24-year old Ada da Silva was excited and hopeful as she entered the bustling Grand Lobby of the Washington DC Convention Center on March 24th of 2012. Banners emblazoned with J Street’s trademark leaning arrow logo and that year’s convention theme, “Making History”, festooned the huge atrium. J Street offered itself as a brash young voice; a solutions-based movement, non-dogmatic and open to dialogue. All of these things appealed to Ada as she prepared herself for three days of intellectual engagement and inspiration. Most of all, Ada looked forward to being amongst fellow lovers of Israel, all like her thirsting for a solution, a desperately needed respite from war and conflict. She found something else entirely.
Why I left J Street: By Ada da Silva
I signed up for the J Street conference in the hope of unveiling a genuine and profound dialogue – something akin to the wealth of nuance and complexity that one encounters when discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict with Israelis in Israel. I hoped to find a space where support for Israel was a given, yet dialogue in pursuit of solutions and effective advocacy would abound.
On the very first night of the conference, I made a comment to my table-mate that I thought would be relatively mainstream, given the recent publication of The Crisis of Zionism: “I’m not such a fan of Beinart.” I was immediately reproached, and told that I was too closed-minded for the conference: the very one I had come to in order to be exposed to new ideas. No matter that I have Palestinian contacts with whom I maintain a dialogue on their views and hopes, and no matter that I seek to encounter every viewpoint on the conflict, and expressed willingness to read any new sources that this individual might wish to recommend. I was instantly and immutably classified as right-wing, and as such, no longer worthy of conversation. Through this and other interactions, my hopes of encountering a moderate and welcoming crowd at the conference were quickly dispelled.
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Originally published on The Mike Report