9:30 PM:

That is all for tonight. More tomorrow. Thanks to anyone who actually followed my babbling. At the end of the three days I WILL write something comprehensible.  Also, stay tuned Monday or Tuesday afternoon for a podcast interview with Ann Toback, Executive Director of Workmen’s Circle, one of the Conference sponsors, as well as a post from my attendance at a press conference Monday with Jeremy Ben Ami, President of J Street. If you have any questions for Ann or Jeremy, or anything specific about the conference that you would like to know more about, please do not hesitate to post a comment or contact me and I will work to fit it in.


9:25 PM:

Third Honoree: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelash, Physician, Founder of Daughters for Life Foundation and author. Palestinian who lost three daughters and a niece to a single Israeli shell in the Gaza Strip. Instead of giving up and going for revenge, he seeks justice – which he believes only comes from each side living their own lives free from fear of each other in heir own homes. He has become a leader in writing and speaking about a peaceful two state solution from a Palestinian viewpoint.  Person introducing him describes him as someone honest about his losses and fears but who moves forward not just despite but because of them.

“It is important to feel anger and rage, but we have choices.”

He points out that Palestinian freedom also means Israeli freedom from fear if they can both succeed.

Author’s note: 2,000 Jews giving a standing ovation to a Gazan Palestinian may be a first.

More quotes from Dr. Abuelash:

“I am proud to be here, and would be glad to see my daughters come out of their graves and see that their blood might not be a waste…We need to live the HUMAN values, that is what’s needed. As a Muslim of faith I swore … not to relax or rest …because I want to leave them giving them honor and justice … I am not the hero, my daughters are the heroes. … When we start to defend the values that all human beings have faces,names, and hopes, those are the values we need to face. As human beings, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and Arabs…to overcome our mutual problems we must change course. There cannot be a solution for peace for one that can be enforced. We are all born free and should remain so. No one should have to pay for their freedom.”

“You can do a lot, don’t underestimate what you can do with your vote and with speaking to our friends an family. Our illness is our illness of our ignorance. We convince ourselves that we know each other (Israeli and Palestinian) but we do not know each other. We need two vital Democratic states and admit that there are values to both of us in this. There are barriers that can be overcome as long as their is political willingness. There is nothing large to be talked about. Everyone has acknowledged the road map to piece. We must ACT on it. {Palestinians are people with hops and dreams, who want to succeed and be free, and others to be free, bot to stop at the borders of Palestine. We do not look for war and revenge. We need to heal our people and treat our wounds, not continue to open in them. “I do not believe in impossible things, the only impossible thing I believe in is to bring my daughters back.”

“‘Too late’ are the words of cowards. It is never too late for dignity, peace and security for the Palestinians. We need leaders whose eyes are focused on their nations, on the poor and the homeless. Not  whose eyes are on the next elections and their possessions. Every one of us here can be true to Palestinians without being untrue to Israelis and true to Israelis without being untrue to Palestinians …G iving up on peace is NEVER an option.”

Closed with “I believe in you, I believe in you, I believe in you. Have hope, have faith, but TAKE ACTION.” The road map is to humanity, the humanity we all belong to.”


9:00 PM:

Second honoree: Sara Benninga, Organizer, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. “Solidarity” is an Israeli Peace movement that marches for peace EVEY WEEK in Israel. There marches were oppressed and govt moved to crush them. Have had to fight for their legal right to demonstrate peacefully – continue to march, but the anger to them IS the danger to Israeli Democracy. She is a young woman who a few years ago was just a kid in Western Jerusalem living in a bubble, untouched by the injustice a few hundred yards away in East Jerusalem. She was immersed in school in the principles of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. She asked how we would react if we realized that our government treated our constitution as words on a piece of paper to be ignored. The audience laughed, to which she replied I CHOOSE TO FIGHT. Not only does she make the case that Israel has violated its own stated principles, she can’t help but make you think about how little we are doing as our government begins (continues?) to do the same. Young Palestinians learning that first time refugees can become second time refugees through being pushed out of their homes in East Jerusalem by Jews who are claiming land they owned before 1948 but lost in the war and were compensated for by the state with land in West Jerusalem. Essentially it is a right of return for Jews. She s not arguing for Palestinian Right of Return, she is arguing against hypocrisy.

