Naturally, I thought Ambassador Michael Oren should have accepted J Street's invitation to its convention this coming Sunday. He should have gone there and said, "We disagree, but my door's open," and by not doing so he's saying that this Israeli government will only talk with its supporters, not its critics.
But I suppose we liberals should be grateful to Oren for at least sending an "observer." By doing that, he's saying that this government, whatever its differences with J Street, does not see it as an enemy, an anti-Israel group.
Oren's decision has to be the most tolerant, enlightened gesture that official Israel has made in a long while, certainly since the Netanyahu government took over. This is about as vibrant as it gets anymore in our vibrant democracy.
Congratulations are due the ambassador for having the guts to send the observer. If the pro-war/anti-Arab wing of the pro-Israel community had its way, J Street would probably get an IAF missile through its roof.
BETWEEN THE Weekly Standard, Pajamas Media, Commentary, StandWithUs, ex-AIPACer Lenny Ben-David and assorted other soldiers in Israel's information war, there's a campaign on not to disagree with J Street, not to criticize it, but to destroy it. There's a telephone crusade led by Weekly Standard Online editor Michael Goldfarb to scare senators and congressmen away from the convention. The strategy is to slander J Street, it's having more than a little success, and Goldfarb is confident the cancellations will snowball.
"Will Senator Mark Pryor really go to the mat for an anti-Israel, pro-Hamas organization?" he asks rhetorically.
"Anti-Israel, pro-Hamas." That's J Street to these people.
The fact is that this organization's politics are indistinguishable from those of Meretz. Is Meretz anti-Israel and pro-Hamas? Lots of Israelis and American Jews, of course, would say "yes," but that's because they have a totalitarian mind-set, and that's what drives the campaign.
Ben-David attacks the organization for having the gall to invite the likes of Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (a former IDF chief of staff and cabinet minister), Ami Ayalon (a former Navy commander, Shin Bet chief and cabinet minister) and Amir Peretz (a current MK and former Labor Party leader and defense minister) to speak at the convention. They're political "losers," he says, they were rejected by the Israeli electorate, and now they want to make a case to American lawmakers that differs from Netanyahu government policy.
"The tactic," writes Ben-David, "is patently anti-democratic."
No, actually, in a democracy, even people who lose elections retain the right to express their opinions - wherever and to whomever they want. You can look it up.
Despite what the pro-war/anti-Arab camp says about J Street, its political positions are pretty tepid. It hasn't said a word in favor of the Goldstone report. It offered only the slightest, mildest demurral over our "disproportionate" use of force in Gaza, couching it somewhere between an endorsement of our "right to self-defense" and a condemnation of Hamas rocket fire.
Big deal. This makes them off-limits?
They want to "engage with" Hamas. Ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy has been saying this for years. Is he anti-Israel, pro-Hamas, too?
BUT THERE'S more. There's some really sinister stuff here. A few of J Street's donations have come fromâ€¦Muslims! And not just any Muslims, but Muslims who don't even support the settlements!
And it invited these young American Jewish poets, these hip-hop guys, to the convention even though they'd said outrageous, provocative things. One of them had used Holocaust imagery in a poem about Israeli soldiers in Gaza. (Under pressure, J Street pulled the plug on them.)
Tell me, has any right-wing Jew ever been scratched from an Israeli or American Jewish event for using Holocaust imagery against Arabs, against human rights organizations, against anybody he didn't like?
If you want to demonize J Street for something that some of its convention guests said, where does that leave the Republican Party, whose conventioneers still applaud the name of Richard Nixon, that raging anti-Semite?
In public, Binyamin Netanyahu has credited the welfare cuts he made as finance minister for helping bring down the Israeli Arab birthrate. Avigdor Lieberman has threatened to bomb the Aswan Dam, wished death on Arab MKs and run on the election slogan "Only Lieberman understands Arabic."
Great friends of Israel like Rev. John Hagee and Rev. Pat Robertson have cursed Muslims to the heavens, while Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the closest thing this government has to a spiritual leader, has cursed and wished death on far too many Jews, not to mention Muslims, to keep track of.
In all good conscience, can AIPAC invite any of these people to its next convention?
I'm joking. Let AIPAC invite them all, let them all talk, let the whole Senate, Congress and White House go hear them. I wouldn't say a word against it - and neither, of course, would J Street.
But that's the point - in Washington, when it comes to Israel, the Right doesn't have to answer to anyone for anything, while the Left has to apologize for living. And for many on the Right, there's no apologizing for that.
But hey, our embassy is sending an observer to the J Street convention. We liberals should be impressed. Given the political mood in Israel over the last decade, this is like the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
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