February 28, 2011

Inviting Egyptian-born writer and activist Mona Eltahawy to J Street's Conference this past weekend may have been seen by some as a provocative move but seen in context is entirely consistent with their stated aims "to promote American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israel-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically" and [J Street] "supports a new direction for American policy in the Middle East – diplomatic solutions over military ones"

If anyone was concerned beforehand they needn't have worried. She was greeted with a standing ovation, as was Sara Benninga of East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement the night before.

Eltahawy gets standing ovation when she calls on peaceful revolution to come to Israel and Palestine

Eltahawy's closing challenge was that just as the Arab dictators responded late and stupidly to the demands of the people, Israel and Obama and its friends are responding late to the political movement afoot. They were completely tone-deaf to Gaza, she said; as Arabs everywhere watched Palestinians being "torn apart." It was a "massacre," she said twice. Great to hear that from a Jewish pulpit.

"My question to J street and to Israel, do you want to be ten days too late, do you want to be like these dictators that [Netanyahu]... loves so dearly… the people have outpaced the Obama administration…Here’s my challenge to you--"

Just as Egyptians and Tunisians "have managed to get rid of the unriddable…" without burning one foreign flag, "the best of Gandhi and Martin Luther King combined," it is time "to march for the freedom and dignity of our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and we will.

"Make that call, I will be with you. It’s about time, and it’s something that everyone is thinking about."

She added, "This is not something that is supposed to scare you.. Embrace.. nonviolence. Millions of Arabs peacefully dismantled dictatorships ....Embrace them and reach out to them, and we too will march for the freedom and dignity of Palestinians.. Cll for that nonviolent revolution for freedom and dignity for Palestians, and I will be there."

Wild cheers.

The clip above is an excerpt from her opening remarks. A complete version is here. Full video of the panel discussion (moderated by Steve Clemons) can be seen here [90 min].

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