Wednesday, June 22, 2011

President's Conference - Part Three

Carl has done a very good job of detailing what went on at the session devoted to Israel-Diaspora Relations this morning.  So, read him and I will add some other details and observations.

But first, the dramatis personea:

(left to right: Moderator Shmuel Rosen, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Dani Dayan, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger and Prof. Dina Pinto.  Photo credit: YMedad)

As expected, Dani, who I knew was well prepared, did an excellent opening salvo.  He described acts that he thought were beyond criticism and dialogue and exchange of views and then declared that they were anti-Israel.  I will have to do some more research but Jeremy's line of defense was to prevaricate and deny and then to declare that J Street wasn't attacking Israel (in the instance of the UN Security resolution on Jewish communities in Yesha: "...we cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy") but, acting as Americans, they were supporting an American policy.  Did you get that?  That was "dual loyalty" at its worse - backhanding Israel and then denying they did it as Jews.  Dani also noted that all this talk of the "tent" is problematic because what J Street is doing is sneaking in to this community tent and subverting from within.

Amos Oz's daughter, Fania Oz-Salzburger, actually said two things memorable: the first, that Israel's need to learn the new global language and get nuances correct (Carl has on this "She says brush up your English and don't play into anti-Israel hands" which is true but I think that, at this point, she really did express concern about Israelis, even well-meaning ones, who adopt terms that indicate to Israel's enemies that the enemies are right in that they lose the semantic under-layers - and I was thinking them so much about her father).  The second was her attempt to portray pre-1967 kibbutzim as the legitimate expression of "the Zionist settlement enterprise" whereas the post-1967 Yesha communities are not.  That attempt at distinguishing, of course, makes no difference to Arabs, local or others, and so Fania, professorship and all, was simply, to quote her, 'playing into the hands of Israel's enemies'.  She also said at the end that the Yesha communities were a real danger to Israel's existence and therefore it is quite legitimate a target for criticism.

Poor Dina Pinto.  She had to deal with the panel, explain why ethnicity and God are not in the lingo of Europe and then saw fit to attack Chief Rabbi Sacks for daring to declare that "human rights" is the new mutation of anti-semitism which always rides on the central motif of discourse (in the Middle Ages - religion; in the 19th-20th century - science and now human rights).

The alliance between Dani and Rabbi Yoffie, - who, I must note, not only remembered when we met long ago but is aware that I blog (see, there are advantage to blogging) and I must have said something very negative about him for him to recall my activity, - was played almost perfectly by Dani, even when he noted that Reform Judaism realized the era of its ways when it was anti-Zionist and decided to come back into the tent in 1937.  I am sure, though, that few youngsters there were aware of that prehistoric event (and ARZA only joined to Zionist Organization in 1978).

The episode with Judge Goldstone and the South African Zionist Federation (Carl writes: "South African Zionist Federation delegate raises Goldstone...Adds quick anecdote. They asked Goldstone whether he believed the Israeli government was responsible for war crimes and Goldstone said no") is inadequate a retelling.

The man actually said that he asked Goldstone if he truly believed that Israel purposefully committed 'war crimes' and he said that Goldstone admitted he had a problem with "this [Israeli] government" but he pointed out to the judge that the government that led Operation Cast Lead was a Kadima government, not Likud.  I think that is an important addition.

One other matter.  Dani Dayan revealed that he had met the members of a Congressional delegation led by J Street.  I know someone who was invited to meet with a J Street group earlier and was heavily pressured to withdraw due to the firm opposition to any contacts with J Street and the need to ostracize them.  I do not think it fair to say one thing and to do another. [Dani adds: "I never pressed anyone not to meet J Street.

Additionally, I don't consider it as meeting J street but as meeting 5 members of Congress.]

One last thing, with thanks to David Bedein who reminded me.

Who wrote the following:

Western political leaders have acquired a concern for 'Arab-Palestinian homelessness', which is selfishly economic rather than humanitarian.  At the same time they ignore that three quarters of the original Palestine Mandate area is now under Palestinian-Arab rule.  The sooner disaspora Jews and the Hebrew nation recognize these new realities, the stronger they will be.

The Hebrew renaissance offers a painful choice to Jews.  They can live in the diaspora, often  facing isolation, persecution and ambivalent identities, or they can return to their ancient land and face perils, but with a chance for honorable self-fulfillment and an end to wandering...

It was Yitzhaq Ben-Ami, father of Jeremy Ben-Ami, on page 544 of his book.
Years of Wrath, Days of Glory.

Think about that.


Arutz 7 has a video up, in Hebrew, of course and here is their interview in English with Dany.


P.P.S.  Youtube.

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