Mona Eltahawy’s speech signals shift in mainstream discourse that Zionists don’t want

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.

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist based in New York City, blogs on Israel/Palestine at alexbkane.wordpress.com, where this post originally appeared.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Posted in Egypt, Gaza, Israel Lobby, Neocons | Tagged , ,

{ 75 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi says:

    Having just skimmed Radish’s blog (Who is he, anyway?) it appears the guy can’t help but lecture the natives about how they don’t know what’s good for them.

    Methinks Radish is bloated.

    • annie says:

      his wikipage

      Education Ph.D. History
      Occupation Writer / Professor / Historian
      Known for Rosenberg espionage case
      Religion Jewish

      Ronald Radosh (b. 1937, New York City[a]) is an American writer, professor, historian, former Marxist, and neoconservative. He is known for his work on the Cold War espionage case of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and his advocacy of the state of Israel.

      His most recent book, co-authored with his wife, scholar Allis Radosh, is “A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel”, published by HarperCollins in 2009.[b]

      …..Radosh’s son Daniel is an author, blogger and staff writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

      • annie says:

        here are some reviews for their book. Radosh is in the club.

        “Even knowing how the story ends, A SAFE HAVEN, had me sitting on the edge of my seat watching Harry Truman weigh the arguments of his friends and advisors in the months, then weeks, then days leading up to his recognition of Israel.” (Cokie Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of The Ladies of Liberty )

        “ A Safe Haven, is an outstanding achievement. This is certain to become an essential work for students, journalists, and statesmen—indeed, anyone interested in understanding Israel’s origins.” (Michael Oren, author of Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, and Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. )

        “In their deeply engaging study of Truman and the foundation of Israel, the Radoshes capture the dramatic intersection of momentous millennial aspirations and the thrilling intricacies of political intrigue with remarkable narrative skill. ” (Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars )

      • “former Marxist, and neoconservative”

        Another one!

  2. Bobby Gosh, TIME magazine writer, on C Span Washington Journal, Feb 28 2011, ~9:15 am:

    “It is completely and utterly untrue that Israel is the main concern of the” Arab people who are in revolt against their governments.

    Mona Eltahawy, @ ~4 min:

    “. . .the freedom and dignity of the Palestinian people . . .is something that every person in the region is concerned about . . .”

    • Shingo says:

      “It is completely and utterly untrue that Israel is the main concern of the” Arab people who are in revolt against their governments.”

      And yet every talking head in the US couldn’t stop speaking about Israel while the demonstrations were taking place. So even if God was right, what cannot be dispute is that the main concern of Israel was what the revolt would mean for Israel.

  3. Saleema says:

    Mona is charismatic, great speaker and debater.

    On CNN, when she was debating Dershowitz, I thought Dershowitz was about to cry. She really put him into his place. I bet he never thought he’d be bitch-slapped like that, much less by an Arab woman! Even Finkelstein hasn’t managed to elicit the type of desperate expression on his face that Mona’s scathing words did.

    I love seeing a strong woman.

    However, i disagree with her on some of her philosophy, but I’ll bring it up some other time.

    • annie says:

      oh saleema, you must have missed Trainwreck in Boston when dragonslayer novelist susie abulhawa had him frothing at the mouth!

      speaking of abulhawa she’ll be speaking in berkeley tomorrow night kicking off Israeli Apartheid Week presented by UCB’s Students for Justice in Palestine. if anyone’s in the bay area i recommend. susie’s flying in from the east coast for just a few hours for this event.

      Susan Abulhawa: “Telling the Palestinian Story”
      When: 630 pm
      Where: Boalt Hall Room 105 (Boalt School of Law @ Bancroft & College)
      Susan Abulhawa, author of the best seller Mornings in Jenin and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine. in Mornings in Jenin, Susan expresses fully the Palestinian tragedy and struggle. Palestinians are not always given the opportunity to share their experience and their struggle. Come and Listen to Susan tell the Palestinian story.
      fb event: link to facebook.com

    • Shingo says:

      Charismatic is an understatement. Her magnetism reminds me of Obama before he became president.

      Do you have a link to the debate she had with Dershowitz Saleema?

      I love seeing a strong woman.

      You and me both.

  4. seafoid says:

    Ending the siege isn’t enough. Arabs aren’t going to stop hating Israelis until Palestinians have their rights, dude. Neither am I.

