Archive for the ‘J Street’ Category

Shorts: 1) Helen Thomas, playmate; 2) Who the Hell is Martin Raffel?

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Playmate of the month

Helen Thomas has done an interview for Playboy magazine (no, I will not make centerfold jokes here) in which she claims that she was misunderstood:

Nobody asked me to explain myself.  Nobody said, ‘What did you really mean?'”

said Thomas, who was widely called antisemitic for telling Israeli Jews to “go home” to Poland, etc. So she sets the record straight:

[The Jews are] using their power, and they have power in every direction…Power over the White House, power over Congress…Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood.  Same thing with the financial markets.  There’s total control…It isn’t the two percent.  It’s real power when you own the White House, when you own these other places in terms of your political persuasion.  Of course they have power.  [To the interviewer] You don’t deny that.  You’re Jewish, aren’t you?

She said a lot of other things, about the Palestinian Arabs, etc., but you know …who cares?

Who the Hell is Martin Raffel?

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA, not to be confused with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) calls itself “the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community.” It is affiliated with the JFNA, formerly the UJC and before that the UJA, the umbrella organization of the Jewish Federations in the US and Canada.

Confused yet? What’s important to know is that the Jewish Federations raise large sums of money. Some of it is spent for charitable purposes in local communities (despite what Helen Thomas thinks, there are poor Jews) and some of it goes to support the Jewish Agency in Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee, which helps Jews in difficult situations around the world.

These agencies in part paid for the rescue of Jews in Europe after WWII, Jews from Arab countries, Soviet Jews, Ethiopian Jews, etc.

Today I’m afraid that there is beginning to be a loss of focus: JFNA has some highly paid corporate officers, and the agencies that it supports are also less than efficient (the Jewish Agency is famous as a home for tired Israeli politicians).

But I want to talk about the JCPA.

I’m a member of the board of our local Jewish Federation, and I had heard very little about the JCPA until recently, when I received several press releases (for example, this one). While I didn’t find them particularly objectionable, I asked myself who appointed JCPA to speak for the Jewish community — and why we were paying them to do so. Certainly my organization wasn’t consulted!

Here’s an example of why this may not be a good idea. JCPA has created an “Israel Action Network” supposedly to combat attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Its director, Martin Raffel, has become embroiled in a controversy about which “Zionists of the Left” belong in the “big tent” and should be considered “allies.”

You know where this is going. What about those ‘Zionists’ of the Left called J Street? Raffel wants to include them, because — while they do support boycotting some parts of Israel, they are opposed to boycotting all of it:

But what to think about Zionists on the political left who have demonstrated consistent concern for Israel’s security, support Israel’s inalienable right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, and consider Israel to be the eternal home of the Jewish people — but have decided to express their opposition to specific policies of the Israeli government by refraining from participating in events taking place in the West Bank or purchasing goods produced there? I vigorously would argue that such actions are counter-productive in advancing the cause of peace based on two states that they espouse, a goal that we share. But this is not sufficient cause to place them outside the tent.

Statement of Martin Raffel in JCPA press release

Of course I strongly disagree. An attack on Jewish presence beyond the Green Line is an attack on the legitimacy of Israel as expressed by the League of Nations Mandate. It is a rejection of UNSC resolution 242, which calls for “secure and recognized boundaries,” which are clearly not the 1949 armistice lines. It is an attempt to punish law-abiding Israeli citizens and to support the racist Arab position about who may live where. It is more than just counter-productive, it’s anti-Zionist.

But the more important point is this:

Who the hell is Martin Raffel and who said he speaks for me?

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Shorts: the Victoria, J Street revealed again, ISM in Awarta

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Today there are almost too many Israel-related things to write about.

Probably the most important is the IDF’s capture of a ship carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms,  en route to Alexandria, from which the weapons would be smuggled to Hamas terrorists in Gaza.  Barry Rubin notes that

The story of the Liberian-flag ship Victoria is dramatic enough but few will understand, at least immediately, that it opens a new era in the region’s history. It is a period when, for the first time [in] more than thirty years … Egypt will not be a reliable force for regional peace and stability.

