The Conspiracy

J Street Conference: Clapping for Hate?

Mona Eltahawy, second from left

Mona Eltahawy, second from left

There’s a plenary going on right now at the J Street Conference that’s exploring the present democracy movements in the Middle East. Good stuff. Something everyone–and especially the peaceniks here–can get behind. The first two panelists gave unsurprising speeches supporting democracy and the peace process, which elicited some token cheers from a mostly silent crowd.

Then Mona Eltahawy, a vocal journalist from Egypt, started speaking–and there the niceties ended. Here are some things she said about the revolution in Egypt. She began:

“This is not about Israel. None of this is about Israel.”

But this, after all, is J Street, so she started talking about Israel. Here’s what she said:

“The hatred against Israel will not end” from Egypt until the Palestinians have freedom.

Then the pro-Israel crowd started cheering. She repeated a similar statement, and the crowd cheered even more.

This is a problem. I understand that this crowd, to put it lightly, dislikes the occupation. I know they want to see a Palestinian state. But if they’re serious about being pro-Israel, or even about being pro-peace, they need to be anti-hatred.

It is wrong–for anyone–to cheer for hate. It is wrong, at a pro-Israel conference, to cheer someone who professes her hatred for Israel–not her disappointment, not her concern, but her hatred. She can hate whoever she wants. And if J Street wants her to come to their conference and speak at a major session, they can do that too. But when she comes to that pro-Israel conference, starts talking about hatred for Israel and draws the loudest cheer from the crowd, that’s bad. It’s bad for J Street and it’s bad for J Street’s supporters if they intend to show their support for the Jewish state.

I believe that J Street and most of its base are pro-Israel. I believe that its platform has the state’s best interests in mind. But hearing them cheer for hate, I can understand those who doubt J Street’s love for Israel.

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37 Older Responses to “J Street Conference: Clapping for Hate?”

  1. Jonah Newman
    February 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Hey Ben,
    I agree with you 100% on the very very bad message that it sends. And sitting in the room, I felt similarly uncomfortable with the idea that people around me were cheering for her sentiment of hate and, perhaps just as much, about the message that sends to people who already doubt JStreet’s commitment to Israel. To give everyone a little bit of credit, I think they were clapping not for the hate she was expressing, but for the idea of both the occupation and hate of the Jewish state ending simultaneously. Unfortunately, that’s not how it looked and its certainly not how it will look to JStreet’s haters.

    Follow my tweets from the conference: twitter.com/jonahshai

  2. Yakov Wolf
    February 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    I haven’t had a chance to see any of the conference (I hear its streaming, hopefully this panel will be available to watch somewhere), but just from how you’ve worded it here, I am really getting a different message than you are presenting here, Ben. Maybe it’s the incomplete sentence in the quote that leaves me a bit disconnected from your critique. But it seems like what is being cheered is the possibility of the END of hatred of Israel, and the related possibility of the liberation of Palestine. At least, that’s how I’m reading your words.

    I mean, I don’t think anyone would deny that there is hatred for Israel, especially in regard to the occupation, being expressed among some sectors of the Egyptian populace; what would be the point of avoiding saying that out loud? She’s giving a name to a very real phenomenon that needs to be addressed and not danced around.

    Of course, you are there and I am not, and maybe I’m misunderstanding her or your wording. I’m willing to bet that’s the case.

  3. Miriam
    February 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    This–exactly this–is why J Street receives absolutely no support from me.

  4. Mare
    February 27, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    ” I believe that J Street and most of its base are pro-Israel. I believe that its platform has the state’s best interests in mind. But hearing them cheer for hate, I can understand those who doubt J Street’s love for Israel.”

    Since they accept money from Soros and he is a selfhating Jew who also hates Israel, I doubt this is true on the whole. IMO they are not a positive role model – sort of like the UN.

  5. FormerJStreeter
    February 27, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I stopped supporting and being a member of J Street when I realized they truly do not care if Israel ceases to exist.

