Archive for the ‘J Street’ Category

J Street wants to ‘test’ Jewish state out of existence

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

I have rarely read anything quite as incoherent as the latest from J Street. In response to the news that the Fatah and Hamas organizations are yet again proposing a unity government for the Palestinians, they write,

J Street regards today’s news of a preliminary agreement on political reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas with caution and urges the United States to press forward with an even more assertive effort to forge a two-state solution. Today’s developments only highlight how important it is for the United States – backed by the international community – to define the contours of a two–state solution.

A non-sequitur. But for J Street, nothing is more important, ever, than Israel being forced to withdraw from the territories. Anything that happens will “highlight” this, in their world.

J Street has consistently condemned Hamas for calling for Israel’s destruction, using terror and violence against Israeli civilians and denying the Holocaust. Bringing Hamas into a unity government poses real challenges to those of us who are deeply concerned about Israel’s security.

Hamas proudly proclaims that the highest calling of a Muslim is to kill Jews, and does its best to do so day in and out. So, yes, there are “real challenges” for those of us who want to stay alive. Does this mean that J Street reasonably opposes negotiations with a government that includes Hamas? Sounds like it…

However, we also recognize several important realities: first, that one makes peace with one’s enemies not one’s friends; second, that Hamas – although weaker today – still has a significant base of political support within Palestinian society; and, third, that overcoming the split between Fatah and Hamas (and between the West Bank and Gaza) has always been a condition for effective resolution of the conflict.

…but apparently not.

Of course you make peace with enemies, but only enemies with whom you have common interests, interests that are more compelling to them than their desire to kill you. Absent that, the conflict continues until one or the other side wins. Such common interests do not exist between Israel and Hamas, so the only way for us to survive is to win. Anything that strengthens Hamas physically or psychologically moves peace farther away, not closer. This is precisely why we should not negotiate with terrorists.

Many who oppose a two-state deal have argued that these divisions among the Palestinians make peace impossible. Reconciliation would, however, increase President Abbas’ ability to carry out a two-state agreement. Now, these opponents of a two-state agreement are likely to shift to arguing that a deal is impossible with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.

Certainly a divided Palestinian entity makes it harder to make an agreement that will stick — but so do the introduction of rejectionists into the Palestinian Authority. Regardless, even if Hamas didn’t exist, isn’t it clear that the PLO doesn’t want a negotiated end to the conflict? Hamas, in or out of the Palestinian Authority, only makes it worse.

If indeed this reconciliation deal is implemented – and history does give reason to question whether it will – the new Palestinian leadership that emerges will have to answer many questions in the coming weeks: Is the Palestinian Liberation Organization – as the official representative of the Palestinian people – still committed to a two-state solution? Is it willing to reaffirm its renunciation of the use of violence and terror against Israeli civilians? Will existing security understandings be honored?

The best way to test this is for the US to put a clear choice before the Israelis and the Palestinians. That is precisely why J Street has called today for the United States to put forward a framework for a two-state deal that sets out parameters for resolving the core issues of the conflict.

The PLO is not now and never was committed to a “two-state solution” (TSS) in the sense of a Jewish and Arab state living peacefully side by side. The TSS, to the PLO, has always meant an Arab-only apartheid state next to an “Israel” which implements the Arab ‘right of return’, and therefore ceases to be a Jewish state. This ambiguity has been consistently maintained throughout the ‘peace process’, which is one of the reasons it has consistently failed.

The ‘test’ proposed by the deliberately ‘naive’ leaders of J Street is for the US to force the implementation of some form of TSS. At very least it will include Israeli withdrawal from the territories. If the PLO fails to meet its commitments, what will happen? Will Israel send the IDF back into the territories, which will at that point be a sovereign ‘Palestine’? Will it un-bulldoze the settlements that it will have destroyed? Will it put its society back together after the upheaval caused by the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of its own people?

Some ‘test’!

