Thursday, December 13, 2007

Turnaround in Old Lyme?

Responding to criticism of the incredibly biased "Tree of Life" programs at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, the organizers descended on The Day (New London's newspaper) and demanded "corrections" to the Showing good faith in the Arab-Israeli conflict op-ed published November 25.

Fifty people went to The Day to make the demand, so it's not surprising The Day did its best to comply. However, since there were no errors which could be corrected, The Day issued a "clarification."

A Clarification

Published on 12/11/2007

Organizers of the Tree of Life Conference on Israel and Palestine, held Nov. 3-4 in Old Lyme, support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Organizers contend their position on the issue was mischaracterized by Alan Stein in a commentary published in the Nov. 25 edition.

Conference organizers also challenged the accuracy of Mr. Stein's depiction of events, including reported angry exchanges with audience members, when the Al-Ghad Folklore Dancing Group of Palestine performed at schools in Old Lyme and Old Saybrook. Mr. Stein stands by his depiction of events, but said they were based on secondhand accounts. He did not attend the dance performances.

The organizers' claim they support a two-state solution is a welcome surprise, given how it conflicts with the thrust of their conferences. One hopes they, in the future, act as if they support a two-state solution rather than act, as they have in the past, as if they would dance in the streets if Israel vanished.

The first Tree of Life Conference, in 2005, featured Mazin Qumsiyeh, author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan," in which he argues it it impossible to pursue a two-state solution.

The 2006 iteration included Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, who expounded on the theme of his book, ""Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel." His theme is the very existence of Israel is immoral.

This year's conference featured Hajo Meyer, who insisted "Jews are not a people" and Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, is the antithesis of "enlightened Judaism."

Other speakers reinforced those themes, even when caught off guard and admitting Arab culpability.

As one example, in 2006, Hanadi Soudah-Younan inadvertently referred to the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, admitting the Palestinian Arabs had made a mistake by investing too much in the "pan-national Arabic project." She quickly explained why that mistake was reasonable: "we wanted all of Palestine."

None of this is compatible with support for a two-state solution.

Let us hope the organizers will in the future work to the promote a peaceful, two-state solution they profess to support and invite speakers who share that goal rather than continue to bring in speakers who oppose it.

For sixty years, both Arabs and Jews have suffered the consequences of the mistake the Arabs made in not joining the Zionists in accepting the United Nations Partition Plan. Let us hope the organizers of the Tree of Life Conference will join supporters of Israel in working for an end to the nakba that mistake brought for all.

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