  6. dancingcat
    February 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    I was at the panel. No one was clapping for hate. This is simply an irresponsible, attention-grabbing headline. We were clapping for freedom for everyone and an *end* to hate on all sides (after hearing Dr. Abulaish’s tear-incuding presentation about how he doesn’t hate even after losing three daughters to Israeli bombs, no one could possibly clap for hate).

    At another panel at the conference, Professor Shibley Telhami, who does a lot of public opinion polling in the Arab world, said that his findings show that “Egyptians are very angrey at Israel” (for Gaza, treatment of the Palestinians, etc.) but that a majority supports a two-state solution. So he disagreed a bit with Eltahawy.

  7. Susan
    February 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    The real problem is that the Arab world has been using the so-called Palestinians as an excuse to try to destroy Israel for years. The proof is in how THEY treat them when they get the chance. The propaganda they feed their people obviously has sunk in, so, in a sense, this woman is correct. That doesn’t mean that anything she’s saying is just or fair or logical, & definitely doesn’t mean that any supporter of Israel, or, indeed, any Jew (who are the targets of their hatred, not just the State of Israel!) should approve of it.

  8. JS Free
    February 27, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    The cheers were for the truth about fairness and justice. It is beyond belief that you could tag this as “hatred” except that this is the myopic view that we normally get in the US, where it is almost impossible to criticize Israel for anything. Mona has taken a lot of heat on the other side for writing for Israel publications. The truth in the middle may be painful but no less the truth. What she hates in the injustice.

  9. Jim
    February 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    The reason J-Street cheered was because they understand that the only way Israel will be liked by its neighbours and the Arab world is if the Occupation ends.

    Peace will eventually bring friendship. Peace needs to come first and the only thing that will bring peace will be for Israel to withdraw back to its internationally recognised borders.

    The Shoah and the Nakba are part of the same tragedy and until the wolrd recognises this there will not be peace.

  10. John Kjellberg
    February 27, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    Israel is hurting itself. Just doing all it can to create ennemies. Terrorists. Israel cultivates them. Being seriously pro-Israel is being pro-Palestinian.

  11. Bubba
    February 27, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    I did not interpret her statement as “I hate Israel”; rather, as a commentator on the Arab world, I read the statement as a frank description of the sentiment on the street in Egypt.

  12. Kal
    February 27, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Dont you think that when she says Israel she means the regime? There is clearly a distinction between a nation and its ruling regime. One can hate a regime but not its people. Its clear that she is talking about a regime and its policies towards a religious/racial minority. Most of the civilized world hated “South Africa” when apartheid was the system of government. We don’t anymore! As long as Israel treats Palestinians as second class citizens, Egyptians will not be “pro-Israel”.

  13. Kari
    February 27, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    As a J Street member and J Street conference attender, I would like to clarify: We were not clapping because we are happy that the Egyptians hate Israel. Of course we are against hatred. Hatred of Israelis AND hatred of Palestinians. Rather, we were clapping because Mona Eltahawy was speaking the truth. If we were not concerned about the future existence of the State of Israel, we would not have been in the room at all.

  14. Ruthie Spiero
    February 27, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Wow, I am shocked by this blog entry and the comments below (except for dancingcat’s). No-one was clapping for hate. What a preposterous idea. They were clapping because what Mona was saying was true. Unless Israel ends the occupation of the Palestinians territories, we will keeping breeding hatred within Israel and in its surroundings. J Street is anti-occupation because the occupation is not good for Israel, plain and simple. If you can not see that then I don’t know what to say.

  15. DC Jew
    February 28, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    Yakov was on target in noting the incomplete sentence in the quote. Mr. Sales neglected to mention that Eltahawy was quoting a group of Egyptians! She lived on Jerusalem (West Jerusalem) as a reporter, and when meeting a group of young Egyptians who had all grown up post Camp David, with Egypt and Israel at peace, asked them if they had any message to send to Israelis. She said what they all wanted to say was, “We will continue to hate you until you end the Occupation and treat Palestinians with dignity.” I don’t remember if people clapped at that moment, but if we did, it was not clapping for hate, it was because this shows that they don’t “just hate us” as hardliners so often claim, there are reasons for it that can be addressed.