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Bad ideas with legs

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Here’s a notable difference between American and Israeli Jews:

…it is true that more funds are being raised today than ever before [by J Street] from donors who depict Israel as the obstacle to peace and favor U.S. pressure to force Israeli concessions. The campaign contributions put muscle behind a flood of articles and speeches that portray Israel as a strategic liability rather than an asset — a trigger-happy country that exaggerates the Iranian threat and is plotting the annexation of the West Bank at the expense of the Palestinians.

Spokesmen for this view, like author Peter Beinart and J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, are taking ideas from the far left of the Israeli political spectrum and transforming them into mainstream beliefs of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, however, their counterparts in Israel have shrunk to insignificance: Meretz, the party of Peace Now and Yossi Beilin, has contracted from 14 seats in the Knesset to a mere three. Shelly Yachimovich, the new head of the Labor Party and informal leader of the Israeli opposition, has resisted fierce pressure to embrace the Beilinist agenda. The vast majority of the Israeli public has spoken, and it has rejected the ideology these critics are bringing to the United States.

But in America, these voices have found fertile ground. The American Jewish community is on average more liberal and more dovish on the Middle East than the Jewish majority in Israel. Reform temples and college campuses are particularly receptive to Beinart and Ben-Ami’s message. — Steven J. Rosen, Is J Street Winning?

Could it be that the Israelis, who so emphatically rejected their left-wing parties, are on to something?

American Jews, who have not had to deal with the horrors of the terrorist intifada and rocket barrages, find it comfortable to accept the simplistic conception that there is a two-state solution out there — and that if it hasn’t happened yet, it is because Israel hasn’t tried hard enough. It is much harder to face the reality — as most Israelis have — that there is no solution in the near term because there is no partner for peace on the Arab side.

The Israeli Left, having lost local support, nevertheless has retained the ability to project its opinions outward. Supported to a great extent by money from European governments, international anti-Zionists like George Soros, and American liberals, Israel’s post-Zionist media, academics and NGOs articulate their positions in international forums and media in English.

They paint the centrist Netanyahu government — which has been anything but ‘hardline’ where concessions to the Palestinians are concerned — as reactionary, anti-democratic, racist and theocratic. Israelis, used to the hyperbole of their politics, know nonsense when they see it, and pay no attention.

But in America, there are powerful forces — including the State Department, the White House and he CIA — for whom it is a priority to see Israel forced to give up the territories and eastern Jerusalem, and who would love to see a more pliable regime in Israel.

They have found it effective to present the Israeli Left as the authentic voice of Israel. Through their compliant media (e.g., the NY Times and NPR), personalities like Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart, and tools like J Street (whose leader, Jeremy Ben-Ami, once called his group “President Obama’s blocking back”), these positions are expressed as consonant with the liberal values that many American Jews hold.

Since they are not as well-informed about the realities of the Middle East as the Israelis that live in it, many American Jews are fooled, accepting J Street’s claim to be “pro-Israel” despite the consistently anti-Israel positions — even opposing sanctions on Iran — that it has taken. Even if they don’t follow groups like J Street, they accept what is now becoming the regular ‘line’ of the Democratic party, as Rosen explained.

One of the major obstacles to those elements that desire to meddle with Israel has, in the past, been the strong support for the policies of Israeli governments by American Jews, as expressed by the traditional Zionist organizations like AIPAC, etc.

Little by little, left-indoctrinated Jews are moving into American Jewish institutions like the Federations, Hillel and even AIPAC, and their influence dilutes the formerly strong support provided by these organizations. One has to appreciate the strategic ability of Israel’s enemies.

It’s ironic that an ideology that failed the test of reality in Israel has found a new home here — as a political fantasy among American Jews. But after all, we are the folks that gave the world Hollywood.

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J Street gets a ‘Rabbinic Organizer’

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

By Vic Rosenthal

J Street: Hello, J Street. Ben Ami speaking.

Rabbi Malcolm Shain: Bon Ami? No, I didn’t want cleanser. I’m looking for J Street, the Pro-Israel, Pro-peace people.

