November 13th I attended the Jewish Cultural Centre to hear Peter Beinart and Mick Davis (chairman if United Jewish Israel Appeal) in conversation with journalist Jonathan Freedland. The event was called 'Hugging and wrestling with Israel' and aimed to allow participants as Jews who don't live in Israel but support Israel and the audience to talk about a conflicted relationship with Israel critically and raise issues relating to Israeli policy and voices of opposition to it amongst liberal Jews. The room was packed out, sponsored by the Jewish Chronicle UK paper. Peter Beinart caused controversy in US recently when he reported the divide between liberal young American Jews and Zionism in an article the Failure of the American Jewish Establishment . The event was interesting, well organised and the panel were articulate - the numbers attending suggest there is a sense of urgency in the topic at present and indicated UK Jewish community are interested in discussing about what Israel is doing in Palestine and are concerned about its policies. Peter Beinart gave the impression that in US it is very difficult for young liberal Jews to express critical views of Israel within the Jewish community, harder than in UK, however voices in the room how they too felt pressure to conform, such as an ex-student from Durham as a member of Jewish student association she was expected to provide unwavering support for Zionism within the group. On 8th November however Jewish protestors in New Orleans managed to disrupt Netanyahu's speech there, there is a website articulating the position of these protestors and the phenomenon described by Peter Beirnart http://www.youngjewishproud.org/ .
Mick Davis expressed concern about the implications of the direction of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians and there was a tangible sense of running out of time in terms of what is happening there with settlement building and expansion, human rights abuses against Palestinians. For his position he has sparked controversy being reported in Haaretz for his comments at the event - for while stating categorically that he did not believe Israel was an apartheid state that in the current direction the majority would indeed be ruled by the minority - as it was in apartheid South Africa. A question from the floor suggested that democracy and Zionism are incompatible - the panel believed not. When it came to discussion of a bi-national state they expressed preference for two-state solution - but the atmosphere in the room suggested a growing awareness of the unlikelihood of this and the urgency of the situation - its too late for that now.