The annual J Street national conference begins this weekend. Some have suggested that the phony ‘pro-Israel’ group will soon be breathing its last, crushed by the weight of its persistent dishonesty, and by the fact that you just can’t claim to be pro-Israel while calling for the US to not veto an anti-Israel resolution in the UN Security Council for the first time in history.
Recently a milestone was passed when one of J Street’s congressional supporters, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D. NY) loudly defected, saying in part,
After learning of J Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and–critically–would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated…
America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”
Unfortunately, although J Street may be losing the respectable pro-Israel Left, it is gaining support from the anti-Israel fringe, including supporters of Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) which J Street has (so far) claimed to oppose.
In an open letter to US diplomat, administration adviser and Camp David negotiator Dennis Ross, who is listed as one of the speakers at the J Street conference, Noah Pollak asks if Ross wishes to be associated with the other scheduled speakers, who include
- Maen Areikat of the PLO, who denies there was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and accuses Israel of “state terrorism.”
- Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who said that Israel has “a full-fledged Apartheid system” that is “much worse than what prevailed in South Africa,” and that Israel has been “ethnically cleansing” Palestinians since 1948.
- Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, a correspondent for MBC TV, who says that Hamas should not be “lumped in” with other terrorist groups because “once Palestine is liberated then [Hamas] will cease to use violence.”
- Edina Lekovic, of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who was a managing editor of a magazine that praised Osama bin Laden as a “freedom fighter.”
- Imam Feisal Rauf, the Ground Zero Mosque leader, who refuses to call Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups.
- James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, who has compared Israelis to Nazis and accused the IDF of “genocide” and a “Holocaust.” Only three months ago he wrote that “In a real sense, the plight of the Palestinians is to the Arabs, what the Holocaust is to Jews worldwide.”
- Lawrence Wilkerson, a former State Department official, who has repeatedly accused Jewish members of the Bush administration of “working for Israel” and being “card-carrying members of the Likud Party,” and asked whether “their primary allegiance was to their own country or to Israel.”
- Daniel Levy, one of Richard Goldstone’s leading advocates in Washington.
- Jessica Montell, executive director of B’Tselem, who says that “the situation in the West Bank is worse than apartheid in South Africa” and that Israel’s policy toward Gaza is a “siege.”
- Naomi Chazan, a leader of the New Israel Fund and a conference honoree. Her organization funds NGO’s that accuse Israel of war crimes and Apartheid, provided the bulk of the accusations contained in the Goldstone Report, support the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, and seek the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
- Rebecca Vilkomerson, who runs the BDS group Jewish Voice for Peace. She has said, “Just as in Apartheid South Africa’s day, Israel’s society seems to be turning more bluntly racist and repressive.” She says her organization “speaks out for Goldstone, and we speak out for BDS campaigners.”
- Debra Delee, president and CEO of the NGO Americans for Peace Now, who commented on the Turkish flotilla attack on IDF soldiers, “The root of this disaster lies not in the actions of the flotilla’s participants.”
- Oded Na’aman, a founder of Breaking the Silence, which accuses IDF soldiers of war crimes. He says the IDF “is guilty of a wide range of abuses” including “allowing Jewish settlers to poison Palestinian wells” and evacuating entire blocks of Palestinian towns and then demolishing them. Palestinian terrorism, he says, is merely a “perceived threat.”
- Daniel Seidemann, founder of the NGO “Terrestrial Jerusalem,” who claims that the Old City of Jerusalem is being turned into an “Evangelical settler theme park” and compared Israel’s security fence to the Berlin wall.
- Michael Sfard, a lawyer for several radical NGO’s, who routinely demonizes Israel, accuses it of “Apartheid,” and promotes war crimes allegations against it. He testified as a paid witness on behalf of the PLO in a lawsuit brought in U.S. Federal Court by victims of terror attacks perpetrated by the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades. He is best known as a leading advocate of “lawfare” – prosecuting Israeli soldiers and officials in European war-crimes trials.
Nothing illustrates J Street’s place in the ideological spectrum better than this lineup, most of whom are anti-Zionist at best. Rep. Ackerman clearly woke up and smelled the coffee in time, understanding that this was not the gang that his liberal constituents wanted him to pal around with.
So is J Street on life support? I doubt it. Organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, etc. are lately flush with funds, opening new branches, running speaking tours and other programs. There is apparently a lot of money available for these people, and it’s unlikely that the somewhat marginal individuals who are associated with them are funding them from their own pockets.
J Street has historically been very close to the Obama Administration. Director Jeremy Ben-Ami called himself “the president’s blocking back [in Congress],” and J Street was invited to a White House meeting of ‘Jewish leaders’ in July 2009, while some other groups like the Zionist Organization of America, which had previously attended such meetings, were pointedly left out. J Street’s positions have often very closely echoed the administration’s, and J Street’s statement on the UNSC resolution closely parallels that of Ambassador Susan Rice, who made it clear that her ‘no’ vote was being cast for technical reasons only and that she agreed with the content of the resolution.
The interesting question is this: does J Street’s dropping the veil of ‘pro-Israelness’ in practice if not in words reflect the attitude of the Obama Administration? Is it as frankly anti-Zionist as J Street?
My guess is yes, and I think it will express itself in the form of a US proposal for an imposed solution. This will give the Arabs an ‘out’ to accept it — they can say that Obama gave them no choice, even though it doesn’t meet all of their maximal demands. It’s probable that the US will then seek some form of multilateral support for it, maybe even in the Security Council. The dynamics of this would be very interesting, with Arabs and their friends pulling to harden the terms against Israel.
Not much has happened since Israel ‘dissed’ President Obama by refusing to accept the absurd extension of the 10-month settlement freeze proposed last September. I suspect that for a time the administration will have more pressing issues to deal with as the Arab world goes up in flames (if they had any sense, they would ask what this implies about their theory that everything depends on Israel). But I continue to wait for the other shoe to drop.