JS: This is J Street. Although we could really use some Bon Ami. I can’t describe how disgusting the sink is since all the help quit. First we lost Spitalnick and Luria, and now Susskind has gone to Tides. Hmm, maybe some Tide would work on this sink.

MS: Oh. Well, I’m calling about the job…

JS: Great! Come over right away, and bring your mop and Bon Ami.

MS: No, not the janitorial job. I mean the Rabbinic Organizer that you advertised for. I’m Rabbi Shain. You can call me Mal.

JS: Oh. Are you sure you didn’t want the janitor position? It’s so hard to get good help these days. Well, we need to organize the Rabbis just as much as we need to clean the sink, so let’s go with that. First of all, I need to ask you one important question: are you absolutely, 100%, totally pro-Israel? Because that’s something we won’t compromise on.

MS: Positively. Whenever I’m in Israel, I join demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah or Bili’in. I work with Rabbis for Human Rights to protect Palestinian olive groves against those evil settlers. I work tirelessly for the Lef– er, I mean, for democracy. Because I love Israel and want to make it better!

JS: Well, that sounds good. What about here in the US?

MS: I’m pro-Israel here, too. I lead encounter groups for American Jews to meet real Palestinians to  learn how indigenous people are mistreated by the right-wing regime in Israel. Did you know that all Hamas wants is to end the occupation — and Bibi bombs them for it!

JS: Yes, Israel would certainly be a more vibrant democracy without Bibi. How do you feel about a two-state solution?

MS: It’s absolutely essential! Two states for two peoples! One for the Palestinian people, and one for the Arabs!

JS: Er, Mal… you meant the Jewish People, didn’t you?

MS: Oh, of course. I forgot about them. They have rights, too.

JS: We need a dynamic organizer who can whip our Rabbinic Cabinet into shape. They’ve been fleeing like rats deserting a sinking– I mean, there’s been a lot of attrition lately. Some of them don’t understand how important it is for them to make us look– I mean, to be validators of our pro-Israel message. What we need is a community organizer for rabbis.

MS: A community organizer! How inspiring! Just like–

JS: Exactly. The sky is the limit. Now tell me — can you handle rabbis? Can you talk the lingo, quote the text and liturgy? Some of them are religious.

MS: No problemo! I know what to order in a Chinese restaurant. One state from column A, one from column B. Ha ha, get it? I even have a kipa in my pocket that I borrowed from a funeral, just in case.

JS: Er, yes. You sound perfect for the job. When can you start?

MS: Right away! My congregation decided not to renew my contract for some reason. Can you imagine? I’ll be over as soon as I get the tar and feathers off.

JS: Great! And Mal… pick up some Bon Ami on the way. We really need to take care of this sink.

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Jeremy Ben-Ami, rebel

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
Yitzhak Ben-Ami in the US Army, 1944

Yitzhak Ben-Ami in the US Army, 1944

By Victor Rosenthal

Earlier this week I wrote about the Bergson Group and their struggle to get the FDR Administration to take action to save European Jews during the Holocaust. I’ve come across an article by Sol Stern that adds something new to the story.

Along with Hillel Kook (alias Peter Bergson) was one Yitzhak Ben-Ami. Kook, Ben-Ami and the others were members of the ‘Irgun’, a right-wing Zionist organization led by Menachem Begin. They had initially come to the US from the yishuv in Palestine to raise money and obtain arms for the clandestine militia, but when they realized what was happening in Europe, the mission changed.

As I wrote, Kook’s group met with resistance from the Jewish establishment in the US. Stern tells what happened:

No single figure did more to undermine the Committee’s work than Rabbi Stephen Wise of Temple Emmanuel [sic], undisputed boss of several national Jewish organizations and often referred to as “King of the Jews.”  On the day that Ben-Ami and his colleagues were leading 100 orthodox rabbis in a demonstration in front of the White House to protest the Roosevelt administration’s inaction on rescue, Wise was advising administration officials that the Bergson group “did not represent Jewish thinking in America.” Wise viewed the young Palestinians and their American supporters as interlopers and even tried to get Ben-Ami and his colleagues deported. Accused by Wise of being a draft dodger, Ben-Ami then enlisted in the American Army.

