Guy Herschmann is a recent graduate of U.C. Santa Cruz. What’s nice Jewish boy doing in a place like UC Santa Cruz? Evidently, he was a campus coordinator for the Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs. He recently went to a scary event held here in the Bay Area:
One might have expected the Birzeit Society’s 11th annual convention in Burlingame, with its schedule of family outings and festivities, to be a pleasant family affair. The society, established 25 years ago for Palestinians from the village of Birzeit who now live in the U.S., attracted approximately 700 people to its five-day gathering in early July.
But instead of a warm family atmosphere, I witnessed chilling anti-Israel extremism. Children were indoctrinated with anti-Israel and intolerant rhetoric. An emerging generation of activists was trained to proudly use deceit and manipulation to promote a “one-state” solution that has no room for Israel.
At the panel “Palestine: One State vs. Two State Solution,” criticism was heaped on the Palestinian Authority, not for its corruption but rather for normalizing relations with Israel. Mai al Kaila, the P.A.’s ambassador to Chile, tried to win over the crowd by commiserating about the difficulty of establishing Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and by emphasizing that the P.A.’s goal is that “all refugees living in the diaspora have their lands in Haifa, Jaffa and everything.”
She tried to justify the P.A.’s promotion of a two-state solution as a necessary compromise. “What can we do when we don’t have a military power … or a nuclear power?” she asked. The crowd grumbled. “Our strategy now … is nonviolence.” The grumbling grew louder. The audience seemed unable to tolerate the idea of two peaceful states for two peoples. When she sat down, a man declared that “we need an intifada.”
The panel’s featured speakers were the Rev. Naim Ateek and the Rev. Don Wagner, both from Sabeel, a Jerusalem-based ecumenical Christian group known for its hostility to Israel. Panel moderator Ramiz Rafeedie called all supporters of Israel “your enemies.” He warned that advocating a one-state solution could alienate potential allies because it attacks the legitimacy of Zionism, so he advised audience members to refine their arguments to win supporters.
Ateek described a future Palestinian confederation with Jordan and Lebanon as a remedy for a two-state stalemate. “We need to have a third intifada,” he stated, adding that it should be “totally nonviolent.” Wagner contributed classic anti-Semitic canards, saying that Congress is “sewn up” by Zionists. Ateek’s closing statements summed up the tone of the convention: “We say no. We adamantly reject the two-state solution at any price.”
The audience response to these statements was the most disturbing aspect to me. The panel attracted an audience of more than 200, primarily families, including youngsters. They responded enthusiastically to calls for a third intifada, with children as young as 7 applauding with their parents.
I don’t suppose it’s very different from what’s your average Palestinian Authority meeting/public school function looks like. But look at the persons of Jewish heritage in attendance:
A second panel, “BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) on American Campuses,” was equally extreme. Dina Omar, a Berkeley graduate and student at Columbia, joined Nora Barrows-Friedman, who writes for Electronic Intifada and al Jazeera, in laying out BDS strategies and goals.
‘Omar urged the audience to get BDS branded as “just one piece of a larger question of social justice.” She advocated outr each to any and all religious, racial and ethnic groups, economic justice groups, and environmentalists to insert BDS — thme collective punishment of Israel — into all progressive causes. Displaying Occupy Wall Street and Free Tibet flyers emblazoned with BDS slogans, Omar urged students to “use your institutions’ symbols, rhetoric, and propaganda … to turn or flip the message or to insert your message in however subversive a way you can.”
Barrows-Friedman called the message that “people just … need to get along” an Israeli plot against Palestinians.
The speakers advised against reaching out to pro-Israel students, especially if they are Jewish. When asked whether there are any Jewish groups with whom BDS activists can work, Barrows-Friedman, who is Jewish, responded, “It depends on your level of tolerance.” After a pause, Omar answered that the group Jewish Voice for Peace may be acceptable.
In fact, the BDS movement frequently uses token Jews to make its case and deflect charges of anti-Semitism. Barrows-Friedman awkwardly sidestepped an anti-Semitic comment from an audience member, making light of a canard about the “Jewish-controlled” global financial system.
For bonus, remember how the media declared that Romney was somehow wrong to point out the differences between the Israeli culture and that of their neighbors. Well, shortly before it, World Bank issued a report saying that Palestinian economy can not support a state:
“The Palestinian Authority has made steady progress in many years towards establishing the institutions required by a future state, but the economy is currently not strong enough to support such a state,” economist John Nasir said in a statement accompanying the report, which was released July 25.
The P.A. says it is facing its worst financial crisis since it was founded in 1994, with debts of $1.5 billion and an immediate cash shortfall of $500 million, the French news agency AFP reported. Donor countries have propped up the Palestinian economy with billions of dollars in assistance.
In the report, the World Bank said the aid has led to 7.7 percent gross domestic product growth between 2007 and 2011, but only in government services, real estate and other nontradable sectors.
Oh. There are two lessons for the Obama Administration in that news item.