicians who still call for the destruction or the removal of my state and homeland, either by violence either by political confrontation (in the name of democracy).
      .
      Don’t get me wrong please, Sinjim. What I wrote is in defence of Aziz’s political line. Israelis too should reform themselves, to say the least. And +972 blog is doing a great job! But I think you miss absolutely the point, blaming Aziz like you do.
      He is much more subversive than the Anti-Normalization League. I admire him.
      .
      Please, take no offence, Sinjim: it wasn’t against you. I wrote what I had in mind. I tried.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Henry Weinstein

      “Comment awaiting initial confirmation”
      .
      Omission: “I would have no reason to gamble not knowing what the other side has in mind apart criticisms, it would be gambling for chaos,”

      Reply to Comment
    33. Ohad

      well Palestinians you can not convince the international community , the UN that voted to create Israel , and most importantly me, that was born in Israel. that I have no rights here .
      so time to move on , and learn to live together

      Reply to Comment
    34. alessandra

      I repeat: my respect to Aziz. I listened to all the speech. whatever here you may think, every side you may be on (and remain of your opinion), he does something. that’s the most important. it was good to me lo listen to him.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Sinjim

      @Ayla: Your equivalence is unsustainable and immoral. Yes, when he says forget about the past, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. He was referring to the Nakba among other things. But the Nakba is not the past, it’s not over. Gaza is 90% full of people who suffer from the Nakba to this day. Or what, you think it’s some accident that Gaza has born the brunt of Israel’s wrath? Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria doomed to live in impoverished slums, open to attack from the governments there and Israel itself (as the Sabra and Shatila massacres demonstrated) suffer from the Nakba, too. To you, it’s history. To Palestinians, at least some of us apparently, it never ended. Without addressing it, you are dismissing *Palestinian perspectives.*
      .
      But even accepting the Zionist notion that the Nakba is in the past, how does that mean I’m the same as those who use history to justify the occupation? What injustice am I using the Nakba to perpetuate or excuse? What awful thing do I stand for that justifies making such a comparison, Ayla?
      .
      Of course, the issue of the Nakba isn’t the only problem. Aziz stated with no hint of shame that it’s OK that Palestinian non-violent leaders sit in jail because “freedom has a cost.” Excusing the treatment of Palestinians under Israel’s so-called justice system is morally repugnant. How are you going to defend that when Hana Shalabi is literally on death’s door in protest of her imprisonment without charge for close to 3 years now? How can any Palestinian say that when the Tamimi family is harassed, when Israel imprisons, maims, and kills so many members of that family? And then as if that wasn’t enough, Aziz says that he’s pro-Israel, too. How is he anything other than a typical liberal Zionist?
      .
      And finally, the focus on Palestinians in the West Bank was a conspiracy of silence. The people of Gaza barely got a mention. The effects of the siege were not discussed at all. That former Bush official suggested that Israel open up “a portion” of Area C to economic development and allow only VIPs into Gaza, as if that’s some sort of acceptable solution. And of course this is to say nothing of the refugees, who were completely forgotten, and only cursorily mentioned because someone in the audience asked a question about them.
      .
      This is inspirational, Ayla? This is encouraging? This is impressive? No, this is the soft bigotry of low expectations. Palestinians deserve better than this. They deserve better than to have to beg for crumbs from the table of Jewish privilege, which you and others benefit so much from. If that makes me the equivalent of Im Tirzu in your eyes, I can live with that frankly. At least we’re clear where we stand.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Leen

      I don’t want to be painfully annoying about this, but I’ve watched some of the j-street (I can’t be bothered to watch it all now) but… what is precisely the compromising remarks that were made about the Nakba and refugees?

      Reply to Comment
    37. Leen

      The Nakba isn’t in the past, because the effects, implications and the consequences are still going.

      Reply to Comment
    38. AYLA

      @Sinjim–my comment to @Palestinian has been awaiting approval for a while, so maybe this will, too. You assume that everything Aziz says is about you. For just one example, when he said, at the J Street Conference, that he’s tired of people talking about what happened in the 1920’s, he every bit as much about Jews as Palestinians, if not more. *We* do that. *We* use our history about Israel to defend an immoral occupation and all it entails. When the audience clapped, it was left-wing jews clapping against the arguments of right-wing jews, not against you. And Aziz knows that. He knows his audience, because he has listened to them. When he talks about Jews and Palestinians working together for a common goal, he is not throwing you under the bus. He’s talking about the means to the same end that you’re talking about. I’m on his side regarding the means, and I believe that your means (or lack thereof) gets in the way of your desired end.
      *
      The reason that Aziz and Barghouti make a point to say that they are for Israel when speaking to this audience is (probably) that Jews and Palestinians working toward peace and justice are basically blacklisted by Netanyahu and AIPAC, so it’s very important in the dialogue to point out that wanting peace/justice and insisting on ending the occupation is not anti-israel. They don’t need to point out that they are pro-Palestine; that’s a given.
      *
      When I point out a particular symmetry–in this case the fact that @Palestinian sounds on Palestine exactly how right wing Jews sound on Israel–I am *not* making a blanket statement about symmetry between the people and their circumstances, and I’m growing tired of being accused of that by you.
      *
      You and @Palestinian make one mistake in common: you don’t seem to know what Aziz is speaking to half the time, because you don’t know where this audience is coming from. This leads to a lot of misinterpretation on your part. That misinterpretation is so deep that you can’t possibly know what it is about this conference that inspires me.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Henry Weinstein