    • what I heard Mona say was that Arabs DON’T hate Israelis or Americans — “the demonstrations were not about burning other people’s flags” or words to that effect; “the protests were about Arabs claiming their dignity, their rights.”

      not about hate.

      i thought that was impressive.

      i also hope the sentiment is not exploited: not hating is different from not demanding justice. Israel and the US have greatly wronged the Arab and Iranian people and owe them justice and a great debt that should be repaid just as surely and generously as Europe paid reparations to Jews.
      The non-negotiable requirement for accountability and payment of reparations is as much for the aggrieved people’s benefit as to enforce in the wrongdoers — and Israel and US are firmly in that category — that they may not harm others with impunity. If they are not punished, they will not internalize that message.

  5. eee says:

    How is what Eltahawy is saying is anything new to Zionists?
    Have you guys ever heard the Arab MKs that are on Israeli TV often or read what they write? How is it different than what Hadash is saying?

    If AIPAC is Likud, J street is just somewhere between Kadima and Labor. How is that a significant change against Zionism???

    • fuster says:

      eee, J Street is significant and will become much more significant in the next half-dozen years. It’s going to shatter the illusion that AIPAC speaks for Jews in the US, end the cover for Congressional candidates who parrot AIPAC positions in exchange for the cash, and move US policy far away from what is was in 2001-9.

      • Potsherd2 says:

        eee doesn’t seem to think it matters what US Jews think. “The only thing that matters is the Israeli (by which he means Jewish) electorate.”

      • eee says:

        Fuster,

        J street is insignificant as they come. The distance between Kadima and Likud ideologically is a few micrometers. I and many other Israelis switch our vote between them depending on the recent track record, not ideology.

        Both J street and AIPAC are against BDS and for a two state solution. So what is the difference?

        • annie says:

          So what is the difference?

          does aipac invite a bds rep to speak at their conference?

        • fuster says:

          eee,

          not in Washington, DC. it’s not. I wouldn’t expect you to know this, but the 20 and 30 year-old people who work in staff jobs for the Congress and the executive agencies are influenced and represented by J Street.

          The news is coming your way soon.

        • eee says:

          What news, that American Jews prefer Kadima to Likud?
          Why exactly is that news and why will it change anything significantly?
          What exactly do you see happening “soon”?

        • eee says:

          “does aipac invite a bds rep to speak at their conference?”

          When J street starts supporting BDS that will be news. Till then trying to convince any reasonable person that there is much difference between Kadima and Likud is preposterous.

        • Citizen says:

          Eee, my, my, there’s a tad of difference between giving even a short hearing to the stranger at the door selling something and opening the door and immediately slamming it shit, or simply not opening the door at all until the stranger goes away. The boycott campaign against apartheid S Africa took a long time before influential opinion changed; the USA was definitely not among the leaders of change there, and of course, Israel was dead last. You don’t have the answer, it’s Blowin’ in the Wind, same as it was for Jim Crow.

        • MarkF says:

          One of the major differences between AIPAC & JStreet – AIPAC was VERY influencial when it came to pushing for the Iraq war. They tend to lobby very hard and effectively for the neoconservative foreign policies advocateed by Perle, Abrams, Woolsley, etc. which happen to be getting American troops into the middle east to expand our military presence in that region.

          Jstreet doesn’t believe in Billy Kristol’s “muscular” foregin policies.

          AIPAC pushes war and sanctions which have been incredibly distructive to our country, and JStreet does not. Though I do see why you have to narrow the viewpoints of the two lobbies because otherwise you see the wide gulf of policy differences.

        • Colin Murray says:

          The distance between Kadima and Likud ideologically is a few micrometers.

          Both J street and AIPAC are against BDS and for a two state solution.

          eee is right in this argument. The only utility J-Street has is that is has made it easier to criticize AIPAC in public spaces, opening the door to other organizations who will more substantively oppose it as an agent of a foreign government. When the chips are down, and they are down, J-Street has taken no policy positions that would hinder, much less stop, Israeli ethnic cleansing and Jewish colonization in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and AIPAC-facilitated American government support thereof. J-Street, however noble its intentions may seem to its supporters, lobbies American government officials on behalf of Israel and should be required to register under FARA along with AIPAC.

        • seafoid says:

          The main difference between J Street and AIPAC is that they were both in favour of Cast Lead and the attack on the Mavi Marmama.

        • MRW says:

          Eee,

          Fuster isn’t talking about you Israelis. He is talking about American Jews, and what is happening here quite apart from J Street. You think Israel is going to get diaspora $$$ if American Jews wake up and realize they don’t like what their money is going to?

          You and your 5,999,999 countrymen can do what you want. We have 312,000,000 people in this country.

