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J Street Day 2: A Continuing Anti-Israel Tirade

While she remembers living through a war with Israel, she stressed that these younger people do not. What they see is not a defeated Egypt, but the horrors done to Palestinians by Israelis on a daily basis. Stating that the residents of Gaza put in a Hamas administration in a free and fair election, she said that “the hatred of Israel will not end until Israel ends the occupation of Gaza and treats Palestinians with dignity.” They would not be friends with the West until all Palestinians were free. As for their choosing Islamist governments, she said that “we will support whatever the Palestinians want,” a statement that was met with a large round of applause. Referring to a debate she recently had with Alan Dershowitz, a man with whom she clearly had nothing but derision, she stated that since the U.S. backed Mubarak, he could take him. “You,” she said she told him, treating Dershowitz as a surrogate for both the U.S. and Israel, “supported him against our revolution.”

Pledging to march in the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Eltahawy said they would continue to march in support of their Palestinian brothers and sisters until they won the “freedom and dignity of all the Palestinians.”

Mona Eltahawy’s talk got more applause than any speaker I heard in the two days, including any of the Israeli members of the Knesset, most from Kadima, who spoke later in the afternoon.  Immediately at the end of her speech, the chair, Ambassador Samuel Lewis, took the mike and added that Israel, which received so much from the U.S., owed the U.S. something in return. Therefore, he told the audience, he favored a vote of abstention -- rather than a negative vote -- last week at the UN in favor of the Arab resolution condemning Israel. Lewis thought that such a vote would have shown the neutrality of the U.S., and would have had the effect of pushing the Netanyahu government further along towards accepting a peace agreement.

What, he then asked, is the role of the Muslim Brotherhood -- about which many Israelis and many aware Americans are deeply concerned? Lewis suggested a policy of what he called “constructive engagement.” He knew, he said, that many feared governments in Arab countries dominated by a radical Islamist political party. That was, he put it, “their deepest fear.”

Answering him, Mona Eltahawy commented that the rebellious Arabs wanted the formation of political parties and the freeing of prisoners, and were not particularly concerned about the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood. Besides, she argued, “in Egypt they missed the boat on the revolution, which was sparked by youthful dissidents and which galvanized all of Egypt.” The leaders of the  Brotherhood, she said, were “old men who are out of touch.” The people were telling all old leaders, including them, “to go to hell.” They had perhaps 20 percent support, and hence they deserved representation in a free parliament of different political parties. “They are, after all, Egyptians, and no doubt will be presented.” Thus, she wanted them to gain that right.

Nevertheless, she said, they and other Islamists had to say more than constantly repeating “Islam is the solution.” That was permissible when a tyranny existed, but now more was needed. The Brotherhood, she said, had a role to play in a new Egypt, as much as any other party, and Israel had to negotiate with them if such a group took power since they represent a good portion of Arab society. I was struck by the fact that she and others failed to mention that in Liberation Square, the  Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, the radical Islamist Youssef al-Qaradawi, spoke to a giant crowd as they celebrated Mubarak’s defeat and departure.

Turning to Turkey, Eltahawy praised the path taken by Prime Minister Erdogan as a good example of progress. The prime minister, she pointed out, had left his original group to create the new AK party. Concluding her comments, she again brought up the issue of Gaza, and referred to Israel’s actions in the warfare a few years ago as “the massacre at Gaza.” Here, she said, the world saw the real face of Israel, that of “blowing Palestinians apart.”

By Monday morning, when most PJM readers will see this summary, J Street’s website will have this session and others online to watch, so you can judge for yourself if my summary and response to the speakers is accurate.

Despite the continued assurance of J Street’s leaders, particularly Jeremy Ben-Ami, that the organization wants debate and full discussion between all points of view,most of the plenary panels were stacked with one viewpoint alone -- that which saw Israel alone as being responsible for the failure to attain peace in the Middle East The J Street crowd wildly applauded those like Mona Eltahawy who spoke in favor of Palestinian goals, and who were harshly negative against Israel and its present government.

When some of the Kadima speakers said modest statements that were positive about Israel and the positions the government took, they got modest and slight applause -- a stark contrast to those who cheered and responded with great enthusiasm to those speakers most critical of Israel. If anything, given their position on the recent UN resolution, J Street is worse on its position towards Israel than the Obama administration itself. Pro-Israel indeed.