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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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    1. Henry Weinstein

      Sinjim, I didn’t attack Haneen Zoabi’s person, but MK Zoabi. And I said explicitely that my criticism were not personal. It’s clear that her decision to enter in politics has a lot to do with her familial story, thus is worth scrutinizing.
      Furthermore if I expressed my opinion on MK Haneen Zoabi, it’s because of +972’s recent coverage on her. And also because of what I said in my first comment about Palestinian politicians.
      I don’t think she incites much Israelis “to pressure their government to stop ensuring violent and authoritarian of Palestinian democratic actions”, to cite your own words. Worse to my eyes: I don’t think she incites at all Israelis to vote for another government, considering “as an official she represents the people who elected her”, to cite your words again. That’s my opinion, and it’s a political opinion.
      By independent thinkers, Palestinians or not, I mean intellectuals who think by themselves, express freely their own views, political and more, and are willing to shake-up their own side’s Sacred Cows. Intellectual freedom & freedom of expression.
      Omar Rahman’s late post here is the perfect example.
      They exist, but they don’t have much space to express their own views. Maybe I’m wrong to conclude they don’t have much freedom of expression. But it’s hard for me to think otherwise considering they are monitored by anti-normalizers, one-sided activists.

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    2. Henry Weinstein

      Sinjim, check this: http://www.checkpoint303.com
      It’s more my universe, I’m not an activist.
      They contacted me, because I’m friend of friends: Lebanon, Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Henry Weinstein

      Very funny, and guys from +972 will say it’s a spam: I write Check… et hop my comment is awaiting initial confirmation…

      Reply to Comment
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