      My commenr is still awaiting confirmation. Ok, it must be a technical issue, not because I mention H… in Gaza, or M…Security. It’s in my head, or in my computer.

      Reply to Comment
    40. Philos

      Sinjim, hypothetical question for you. If tomorrow Salman Fayad declared that he and all his associates are pursuing one state between the sea and river, no ifs or buts, would this be the kind of leader you’re looking for?

      Reply to Comment
    41. Sinjim

      @Ayla: Firstly, I haven’t addressed anything you said to Palestinian. I was only responding to the stuff you wrote to me. You did accuse me of being exactly like those Israelis who use the past to justify the occupation, as if I was doing the same thing. You created the equivalence here. Don’t run away from that.
      .
      You think I don’t know where the audience is coming from, and that speaks to how unaware of your privilege you are. You seem to honestly believe that Palestinians are as ignorant of Zionist discourse as you guys are ignorant of us. Zionism pervades the discussion of the conflict all over the world. All my life I’ve been inundated with liberal Zionism. I know it’s justifications, its reasoning, its excuses as well as anyone, not just from being exposed to it but from having my own dialogue with liberal Zionists. I understand exactly what Aziz and Mustafa are doing, and I still reject it. Because I tried it, too.
      .
      I was the Palestinian who would try to excuse the occupation and say we Palestinians are to blame. I was the Palestinian who tried defending the collaboration of the PA apparatchiks. I was the Palestinian who tried to reach out to Zionist Jews in the hope that we could come to some sort of (personal, if nothing else) understanding. But gradually I came to realize that I was expected to concede one part of my humanity after another. You have to understand, I was told, that talking about refugee rights is unrealistic and unjust, that Palestinians are to blame for Gaza, that Jerusalem is the holiest city for Jews, that the checkpoints are a necessary evil, that some settlements will stay no matter what. I woke up one day and realized that what I was doing was pandering and conceding my human dignity without getting the other side to budge an inch in return.
      .
      I believe in co-existence and I believe in co-resistance. I believe in a future where Palestinians and Jews are not be separated by a system of institutionalized oppression and ethnic supremacy in their shared homeland. But I will never support Palestinians sacrificing their dignity nor dishonoring our people’s suffering by accepting a peace without justice.
      .
      If the price of dialogue with JStreet crowd is that I must say I am for Israel, that the imprisonment of Palestinians without charge or justification is perfectly OK, that I must avoid speaking of the refugees except in vague terms, that I must not talking about the uncomfortable realities of Gaza, then that’s a price too high. The tear in my grandfather’s eye is more precious to me than a thousand “pro-Israel, pro-peace” JStreets.

      Reply to Comment
    42. For me, the most problematic aspect of Aziz’s speech came when he explained the need to embrace popular nonviolent resistance – and bolstered his argument with the opinions of Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin, who oversaw the ethnic cleansing of the Negev. Under his orders, the houses of the displaced were blown up to prevent their return. He was no pacifist, even in his later years, and neither are many of the people – Israeli and international – who urge nonviolence on Palestinians as their strategy. (Often these same people see no problem with a conscript army and respond to the idea of refusal with that earnest old canard, “It makes more sense to change the army from within than to sit in a prison cell.”) In presenting the good opinion of Rabin as a prime reason for embracing nonviolent resistance, Aziz has placed the approval of a committed political Zionist at the heart of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. This just about sums up J Street’s chief weakness.
      .
      Ayla, I think you are able to find inspiration in the J Street conference because you are yourself from the US, and J Street is composed principally of American Jews – there’s a place for you there. But there is no place for Palestinians who don’t conform to J Street’s outlook and method. Aziz himself identifies that J Street has a problem with accommodating other voices. Palestinians who disagree with J Street usually do know where its attendees are coming from – a place that can’t include them. They experience liberal Zionism as an exclusionary philosophy that privileges American Jewish feelings above Palestinian reality, which is not discussed in any depth in these speeches. Hence the frustration, the disappointment, and the feeling of being sold out.
      .
      I agree with you that Aziz’s audience were aligning themselves against right-wing Jews. But the idea that the ongoing Palestinian dispossession is the preserve of Likudniks and Lieberman voters is false. Mapai didn’t exactly champion indigenous rights. It isn’t accurate or helpful for J Street to paint rightist Israelis as the guilty parties. I can’t see what this achieves, except to make audience members feel good about their own politics.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Steve

      SINJIM wrote: ” I believe in a future where Palestinians and Jews are not be separated by a system of institutionalized oppression and ethnic supremacy in their shared homeland”
      .
      They aren’t sharing a homeland. Israel is for Israel. And other than maybe 5 percent of the West Bank, the rest is for the Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Richard Witty

      Palestinian and Sinjim,
      You obviously can have any opinion that you want.