        • annie says:

          You think Israel is going to get diaspora $$$ if American Jews wake up and realize they don’t like what their money is going to?

          that’s not all israel/aipac has to worry about. i’d wager the bulk of that money comes from the older generation. just imagine billions of dollars passing onto a generation that’s not…zionist. ouch. that’s why the beinart piece is so alarming. it’s one thing to wake up after decades and become enlightened. it’s another thing to expect people who see zionism for what it is to turn pro-z once they age.

        • DBG says:

          Hi Annie,

          I think you and MRW are underestimating the importance of Israel and Jerusalem to the Jewish people. Jews since the diaspora have been longing for Israel. I don’t see the connection between the Jewish people and Israel will ever be diminished.

          The anti-Israel movement amongst Jews and amongst Americans as a whole is still very much a fringe movement.

          Politically Israel’s leadership is bankrupt and soon enough they will be replaced. But you guys are just hurting yourself and your movement believing that this entire enterprise will crumble, it is totally unrealistic.

        • Shingo says:

          J street is insignificant as they come.

          How odd. A lot of right wing Israelis and AIPAC stooges seem compelled to repeat this. It seem like a lot of energy going into insisting that J street is insignificant.

        • annie says:

          you guys are just hurting yourself (ouch, some fighting words dbg)and your movement believing that this entire enterprise will crumble

          clutching on to apartheid eh? how’s that occupation working for ya? does it make you feel strong and empower to dominate another people?

        • Shingo says:

          Jews since the diaspora have been longing for Israel.

          That would explain why less then half of them are willing to love there, and why close to 1 million Israelis Jews live outside of Israel.

          Politically Israel’s leadership is bankrupt and soon enough they will be replaced.

          Replaced with other bankrupt leaders and so the cycle will continue.

          But you guys are just hurting yourself and your movement believing that this entire enterprise will crumble, it is totally unrealistic.

          They said that about Mubarak and the Soviet Union too.

        • DBG says:

          Hi Shingo,

          How will this revolution in Israel be similar to that of Egypt and the FSU. If the Palestinian people have any sort of revolution it will be against their governments, the PA and Hamas. Both of the revolutions you referenced were both internal revolutions, I don’t see a similar thing happening amongst Israelis.

          When Israel wants a new government, they replace it at the ballot box, not in a square through revolution on the streets.

        • Shingo says:

          If there is a revolution, it will be against the the PA, Hamas, and the occupation. I’m pretty sure there will be many Israelis who will join in.

        • Ellen says:

          Yes, eee is not off the mark. When you look at J Street and AIPAC closely, J Street is an AIPAC light.

          Ok, their meetings do not have the tone and feel of an Nurenberg Stadion AIPAC rally (mega flags, cheering masses) and J Street initiates a dialogue, but underneath this, there is little difference from AIPAC in policy.

      • Shingo says:

        It’s going to shatter the illusion that AIPAC speaks for Jews in the US

        J Street and AIPAC will soon shatter the illusion that that Israel repents Jews.

    • seafoid says:

      What ElTahawy is saying is different this time because Egypt is no longer ruled by a client of Israel. The whole game has changed.

    • Shingo says:

      Have you guys ever heard the Arab MKs that are on Israeli TV often or read what they write? How is it different than what Hadash is saying?

      Since when are Arab MKs on Israeli TV televised in the US?

  6. Theo says:

    eee

    zionist is fascism in other colors.

    I love this woman, Mona go and go and go!!!

    • eee says:

      Well then, Mona was speaking at a fascist meeting. J street are Zionist, just like Labor and Kadima.

    • fuster says:

      up is down in another orientation.

      • eee says:

        Simple question, are J street Zionists? Simple answer, yes.

        • fuster says:

          eee,
          also simple answer, they will work against Israeli policies that they can’t stomach rather than smile and swallow any old crap.
          they’re going to help move the US away from what AIPAC has been selling, but they’re not naive and shallow and not gonna fall for the crap that the other side peddles, either.

          it’s a good thing.

        • Citizen says:

          Atta boy, fuster, about time you admitted that AIPAC has been selling the US leadership crap for decades and they have been buying it. The whole world now acknowledges that what the Arab Street has been rebelling against is not crap, but truth–that truth is linked to the Western regimes’ long enablement of the oppression of the Palestinians people, which is not crap either.

        • fuster says:

          Citizen, no atta boys, please. this stuff is something that I’ve talked about for a decade or two.

          see Fulbright, J William

        • MRW says:

          Eee,

          Reread fuster’s short observation: also simple answer, they will work against Israeli policies that they can’t stomach rather than smile and swallow any old crap.

