Dr. Izzaldin Abuelaish, about whom I write here, recently gave this talk at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington DC to a standing ovation. I encourage everyone to watch his moving speech.
When it was over, the Jewish moderator said to the spellbound audience, "Let us take a minute of silence to absorb the powerful and beautiful message of love, faith, hope, and action that Dr. Abuelaish gave us. Let's sit quietly for a minute before we ask our questions."
A minute later the floor was opened to questions, after the moderator reminded the audience, "Please ask only questions and keep your speeches to a minimum."
The first person to the microphone was a Palestinian woman. She knew she would be on c-span TV watched by the nation, and was conspicuously wearing her chic keffiyeh. Her "question", which begins at 43:15, was as follows, "Thank you, doctor, for your very profound message. I believe in your message of love and peace and everything you were saying tonight. I want to know your opinions on the following. First of all, the practicality of the colonization of Palestine. I'm working with a group of Arab-American activists who are calling for the dissolution of the Palestine Liberation Organization because they are helping the Israelis manage the occupation. I also want to know your opinion on boycott divestiture and sanctions of Israel. I want your thoughts about why the Palestinians are not taking to the streets to demand their freedom and their rights from their occupiers and oppressors and colonizers. Why aren't prominent Jewish Americans coming forth all across the world demanding as they did for South Africa and apartheid. Why aren't Jewish Americans, Jewish European, and Jews all over the world demanding peace and justice for the Palestinians? Thank you."
I can't imagine how this woman could have made a greater tactical blunder. It has famously been said that the Palestinians never miss the opportunity to miss an opportunity, and she blew this one. For the past forty-five minutes, Dr. Abuelaish had been speaking directly to the conscience of his Jewish audience. His simple but powerful message was, "I am a Palestinian doctor from Gaza, the first to work in an Israeli hospital. I have devoted my life to the care and healing of both Israeli and Palestinian patients. My life changed forever on January 16, 2009, when an Israeli bomb struck our Gaza family home and instantly killed my three lovely daughters. But I will not stop doing all I can do bring our two peoples, Palestinian and Israeli, together in peace."
It was a hard-hitting message to the heart, but the self-described "activist" didn't hear it. She was probably rehearsing her own speech the entire time he was talking, waiting for her opportunity to rush to the microphone. She wanted to talk about boycott divestiture! And in her two short angry minutes she completely undid all that the doctor had worked for 45 to accomplish in the hearts of his audience. The sad part is that she is completely unaware of what she did.
For six decades the Palestinians have fought the Israelis with wars, demonstrations, boycotts, United Nations and Arab League resolutions, skyjackings, suicide bombers, and Qassam rockets. As Dr. Phil often says on his TV show, "So how's that working out for you?" The simple reality is that Palestinians in Gaza are living worse today than ever, and as long as those rockets keep coming over or they have dreams of retaking Jerusalem, the Israeli government won't give a damn. And when someone comes along like Dr. Abuelaish, to plant a message with humility and dignity that can touch hearts and bring change, activists such as this young woman in her keffiyah chic and angry rhetoric rip out the seed before it can even begin to grow.