Candidly Speaking: J Street’s soft sell for the uninformed

It's unconscionable for American Jews to canvass their government to force Israel to act contrary to its will regarding national security.

By
August 10, 2011 22:01
J Street founder Jeremy Ben Ami

J Street founder Jeremy Ben Ami 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of J Street, has written a highly misleading book titled A New Voice for Israel that portrays himself as a passionate supporter of the Jewish state and a dedicated Zionist, extolling the virtues of his purportedly “pro Israel, pro-peace” organization.

The opening section is based on the autobiography of his father Yitzhak Ben-Ami, whose antecedents settled in Palestine.

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Yitzchak became a devoted follower of Vladimir Jabotinsky, and was sent to the US on behalf of the Irgun, initially to recruit volunteers for a Jewish army, and then to support the campaign by the Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook) group to alert Americans to the plight of European Jewry.

Together with Ben Hecht, Edward G. Robinson and others, he confronted Rabbi Stephen Wise and the Jewish establishment, who remained silent in face of the Roosevelt administration’s unwillingness to provide a haven for European Jews being murdered by the Nazis.

Jeremy Ben-Ami insinuates that although his father may not have endorsed his current outlook, he follows in his father’s footsteps by “courageously” standing up to the Jewish establishment, and Ben-Ami Sr. “would be pretty glad I care enough to be involved.” In reality, had Yitzchak lived, I think he would almost certainly have been devastated and outraged to witness his son’s attitude toward Israel.

However, readers will discover that while the views Ben-Ami conveys in his book are far-Left and offensively anti-establishment, they are still “moderate” compared to the fierce anti-Israel hostility of J Street.

He writes that “our generation must fulfill the dream of Zionism and achieve peace with its neighbors,” but that if a new war were to break out threatening Israel’s existence, “world Jewry would without a doubt appropriately rally to the flag.”

He supports a two-state solution (which, subject to national security provisions, most Israelis today endorse), favors the division of Jerusalem and opposes settlements.

He claims (falsely) that the Jewish establishment muzzles any criticism of Israel. He urges that J Street supporters Walt and Mearsheimer (authors of a book defaming the Jewish lobby) not be treated in a McCarthyist manner. He considers personal attacks on Richard Goldstone, whom he describes as a “noble Jew,” counterproductive. He says Israelis should respect the Palestinian “narrative.”

ONE MAY strongly disagree with such viewpoints, but one would hesitate before calling even such shrill criticism “anti- Israel.”

Yet Ben-Ami’s book is a disingenuous attempt to paint a sanitized, respectable portrait of an organization whose principal objective is to undermine the policies of Israel’s democratically elected government.

It does so at a time when the Jewish state is facing existential threats and undergoing an international campaign of demonization and delegitimization.

The dividing lines between J Street and mainstream Jewish groups are not its views, but its efforts to convince Americans to encourage President Barack Obama to pressure the Israeli government. It is surely unconscionable for trendy American Jews to canvass their government to force Israel to act contrary to its will regarding national security, with potential life-and-death repercussions. J Street justifies this on the grounds that Israelis need “tough love,” comparing us to children on drugs who must be pressured into doing what’s good for them, or impounding the car keys of a drunken friend.

The blatant dishonesty of Ben-Ami’s stated willingness to back Israel during war was demonstrated by J Street’s approach to the Gaza conflict – which united all sections of the Israeli political spectrum, including the far-Left Meretz. J Street applied moral equivalence to Israel and Hamas, claiming that “there are many who recognize elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide,” and reproached Israel for launching “a disproportionate response.” It stated that “we recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly of right and wrong,” and accused Israelis of “lacking sanity and moderation” in their attitude toward Hamas.

J Street also supports and finances the candidacy of anti-Israel congressmen, and constantly campaigns against pro-Israel resolutions in Congress. Immediately following the Fogel family massacre, J Street even opposed a bi-partisan congressional resolution condemning the PA for anti- Semitic incitement, claiming that “the current PA leadership has taken great political risks and shown real willingness to end the conflict.” It facilitated meetings on Capitol Hill for Goldstone to promote his discredited report. Furthermore, in 2009 – at the height of the Iran sanctions debate – Ben- Ami published an article opposing UN sanctions, although he has since changed his position.

J Street lobbied against a US veto of an anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council, prompting Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman to sever ties with the group, quipping that “J Street is so open minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

J Street repeatedly slanders AIPAC and its efforts to generate bi-partisan support for Israeli governments, labeling it an extreme right-wing body. It warns American Jews that their “one-sided support of Israel” could lead to charges of dual loyalties. One of its founding partners and a member of its advisory board, Daniel Levy, even told a gathering in Abu Dhabi that the creation of Israel was “an act that was wrong.”

J Street now ritually condemns boycott, divestment and sanctions, yet still welcomes organizations promoting BDS, like Voices for Peace, in their conferences. It also co-sponsored a congressional mission to Israel with Churches for the Middle East, a pro-BDS coalition. It honors IDF soldiers who refuse to obey orders. It supports the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group, which calls for the liquidation of the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund.

Ben-Ami tries to make light of the scandal that exposed him as a serial liar, obliging him to apologize for having repeatedly denied that J Street was clandestinely funded by George Soros, a pathologically anti-Israel Jew. There are other anonymous offshore donors, and evidence that much of J Street’s funding emanates from sources hostile to Israel, including Arabs.

The list of J Street’s anti-Israel initiatives is endless. Most are either ignored or played down in Ben-Ami’s misleading book, which could well serve as a case study of Orwellian double-speak, topped by the dishonest manner in which it portrays itself as “pro-Israel”. It is reminiscent of the “pro-peace” communist front organizations that sought to dupe bleeding-heart liberals into believing they were promoting peace, whilst in reality they were advancing the interests of the “Evil Empire.”

Ben-Ami claims that it requires courage for detractors of Israel to speak up. Yet in reality the liberal media, especially the New York Times, treats him and other Jewish critics of Israel as heroes, providing them with exposure that they would otherwise never obtain.

Despite this, J Street has failed to expand beyond the very narrow band of the anti-Israel far-Left and naive fellow travelers. It would be an act of folly to accept it now as part of the Jewish mainstream.

ileibler@netvision.net.il

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