The issue over the Israeli flag at the HaaretzQ Conference is a manufactured controversy (“The Snub Club,” Editorial, Dec. 18). Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s office requested that there be an Israeli flag behind him when he spoke, as his government’s protocol requires.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat’s staff requested that there not be an Israeli flag behind him when he spoke, as his government’s protocol requires. We honored both requests. Beyond that, there was no intentional placement of flags on the plenary stage during the conference. We did have both an American and an Israeli flag at the entrance to the conference.
As for Knesset member Aymen Odeh, he met with Jewish communal leaders in many different venues over the course of his visit to the United States. He decided that he could not in good conscience participate in a meeting on the same floor as the Jewish Agency’s offices, given the reality that the Jewish Agency, along with the Jewish National Fund, have been among the prime movers of policies that restrict or prohibit land sales to Arab citizens of Israel.
This is a man who represents 20 percent of Israel’s citizens in the Knesset. Rather than lecture him about etiquette, maybe it’s time for the leaders of our Jewish community to listen to the concerns of his constituency.
Mr. Odeh, in his address to the NIF/Haaretz conference, said that he understood and empathized with the deep pain and historical suffering of the Jewish people. He also said that Israel would lose nothing by empathizing with the pain and loss of the Palestinian people. We at the New Israel Fund agree. Understanding the narrative of Palestinians and Arab Israelis is both a moral and pragmatic imperative.
Both Secretary Erekat and MK Odeh were in New York City to participate in the NIF/Haaretz conference on peace, democracy, and social justice in Israel. Our community should applaud them, as well as President Rivlin, for showing up to engage in these difficult conversations and for refusing to give up on the struggle for peace.
Director, New York Tristate Area, New Israel Fund