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Left-leaning JCall ready for first European conference
By GIL SHEFLER
05/06/2011
J Street's European branch to hold one-year anniversary conference in Paris, discuss academic boycott, Arab uprisings.
 
JCall, the European Jewish group loosely associated with and inspired by the left-leaning US lobby group J Street, is preparing for its first-ever conference to take place in Paris June 19, a senior official said Friday.

In a telephone interview from the French capital, JCall Secretary General David Chemla described the group’s planned itinerary for the event.

“We’re celebrating our one-year anniversary,” he said. “We’re going to have four main issues. The first will be a workshop on [the] delegitimization of Israel and its cultural and academic boycott, which we of course oppose. The second will deal with Israeli society. Third, we’ll discuss the Arab uprisings and its effects on the regions with journalists. And four, we’ll discuss the occupation, and how it affects everyday life in Israel.”

Several European, Israeli and Arab-speakers will participate in the debates, including Lebanese political expert Antoine Basbous and former Israeli ambassador to France, Eli Barnavi.

One group invited to speak is the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement, which recently called the Law of Return, which allows Jews to immigrate freely to Israel, into question in its manifesto.

“One can infer from our manifesto that changes need to be made to the Law of Return, and that those changes need to be done democratically and in the spirit of democratic values,” said Sheikh Jarrah spokesman, Avner Inbar, last February.

Chemla, a French-born Jew who speaks Hebrew and has lived in Israel in the past, said he was more interested in the group’s protests in east Jerusalem, where it has opposed Jews moving into the predominately- Arab neighborhood, than its position on aliya.

“If that is what they believe in, then there is a conflict, but what interests me is for them to tell me what is doing on the ground,” he said. “Of course, I support the rights of Jews to make aliya, but we have to have everyone at the table and look at all the texts.”

Chemla said JCall’s goal was to help find a peaceful solution for the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, warning against the consequences if it persists.

“What matters – the most important thing – is that 8,000 European Jews from France, Switzerland, Belgium and elsewhere, who are staunchly pro-Israeli – and still, they oppose the occupation – are meeting to find solutions,” he said.
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