  16. sam
    February 28, 2011 at 12:53 am #

    i wasn’t there but obviously people were clapping on the idea of hate ending with the occupation ending. i don’t see anything wrong with that, the idea that egyptians could stop hating israel if the occupation ends means egyptians would stop hating an israeli-state, something that was hard to imagine. Also i heard israelis go to egypt in sinai specially and they have a great time no one hates them there.

  17. Darin Bicknell
    February 28, 2011 at 2:54 am #

    Mona is simply stating a fact. She is not endorsing hate on Israel. Would you deny a majority of people in the Middle East and North Africa have animosity towards Israel? Maybe put it in context of what is happening in Palestine or in the world at large: Nir Rosen said: “If You Want to Stop Terrorism, Stop Killing Muslims.” is that hatred directed at the West or Israel? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW0eiPiuUukt
    Time to be brutally honest about the situation in Palestine for the people. It is horrible, it is unfair and it promotes hatred towards Israel and its people needlessly. If Israelis took a stand for human rights for Palestinians and their own people then this would be over and the hatred from both sides of this conflict would be reduced significantly. We are all to blame for this conflict. Why not do more to end it than baiting people like Mona who care about humanity and human rights for all people?

  18. Jared
    February 28, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    We weren’t clapping for hate! We were clapping because someone finally pointed to the white elephant in the room! Hatred for Israel will not end until we end the conflict, and too many people are too afraid to admit it.

  19. Historian
    February 28, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    Things have moved very slowly in Egypt over the last 60-odd years.The hatred forced Egypt’s sizeable Jewish population to flee for their lives in the 1950′s when Nasser’s Arab-fascism plotted the ultimate demise of Israel. Guess what friends? That was pre-1967 and Israel had no settlements in The West Bank nor Gaza. Yet they hated us in 1948, they hated us then and they hate us now. Hmmmmmm, the common thread is hatred for the Jew, no matter where in The Middle East he happens to try and settle.

  20. Jay
    February 28, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Please don’t confuse applauding honesty with cheering for hate.

    And, speaking of honesty, Mona Eltahawy’s words are available on YouTube and I would encourage everyone to hear her and make their own determination as to whether people were “Clapping for Hate.”

  21. joshua schwartz
    February 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    considering what kind of quality of work we, your readers, generally expect from you (i.e. quite high), this article is a truly disappointing bit of “gotcha” journalism that not only seizes on one spin-able moment to essentialize and define an entire group/movement, but also projects onto that moment an interpretation involving no interviews or sourcing. did you ask any of the attendees who clapped if they support hate?
    rather, this article traffics in appearances and uses them to reinforce a specific narrative that serves certain interests while trying to appear as if it is critical and objective. stop supposing and start reporting.

  22. Sima
    February 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    I’m with Historian: “…..the common thread is hatred for the Jew, no matter where in The Middle East he happens to try and settle.”
    If only you well-meaning, idealistic J-Streeters would study history, you would realize that the Arabs do not want a two-state situation. What they have always wanted and will continue to fight for is a one-state Muslim country and for Israel to be totally destroyed.

  23. David Zarmi
    February 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    Best comment – JS Free. Gee I don’t know – how you characterize this as hatred? The statement that the hatred will not end… She used the word hatred. My G-d man (or woman), what is wrong with you?

    But to thos who want to see the sunny side (and don’t we always), there are two problems. She absolutely did not say that the hatred will end when the Palestinians have a state. She said it won’t end before then. This isn’t a case of semantics. Public speakers choose their words carefully – it’s not like you and me having a conversation. Although she obviously cannot guaranty that anyone but her would stop hating Israel if their were a state, she still could have said that she believes the general hatred Egyptians have of Israel would end if there were a state if she meant it. She did not. The second problem is broader – how much abuse do I need to take before I stand up for myself? Do I need to let somebody tell me they will not stop hating me until I do XYZ? Or do I have the right to expect them to speak civilly to me – “we can end our dispute by doing XYZ?”

