This post was made possible by the first hand account of a friend who was one of 15-20 Jewish/Israeli participants in a program in Bethlehem, sponsored by the group, Encounter.
The Encounter program is “dedicated to strengthening the capacity of the Jewish people to be constructive agents of change in transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [to enhance the] next generation’s…commitment to Israel.”
What they do:
“Founded by American rabbis, Encounter is a conflict transformation organization, equipping…Jewish leaders from across the political…spectra with access to Palestinian perspectives. Encounter’s two-day leadership seminar bring Jewish participants to the West Bank on tours to meet with Palestinian leaders in business, media, non-violence activism, education, and politics so that our youth are more equipped and committed to act as informed change agents and less inclined to give up the “Israel project” altogether. [emphasis added]
“We are reaching “tipping point” in terms of our credibility and reputation among Jewish leaders from across the country. Encounter’s Executive Directors are invited to speak at forums and conferences nationwide alongside AIPAC and Birthright Executive staff about “what it means to be pro-Israel” and “next generation Israel engagement”. Encounter staff reach thousands of people through speaking engagements sponsored by the…Jewish Theological Seminary…UJA-Federation-NY...New Israel Fund…and numerous other synagogues…”
“Encounter is an educational organization that cultivates informed Jewish leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We do not take specific positions regarding the outcome of the conflict….” [emphasis added]
“…we are not a dialogue organization. Encounter encourages participants to listen to and absorb Palestinian narratives and claims…”
Foundation for Middle East Peace (promotes peace between Israel and Palestine, via two states, that meets the fundamental needs of both peoples.
The Russell Berrie Foundation (Promoting the continuity of the Jewish people…)
Nathan Cummings Foundation (Rooted in the Jewish tradition…promotion of understanding across cultures…)
Naomi and Nehemia Cohen Foundaion (…promoting the welfare of the Jewish people.)
The Blaustein Philantropic Group (…strengthening Israeli democracy)
Righteous Persons Foundation (…promoting understanding between Jews and those of other faiths and backgrounds)
Bikkurim (an incubator of new Jewish ideas…a joint project of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Kaminer Family.)
The Germanacos Foundation (supports educational programs that utilize a broad range of perspectives to foster a critical scrutiny of society)
Slingshot Fund (Slingshot’s mission is to strengthen innovation in Jewish life by developing next-generation funders and providing resources to leverage their impact in the Jewish community…by growing and supporting Jewish innovation)
My friend provided me with the itinerary of her Bethlehem trip, scanned here:
Below, in bullet points, are my friend’s more important observations while participating in group discussions, in Bethlehem, with Palestinians.
The following aren’t exact quotes, but accurately reflect her observations.
- The Jewish participants spent the entire time listening to Palestinian views. There was never an opportunity by Jewish participants to even briefly explain the Jewish/Israeli narrative. Indeed, such ‘counter narratives’ were explicitly forbidden by the program organizers.
- Not one Palestinian, when discussing their long-term vision for the region, advocated a two-state solution, nor expressed any empathy for Jewish aspirations.
- Several presenters (such as ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Sam Bahour) quite explicitly advocated a one-state solution.
- One Palestinian presenter, named Shirin, told us that, in the absence of a one-state solution, there is going to be a bloodbath. In response to this, most participants clapped.
- The resentment towards us (Jews/Israelis) was really intense. They clearly hate Zionism, and Zionists, with a passion.
To put this “peaceful” encounter, organized by Americans who fancy themselves progressive, in some perspective, note that one of the featured speakers was ‘Comment is Free’ contributor, Sam Bahour
Bahour is affiliated with ‘Al Shabaka’ (a group which opposes all Palestinian Authority negotiations with Israel), has signed the Stuttgart declaration calling for a one-state solution (a resolution signed by activists representing both Islamism and the radical left), and, in a previous CiF piece, sanitized the death and carnage of the 2nd intifada as a mere “civil uprising” which the Arab world would be wise to emulate.
Does it really need to be asked how anyone claiming the mantle of peace can legitimize the call for the end of the Jewish state?
At the end of the day, what programs like ‘Encounter’ truly represent are efforts to tell morally vulnerable U.S. Jews that their spiritual salvation, their moral redemption for the original sin of the Jewish state’s creation, lie in Israel’s complete capitulation.
Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of Israelis, indeed most Jews in the diaspora, realize that the Jewish state’s existence is simply not open for negotiation – her legitimacy, paraphrasing Abba Eban, is not a negotiable concession.
Her borders may be one day be somewhat redrawn, but the results of 1948 will never, ever be undone.
Perhaps, looking back at her Bethlehem”encounter”, my friend’s only fond memory will be the program’s complete irrelevance.
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- World’s checkpoint hypocrisy (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian/Reuters suggests Palestinian terrorists weren’t buried by Israel with proper dignity (cifwatch.com)
- With stroke of a pen, new bill in Congress could slash number of Palestinian refugees (cifwatch.com)