Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy’s speech at the J Street conference was more than just another good speech–it’s a further indication of the shift in discourse on the Middle East following the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and around the region. Slowly but surely, alternative narratives about the Middle East and Israel/Palestine, voiced by Arabs, are making a dent on how Americans think about the region.
Eltahawy didn’t mince words in speaking to the liberal Zionist lobby group, and she received a standing ovation. She called the 2008-09 assault on Gaza a “massacre” and told the audience that Arab “hatred for Israel… will not end until you lift the siege on Gaza and treat Palestinians with freedom and dignity.” It’s a message that, coming from a woman who has become one of the corporate media’s go-to people on the Middle East, is significant, and not something you would hear at some of the other J Street panels (Nachman Shai of Kadima said that Israel won’t lift the siege until Gilad Shalit is freed).
Eltahawy’s star speech at the conference is part of what is shattering the Zionist narrative on Israel/Palestine, and they’re not liking it one bit.
Ron Radosh at the neoconservative Pajamas Media goes after Eltahawy here. And Ben Sales, writing for the Jewish student magazine New Voices, derides the response Eltahawy got by saying the J Street crowd was “clapping for hate.”
Eltahawy’s speech is concerning to Radosh and others because it exposes Israel as what it is to an American audience: a state that is in deep trouble, a state that is an occupier state, a state that committed war crimes in Gaza. Indeed, as Phil Weiss put it, “the Egyptian revolution is coming–to the USA.” And Eltahawy is one of the leaders.