          He’s right.

  7. seafoid says:

    There aren’t enough Zionists to be able to control the discourse forever anyway. They are like the minority Alawi sect that rule Syria.

    • annie says:

      There aren’t enough Zionists to be able to control the discourse forever anyway.

      their power over the discourse is derived not so much by what they say but in their ability to shut the rest of us up. as long as people are afraid (or too cowardly) to speak their mind for fear of being labeled an anti semite they got things under control. that’s why the anti semite accusation is so powerful and why they rely on it so much. no one likes to defend themselves against accusations of racism. and then they feed the population in israel the lie it’s because we just hate them as if their policies and actions are irrelevant.

      • seafoid says:

        The antisemite slur is very tired by now, Annie.
        It doesn’t cover what Israel does in Gaza either. Zionists are thugs hiding behind what the Nazis did in the 40s.

        • annie says:

          it may be tired but it’s still very effective seafoid. after all, that was the accusation slung at the LGBT Community Center in nyc to shut down the event. it still silences people. that’s why it’s so important to speak out. jews are the only people that have their own label for racism and bigotry against them, its a very powerful silencing tool and it doesn’t seem to have lost that much steam but it’s beginning to.

        • Citizen says:

          Gee, according to a whole bunch of Jewish stand-up comics, Jews have always had a monopoly on guilt. They must be deluded.

        • MRW says:

          Seafoid,

          Waaay OT. But vis-a-vis the antisemitic slur getting very tired: I wonder if Andrew Sullivan’s move to Newsweek wasn’t precipitated by his recent refusal to carry AIPAC’s water, something that he has refused to do this past year (emboldened by Glenn Greenwald IMHO).

  8. Taxi says:

    Go Mona!

    Free the jewish people now!

  9. thetumta says:

    eee,
    Yes, J-Street is Kadima and they are already ten months too late. AIPAC is Likud and their generations too late.

  10. Earlier this month the website Ikhras (“Dedicated to Throwing the Proverbial Shoe” — http://ikhras.com — “. . . [W]e will focus on bringing attention to the plight of the oppressed in the Arab world, and the victims of the alliance between Arab tyranny and US Imperialism”) offered an interesting critique of some of the statements which have been made by Mona Eltahawy. See “Mona Eltahawy Should Be Careful What She Wishes For,” Ikhras, February 2, 2011. Excerpt: “. . . [W]e think it would be helpful to compare her [Mona Eltahawy] political outlook to the well-known, and repeatedly verified views held by a vast majority of the Arab public. We can begin by contrasting Mona’s pride in being “the first Egyptian journalist to live and to work for a western news agency in Israel” with the Egyptian people’s refusal for over 30 years to normalize with the Zionist entity. Like many of the wonderful chants of the unfolding Egyptian revolution the phrase “The first (government) to sign, but the last (people) to normalize” rhymes in Arabic. . . . [W]e will rely on a very revealing article she wrote about two years ago with the obnoxious title “Israel is the opium of the people, and other Arab taboos.”
    For the full post in Ikhras see: link to ikhras.com

  11. clenchner says:

    “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.”

    That feels wrong. J Street is chock full of Zionists and they rather liked it. Care to amend? Let me help:

    Zionists at J Street Conference Love Mona Eltahawy’s Message – because it echoed their own desires for freedom, independence and democracy, for themselves, Israelis, Palestinians, and all of the Arab world.

  12. Taxi says:

    JStreet eggheads unwittingly got Gestalt therapy!

    Oooooh you could just feeeeeel them off camera, could really feel ‘em ALL like getting into a collective trance listening to Mona’s oh so sweet and common-sense aria to peace, justice and ‘commonality’ of the people of the region and yes that included isreal! She invited them to become true members of the ‘region’ by being part of the ‘people’ of the region. This was probably the most generous and real offer to a taste of ‘normal’ peace JStreeters had ever heard in their long and agonizing life.

    You could feeeel how pleasantly more relaxed they were getting the more they listened and agreed with her undeniable humanity and logic. It was a new experience for the group: to suddenly, without resistance, become open to opening-up the heart chakra instead of the a-hole chakra.

    Hey I was moved – but I laughed out loud and much too to see such delighted surprise on the faces of the rest of the panel, the long applause of the grateful and liberated audience etc.

    Good stuff JStreeters yeah….. but you still got some wayz to go.

    That’s why I recommend that next JStreet therapy session should be conducted by Mooser. He seems to know the intricate behaviorist innards and sinews of zionists like no other and would therefore know how to re-arrange the cables some so that zioz can be feeling un-paranoid and this relaxed CONSTANTLY and not just once every three thousand years.

