The False Hope of J Street and the Gentile Problem

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 7:47 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”

 

Friends,

Philip  Giraldi on Antiwar.com produced an excellent article on J Street,
the new “pro-Israel, pro-peace” alternative to AIPAC, which last month held
its inaugural conference in Washington. 

The organization’s name, J Street, a lettered street which does not exist in
Washington, DC, is presumably an effort to identify with K Street, which is
considered the central location for lobbying firms in Washington, with the
“J”  presumably standing for “Jewish,”  since  “J” is not the only unused
letter for Washington street names.

J Street has been excoriated by the neocons and other hardline Zionist
rightists as being anti-Israel, while it has been hailed as a great hope for
the future by many proponents of a more balanced, less pro-Israel, American
policy in the Middle East.  Giraldi, however, stands virtually alone in
seeing things in a much different light.  To him, J Street is “just another
Israel advocacy group with a slightly more progressive and politically
correct and therefore acceptable message.”  In short, with its moderate,
pro-peace image, J Street can more effectively promote the policies of the
Israeli government, to the detriment of the Palestinians and the United
States.

Giraldi shows that, on crucial issues, there is not much substantive
difference between J Street and AIPAC.  He writes that the “the two
pro-Israel lobbies clearly have the same overriding objective:  to preserve
unlimited American support for the state of Israel, not advancing the
interests of the United States.” Specifically, J Street holds that the U.S.
“should continue indefinitely in its role as Israel’s patron, security
guarantor, and financial supporter.” The new lobby rules out the idea that
American aid to Israel should be conditioned on Israeli concessions for
peace.
   
Giraldi points out that, like AIPAC, J Street accepts the exclusivist
Jewish state instead of  “equal rights for all citizens.” J Street’s
executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, castigates Mearsheimer and Walt’s
portrayal of a powerful Israel Lobby as anti-Semitic. Ben-Ami also rejects
the UN-sponsored Goldstone report’s critical depiction of Israeli war crimes
in the December 2008-January 2009 incursion into Gaza, which was endorsed by
the overwhelming majority of countries of the world.  Moreover, J Street
differs but slightly with AIPAC on Iran.  If diplomacy and UN Sanctions fail
to bring concessions, J Street advocates the strong sanctions advocated in
the U.S. House of Representatives bill on Iran, which, Giraldi points out,
“is basically an act of war requiring intervention by the US Navy and would
devastate the Iranian economy.”

There is also one other J Street position that completely undermines its
image as pro-peace.  J Street specifically talks about incorporating the
major West Bank Jewish settlements into Israel, instead of having Israel
return to its 1967 borders.   In short, there is no evidence that J Street
is willing to support any type of Palestinian “state”  that differs in any
significant way from what Israeli governments have proposed in the past,
which essentially is a  non-viable state that is, understandably, completely
unacceptable to the Palestinian people.   

So what is J Street’s likely impact?   As suggested earlier, it provides a
liberal façade for Israeli “peace” terms, thus garnering greater support
from progressives in the United States and around the world.  The fact that
the Zionist Right would likely be yelling appeasement and condemning J
Street as a bunch of  “self-haters” would do even more to bolster any
Israeli peace proposal endorsed by J Street.  Conversely, any Palestinian
rejection of such “liberal” peace terms supported by J Street would provide
greater justification for their demonization and harsh treatment by the
Israeli government. 

J Street also creates a shield to protect Israel and all of its supporters,
including hard-line rightists,  from truthful criticism.  Because of its
public image as fair-minded, J Street can implicitly set strict limits for
allowable criticism of Israel and its American supporters.  Any criticism
going beyond this, no matter how accurate–which would include the charge
that the Israel Lobby dominates American Middle East policy–would be
considered unacceptable, and undoubtedly J Streeters would play a key role
as gatekeepers.  Prominent J Streeter Michelle Goldberg recently attacked my
book, “The Transparent Cabal,” as an example of “subtle” anti-Semitism.
http://home.comcast.net/~transparentcabal/reviewrebuttle.html
Like Ben-Ami, she also expressed a negative view of Mearsheimer and Walt. 

