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Brookings conference on ‘future for Israelis and Palestinians’ featured zero Palestinians

US Politics
on 22 Comments

Last weekend the Brookings Institution in Washington hosted a three-day US-Israel conference that focused on such issues as the “future for Israelis and Palestinians” and, according to its own published agenda, there were no Palestinian speakers.

Brookings is a leading liberal thinktank. Its annual Saban Forum, sponsored by pro-Israel donor Haim Saban, is by its own description dedicated to Israel: “Over the past twelve years, the Saban Forum has become the premier platform for frank dialogue between American and Israeli leaders from government, civil society, business, and the media,” it says.

But 20 percent of Israel is not Jewish; and under the Jim Crow rules at Brookings, none of that population was represented– even as many Jewish Israelis were, from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to his Defense Minister to the opposition leader and leading centrist Zionist politicians, to former Israelis Haim Saban and Jeffrey Goldberg. More from the Saban Forum’s promotion:

On December 4 to 6, the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings hosted its 12th annual Saban Forum, titled “Israel and the United States: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” …The forum’s webcast sessions focused on the future for Israelis and Palestinians, Iran’s role in the Middle East, spillover from the war in Syria, and the global threat posed by the Islamic State and other violent jihadi groups.

In the midst of the conference, Brookings’s Middle East center director Tamara Cofman Wittes tweeted out the rightwing Israeli Defense Minister’s recommendations for Palestinians.

We don’t want to govern them, but we shouldn’t be in a hurry. Let’s make progress, slowly slowly. @bogie_yaalon on #Palestinians #saban15

How can a liberal thinktank discuss the Palestinian future without Palestinians? How can Washington make foreign policy if only Israelis are consulted by the elites?

An Israeli newspaper and an explicitly Zionist organization do better than Brookings: this weekend Haaretz and the New Israel Fund are having a New York conference about the future in Israel and Palestine that will feature at least three Palestinians: Ayman Odeh, Saeb Erekat and Sayed Kashua. Odeh, the star politician who is head of the Joint Arab List, is touring the U.S. this week. No space for him at Brookings, evidently.

This morning I emailed Wittes and another Brookings official to ask if any Palestinian spoke at the event. Neither responded. I am told by a friend that PLO Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat was invited to attend the Saban gala and he couldn’t attend because of a prior engagement.

Here’s the program that Saban listed on its site:

“A conversation with Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s minister of defense”

Moderator: David Ignatius, Associate Editor and Columnist, The Washington Post

“How to restore order in the Middle East”

Yair Lapid, Chairman, Yesh Atid Party; Member of Knesset

Stephen J. Hadley, National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush

Moderator: Tamara Cofman Wittes, Director, Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings

Keynote address: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Introduction, Bruce Jones, Deputy Director, Foreign Policy Program; Senior Fellow, Project on International Order and Strategy

“How to preserve Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state”

Isaac Herzog, leader of the Opposition in Israel’s Knesset

Avigdor Lieberman

Moderator: Jeffrey Goldberg, National Correspondent, The Atlantic

Address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (via video)

Keynote address: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Haim Saban, Chairman, Saban Forum


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22 Responses

  1. Boomer
    December 8, 2015, 6:52 pm

    Words fail. At least they are honest about their bias . . . no meaningless window dressing to hide the ugly reality.

    [email protected]
    December 8, 2015, 7:03 pm

    I think not inviting Palestinians is an honest admission that they are only concerned about Israeli voices. The Haaretz, NIF gathering in as far as Palestinians is concerned is a who’s who of people who collaborate with Israel. From Saeb Erekat to Just Vision, to American Task Force for Palestine. Not bothering with Palestinians is honest, inviting known appeasers is far slimier.

  3. Citizen
    December 8, 2015, 7:33 pm

    Ever get the feeling it’s a closed shop and you don’t exist to those behind the door?

    • Eva Smagacz
      Eva Smagacz
      December 8, 2015, 9:16 pm

      Being white, privileged, educated, reasonably secure and satisfied with my place in the world, I rarely, if ever feel slighted or scorned or sidelined in society I live in.

      But I do admit to ( thankfully rare) sudden flashes of intense anger when I read about this closed shop and the people inside that don’t give a damn about me not due to my incorrect political views, or my insufficient economic clout, but due to incorrect ethno – religious category to which I was born to. This creates a momentary, but scarily real need to smash somebody’s teeth in.

      This is as close as I can ever come to feeling like an ethnic minority at the receiving end of the ingrained discrimination, disdain, or stone cold indifference. God knows how people manage to control their emotions when they face the same attitudes ( not to mention life altering actions) day in and day out, through their entire life.

  4. Dan From Away
    Dan From Away
    December 8, 2015, 9:56 pm

    Can someone tell me … how is it, exactly, that the Saban Forum and/or the Brookings Institution are … “liberal”? I don’t get it. Nor do I get the continued use of the term “liberal Zionism”. These are gifts to Zionism. I never use them nor do any of the academics, artists or activists I know. They use a more honest term: political Zionism. I suggest we begin using it here at MW as well. The benefits are amazing: Zionists wilt when they here the term voiced in public and Others often respond by asking “what is political Zionism?” which opens up a opportunity to introduce them to Herzl, Basel, Biltmore…

    • annie
      December 8, 2015, 10:38 pm

      how is it, exactly, that the Saban Forum and/or the Brookings Institution are … “liberal”?

      i was just going to ask that question. i mean, they invited lieberman of all people. and stephen hadley is not liberal. he’s a neocon hawk, one of cheney’s boys.

