I spent yesterday afternoon at the Encounter Conference (basically a 'Kosher' Limmud). I went specifically to hear Walid Shoebat, Palestinian terrorist-turned-Zionist. Last time I wrote about him, we ended up in a lengthy correspondence and I decided it really was time I caught his act.
To be fair, I came away impressed by a man who had the courage to admit that his own society was morally corrupt and to try to right some wrongs. He was certainly sincere and it was hard not to admire that -- although I was still unnerved by the extent to which he seemed to support the Zionist cause, which reminded me, a little, of the Neturei Karta on the other side.
Shoebat spent his entire hour railing against the corruption and anti-Semitism in Palestinian society, talking about the Jews' biblical rights to the land and reminiscing at how much better off the Palestinians were under the Jews than they are under the PA. I dare say there was no one in the room who learned anything new. If anything, I think Shoebat unwittingly did a disservice to a great number of people in the audience, who came out completely delusional with hope that a million Palestinians might one day follow Shoebat and admit the Zionists are right -- or conversely, as one person told me, more convinced than ever that the only answer is Transfer, because even a Palestinian has just said that the Arabs will never compromise.
The question is, what's the use of Shoebat's message? It would be far more interesting to hear an insider's view of how the Palestinian society can be transformed, or convinced to reach some sort of settlement or practical solution. Whilst his messages about the corruption of the PA would be extremely useful for a non-Jewish, or anti-Israel audience to hear, I still do not really see the point of his talking to Jewish audiences who are already converted to the cause. As I said before, I blame the Jewish community for seeking out too many speakers who simply confirm their own prejudices instead of spending our free evenings listening to, and learning the lessons from, our opponents; listening to, and learning the lesson from, strategic thinkers; campaigning to get fairer coverage; sending mass-emails about the matzav to someone other than our Jewish best friends; or frankly, doing the washing-up. Again: it's time to free up Mr. Shoebat and people like him so that he can talk to the people who really need to hear him -- which is not us.