Giraldi appropriately questions “why there should exist a lobby operating in
Washington consisting of American citizens promoting the interests of a
foreign country,” which is so contrary to the thinking of America’s
founders.  In a follow-up article, Giraldi proposes the creation of  a
pro-American foreign policy lobby that “would be the modern embodiment of
George Washington’s warning to steer clear of foreign involvements and to be
a friend to all,” which he dubs X Street.
http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2009/11/04/a-manifesto-for-x-street/

It must be pointed out that George Washington in his famous “Farewell
Address” realized that there were Americans who were “passionately attached”
to foreign countries, and that at some future date their agenda would be, to
some extent, implemented, though he hoped that his warning could serve to
mitigate the harm that  this would do to the United States.   

In short, there is nothing odd in American Jews’ having what Washington
termed a “passionate attachment” to the Jewish state.   What is odd,
however, is that so many educated gentiles in the United States would look
to Jews to correct US foreign policy where Israeli interests are involved.
There seems to be an implicit assumption by many American gentiles that,
because of historical discrimination against Jews,  only Jews have the moral
right to criticize the policies of the state of Israel  and, even among
those in whom this assumption does not prevail, there exists an overriding
fear that for gentiles to criticize the state of Israel would bring on the
lethal charge of anti-Semitism. 

So in large measure, the problem is not with American Jews but with American
gentiles.
Undoubtedly, some American Jews have made telling criticisms of the policies
of Israel, but American gentiles cannot afford to simply wait for the right
Jews to rectify America’s one-sided policy in the Middle East.  Matters in
that region are so serious and so fraught with incalculable peril for the
United States and for the world as to make this passivity unconscionable.
Rather, American gentiles themselves must dare to step forward and speak
out.  The purpose is not to condemn Israel or its American supporters, but
simply to tell the truth.  The peace and security of the United States and
the world depend on it.

Transparent Cabal Website:  http://home.comcast.net/~transparentcabal/

Amazon: http://tiny.cc/zNV06 

My recent article “Obama, nuclear-arms reduction, and the power of the
Israel Lobby” is posted at www.thornwalker.com/ditch/sniegoski_israeli_nukes.htm

 

Stephen Sniegoski

—————————————————————————-
http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2009/10/28/my-problem-with-j-street/

My Problem with J Street

Posted By Philip Giraldi On October 28, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

As readers of Antiwar.com certainly are aware, J Street was created a year
and a half ago to serve as an alternative to the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  J Street supports creation of a viable
Palestinian state that would exist side-by-side in peace with Israel.
Unlike AIPAC, J Street advocates first negotiating issues rather than
dropping bombs and it rejects the view that American Jews should close ranks
and reflexively and unconditionally support every government in Israel. J
Street targets liberal minded American Jews who are troubled by the Israel
Lobby’s right wing-Likud orientation.  It promotes itself as pro-Israel,
pro-American, and pro-peace, maintaining that it is possible to support
Israel without having to endorse all Israeli government actions.  It has
recently concluded its first Washington conference which attracted a
smattering of politicians.  General James Jones, President Barack Obama’s
National Security Adviser, was a featured speaker.

J Street has come under attack from the usual suspects, to include the
Weekly Standard, the National Review, and assorted individual neocons.
Because of the attacks, there has been a “my enemy’s enemy” response and a
number of opponents of AIPAC and the neocons have rallied to J Street, in
some cases purely because the neocon onslaught suggests that J Street must
be a good thing.  Some defenders of J Street have pointed out that it is
more moderate than AIPAC and therefore must be considered a better lobbying
option even if it sometimes has to embrace compromise policies that are
imperfect.  Others have argued that even when it has to take certain
positions tactically it still represents the best hope for a peaceful future
in the Middle East.

I have to disagree.  I believe that J Street is just another Israel advocacy
group with a slightly more progressive and politically correct and therefore
acceptable message.  J Street wants carte blanche United States support for
Israel and, indeed, it might reasonably be described as little more than a
spin-off of the existing Israel Lobby to make it more palatable to the
liberal Democrats that make up the Obama Administration.  It is one more
voice pushing the same old agenda with slightly different window dressing.
This is not to suggest that AIPAC and J Street are actually acting in
collusion but the two pro-Israel lobbies clearly have the same overriding
objective:  to preserve unlimited American support for the state of Israel,
not advancing the interests of the United States except insofar as one
assumes erroneously that Tel Aviv’s and Washington’s interests are
identical.  J Street calls continued massive US military aid to Israel “an
absolutely essential aspect of Israel’s security.”  If it is difficult to
perceive any pro-American element to the J Street program it is because it
is not about the United States at all – it is about Israel.  J Street
believes Washington should continue indefinitely in its role as Israel’s
patron, security guarantor, and financial supporter.

