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Oscar night at J St: Michael Sfard says Israel made ‘an immoral choice’ and makes it again, every day

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The secret message at J Street is, No enemies on our left. Yes they trash the one-state solution. Yes, they invite a supporter of boycott so as to repudiate boycott, their leader tells a Jewish publication. Yes, their board member Mort Halperin suggests that American Realists seek the destruction of Israel. But them are just the fixins! The secret message is, We need everyone in the Jewish community on the left, and yes your Palestinian friends too but do you have to bring them here– on our side. We know what movement means, we need the movement…

I will offer more proof for this when I get home, we have another big day today. But let me give you the highlight of yesterday’s events for me. It was a panel on human rights in Israel with Tania Hary of Gisha, Jessica Montel of B’Tselem, Michael Sfard the crusading lawyer, and the charming Hagai El-Ad of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, who interrupted the proceedings to read from his twitter feed about the Oscar ceremony. The dredel joke came before the lesbian joke, he announced drily. I still don’t know who won anything last night, this is more important.

A silver-haired lady went up to the microphone. Very presentable, think Anne Bancroft in the Graduate.

“My name is Karen Gardner. I’m from Hastings on Hudson,” she said. And then: the outcry. What has Netanyahu done to this country? “What happened to our religion? I just don’t get it. We’re supposed to be on the side of justice… When this flotilla happeend, even I understood, what Israel was doing was not going to look good in the international community. Help me to understand, what’s broken in this beautiful Eretz Israel?”

Riveting. Maybe a little embarrassing too? Most people here caught a clue a long time ago. Though again, a reminder, of what a gateway event the flotilla massacre was.

Michael Sfard responded. I have a taperecording, I will supply the exact quotes later, sorry:

“I want to answer this question… Excuse me if I get a bit angry… I think that we IIsraelis have made a choice, which is an immoral choice… [We have] grown to be a dichotomy…. either to be victims or to victimize others. And we have made a choice, and that choice is what explains many of the things that happen in the West Bank…. the opposite of every jewish value and every Jewish morality… Of course it is understandable why the Jewish people has reached that dichotomy. [a word here about our complicated history, I’ll get it later].  But we are going through that decision every morning.”

And Sfard said that Israelis never examine whether the premises of that dilemma are true, and that therefore “the law of the jungle must prevail.” His work, he said, has been to challenge both the premise and the choice.

I think this conference is historic. Not historic in the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict– no, the discussions and programs adopted here will have little discernible effect on that, there are much larger forces at work in the Middle East. But historic in terms of the relationship of American Jewry and Israel. Divorce proceedings are underway.

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