The New York Times Magazine this weekend will publish an article about J Street, an organization which has made its mark by redefining being ‘pro-Israel’ as knowing what is good for Israel better than the Israeli government and the great majority of Israelis.
The author, James Traub, is at pains to show how J Street is an entirely new kind of Jewish group:
Important Jewish organizations are normally reached through a series of locked doors presided over by glassed-in functionaries. The peril may be real. But it can also feel like a marketing device…
J Street, by contrast, is wide open to the public. Visitors must thread their way through a graphic-design studio with which the organization shares office space. There appears to be nothing worth guarding.
The peril certainly is real, as they found out in 2006 at the Seattle Jewish Federation — not exactly a radical settler organization — when one woman was killed and several wounded by a Muslim terrorist who said he was “angry at Israel”.
What terrorist would try to shoot up the office of J Street, an organization which called for an immediate cease-fire on the first day of the Gaza war, believes that negotiations with Iran should be carried out without threat of sanctions, opposed — lobbied against — a congressional initiative asking the President to encourage Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel, called for a complete freeze on construction inside settlements, approved of President Obama’s granting the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson (who as UN Commissioner for Human Rights presided over the 2001 Durban conference), favored an American performance of the antisemitic play Seven Jewish Children, calls for negotiations with Hamas, and is funded not only by the dollars of liberal Jews, but those of known supporters of Arab and Iranian causes?
In any event, Traub is impressed by the fresh young faces that aren’t burdened by Holocaust consciousness:
The average age of the dozen or so staff members is about 30. [J Street director Jeremy] Ben-Ami speaks for, and to, this post-Holocaust generation. “They’re all intermarried,” he says. “They’re all doing Buddhist seders.” They are, he adds, baffled by the notion of “Israel as the place you can always count on when they come to get you.”
There you have it. At the risk of being revealed as being old enough to remember if not the Holocaust, the aftermath of it, I need to repeat the cliché that nobody learns from history, especially when they are ignorant of it. They are baffled by the idea that despite their Buddhist seders and non-Jewish spouses, it might be dangerous to be a Jew, and even more dangerous to be one when there is no Jewish homeland.
Why should they think otherwise, having grown up in possibly the only place and time in Jewish history — late 20th/early 21st century America — where Jews could live among non-Jews in complete security and equality?
These young people are Jewish only in the most accidental, genetic sense. They are not religiously observant, but — unlike a previous generation of left-wing secular Jews — neither do they have a consciousness of themselves as members of a people. For them, like some other notable young Jews, Israel is just another country.
Traub himself shows how much he doesn’t understand about the Mideast when he recycles this bit of nonsense by way of explaining J Street’s lobbying to back up the administration’s settlement freeze demand:
Like Israel, mainstream Arab states are worried about Iran and want American support for a hard line toward Tehran and its nuclear ambitions. The Palestinian problem is an obstacle to uniting against Iran. Indeed, Netanyahu himself has tried very hard to change the subject from Palestine to Iran. But that won’t fly either in Riyadh or in Washington; as the Cairo speech demonstrated, White House officials recognize that they must make real progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace in order to regain credibility in the Middle East. Such progress, they believe, will be possible only if Netanyahu curbs the settlements, which Palestinians and the larger Arab world see as part of an ongoing effort to alter “facts on the ground” to preclude a two-state solution.
Let’s suppose for a moment that Obama somehow forces Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and the Golan Heights. 300,000 ‘settlers’ are relocated to the Negev. A Palestinian state is established in the West Bank and Gaza with a unity government composed of Fatah and Hamas, under the leadership of, say, Marwan Barghouti. God knows where the Palestinian refugees go. Now what?
Does Iran suddenly agree to scrap its nuclear weapons (which it will have by then)? Does Syria suddenly agree to stop taking weapons from Iran, give up its interest in Lebanon and embrace an end of conflict with Israel? Does Hezbollah decide that they no longer have a quarrel with Israel? Does the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt stop trying to overthrow the Mubarak regime? Does al-Qaeda stop trying to subvert Saudi Arabia and attack the US? Does Pakistan renounce its nuclear weapons? Indeed, do the Palestinians even stop trying to reverse the nakba?
I think Barry Rubin wrote something like the above, although I’m sure he did it better. The point is that the policy rehashed by Traub, which also may be the position of the Obama Administration, and which is being lobbied for by J Street, is irrelevant to the real problems of the Mideast. The only certain outcome is that Israel will be smaller and much weaker. But maybe that’s its goal after all.