On Friday I discussed J Street for the umpteenth time. I argued that it was clear that rather than the pro-Israel Left that it purports to represent, J Street actually speaks for the extreme elements: those that want Israel to disappear.
Nothing illustrates this more clearly than audience reaction to two of the speakers at this weekend’s J Street national conference (you can watch many of the panels at their website here).
One was the representative of the Obama Administration, Camp David negotiator and Middle East adviser Dennis Ross. Ross discussed the upheavals in the US and the administration’s response to them. His talk was dry and contained nothing new or surprising. At about 20 minutes into it, he mentioned Israel for the first time, referring to the administration’s “unshakable commitment to Israel’s security,” bringing forth a short, clearly pro forma trickle of applause. He then discussed the need to bring about a two-state solution by bilateral negotiations, the danger of ‘extremists’ who want to prevent peace, etc. He received several other lukewarm responses.
The other was Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy. Although she insisted “this isn’t about Israel,” she went on to excoriate Israel in remarks that Adam Levick at the CiFWatch blog characterized as ‘dripping with contempt for the Jewish state’. And Levick asks us to listen to the applause — the hoots and cheers that her diatribe inspired. Don’t take my word and Levick’s — here is her talk (she begins at 1:30 into the video, and you can hear the reaction nicely at 6:30, for example, as she demands ‘freedom and dignity’ for Palestinian Arabs).
Even the supportive Uriel Heilman writes that the real nature of J Street is becoming evident:
At the organization’s conference in Washington this week, which organizers say drew 2,400 people, the crowd was emphatic in its insistence on Palestinian rights, offered only weak, scattered applause for an Obama administration official’s line about America’s strong support for Israeli security, and complained that more Palestinians should have been featured on conference panels.
For Arnold Moses, an activist in his 70s who came to the conference from Reston, Va., J Street just wasn’t reflective of his politics. “They’re too kind to the Israelis,” he said of J Street. “Obama’s too soft on Israel. The Palestinians need to get out of the jail they’re in” …
For this crowd, the Israeli government is to blame for the lack of peace in the Middle East. Their main beef is with the traditional pro-Israel camp, not with the Palestinians.
“I would have liked to see an Israeli uprising of the people against our government,” Ron Pundak, director general of the Peres Center for Peace, said in a panel discussion Sunday about the implications of the uprisings in the Arab world.
“We don’t have today an Israeli partner or leadership,” Pundak said to applause. The Israeli people should “get rid of this terrible government which today is governing Israel.”
But J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami never stops spinning. Heilman continues,
For Ben-Ami and J Street supporters, being pro-Palestinian is not incompatible with being pro-Israel. In their mind, standing up for Palestinian rights, criticizing Israel’s policies in the West Bank and advocating for more pressure on the Israeli government is a way of supporting Israel by helping, or forcing, Israel to become the kind of place they believe it ought to be.
“We don’t view this as a zero-sum conflict,” Ben-Ami said Monday in a question-and-answer session with reporters. “You can be pro-Israel and be an advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people.”
Well, no, actually you cannot. Not if you take into account the Palestinian Arab narrative that makes clear that they will not have their full ‘rights’ until Arab refugees can ‘return’ to Israel. Not if you understand that when they talk about ‘occupation’, they mean the one that started in 1948, not 1967. Not if you read the founding documents of their leadership, the PLO/Fatah and Hamas. Not if you watch Palestinian Authority TV, or indeed any Arab media.
Most importantly, you cannot be pro-Israel if you accept the radical recasting of the Arab (and today Iranian) struggle to get the Jews out of the Middle East as an issue of human rights for oppressed Palestinian Arabs instead. This point of view, and the post-colonialist one that goes along with it, entirely turns reality on its head and makes the real underdog in the Middle East — Israel — out to be the aggressor rather than the victim.
It is especially ironic when Israelis themselves, whose homes are targeted by tens of thousands of missiles in Lebanon and Syria, missiles that will almost certainly be fired sometime in the next couple of years, participate in the delegitimization effort that is intended to prevent Israel from defending herself.