    And Ben’s point was that hatred is just not acceptable in this forum. I would go further – it’s just not acceptable. I don’t hate any countries or peoples. I am willing to express hatred for those who want to kill me (or physically injure me), but my difficulty is in discerning who those are among the mass of humanity. It’s just not acceptable to hate “Israel.” I know this takes me out of J Street’s camp, but plenty fo other stuff does that already.

  24. Reb
    February 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    I was also there, and Ben, I agree with your critics here. We were applauding Eltahawy’s honesty and the frank equation between the Occupation and hate. They don’t hate “us” (or “our freedoms”) but rather the regime and its harsh, obliterative oppression of Palestinians. If they hate “us” it is because we allow a violent, anti-peace government to act in our names.

  25. DC Jew
    March 1, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    Historian, you’re not much of a historian if you don’t remember what happened in 1948 to greatly increase the hatred. Half a million Palestinians, having fled a war zone, were never allowed to return to their homes, and became refugees — families separated, communities dissolved, etc. Your comment is a golden example of how unserious this “they just hate us” mantra really is.

  26. DC Jew
    March 1, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    David Zarmi, your attempt to squeeze unstated meanings from between the speaker’s words is hopelessly contrived. That type of logic rarely leads to reality, it’s an intellectually flawed vehicle to enable the user of it to contrive a means for attacking a speaker or writer, usually and in this case for issues that don’t exist. In any case, you even got the quote wrong, so even on your own terms your argument fails. My comment above on the 28th provides an accurate rendering of the quote and context, so I suggest you refer back to that of go through the video.

  27. David Olesker
    March 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    I think the discussion of whether participants were or were not “cheering hatred” is misplaced. I have no doubt that, if you asked them if they approve of hatred of Israel they would all sincerely say no. I think the real issue is one of sensitivity and what different sensitivities mean.

    Imagine if there had been a speaker at the conference who stated that “Israeli’s hatred fro Arabs will not end until terrorism against Israeli civilians ends”. Can you imagine the audience whooping and cheering such a statement? I’m guessing they would be appalled by it and likely boo. They would be sensitized to the phrase “hatred of Arabs” and would respond to it viscerally. Maybe on sober reflection they would accept that the speaker wasn’t preaching hatred but only describing it. If so, they would probably chide the speaker for his choice of words.

    Those who cheered are not in favor of hatred against Israel, but they are certainly not sensitized to it. And that really worries me. The 2010 Pew survey found over 90% of Egyptians to be antisemitic. It’s not being paranoid to be sensitive to that fact. Why are so many J Street supporters so indifferent to it?

  28. isalwen
    March 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    If the Occupation ends, the hate will end? Seriously? Just like it did in Gaza? Oh, yeah, the West Bank is still occupied. And when the West Bank is no longer occupied, will the excuse be that Jaffa is still occupied?

    David Olesker brings up the most important point. Believe the polls, people. Most Arabs hate Jews, not “Zionists”, Jews. Why? There’s an old song from “South Pacific” that answers this question nicely, called “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”. As long as the people in the Arab World are conditioned to hate Jews, to hate the “Zionist enemy” then those who hope for peace have a problem.

    Don’t just blame Israel and say that Israel’s actions cause the hate. If Arafat had accepted Israel’s offer at Camp David, the Occupation would be over. But after years and years of calling for the defeat of the “Zionist enemy” he couldn’t accept any deal, no matter how generous it was, without appearing to be a traitor! He was a victim of his own propaganda campaign and so were his people.

    If there is to be any hope for peace in the near future, then the anti-Israel and, yes, anti-Semitic indoctrination has to stop NOW. The Palestinian people have to be conditioned to accept their Israeli neighbors and want peaceful coexistence. That takes time. The longer we wait, the farther away real peace gets.

