“One people is dominating another, this is the essence of the problem” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, claimed Israeli Jew Rami Elhanan, co-general manager of Israel’s fringe Parents Circle—Families Forum (PCFF), on March 6 in Washington, DC. He addressed about 30 largely like-minded listeners in the shared offices of the New Israel Fund (NIF) and Americans for Peace Now (APN), at an Israel-bashing event cohosted by J Street, a supposedly “pro-Israel” Jewish-American leftist organization.
APN Communications and Public Engagement Director Ori Nir and Howard Sumka, a board member of PCFF’s American affiliate, introduced the panel, which included Elhanan and his fellow co-general manager, the Palestinian Bassam Aramin. A stray bullet from an Israeli police officer had killed Aramin’s ten-year old daughter Abir during Palestinian riots in 2007. Meanwhile, Jerusalem’s September 4, 1997, Ben Yehuda Street Hamas suicide bombing killed Elhanan’s 14-year old daughter Smadar. Thus the J Street panel moderator, Ruti Kadish, emphasized its theme of reconciliation through shared Israeli-Palestinian recognition of mutual conflict suffering, for “if we cannot see each other’s pain, we won’t be able to understand each other.”
Elhanan stressed his unlikely friendship with Aramin, a man who had spent seven years in Israeli jails for having attempted to attack Israeli soldiers. “This Palestinian terrorist,” Elhanan said, “my dear brother Bassam,” is the “closest person to me on Earth. He is much closer to me than many of my own people, than many of my own family.” With language that has become a trite trope in Israel’s enduring battle against terrorists, Elhanan presented himself as an example of being able to “break once and for all this endless cycle of violence of revenge and retaliation.”
Despite all such talk of conflict equally victimizing Arabs and Jews, Elhanan and Aramin forthrightly promoted the one-sided canard, in Aramin’s words, that “Israeli occupation” is the “source of violence.” Yet Arabs such as Aramin have fought with consistently brutal means including terrorism to destroy a Jewish national home, even during the Zionist settlement preceding Israel’s existence, as in the 1936-1939 Arab revolt. This Zionist existential fight for survival long predated Israeli “occupation” over an Arab population that emerged after Israel in self-defense liberated historic Jewish national home territories from Egyptian and Jordanian occupation in 1967.
Yet the murder of Elhanan’s daughter only prompted him to wallow in self-guilt. “What can cause someone to be that angry, that mad, that desperate and hopeless that he is willing to blow himself up with a 14-year old little girl? Do you have some kind of connection or responsibility yourself?” he asked. He excused continuing Palestinian rejection of Israel’s existence, for their “anger is horrible. There is an anti-normalization movement, which is very powerful, and it is completely understandable. When someone beats you, you need to rise up.”
His wife Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a self-described “left to far-left” academic at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University (HUJ), who has slandered Israeli textbooks as racist, had expressed similar sentiments in the days following Smadar’s murder. Her mother had called the suicide bombers “desperate, insanely desperate, people” and considered them, along with her daughter, equally victims of Israeli policies. The Elhanans had even welcomed a Palestinian Authority (PA) envoy to their mourning home, even though the Israeli government had condemned PA abetting of terrorism.
Unsurprisingly, Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the sister of the internationally notorious anti-Zionist and self-hating Israeli Jew Miko Peled, and his brother-in-law Elhanan was hardly less radical in Washington, DC. He condemned as a “crime against humanity” that “these two crazy nations of ours are massacring each other every day.” For this “proud Jew…ruling and oppressing and humiliating and occupying millions and millions of people for so many years without any democratic right is not Jewish” and opposition “is not antisemitism.”
Aramin concurred with Elhanan, for “Israelis will never feel free until we feel free.” Aramin decried that America’s pro-Israel policies “support the only occupation in the Middle East,” as if no other conflicts outside of Israel existed here. He used Israeli strength as an excuse to downplay Israeli security fears, for Israel is a “nuclear power now, you are strong; you don’t need to be scared from a group of people who don’t have salaries” in the PA.
Elhanan agreed with audience questioner Steve France from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, a regular in the local Washington, DC-area Israel-hating scene, who reiterated his demonizing comparison of Israel with American racism. This Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)-supporting Episcopalian analogized Israeli Jews to the “American South or all of white America” vis-à-vis blacks, with “privilege for one community and no privilege for the other.” Thus Israeli Jews rejected peace with Palestinians because then supposedly exploitative Jews, under whose rule Palestinians have actually greatly benefitted, would have “to really change my whole life.”
