A friend who also attended the GA noted:
…residents of Judea and Samaria are one of Israel’s most pioneering, forward-thinking and creative societal and national contributors. Though boldly capable of withstanding and counterbalancing the most fierce international pressures and hate-based de-legitimization campaigns, something happens when our brothers and sisters from across the Atlantic are those who undermine us…
My thoughts were almost similar. Of course, the intermingling and meeting up with friends, old, lost or almost forgotten is exciting and the opportunity for a get-together is much appreciated.
The first session I attended was “What is Your Israel? The Real Israel Story Trumps Talking Points” with Danny Hakim, David Breakstone, Avraham Infeld, Sarah Mali and Yoel Zilberman moderated by MK Merav Michaeli. Danny was in Betar and not embarrassed to say so even as he would seem odd to the left/progressive camp that dominated the spirit of this GA (more about that later) in promoting Arab-Jewish Israeli coexistence. Yoel founded HaShomer HeChadash to protect theft of livestock and destruction of crops perpetrated by Bedouin which could have been a red-cape issue. So there was definitely balance. But what jarred me was Michaeli’s insistence that Tzippori, where Yoel was born as a third-generation scion, was an Arab village.
As it happens, at the other side of the corridor and down the hall, she could have picked up a booklet produced by the National Parks Authority, entitled “Ancient Synagogues in Israel”, and read about Tzippori, “the largest and most important city in the Galilee during the Roman and Byzantine periods”, where “Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi lived when he redacted the Mishnah”. So, if anything, Arabs occupied a Jewish community. Politics aside, can’t the GA have moderators who know something? (Hint: On February 20, 1949, the Israeli moshav of Tzippori was founded southeast of the former village.)
But worse, Merav announced in her remarks that Israel does all the wrong things and puts American Jews in conflict with their own country as well as their preferred policies. This dishing was so out of place, besides being wrong.
A second session I selected was “An UnSession on Delegitimization: Build an Instant Network to Counter Anti-Israel Campaigns” led by David Dabscheck. I did so because I was seeking a hands-on workshop – not talk but learning and detailed learning. We broke up into what I used to call buzz groups and I, with a friend, chose the one on social media. It was good (thanks to Emily Hochberg and it proved that the GA can actually accomplish something rather than mull things over.
A third, earlier, session was definitely political/ideological: “1967 versus 2013: How to Effectively Speak Out for Israel in a Changing World” with speakers Mark Mellman, Arthur Koll, Ari Shavit, Einat Wilf and moderator Geri Palast. This was a vehicle to parade out Israel Action Network. Its Deputy Managing Director was the leader of the workshop session I participated in where he highlighted the need to combat Israel’s delegitimization and why? To avoid attacks on the two-state solution. Really? Israel is being attacked but this IAN wants to save the two-state solution.
In response from a query by another blogger, we found out that the panel, one without balance, had been specifically asked to relate to Israel’s problems as “progressives” as that was the target camp. I engaged Ari Shavit in conversation when he stopped to talk with Morton Landowne, a fellow YU student, and of The Tablet.
I pointed out to him that the theme of all altered after 1967 because we became an ‘occupier’ (and that is the root of all the evil we face because we oppress and also because if we continue, Israel becomes undemocratic) was false. In the first place, the conditions of the Arabs in Israel were much more undemocratic before 1967, including military administration. The Arabs, on both sides of the Green Line, have only had their personal life improve since 1967 whereas, true, those who want a national independence do suffer but only because they choose terror – as well as reusing to negotiate honestly (aka, no “right of return” for refugees).
In the second place, that paradigm only hides the other date: 1947. That is the object of the anti-Zionist propaganda. The Arabs and allies wish to roll us back to 1947, on the eve of the UN’s partition recommendation. They do not recognize the 1967 borders, or Israel’s Jewish national ethos, or Jerusalem. Yesha communities beyond the Green Line are not a central element (Shavit: “occupation is the main issue”) but a symptom of Arab total rejection.
In the end, I was not gaga over the GA. The Jewish Federations are not that representative, despite their influence and wealth of resources. What is happening is that instead of Israel being a light to the Diaspora communities, the GA leadership seeks to oppress that reality and insists, through its programming to infuse Israel with the not-very-promising-for-the-future reality of North American Jewry. That’s a wrong-way method.
And so, their approach led to what Mattot Arim criticized – the over-representation of leftist MKs:
The Federations'' invited speakers included only 4 parliamentarians representing Israel''s hawks…Double that number – 8 parliamentarians -- were invited by the Federations to represent Israel''s doves…Many Knesset factions were entirely unrepresented…”.
The leadership claim to be liberal and demand pluralism and speak in the name of democracy.
But there is very little democracy, even less pluralism and almost no liberalism.
That is what we Israelis are to learn from this assembly?