An organization called Coalition of Women for Peace (yes, Rachel Corrie is their mascot) has sent 3 women, a Palestinian Christian from East Jerusalem, Marianne Albina, 26; Hidaya Said Najmi, a Palestinian Muslim from Jenin, 38; and an Israeli Jew and prominent feminist leftist peace activist, Gila Svirsky, 58, to the US to tell us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from their personal perspective.
I was a guest of a friend in another city who invited me to attend their lecture. I was expecting extensive vilification of Israel and was not disappointed. Albina, the 26 year old, complained that she was unable to study at inferior Palestinian universities because of the “occupation” and therefore suffered horribly by having to go to Hebrew University to receive her education. She spoke about experiencing discrimination as an Arab but her bio listed two scholarships from the University.
Then Najmi told us about the horrors the Israelis inflict upon Palestinians, and about how bad it was to live in Jenin during Israel’s incursion in 2002. Anybody who has read a little about what happened there, would have recognized some false information in her presentation as well as extensive omissions.
Finally, Svirsky, a well known peacenik who led B’Tselem at one point and is definitely a polished and experienced speaker, spoke about her love for Israel and how Israel needs to end the “Occupation.”
Of the three, it was Svirsky who was the most impressive and impartial, which is suprising when you consider her politics (2 minutes on the Coalition of Women website will provide a clear perspective).
Then came question period and the three women were lobbed a bunch of soft questions. The attacks on Israel persisted. When an audience member asked the three to list the 3 greatest obstacles to peace, they all mentioned US support for Israel and only Svirsky mentioned suicide bombings. She said that the bombings “hardened Israeli hearts.”
I had some fun when it was my turn to ask them a question and made sure to challenge some of their assertions. My real question, however, was to Svirsky. Why would she support these evenings where all the panel does is vilify Israel? How does that bring us closer to peace and the end of an “occupation?”
This trio is currently on an 18 city tour in the US. In this friend’s city, they visited two churches and a synagogue over two days. If they were almost unchallenged at the synagogue, who will challenge them in the churches?
Every week brings more of these types of sessions to various public fora acoss the US. Usually, churches serve as hosts because they can provide a built in audience. We have reached a point where the Palestinians know they own the European perspective on the conflict and are now targeting the US as aggressively as they can. “Dialogue groups” are sprouting up everywhere, and usually become bastions of anti-Israel sentiment under the guise of “dialogue.” Church groups receive a constant stream of visitors espousing a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel version of history and current events. The Internet is flooded with erroneous pro-Palestinian propaganda carried by Palestinian. Muslim, Arab, Left wing, Far Right and other hate websites. Lest we forget, there are also sophisticated sites like the allegedly Saudi funded WRMEA that attack Israel incessantly under the guise of scholarship. Discussion groups on every possible topic find the conflict entering their pages, not infrequently by posters who use the anti-Israel sites as sources. Letters to the editor across the country have become very sophisticated about discussing the conflict, and campuses throughout North America are succeeding in making Israel look like the 4th Reich.
We are in the midst of a propaganda war.
I tried to do something about this a little while back and couldn’t find support in the Jewish community. It seems people felt the ADL and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations were already dealing with the problem. They were. They have been very ineffective. What is wrong with our community that we do not understand the depth of the problem and its implications?