160 members of her group have been arrested. 40 are facing indictment. She herself is facing three trials. Yet her partner and friend who is Palestinian is facing much worse punishment for the exact same thing – more proof of inequality/ “Committed to Direct Engagement where injustice occurs” Working in the tradition of the American Civil Rights Movement. “Systematic discrimination is irreconcilable with Democracy … We reject the false dichotomy between security and democracy” (Author’s note – another example we could learn from here).


8:40 PM:

Beinart – We are the last ones to fight ford emocracy in Israel. Without change, the next generation will gather to mourn it. We have won the land but we have forgotten Hishel: “The holiness of Israel is not the land of Israel, but the holiness of the people of Israel”


8:30 PM:

Head of J Street U, a college kid, ust introduced first honoree ,Peter Beinart. He talked about how Binart’s writings were the moment he ralized there were others like him, Jews (the kid was born in Israel) who deeply absorbed the Jewish progressive ethical tradition growing up, and thus realized that the Gaza war was a moment when in a need for real defense Israel crossed a line that contradicted those Jewish Ideals, and that for it to continue to exist it must re-find those values, which can only occur with the creation of a Palestinian state.


8:06 PM:

He is covering a lot very quickly. I am recording and will post sound bites later. Stressing that -Street Principal 1 is the right of Israel to Exist. Principal 2 is that Israel can ONLY be both Jewish and Democratic IF it gives up the idea of one state, that being Pro-Israel does not mean being Anti-Palestinian. It means acknowledging the need for a Palestinian state. The Third Principal is that criticism of Israel is not the same as not supporting Israel. It is not the criticism of Israeli policy that endangers Israel, it is the policies themselves. The fourth principal is that the US debate over Israel is a vital part of Judaism. No one belief can define acceptable speech in the Jewish Community. The Jewish Establishment in doing so puts the Jewish community at risk by distancing the youth not just from Israel but from Judaism, and is why opposition of J-Street from both the left and the right have been invited and are participating, as are five members of the Knesset.  AIPAC/ADL refusals to share any stage or mic with J-Street needs to end. Fifth and last principle is we ground our work in our Jewish value and our American Values, that it is possible to not  “check your liberalism at the door of Zionism.”


8:00 PM:

J-Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami now speaking.” J-street PAC is now biggest Pro-Israel PAC in the country”

Author’s note – If that is true, AIPAC must be sh—-ng themselves.


7:50 PM:

Sapperstein talking about UN, and how there is such a visceral distrust of the UN by Israelis and Jews, that to consider any resolution – even a good one – alienates the main stream. Thinks that the pro-resolution stance of J-Street was a mistake because it alienated Conservative Jews who support J – Street. Arguing that we need to hold the mainstream when our action cannot make a difference so we might bring them along when we can.  We need to differentiate between BDS and de-legitimization, one can oppose BDS but cannot equate it with de-legitimization without alienating the mainstream. If we alienate the mainstream we cannot push the moral vision for true peace. We will become the audience, not the speaker.


7:36 PM:

Sapperstein, for those who don’t know, is a leader in the US Jewish Reform movement and has been a loud voice against genocide in Darfur and the use of torture by the United States.

“Why do we care so much about social justice? Because god says so.”

“We do not exist for existence alone.”

“One can not claim to be a god-intoxicated Jew without an unquenchable thirst for social justice.”

Speaking about the core Jewish concept that Jews have a responsibility to treat those in their community that are not Jewish the same as they treat any Jew, and how this compels a Palestinian State.

Author’s note: Readers should be aware that there IS an invited Palestinian presence here, including participation in panel discussions and Palestinian press.


Friday, Jan 26, 7:25 PM:

So yes, here I am, press pass and all, at the J-Street Conference. Apparently someone (the wonderful Amy Spitalnik, J-Street’s pres secretary; thank you Amy) considers some of hat I have written to count as journalism.

Each day I will have a different running commentary so if you are a subscriber or follow me on Facebook you will know when I have started. I will try to bounce over to FB now an then to let you know of anything interesting that I hope will bring you over, but I won’t do each post individually so you won’t get hit with “new blog” notices all day.

Rachel Lerner, the conference director is speaking now, stressing the theme, “giving voice to our values,” as well as the difficulties that Jews such as ourselves face for speaking up for true peace, a peace for both sides.

“The American Jewish community has more to say than those who claim to  speak for us all”

“We believe in Pluralism”

First Speaker Rabbi David Sapperstein coming up.