Yitzhak Ben-Ami, himself the son of pioneer Zionists who were among the founders of Tel Aviv (supposedly he was the first Jewish baby born in the new city in 1911), survived the Battle of the Bulge and came back to the US.

In New York he raised a daughter, Deborah, and a son, Jeremy. Yes, that Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director of the phony ‘pro-Israel’ lobby, J Street.

Yitzhak did well in America, and Jeremy’s life was much easier than that of his father (who died in 1984), including private school and Princeton. After a job as regional director for the anti-Zionist New Israel Fund (if you have a problem with my adjective, please read the linked post),  Jeremy went to work for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and then for Fenton Communications.

Fenton is a PR firm that specializes in progressive causes. Indeed, they proudly write “We only represent causes we believe in ourselves” on their website, and they claim to have helped “galvanize public opposition to end apartheid” and “save the North Atlantic Swordfish from the brink of extinction.”

Apparently they also believe in helping Hamas, because — as I reported here last June — they did extensive work for a propaganda enterprise called the Al Fakhoora Project, paid for by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, wife of the Emir of Qatar, and which calls for the ending of all restrictions on goods and transit to the Gaza Strip, as well as dispensing the usual demonization of Israel.

According to Mandy Katz, Ben-Ami began to work on J Street while he was an Executive Vice President at Fenton:

When Dean’s campaign folded in 2004, Ben-Ami took up in earnest his father’s focus on Israel. Bringing his experience and a list of progressive donors acquired since his Clinton years, he sought advice from David Fenton of Fenton Communications, a consultancy for progressive non-profits. “David convinced me to do the incubation as a project of Fenton,” Ben-Ami says. Now based in Washington, Ben-Ami consulted for other Fenton clients on issues like climate change, while pushing for a new organization—possibly a merger of existing groups, that would also be the Zionist left’s first registered lobby.

Ben-Ami left Fenton to become executive director of J Street in late 2007, before the Al Fakhoora project contract was signed (2009, per J Street’s Myths and Facts page), and claims to have no knowledge of it. Ben-Ami also claimed that J Street had received no funds from George Soros — until it became public knowledge.

J Street was helped a great deal by Ben-Ami’s relationship with the Obama Administration, which in 2009 invited the new organization to a meeting of ‘Jewish leaders’ at the White House — a traditional gathering from which the right-leaning Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) was dropped for the first time.

It’s ironic that Jeremy Ben-Ami, welcome in the White House the way his father was not,  sees himself an outsider struggling against a powerful establishment. Stern writes,

But it takes a huge historical leap and considerable conceit to suggest that there is any valid comparison between J Street’s political movement of today and Jeremy’s father’s struggles in the 1940s to alert Americans to the ongoing destruction of European Jewry. For daring to advance their own ideas about the best way to rescue the endangered Jews of Europe, Yitzhak Ben-Ami and his Irgun colleagues were subjected to calumny and dirty tricks directed against them from mainstream Jewish leaders like Rabbi Wise.  These leaders betrayed their moral obligation to forcefully advocate the rescue of Jews in Nazi occupied Europe because of their lack of political imagination and a cowardly unwillingness to challenge a popular American president.

The situation today is almost reversed. Whatever else one might say about AIPAC and the current “establishment,” American Jewish leaders have apparently learned the dreadful lessons of the 1940s. On the other hand it is the J Street “dissidents” who seem indifferent to the fact that Israel’s five million Jews are threatened with either physical destruction or politicide by a new international coalition of Jew haters. In that circumstance it is perfectly reasonable for American Jews to express their solidarity with whatever government Israelis have chosen (at the ballot box) to lead them in the current emergency…

… Ben-Ami’s father exhibited true courage when he stood up to Rabbi Wise in the 1940s and championed the lost cause of the European Jews. On the other hand, it is truly an Orwellian moment when Ben Ami anoints Peter Beinart as courageous for writing an article for the New York Review of Books (which Beinart followed up on by bagging a six figure book advance and lucrative Passover speaking engagements at Jewish resorts). It became all the more grotesque when Beinart, in his J Street speech, cited Rabbi Wise as his own liberal Zionist hero.

