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

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

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.… Read more »

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

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… Read more »

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!