Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lara Friedman Plays Both Sides

We have discussed before how "pro-Israel pro-peace" organizations like J Street try to "play both sides" of this conflict, and how it often doesn't work out quite the way that they were hoping that it would. We have seen a perfect example of this with Lara Friedman of Peace Now traveling to Doha to try to change some Arab minds. If you haven't seen the first part of her report, in which she is stunned by the realization that some Arabs don't like Jews, Jewish history, or the idea of peace with the Jews, I suggest you check it out right away.

Even though her first section was not covered by the Huffington Post, her second part is. And in this section she returns to the comforting fold of praising Arab leadership. We'll give her credit for declaring herself to be a Zionist and braving some unhappy reactions:
"The Z-word, not entirely unexpectedly, sparked a minor outcry. There were raised voices and one woman stormed out in anger. The moderator of the panel was professional and extremely respectful, insisting on my right to speak and the importance of hearing all views, and emphasizing that I was speaking with respect for everyone there."
Fortunately, that's the last time that she will criticize the Arab participants at the conference:
"Several people came up to me even before I had a chance to exit the meeting room. One suggested that what I had said was good but that the term Zionism is too controversial to use in this situation.... Others came up to me inside the meeting room and after that at lunch and throughout the afternoon. What was shocking -- and gratifying -- to me was that the comments I got were universally polite and positive....Many people (both from the Arab world and outside it) thanked me for speaking up and commended me for having the courage to do so. Several told me proudly about their own work in interfaith tolerance and understanding groups." 
If that's really what happened, it sounds great. Why am I slightly suspicious though? For two reasons: First, we must consider the source that is Lara Friedman of Peace Now. Her bias and agenda has been clear for a very long time. The second reason is simply based on her first article in the Forward, when she said something rather different:
"All throughout the day, it was unfortunately the same story. Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians. [With one exception.]"
I just don't know what to think, unless the people at the conference changed or were somehow encouraged to moderation by the silver tongue of Lara Friedman. Perhaps the answer to this contradiction can be looked at by reading between the lines: They were polite to her and wanted interfaith dialogue but still believed that Jerusalem is not "Jewish." 

But credit where credit is due, she does post a selection from a statement at the conferences that acknowledges Jewish connection to Jerusalem (though not their history). So it does sound like she made a difference, and we can't criticize her too much for that. But we must also be honest, she was there to play her role "as a Jew" and to give the conference legitimacy. I would be curious to see what else the statement contained and what else happened at the conference. But let's give Ms. Friedman the last word:
"Finally, I want to make one thing very clear to anyone reading this: after the morning session and the kerfuffle over my statement, the organizers of the conference from the Arab League were incredibly gracious. They sought me out to assure me that my views were welcome and that my presence and contribution were appreciated. They deserve credit for doing so and it is my hope that at future events on this and similar topics, more voices from the pro-Israel, pro-peace Jewish community will be invited and will accept the invitation. We all have a great deal to learn from one another."
Oh, I'm sure we do.


  1. I sort of half-hope she just 'converts' to Islam, dons a hijab and starts screaming how the Holocaust is a lie. She may as well.

  2. She’s an idiot or a liar, here she’s interviewed by a liar.
    Viewpoint with James Zogby: December 29, 2011 (Lara Friedman)


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