Here in America, the intrepid Lori Lowenthal Marcus sat through hours of boring video from the recent J Street conference, finding this gem, uttered by J Street co-founder Daniel Levy — already famous for telling an Al Jazeera panel that the creation of Israel was an “act that was wrong” (although “excusable”). This time, he provides no excuses. If they hate us no matter, what, he says, then

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

Here’s a clip, courtesy of Elder of Ziyon:

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Wouldn’t you like to slap this guy? I would.* Note that there is no gasp of surprise from the attendees when he says it. They certainly have given new meaning to ‘pro-Israel!’

When the IDF arrived at the scene of the horrific massacre of the Fogel family in Itamar, they found footprints leading to the nearby Arab village of Awarta. So naturally, they clamped a curfew on it. And yet again, caught in the middle of the conflict were a group of ‘international activists’ from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), (and see also here) the folks who specialize in being human shields for the peace-loving cadres of Hamas and Fatah.

In the breathless prose that characterizes these self-important idiots, they describe their predicament (h/t: Israel Medad):

Today the village of Awarta, near Nablus, is facing the second day of a severe curfew imposed by the Israeli military, following Friday morning’s murder of a settler family in the settlement Itamar. Three ISM activists–Cinda, 23, Chad, 25, from Sweden, and Cissy, 53, from Norway–are currently trapped in the village. Anyone caught stepping outside of their house is arrested. Soldiers have said that they’ll maintain the curfew until they’ve apprehended the settler family’s murderer. The army hasn’t presented any evidence that the murderer was from Awarta, and villagers have said to the ISM that they strongly doubt the murderer was even Palestinian as the settlement is so heavily guarded it would be impossible to break in.

Soldiers are beating people and continuing their house raids: destroying houses from the inside, cutting off electricity, and polluting the drinking water by throwing mud in the water-tanks. 30 homes were occupied by soldiers last night. Computers and phones have been destroyed and money and property were stolen by the soldiers. In the last two days soldiers have been throwing sound grenades inside and outside the houses, and shooting in the air. The ISM activists may be arrested soon, but they intend to stay as long as possible because they feel their presence improves the behavior of the soldiers, and villagers have asked them to stay.

Palestinian sources have suggested that possibly the murderers were crazed foreign workers from Thailand. Because a Palestinian Arab would never, ever, do anything like that.

After all, how would Palestinian society look at them?


*Legal note: this is not a threat, merely a description of the feelings evoked by this remarkable dickhead.

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J Street audience reveals itself

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

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).

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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.

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Jews on the dark side

Monday, February 28th, 2011

by Vic Rosenthal

Why do I write so much about anti-Zionist Jews, you ask? Why so much space dedicated to the phony ‘pro-Israel’ J Street, for example? We already know that there are a few Israel-hating crazies and naive-but-well-meaning liberals out there, but aren’t there more important targets?

Well, no, I don’t think so.

I am going to recommend a book that I am reading (I’ll have a full review later) by Kenneth Levin, called The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege (Smith & Kraus, 2005). Levin is a practicing (and teaching) psychiatrist who also happens to have a degree in History, and his book describes the psychological roots of the seemingly irrational anti-Jewish (not just anti-Zionist or anti-Israel) behavior of so many Jews.

It also documents and explains Jewish behavior throughout history, from the remarkable survival of Judaism in the face of the antisemitic depredations of the Middle Ages, through the vicious hatred for the state displayed by so many Israeli academics and intellectuals, to the concrete realization of delusional ways of thinking in politics, as exemplified by Israel’s behavior during the Oslo period.

This is a big book (more than 500 pages) and there is a lot of detail. It’s not exactly bedtime reading. But it is an essential book.

Levin’s thesis, somewhat oversimplified, is that anti-Jewish attitudes in oppressed Jews result from a) internalizing  and coming to believe the antisemitic canards of their oppressors, and b) an unrealistic delusion that they have the power to change the behavior of the antisemites by self-reform — by ‘improving’ themselves so as to no longer deserve antisemitic hatred.