      My own view is that the dehumanization of the other (both ways, including of Zionists) is the status quo, and that to assert opposition to normalization for example, is to be an advocate of things remaining the same.

      As odd as that may sound to you.

      Reply to Comment
    45. Henry Weinstein

      My comment is still awaiting initial confirmation, for information.
      It was an answer to Sinjim, a long time ago!
      It’s a bit frustating because the timing is important on such a thread, particulary when the debate is worth reading without the usual troll invasion.
      C’est la vie!

      Reply to Comment
    46. Palestinian

      @ Ayla, a long dialogue history? you mean once,right?I never supported your colonization in Palestine,re-read what I previously wrote.You are a Jewish American colonist,you have the right to enter Palestine after you obtain your visa as any other foreigner.

      I hope you can help me with “your” Jewish narrative on Israel.Israel as a Jewish state has the right to exist ,but not in Palestine.Vermont is a good choice.

      Reply to Comment
    47. AYLA

      @Sinjim–I owe you an apology. You’re reminding me of how much I’ve appreciated you, always. I guess that I, too, am coming around the bend from having spent the past three years listening and listening and listening to Palestinians–in person, too–and learning your history, your experience, and learning the atrocities of the occupation (daily, still), and now I suppose I have more confidence than I did before when I appreciate the work and positions of people such as Aziz. Which, I do. It does seem to me that there are two camps about the means to the end of justice. You and I are in different ones. It’s never been that I haven’t appreciated where you are coming from; I simply disagree, and I feel I know enough now to do so.
      *
      I think what’s most important is that we don’t make each other the enemy. I don’t mean Israelis and Palestinians. Ideally, also… But things are far from ideal. I mean those of us who want the same end. We need to be sure that the bottom line of justice for Palestinians is being upheld. I think–and you’ll correct me if I’m wrong ;)–that when you hear people such as Aziz speak, you believe that he’s let that bottom line go. I don’t hear that.
      *
      Vicky–and Sinjim, speaking to what Vicky said–absolutely, I hear what Aziz is saying as an American Jew (though I’m radically left compared to JStreet). I understand, as an American Jew, the politics that JStreet is dealing with, constantly, just to be taken seriously by the Jewish Community. Sinjim–sounds like you understand that, too–just speaking for myself, here. I will say, however, that if Aziz were speaking to some Palestinian Political group, and he said things differently than the way I like to hear them, I’d be equally empathetic to how he was framing things for that particular audience. I do that, generally–not just as it relates to my own experience. Of course, I know my own experience more intimately, but when I listen to Right Wing Jews on Israel, I’m just as much of a student as I am when I listen to Palestinians. If anything, it’s harder for me to hear my own when I disagree passionately. And there, Sinjim, I think we have something very much in common…

      Reply to Comment
    48. Tal

      @Palestinian, you write to @Ayla: “You are a Jewish American colonist,you have the right to enter Palestine after you obtain your visa as any other foreigner.”

      How about me? I was born in the Negev, Israel. My father was born in Tel Aviv, Palestine (under british occupation). Do I have a right to be here without a Visa? Do you want to go Israeli by Israeli, and investigate for each of them if he/she was born in Israel/Palestine or has he/she immigrated to the region?
      The entire human history consist of migrations of peoples and conquers of lands. Your forefathers themselves immigrated some time in the past to Palestine from other regions in the middle east.
      Having said that, I agree that it is immoral that any Jew in Russia / America / Africa has a right to move here while you are denied this right. If there was good will between the 2 sides, a compromise could have been reached. For example: Only Palestinians and Jews living in dire conditions would be granted an automatic visa to immigrate to Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    49. BOOZ

      Tal:

      If I may appreciate by “Palestinian’s” earlier pronouncements, the only thing he would be pleased with would be that you see your travel agent and buy a 1-way plane ticket.

      That is, if you want to please him at all costs.

      Reply to Comment
    50. AYLA

      @Tal–I really appreciate you, here. @Palestinian–I’ll be interested in your answer to Tal. Re: the rest of it, I don’t want to be the voice of the Jewish Narrative. It’s not my voice; I just hold it, as I hold yours. If you believe that Jews have no more connection to this land than to Vermont, then I personally disagree, but, too, would prefer not to go there. It’s not my m.o. to make arguments based on history. There, I’m in Aziz’s camp.

      Reply to Comment
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