    It’s hard to make peace with a pathologically uptight people cuz they don’t know how to LISTEN and keep thinking that peace is a one way street!!

    (Everyone’s salvation is in the practice of the art of listening.)

    Okay so now what?

    Like how will the Bibi boys back in telaviv and jerusalem react tomorrow to find out that JStreet let a dark-skinned Arab woman take their stage and make fun of the prime minister of israel by name? Even applauding her jibes with enthusiasm. (Hmmm Mona = Egyptian Jezebel?)

    Ooooh there’s gonna be a fight, a dirty, dirty dirty fight coming to your jewish revolution screens soon.

    • DBG says:

      Hi Taxi,

      are you part of a Jewish community? Being part of one, I am not seeing the same things you are seeing. The discourse you are eluding to is not there. Israel is much too important to Jews for their to be some sort of ‘revolution.’

      Revolutions = bloodshed, I don’t think Jews, no matter how much they hate Israel, will go for a revolution in their community where countless Jews will definitely die. I understand that revolution is the new keyword, but how does it pertain to Jews in the context you mentioned above?

      • Taxi says:

        DBG,

        Evidently, many jews want a revolution against a list of MANUFACTURED FEARS they’re handed soon as they’re born.

        Some jewish people want to be like everyone else: UNCHOSEN.

        I bet one of my jewish mondo pals can come up with an exceptionally stellar list of demands for this jewish revolution.

        Any takers? Here’s your chance to publicize your manifestos guys and gals. Speak up!

    • Ellen says:

      Taxi, you captured that beautifully. Gestalt therapy…..lol! Bring more of it on.

      I noticed the surprised and puzzled faces up there, too! An amazing site to behold.

  13. Avi says:

    A Cautionary Tale about J-Street:

    J-Street exists to absorb the energy, the impact, of so-called liberal Zionists in American politics.

    The leadership knew all along what went on in the occupied territories.

    When judge Goldstone’s report came out, J-Street swept it under the rug.

    So, J-Street’s function in matters concerning Israel is similar to the function fulfilled by so-called left wing parties in Israel.

    Neither one is revolutionary. Both seek to preserve the status quo.

    Now, some might argue and ask, “Well, if J-Street aims to preserve the status quo, then how do you explain their inviting a pro-boycott speaker, and Mona Al-Tahawy, as well?

    The answer is simple; in light of the current revolutionary wave sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, J-Street can’t sit idly by and allow Arabs to appear more liberal and progressive on civil and human rights — certainly not when AIPAC drives the Israel-Palestine discourse in American politics. J-Street had to act. And act, it did. It shifted into damage control mode, much in the same way Bahrain’s monarch gave each citizen $2650 in an effort to appease them, and Mubarak offered protesters ‘dialogue’ in an effort to co-opt them, and Israel engaged in a 20 year-long peace processing, for similar reasons.

    I’ll break out the noise makers, the champagne and party hats when J-Street begins to show consistency and starts to speak loudly against Israel’s daily violations.

    Until then, such conferences remain a political sideshow.

    • Shingo says:

      J-Street exists to absorb the energy, the impact, of so-called liberal Zionists in American politics.

      I think you’re onto something Avi.

      J-Street rejected the Goldstone report.
      J-Street opposes BDS
      J-Street opposes a single state and is is in favor of countering the demographic threat to Israel.
      J-Street is mealy mouthed about Christian Zionists nut jobs like John Hagee

      I’m sure there are members who are sincere in their beliefs, but as you say, it is the the Democrats what AIPAC is to the GOP, a false choice.

      Dan Fleisher wrote a piece for Huffington Post ginning up excitement for the J-Street conference and in one comment insisted that those who are opposed to AIPAC have no choice but to embrace J-Street becasue J-Street is the only other choice.

      • Ellen says:

        And as long as J Street remains AIPAC light in a younger dress, it will remain ultimately irrelevant.

        But J Street desperately strives to become relevant and to do that, it would have to evolve to become a very different organization. It is still young and there is a little bit of hope.

        But yes as one poster above said, AIPAC is ten years too late and J Street is 10 weeks too late.

  14. yourstruly says:

    would j street even exist if there wasn’t significant movement among jewish-americans away from supporting the zionist-entity israel?

  15. rachelgolem says:

    Dear Alex, Your mom said it’s time to find a job.

    And BTW, during your interview, it might not be a good idea to tell your interviewer that, ” It’s only a SMALL MINORITY OF JEWS who are ruining the world”.