When was the last time an Arab organization elected a Jew to head one of its pro-Democracy movements? Or when a Muslim group elected a Christian to lead its fight for justice? Or maybe a Jewish group electing a Muslim to lead its student movement? J Street answered this last one loud and clear
By Ray Hanania
From the onset, J Street has claimed to embrace democracy, fairness, justice and truth in pursuing peace in the Middle East and seeking to represent the true spirit of the American Jewish community.
Their balanced protests against all violence, all extremism and all fanaticism in Israeli and Arab World politics has been consistent, principled and effective.
Clearly, when a group engaged in Middle East issues stands up and does what’s right, embracing the rule of law not based on ethnicity, race or religion but on the basis of “the rule of law” and equality for all, it is going to take a beating from the fanatics on both sides, Jew and Arab.
Yet J Street continues to grow and become the true voice of American Judaism, helping to redefine the battle from the old cliche of Jew versus Arab, to the new reality of the future, moderate versus extremism.
J Street is the moderate voice of the American Jewish community, countering the alarming rise in extremism among radical Jews and fanatic Israelis. The extremists in Israel have been pulling the mainstream Jewish community into its illogical racist hatred of Arabs, while extremists in the Arab community have been doing the same to the Arab Street.
This week, one of J Street’s most important components, J Street U, which focuses student activism throughout University Campuses, elected as its president a woman who is Muslim.
Amna Farooqi is not Arab, she is Pakistani. But she is proud Muslim student activist for peace. According to J Street, Farooqi, a senior at the University of Maryland who has served at various levels of J Street student activism, leads a seven member student board of Jewish student colleagues.
When was the last time an Arab activist group elected a Jew to head its efforts? Or how many times do we have to experience the rejection of women as leaders in the American Arab and Muslim community? When was the last time a Christian activist group elected a Jew to spearhead their efforts for peace and justice in Palestine?
It’s been done (with a CAIR Chapter), but it has been so rare. (Although just asking the questions provokes more hatred, especially against Christian Arabs who ask the question.)
The vote by J Street is remarkable and reinforces the groups stated commitment to Jewish Democratic values, and also to the strong commitment to the only workable solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Two-State Solution.
You have to admire J Street. And I wish we would see the same kind of principle applied to Arab and Palestinian politics, and the raising of volume by the community to speak out against the ever-present extremist haters who arguably lead the Palestinian struggle as clearly as the extremist racist haters in Israel are leading their government today.
I have attended their conventions which featured not only open debate and dialogue among Jews but the voices of moderate Palestinians, Muslims, and Christian Arab activists who represent the true spirit of the Palestinian cause. Their conferences have been absent of the hate rhetoric that often infects the conferences of other extremist groups like AIPAC and even many Arab organizations. Even just a little hatred can taint an entire groups efforts to achieve peace. We can’t compromise on the need to marginalize and silence the extremists and their hate-driven rhetoric.
The only way to break the stranglehold the fanatics have over the moderates is to enforce the fundamentals of peace, justice, non-violence, and principled morality. We need to stand up to the fanatics by being the people we claim to be. We need to standup to the extremists who bully the voices of moderates with their hatred and their lies. We can’t let the fanatics win. The war is between moderates and extremists and we all need to take sides to save our people.
Farooqi will be attacked by the fanatics, for sure. That’s the way they are, twisting facts, pumping up emotion, downplaying their own failures and exaggerating the claims against others.
Voices of moderation need to speak out. We need to rise up above the anger, emotions and frustrations, and recognize that the truth of our principle and justice of our cause is not in anger but in remaining true to the principles of the rule of law, Democracy, respect of all human beings, diversity and the rejection of violence as a means of achieving goals.
Here is the press release from J Street issued this week:
J Street U, the student arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, today announced the election of its sixth national student board.
The National Board, which directs the student arm of J Street, was elected by the organization’s leaders at the annual Summer Leadership Institute this week. It is comprised of the president and six other elected representatives, each of whom represents a geographic region. The board members make decisions as a group and work collaboratively to guide strategy for the organization.
Amna Farooqi, a senior at the University of Maryland, was elected President of the J Street U National Student Board. She has previously served as Southeast Representative on the National Board, and as Student Co-Chair for the 2013 J Street National Conference. She spent the spring 2014 semester in Jerusalem, studying Hebrew and Political Science at Hebrew University. This past summer she lived in Jerusalem and interned with J Street U’s Israel program.
Ellie Boswell, a junior at Yale, was elected Vice President for the Mid-Atlantic region. She has been active with J Street U since her freshman year, and served last year as Mid-Atlantic Regional Co-Chair, and was a summer intern with J Street U’s Israel program. In 2012-2013, she spent 3 months living in Jordan, and 4 months in Israel, training with a dance company in the Negev.
Tali deGroot, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was elected Vice President for the Southeast region. She grew up an active member of the Jewish community in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has previously served as Southeast Regional Co-Chair, and as a summer intern with J Street U’s Israel program. Last year she served as J Street U National Conference Co-Chair. Following high school, Tali spent a year in Israel through Young Judaea’s year course program.
Zoe Goldblum, a sophomore at Stanford University, was elected Vice President for the Northwest region. She has been active in J Street U since freshman year, and previously served on the board of J Street U Stanford. She currently serves as the Social Action Chair of the Stanford Jewish Students Association, and as the Jewish community liaison to the Executive Cabinet of the Stanford student government.
Elie Leaderman-Bray, a senior at the University of Massachusetts, was elected Vice President for the Northeast region. She has previously served as Northeast Regional Co-Chair and as Co-Chair of J Street UMass. This past summer she interned with J Street’s Boston office. She is a board member of Koach, the Conservative Jewish community at UMass.
Hannah Nayowith, a senior at Carleton College, was elected Vice President for the Midwest region. She has previously served as a Co-Chair of J Street U Carleton. This past summer she spent two months living in the West Bank, researching the experiences of Palestinian women and the intersection between women’s rights and civil rights.
Lizzie Stein, a senior at Occidental College, was elected Vice President for the Southwest region. She has been active with J Street U since her freshman year, previously served as Southwest Regional Co-chair, and interned with the office of Representative Lois Capps as part of J Street’s Congressional internship program.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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