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.