Jeremy Ben-Ami’s reflexive response to criticism is to accuse his critics of being “right-wing” (the phrase appears five times on J Street’s “myths and facts” page).

I wonder what Yitzhak Ben-Ami would say to that?

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NPR presents 4:16 of anti-Israel propaganda

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Four minutes and 16 seconds on NPR’s premier daily news program, “All Things Considered,” is a major story. The longest one on Thursday, July 28’s program, about the difficulties facing the spouses of US military personnel, clocked in at 4:59.

Four minutes and 16 seconds were provided as a platform for Israel-bashing by one left-wing Israeli retired general, one Arab representing Fatah, the Arab terrorist organization that has killed more Israelis than any other — let’s call it what it is — and Daniel Levy, the co-founder of J Street who famously said (video here)

Maybe, if this collective Jewish presence can only survive by the sword, then Israel really ain’t a good idea.

Did I mention that these gentlemen are in the US on a tour sponsored by the same phony ‘pro-Israel’ lobby, J Street? NPR did, but its piece didn’t talk about J Street’s funding from anti-Israel sources, or its history of lobbying against sanctions on Iran, for the Goldstone report, and for the condemnation of Israel in the UN Security Council.

As expected, the speakers blamed Israel for the lack of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and predicted disaster if Israel did not preemptively surrender to Arab demands. I won’t repeat most of it — you can read it at NPR’s site. But the most outrageous statement of all was made by Levy:

The U.S. hasn’t helped matters, says Daniel Levy of the New American Foundation. He says that the Obama administration tried, but failed, to get its partners — the U.N., European Union and Russia — to sign onto a statement encouraging the Palestinians to drop the U.N. bid. The text, Levy says, looked like it was drafted in Jerusalem.

“That’s where we got stuck. I think that isn’t helping get past this U.N. bump. It’s probably going to make a U.N. vote more likely and … this kind of approach, it’s really beginning to marginalize and almost make irrelevant U.S. diplomacy on such an important issue,” he says.

So what extremist demand from Jerusalem did the US ask for that made it impossible to get the Quartet’s agreement? Let me quote a news report:

One of the reasons the Quartet was unable to issue a statement was because [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov reportedly objected to a formula whereby the Quartet would have endorsed renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on a return to the 1967 lines, with agreed upon swaps, and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Lavrov – reflecting Russia’s desire to play to the Arab League – wasn’t enamored of the Jewish state part of the equation. And it wasn’t only Lavrov.

According to Israeli officials, the EU’s Ashton came to the meeting hoping to get the Quartet to call for a renewal of talks based on US President Barack Obama’s parameters of the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, but without other language Obama used during his two Middle East speeches in May: language much more amenable to Israel that affirmed the country as a Jewish state and called for ironclad security arrangements before any future Israeli withdrawal.

In other words, the Russians, who represented Arab interests in the negotiations, wanted an agreement calling for Israel to withdraw to (more or less) pre-1967 lines without getting anything in return — not even recognition of what will be left of Israel as a Jewish state!

The recognition issue is key, and the Palestinian Arabs have consistently refused to agree to it. Even the language of the Obama plan, which represented a sharp shift in US policy toward the Arabs, was not enough for them.

The NPR piece didn’t mention recognition of the Jewish state, didn’t mention the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate anything other than acceptance of all of its demands, and — this goes without saying — didn’t discuss doubts about the ultimate intentions of the Arab side.

It was 4 minutes and 16 seconds of unrelieved propaganda, without even a nod toward balance.

Remember this when your local public radio station asks for donations. I will.

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