    Unfortunately, I don’t hear any of the “pro-peace” activists taking the leadership that propagates hatred to task for doing so. I don’t see the US Government or the European countries threatening to withhold funding from governments and organizations who indoctrinate their people with hate. If you really want to show you’re “pro-Israel, pro-peace”, maybe you J-Streeters should take a break from dwelling on Israel’s shortcomings and start lobbying for an end to anti-Israel indoctrination.

  29. Cap
    March 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Isalwen is right on the money. Hatred of Israel in the Muslim world has nothing to do with Palestinians and everything to do with Jews.

    Just as many Palestinians live in Arab states and in the West Bank/Gaza, yet their standard of living is much much lower. Why is this? In Lebanon the government continues to deny Palestinians citizenship. In Jordan Palestinians are stripped of their citizenship. In Egypt Palestinians are denied access into the country for hospital care, although Hamas has strong support among the general population.

    Occupation you say? What were the excuses when Egypt and Jordan occupied the Palestinians? Or were they just Arabs then?

    And what about the 60,000 Jews kicked out of Egypt after Nasser took over? Is Israel allowed to hate the Arab world because the Muslims occupy a land FOUR times the size of Israel and flooded the land with ARAB SETTLERS?!

    Why is Israel expected to win the affection of the Muslim people? Maybe it’s time the Muslim world start demanding peace.

  30. David Zarmi
    March 15, 2011 at 1:47 am #

    DC Jew, please, call me David. Unfortunately, you’re so ambiguous I can’t possibly counter your opposition. However, the least you could have done was tell me how the quote was wrong. Didn’t I just take it from the article above? And really, all my contrivances are hopeful. Eternally optimistic, I yam.

    At any rate, I think David Olesker said it correctly after my post. Please incoporate his thoughts into mine (with hsi permission, of course).

  31. Mathew Norlander
    December 5, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Nobody’s as lazy as Mushnick – a punk hypocrite who works for a company in the business of hacking phone calls. I know, Phony Phil, you’re on an island, blah, blah, blah. You’re a complete fraud, a megalomaniac and a fake. And now that football’s here, can’t wait to see the depth of the anal tongue baths you’ll be providing for Phil Simms. That’s assuming Simms keeps providing favors for you, Phony Phil.

  32. Brian Kent
    October 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    This was a great piece.Very revealing.This is the attitude of the Jewish Daily Forward on Israel.They post videos undermining the IDF and Israel all the time.The Forward and J Street have the same sponsor.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mona Eltahawy’s speech signals shift in mainstream discourse that Zionists don’t want | Alex Kane - February 28, 2011

    [...] Radosh at the neoconservative Pajamas Media goes after Eltahawy here. And Ben Sales, writing for the Jewish student magazine New Voices, derides the response Eltahawy got by saying the J Street crowd was “clapping for [...]

  2. Mona Eltahawy’s speech signals shift in mainstream discourse that Zionists don’t want - February 28, 2011

    [...] at the neoconservative Pajamas Media goes after Eltahawy here. And Ben Sales, writing for the Jewish student magazine New Voices, derides the response Eltahawy got by saying the J Street crowd was “clapping for [...]

  3. Fisking yet another smear against J Street | harpojaeger.com - March 3, 2011

    [...] from the problems with judging an organization’s political alignment by applause, it’s ironic that this is used here, because I wish it was more true than it actually is. [...]

  4. J Street too center of left | Jewschool - March 8, 2011

    [...] divided down the middle between people rising to applaud Eltahawy and those who thought she was condoning hate. And everyone was much less certain than they were in the triumphal wake of Obama’s election. [...]

  5. The J Street You Don’t Hear About « New Voices - April 6, 2011

    [...] And as long as I see things that are worth criticizing, that will continue. But I want to note that my most virulent criticisms have been about J Street’s image rather than its substance. I have always believed that the [...]

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