Other local anti-Israel Episcopalians joined France in the audience, such as Tom Getman, a former World Vision executive for its Palestinian operations, his wife Karen, and Mary Nesnick (?). She falsely asserted that Palestinians suffer media demonization. “Conditioned fear,” a “product to keep the hate alive…is actively harvested” by American “websites that demonize Muslims or Palestinians or fundamentalism here that also would look to Israel as a savior,” she said.
Elhanan accepted the tenor of such comments and absurdly accused that willful ignorance of Palestinians made a vigorously democratic “Israeli society…blocked…brainwashed.” The Palestinian “other side” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “was viciously hidden from me from the day I was born,” he stated without the slightest evidence. After Nazi genocide in World War II, Israeli Jews such as Elhanan’s father, an “Auschwitz graduate,” became the “ultimate victim. No one else is allowed to be victim.”
By contrast, Elhanan believed to have found enlightened self-consciousness in utopian post-national universalism, analogous to John Lennon’s Imagine lyrics. Elhanan had no attachment to a Jewish nation-state, for a “state is not something sacred” but merely a “technical tool” for fulfilling social welfare needs including education. Any need for self-defense, particularly given historic threats to Jews such as Nazis and jihadists, left him unimpressed, for “you don’t kill anymore and you don’t die anymore for your country,” unlike in World War I.
Thus Elhanan naively embraced the vision of a binational Arab-Jewish state in which Jews could supposedly live securely irrespective of demographic strength and the grisly history of anti-Jewish violence by Arabs such as Aramin. Elhanan proclaimed of his colleague that the “happiest moment of my life will be when this man will be my prime minister, my emperor, or whatever.” Responding to an audience question by Foundation for Middle East Peace board member Mike Van Dusen, Elhanan similarly cited “one Palestinian in jail who is a potential leader,” namely Marwan Barghouti. This Fatah terrorist mastermind is currently serving five Israeli life sentences for having organized terrorist attacks that murdered five Israelis.
Aramin himself inspired no confidence in Elhanan’s multicultural ideal of politically interchangeable Arabs and Jews as Aramin discussed first discovering the Holocaust while watching a film in Israeli jail. Most Muslims “don’t believe in the Holocaust,” he accurately noted; particularly Palestinians “think it is a big lie” and reject “paying a price for this event that never happened,” genocide denial that exposes Palestinian societal fanaticism. Yet this illiberalism, shared precisely by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, amazed one woman in the Pollyannaish audience, who professed her astounding ignorance of these facts even after 12 years of Hebrew schools and subsequent HUJ studies.
Unconvincing to critical American observers, PCFF peaceniks find even less favor with their target audience of Arabs and Jews. “We are facing two angry societies,” Elhanan stated, and compared PCFF school presentations amidst protesting Israeli parents to “walking into the open mouth of an active volcano.” Indicative of mainstream Israeli rejection of PCFF, one person in an Israeli school considered it a “pity that I wasn’t blown up with my daughter.”
Elhanan meanwhile recounted how a Palestinian school headmaster told students not to listen during one PCFF presentation, lest their will to fight Israel weaken. This only further emphasized Aramin’s statement that both Israelis and Palestinians “respect their fighters,” a gross equivalence between terrorists revered by Palestinian society and Israeli soldiers defending their homeland. While Elhanan condemned President Donald “Trump’s stupidity” in his recent peace plan (Kadish denigrated it as a “peace jam”), the plan’s “Israel Victory” outlook is far more realistic than PCFF hopes for a Palestinian “kumbaya moment.”
Elhanan bewailed the “huge effect” of the Trump administration in 2019 cutting $300,000 in PCFF aid, but this measure is thoroughly justified. Despite PCFF’s pretensions of impartiality (between victim and aggressor?), PCFF’s party line immorally inverts Israel’s longstanding defense against implacable threats into aggression against hapless Palestinians. Outside of ideologues at leftist organizations such as APN, NIF, and the fraudulently “pro-Israel” J Street, it is obvious that PCFF rightly enrages Israelis while doing nothing to wean Palestinians from jihad.
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