      • philweiss
        December 8, 2015, 11:09 pm

        I meant in the Washington context, they’re on the Dem side generally. From Wikipedia (whom I must contribute to again this year!)

        the media most frequently describe Brookings as “progressive” or “left-centrist”. A “progressive” label would appear inapt, given that prominently featured among Brookings’s purported “diverse points of view” are such neoconservatives (and neocon sympathizers) as Robert Kagan.

      • inbound39
        December 9, 2015, 11:36 am

        I agree with you about Lieberman Annie. If Herman Goering were still alive no-one would dream of inviting him to a Liberal Discussion yet a confirmed Kahanist and former Member(?) of Kachs, a banned Jewish Terrorist Group, is okay? Brookings loses credibility by inviting such despots.

    • Sibiriak
      December 8, 2015, 10:59 pm

      Dan Walsh: Can someone tell me … how is it, exactly, that the Saban Forum and/or the Brookings Institution are … “liberal”?

      “Liberal” in the sense that the British Empire, the Vietnam War etc. were manifestations of “liberalism”.

      • pabelmont
        December 9, 2015, 8:34 am

        “Liberal”? “Liberal Zionism”? And imperialistic global capitalism is “neoliberal”. A lot of words get redefined over a period of time — or get undefined — or were never defined in the first place — but remain in use because they’ve acquired a “feel-good” (or, of course, a “feel bad”) utility. A lot of “conservatives” hate “liberals” even if they agree with them on bailing out failed banks, supporting NAFTA and TPP, ignoring the needs of the poor, etc.

        Words are a bit like bumper-stickers — thought to convey meaning but quite possibly not doing so (or not doing so in any consistent across-the-board manner).

    • RoHa
      December 8, 2015, 11:13 pm

      I know that “liberal” is a dirty word, and I know that Americans, like Private Willis, believe that every boy or gal that is born into the world alive is either a little liberal or else a little conservative.

      What I don’t understand is what “liberal” is supposed to mean in America. I’m pretty sure that neither John Stuart Mill, David Lloyd-George, nor Malcolm Turnbull have very much to do with it, though.

      • lysias
        December 9, 2015, 11:12 am

        Seems to me Lloyd George was quite similar to American liberals: expanded the British welfare state; represented a minority (the Welsh, dissenting Protestants); nevertheless a nationalist and war leader.

      • philweiss
        December 9, 2015, 11:55 am

        Thanks for the Gilbert and Sullivan quotation!

      • RoHa
        December 9, 2015, 7:29 pm

        So an American liberal is someone who wants to expand the welfare state, represents a minority and is (why “nevertheless”?) a nationalist and war leader. Is that it?

      • Mooser
        December 10, 2015, 6:00 pm

        “So an American liberal is someone who wants to expand the welfare state, represents a minority and is (why “nevertheless”?) a nationalist and war leader. Is that it?”

        Don’t you see, RoHa, it’s a simple little system! It is the profits from nationalism and war which allows us to expand the welfare state.
        That is correct. Turn the page.

      • echinococcus
        December 11, 2015, 7:14 am

        RoHa’s definition was good but yours is superlative.
        A real gem of an electoral slogan for Senator BS.

      • Mooser
        December 11, 2015, 1:13 pm

        “A real gem of an electoral slogan for Senator BS”

        Oh, I’m full of political advice lately. I suggested that Clinton could tell us that the present arrangement with Israel is what keeps Social Security and the ACA and ADA afloat.

  5. JLewisDickerson
    December 9, 2015, 12:28 am

    RE: “How can a liberal thinktank discuss the Palestinian future without Palestinians? How can Washington make foreign policy if only Israelis are consulted by the elites?” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Oh, Phil! Here yet again is the answer. It’s not exactly rocket science!

  6. Ossinev
    December 9, 2015, 6:49 am

    Noted that the “forum” had a ” moderator ” one Jeffrey Goldberg (a truly “liberal” peace loving Zionist ) – he had to physically separate Lapid and Lieberman when Lieberman called Lapid a pansy. Only kidding. Love to see a recording of the event though. Would have my sick bucket close by.

  7. Boo
    December 9, 2015, 9:23 am

    “So what’s the problem here? The Palestinians will know what’s best for them as soon as we tell them.”

  8. James Canning
    James Canning
    December 11, 2015, 1:13 pm

    No Christian or Muslim Israelis?

    Financial Times today has full-page article on Israel/Palestine.

    • eljay
      December 11, 2015, 1:20 pm

      || James Canning: No Christian or Muslim Israelis? ||

      “Jewish State” is just like every other nation on Earth…except that unlike those nations it doesn’t bureaucratically grant its nationality (Jewish) to its Christian and Muslim citizens.

      Israel: The “Jewish State” where “All animals are equal…but some animals are more equal than others.”

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