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Monday, February 27, 2012

Criminal disingenuity from Peace Now's Lara Friedman

As I've mentioned, this week there was a conference in Doha that was meant to try to ensure that Israel and Jews would never have any say in how Jerusalem is administered.

The keynote speaker was Mahmoud Abbas, who gave a speech that was sheer incitement against Israel and Jews as he effectively denied any Jewish connection to the city.

The Emir of Qatar urged the UN to take away any vestiges of Judaism from the holy city.

Its final statement is a classic example of anti-semitism, promising to go to the UN destroy anything Israel might have done in the city since 1967, including imaginary excavations that they accuse Israel of digging under the Al Aqsa Mosque.

One attendee among the haters was Lara Friedman, Director of Policy and Government Relations for Americans for Peace Now. In an astoundingly disingenuous piece for the Forward, she claims ignorance of the sheer hatred that Arabs have for Jews and the Jewish claim to Jerusalem.

You have to read it and ask yourself - is it possible someone in her position is this clueless?
When I was invited to this conference, I took this as a sign that the Arab League wanted to capture the full complexity of the issues related to Jerusalem, including openly pro-Israel, pro-peace voices. However, it seems that virtually every conversation I am having here involves me, to a greater or lesser degree, having to defend the two-state solution and having to assert and defend the Jewish stake in Jerusalem. The fact that I am forced to do so points to what is clearly, from my point of view, a major flaw in this event. That flaw is the absence of more voices like mine, which represent the mainstream of American Jewish opinion and Israeli opinion. People who care about Israel and are committed to the two-state solution, including in Jerusalem. This solution is the only thing that will guarantee peace, security, and a future for either Israelis or Palestinians.

I don’t know who else was invited to this conference and couldn’t (or chose not to) attend, but it seems to me that by not having more pro-two-state solution, Jewish voices here, the Arab League is doing a disservice to the cause it is ostensibly concerned with — the health and status of Jerusalem — and missing an opportunity. The Arab world, and activists around the globe concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, do themselves no favors when they listen to voices that tell them only a piece of the story that is comfortable to their ears (just as Israel and the American Jewish community do themselves no favors when they choose not to hear unpleasant truths).

Speakers at Sunday’s opening session, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, one after another laid out laundry lists of criticisms of Israel — many of them regrettably marked with exaggerations. All also spoke a great deal about Muslim and Christian attachments to Jerusalem and the importance of defending the holy sites and communities associated with both religions. However, only one speaker, Michel Sabbah, formerly the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, mentioned any Jewish connection to the city. This is a serious problem. If President Abbas cannot acknowledge Jewish claims in Jerusalem, even as he asserts Palestinian claims (a problem Yasser Arafat suffered from), he should not be surprised if it is more difficult for Israelis and Jews, wherever they are, to believe that he can be trusted in a peace agreement that leaves Jerusalem sites precious to Jews under Palestinian control.

If representatives of the organization that sponsored the Arab Peace Initiative cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the legitimacy of Jewish equities in Jerusalem, they should know that they discredit their own professed interest in peace. Their framing of the future of Jerusalem as a zero-sum game only makes it more likely that Israel will continue asserting its current power over East Jerusalem to hinder the vision of two states living in peace with a Jerusalem as a shared capital.

All throughout the day, it was unfortunately the same story. Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians.

...I regret that the conference so far has not taken the issues related to Jerusalem more seriously, and I am proud that I am here representing a truly pro-peace — and thus be definition pro-Israel — perspective. Much of the discourse here thus far has been personally objectionable and even painful to me, but I believe my presence here is important for the cause of peace.
Did Friedman come to this conference honestly thinking that the Arab League and Mahmoud Abbas are interested in peace? Where has she been the past few months as Abbas has been doing everything he could to avoid even talking with Israel? Where was she when he gave a speech to the UN last September, saying the exact same things about Jerusalem that he said in Doha?

She is shocked that the Arabs at the conference weren't like the liberal Jews she hangs out with, or the Arabs who have been conditioned to tell her what she wants to hear when she speaks to them individually, with ambiguity designed to fool wishful thinking Westerners into believing they are interested in co-existence with Israel. Not at all. When they speak to a predominantly Arab audience, things sound much different. What a surprise it must have been to Friedman, who apparently woudl never deign to spend five minutes at the MEMRI or Palestinian Media Watch sites. They are too distastefully right wing, you see.

Yet even after she sees the hate and hears the lies herself, first hand, she fails to get it. To her, the problem isn't that Mahmoud Abbas is a liar inciting Arabs to rise up against Jews living in their holy city. No, that is probably just rhetoric. To her, the problem is that such hate speech makes Israelis uncomfortable with freely giving the Jewish sites to him. To Friedman, the crime isn't hate and lies and anti-semitism (yes, Lara, denying the Temple existed is anti-semitism.)  No, to her the crime is anything that slows Jews down from giving their holy places to a Holocaust denier who praises a man who wanted to exterminate all the Jews of Palestine. Lara thinks that  Jews must do exactly  that - for "peace" - and therefore Abbas' hate and lies are an unnecessary obstacle delaying Jews from happily abandoning Jerusalem's holy spots.

And on and on it goes. After hearing speech after speech, she still believes that the Arab League is interested in peace with Israel. Well, they are. Their concept of peace is where Israel disappears by political means, legal means, demographic means or military means, whichever is most effective at any point in history. But when they say "peace" she grabs on to that word for dear life, closing her eyes and clicking her ruby slippers three times and repeating "They really want peace! They really want peace!"

Is it wishful thinking overwhelming her ability to believe what she heard? Who cares? The fact that she did not experience a "eureka!" moment when listening to mainstream Arabs from "moderate" countries deny any Jewish connection to Jerusalem - people so willing to lie in order to defame Israel and Jews - shows that Lara Friedman is just as bad as they are, no matter how many anguished articles she writes for the Forward.

Let her try to write an article defending the Jewish claim to Jerusalem in Al Akhbar, or Al Jazeera. Then she can claim - still disingenuously, but at least somewhat credibly - that she really wants to work for peace. Otherwise, she is just as much of the problem as those she feels so uncomfortable about. (And if she does do that, let her read the vitriolic talkbacks that such a column would spawn.)

Friedman will get over her Doha discomfort in a couple of weeks and go back to penning her articles that put all the blame for no peace on Israel. That is her comfort zone. Her wishful thinking will win out. Because even this article shows that she cannot and will not learn the lessons from Doha that all but slapped her in the face.