Friday, March 04, 2011

Great report from the J Street conference

Wonderful insights from Z-Street's Lori Lowenthal Marcus:

While attending the J Street conference I wondered whether I had entered some alternative dimension, where facts known by the rest of the world, and basic principles of reasoning, just didn't operate in quite the same way as they do on the rest of planet Earth. I think I know what's operating.

Psychologists teach that an obsession is "a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling." There is a persistent theme on J Street: a Palestinian State must be created RIGHT NOW ("PSRN"), and it's almost as if there is a complete memory block about the refusals of varying forms of the state, including the original offer by the United Nations of yet another Arab State in 1947.

That PSRN is J Street's obsession is revealed by the fact that unanimity on that "solution" co-exists with radical disagreement about the nature of the problem. Here's an abbreviated list of the ideological positions you pass as you walk down J Street:

...Around the corner we learn from Knesset member Shlomo Molla that bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Arab Palestinians are the only way to move towards peace in the region. Two houses down on the same street, Tom Dine of Search for Common Ground tells us that bilateral movement is impossible, and instead a regional approach is the only possibility for peace. And that the only choice open to Israel is to create a PSRN.

Just across J Street from these guys is New York Times reporter Roger Cohen who insists that the unrest in the Middle East is actually weakening Iran, while down the block we learn from the Saban Center's Shibley Telhami that Iran is the main threat in the region. Iran is weaker, says Cohen, so now is the time to create a Palestinian State, and Iran is the major threat, says Telhami, so now is the time to create a Palestinian State. Polar opposite reasoning, yet naturally both ineluctably lead to the conclusion that the only possible answer is the immediate creation of a Palestinian State.

Hebrew University professor Bernard Avishai berated Dennis Ross for wimpishly claiming that "bilateral negotiations is the only mechanism" for achieving peace. Avishai instead called for an "Obama Blueprint" in which the US uses its bully pulpit to galvanize "international momentum and pressure" (on Israel, of course), to create a Palestinian State. In the same building but down a few flights we heard from the ubiquitous Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy that the "West has become irrelevant" and that rather than the West, the region demands freedom and dignity for the Palestinians. Both agreed about one thing -- wait, I'm trying to remember -- oh yes, the need to create a PSRN.
Read the whole thing.