I want to urge you to attend, if possible, J Street’s national conference, Driving Change, Securing Peace, from October 26-28th in Washington, DC. Jerry Haber of the Magnes Zionist and I will be hosting a panel of bloggers who write about the Israeli-Arab conflict. They will include Phil Weiss, Kung Fu Jew, Max Blumenthal, Helena Cobban and Ray Hanania. We’re also working on a live video feed from Israel that will enable us bloggers there to participate. If anyone knows of any West Bank or Gaza bloggers whom we can include let me know (they would need a webcam and Skype, or something similar, setup).
Among the questions we’ll be discussing:
- How have blogs impacted &/or changed the debate over the Israeli-Arab conflict in Israel, Palestine & the U.S.?
- What can we do to have a bigger impact?
- Iran: how can bloggers influence the debate over Iranian nukes and what can/should we do if there is a military attack?
- Goldstone Report, human rights & BDS
For those who may have the long knives out for J Street in the right-wing pro-Israel media. Our event is not officially sponsored by J Street and nothing said during our session should be construed as representing J Street’s views. We are bloggers and independent actors. We do not speak for J Street and they do not endorse our statements. They have graciously offered us a physical space during their conference. But that is where the relationship ends.
I expect that it will cost $1,000 for my travel and lodging expenses during the conference. I would like to ask you, generous readers, to step up and help me defray my costs of organizing and attending this important panel. Please make as much of a contribution as you can afford in order to make our progressive voices heard at J Street and beyond.
Many of you know that while I’ve been supportive of J Street, I haven’t shrunk from criticizing it when I thought it was valid. I’ve even criticized aspects of the organizing of this conference including the disavowal of support from Jewish Voice for Peace and Tikkun Magazine. Among the important voices not present at this conference will be Naomi Klein and Neve Gordon, champions of BDS. We can imagine why they won’t be there. And this indeed may be a reason why our panel will not be part of the official program. But I would rather accept such status along with a guarantee to speak my mind freely on the issues that are important to progressive Jews.
Curiously, one of the conference’s keynote speakers will be Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who wrote in the Jewish Forward that J Street’s opposition to the Gaza slaughter was “shameful.” I understand why J Street has invited Yoffie. But I felt that it was Yoffie’s attack that was shameful, and not J Street’s position. I should add that I’ve also praised Yoffie in the past for speaking to a Muslim conference and being attacked by the Jewish right for doing so. I think we’ve got to call ’em as we see ’em. But I do think Yoffie has some explaining to do.
All that being said, J Street has agreed to our panel and understands the independent role we play in the blogosphere and at their conference. That is something that is important and praiseworthy.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.