An exercise in futility…writes Michael Kuttner

December 12, 2014 by Michael Kuttner
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I have just returned from attending the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference held in Jerusalem, at which various personalities imparted to attendees pearls of wisdom and observations about current political developments.

This conference was touted as a major event and one which would enlighten and educate.

Michael Kuttner

Michael Kuttner

In an op-ed which appeared in the JP last Friday, prior to the conference, David Brinn, the Managing Editor of the paper, waxed eloquent as to what could be expected and ended his piece by advising readers to have a healthy supply of sweat bands and towels handy, presumably anticipating a torrid period ahead until the elections in March. If this conference was anything to go by, a good supply of anti nausea pills would have been more in order.

Opening a half hour beyond the scheduled time (Jewish mean Time) the first event was a presentation of the Start up Nation Award to the winner of the competition. The vast majority of the audience was and no doubt still is in total ignorance of the details as only a scant description was provided which is a pity because this could have been a highlight of the conference.

Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma with Third Secretary Ben Rhee

Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma with Third Secretary Ben Rhee

As at the last conference, a year ago, Steve Linde, the editor in chief, interviewed Shimon Peres who wasted no time in expounding on his favorite themes of start-up nation and peace partners. If he would have stuck with the former and omitted the latter, we would have been better informed. As it was, we were once again subjected to the former President’s dreams and hallucinations about Palestinian Arab peace partners waiting in the wings and chomping at the bit to release the doves of brotherly love. Apparently we are guilty of not listening hard enough to the peace overtures of our invisible partners.

Next, came a smooth performance by Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid and the man who fancies himself to be the savior of the Israeli electorate. Of course this is a crowded field with many contenders for the title. In order to balance the criticism of the opposition to the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, Gilad Erdan, proceeded to negate every assertion previously made. After listening to these two representatives of the political establishment one was left no wiser as to how peace can be achieved without sacrificing security and handing all our strategic areas to a terror supporting entity.

The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, then extolled the virtues of Jerusalem, listed the achievements of the last 6 years and prognosticated as to how Jerusalem would look in ten years time. He repeated several times that the “status quo” must be preserved at all cost and that freedom of religion must be zealously safeguarded. These are all very laudable objectives except for one troubling missing fact. He did not mention that it is only Jews who are denied full freedom of religion thanks to the seemingly sacred status quo. Any Jews who dare to move their lips in prayer on the Temple Mount are arrested and banished from the site, while Moslem mobs scream and throw stones with impunity.

As one of the sponsors of the conference, the Jewish National Fund was given the opportunity of extolling the virtues of that organisation in greening the land.

Following the coffee break, Major General Nimrod Shefer, Head of the IDF Planning Directorate, briefed us on the challenges currently facing Israel and those likely to be confronting us in the near future.

As far as I was concerned the best part of the conference then took place when a panel debated Europe-Israel relations. Moderated by Herb Keinon, Diplomatic Correspondent of the JP, the panel consisted of amongst others, the Danish and Italian Ambassadors, a Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General and Caroline Glick, Senior contributing editor of the JP. This was the one and only opportunity to hear robust debate and to challenge views expressed. The European diplomats did not disappoint and attempted to justify the EU policies towards Israel while the representative of the Foreign Ministry although disagreeing with many points raised still managed to maintain a diplomatic balancing act. Caroline Glick on the other hand livened up the debate by making a spirited and hard-hitting attack on the hypocrisies displayed by European countries and hammered home politically incorrect but necessary perspectives on historical associations between the Jewish People and that blighted continent.

Needless to say all panelists deplored the rising wave of Judeophobia in Europe but missing from the narrative was any reference to the rapid Islamisation of countries in Europe and its consequences for the future of Jewish continuity.

Following on was a speech by Daniel Shapiro, the American Ambassador. It followed a predictable pattern with assurances that the Obama Administration had our back and paeans of praise for the attempts to divide Israel and create another Arab terror country in our midst. Missing was any mention of Jonathan Pollard whose health is rapidly deteriorating.

The Conference concluded with President Reuven Rivlin addressing the conference and outlining his hopes and fears for the future of Israel and the region.

This conference was a very useful opportunity to network with new contacts and renew acquaintances with old friends such as Dave Sharma and Ben Rhee, the Australian Ambassador and Third Secretary respectively.

My feeling after having talked to many participants is that the inability to question speakers and challenge their assertions detracted from the usefulness of the event. Unless the opportunity is given to do so it merely becomes a mutual admiration society with those espousing particular points of view allowed to evade subjects which otherwise should be closely scrutinized.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.


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