These mechanisms have led to an attenuation of Judaism itself, in which the focus on God, the Jewish People and the Land of Israel in traditional Judaism has been replaced with a universalist doctrine which minimizes national, ethnic and cultural divisions and espouses abstract ‘justice’ for all humankind as its highest goal — and which sees a transnational utopia as the ultimate Jewish goal.

Proponents of this universalist ethic see it as an evolution in Jewish ethical principles, a progressive improvement from a particularist and parochial past to a more modern, ‘higher’ form of ethics. But often — as when Jewish left-wing activists call for ‘justice for Palestinian Arabs’ while ignoring the context of the intermittent war being prosecuted against the Jewish state by the entire Arab world and Iran — universalist ethics provide a cover for anti-Israel positions.

Levin goes into detail about the failure of the Jewish community in America and the yishuv in Palestine to rescue more European Jews during the Holocaust. Of course, the primary responsibility for the lack of action must fall on the US State Department, President Roosevelt and the despicable British Foreign Office, which actually opposed any actions to save European Jews after the mass murders became known, because they might want to go to Palestine after the war. Levin quotes a memo which refers to “the difficulties of disposing of any considerable number of Jews should they be rescued.” Really.

What may not be generally known is the degree to which attempts to rescue Jews — which could have been accomplished with very little effort and without damage to the overall war effort — were often stymied by resistance from irrational or delusional Jews.

For example, Levin notes that the New York Times, under direct orders from its (Jewish) publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger, published only one story during the war relating to the Holocaust on page one above the fold: one which reported as true a State Department claim in the Fall of 1943 that 580,000 Jewish refugees had entered the country (the true number was about 21,000). The story had the immediate effect of short-circuiting support for a Rescue Resolution in Congress, at least until other sources revealed that the State Department numbers were false.

Perhaps even worse, the philosopher Martin Buber, whose own butt was safely in Jerusalem (he escaped from Germany in 1938), published an article in 1944 which called for a binational state and said  that levels of Jewish immigration must be determined in agreement with Palestinian Arabs (who of course wanted it to be zero and whose leadership collaborated with the Nazis). So although he professed admiration for the spirituality of the Jews of Eastern Europe, Buber preferred to leave their bodies in the hands of Hitler!

Indeed, all through the 1930’s, as David Ben Gurion frantically tried to create a united front to maximize Jewish immigration to Palestine from Europe — where he clearly saw that there was no future — he was fought tooth and nail by Jews like Buber, Felix Warburg and Judah Magnes, all of whom felt that a Jewish majority would be disastrous (it would lead to antisemitism, be unjust, etc.).

How many Jews could have been saved but for the obstructions placed by Jewish anti-Zionists? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We don’t know, of course.

Today it seems to me that the degree to which the Jewish people has become infected with the delusional irrationality that Levin describes is greater even than in the past. While Israel faces a physical/military danger that is no less threatening than that which loomed over European Jewry in the 1930’s, the very leadership, the vangaurd of the movement to delegitimize Israel, to prevent it from defending itself and to deter others from coming to its aid, is Jewish.

Not only is the Jewish contingent ubiquitous in the ranks of the information war against Israel — for every Ali Abunimah there are several Jeremy Ben-Amis — but they are highly effective, both because they are remarkably inventive and enthusiastic, and because of the psychological force of the ‘as a Jew’ argument.

In addition there is the simple fact that every Jew who goes to the Dark Side is one less who might support Israel politically or materially. Such support has to start with Jews, even if there are plenty of non-Jews who are prepared to help. But without the Jews most of them have little reason to do so.

The struggle against Jewish anti-Zionists isn’t a sideshow. In my opinion the information war will be won or lost depending on its outcome. The enemy understands this. We need to as well.

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Is the White House as anti-Zionist as J Street?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

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. A BDS supporter.
  • 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, who said that Israel’s creation was “an act that was wrong,” and that if Israel had to fight for its existence, “maybe Israel ain’t [sic] such a good idea.”
  • 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.

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