On many of the specific issues, J Street is AIPAC lite.  It accepts an
Israeli state based on religion, not on equal rights for all citizens,
specifically supporting the apartheid-like right of any Jew to “return”
without affording similar rights to Christians or Muslims who resided in
Palestine before 1948. Its Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami calls a
one-state solution to Israel/Palestine with all citizens having the same
rights a “nightmare.”

In a recent interview he praised AIPAC and outlined his vision for a
continuing American-Israeli special relationship saying, “for instance, the
special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the essential security
guarantee that the U.S. provides, the notion that Israel should always have
a qualitative military edge – those are things that have been achieved by
lobbying, by what some people would call the ‘Israel lobby.’ J Street is
very happy with these achievements, and we support those ends, and we
respect and admire much of what groups like AIPAC and others have done over
the years.”

Ben-Ami also commented on the Mearsheimer-Walt book on the Israel Lobby,
saying “I don’t like what Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have written in
their book and in their articles. I don’t agree with Stephen Walt.” He
criticizes their scholarship and labels them as anti-Semites, claiming that
the book “essentially says that all of American foreign policy is controlled
by this one lobby and this one interest group, to me, personally, this does
smack of the kind of conspiracy theories contained in the Protocols of the
Elders of Zion.”

Ben-Ami has also recently released a statement on Iran in an apparent
attempt to confirm to skeptical would be supporters that J Street is willing
to get tough with the Mullahs.

    “J Street supports the thoughtful and nuanced approach to Iran sanctions
legislation articulated yesterday by Chairman Howard Berman. We agree that
it is a vital interest of the United States, Israel and the entire Middle
East to ensure that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons. Further, we agree
with the Chairman’s stated policy preferences for achieving that objective.
J Street’s first choice – as it is for President Obama and Chairman Berman –
is to resolve the nuclear issue through diplomatic means.  We, too, strongly
support the Obama Administration’s efforts to engage Iran and hope for
promising follow-through to the first round of talks held in Geneva on
October 1. However, should engagement not produce the desired results, we
too believe that the United States should seek hard-hitting multilateral
sanctions through the United Nations Security Council.  If that course of
action proves impossible, then the U.S. should work to build the broadest
possible international coalition to back such steps. The imposition of
unilateral sanctions, without UN approval or the support of allies, should
be, as the Chairman himself says, a last resort. J Street supports the
Chairman’s intention to mark up the bill on October 28th and to give the
President further time to pursue our preferred options. As we have said
before, J Street does not oppose the imposition of sanctions per se. We
prefer, as do Chairman Berman and President Obama, attempting to achieve the
desired result through diplomatic engagement and multilateral action.”

Describing Congressman Howard Berman as “thoughtful and nuanced” regarding
Iran is, to say the least, generous and many have noted that his House bill
is basically an act of war requiring intervention by the US Navy and would
devastate the Iranian economy. His bill has 327 co-sponsors and was marked
up yesterday in committee so that it can move to a vote in the full house.
Supporting “hard-hitting multilateral sanctions” will only end any hopes for
a negotiated solution and will strengthen Iranian hardliners, as J Street
well knows.  There is in fact little practical difference between J Street’s
position and that of AIPAC.  J Street even supports denying Iran the right
to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, which is basically the Israeli
government position, not that of the US.

Ben-Ami does not accept the UN’s Goldstone report that detailed the Israeli
war crimes committed in Gaza in January, saying he is against embracing “the
Goldstone report and for standing up for the right of Israel to defend
itself or for its military aid.”  He publicly praised President Obama for
rejecting the report’s carefully arrived-at conclusions.  J Street’s nuanced
criticism of the brutal Israeli invasion of Gaza also deserves to be quoted
in full because it ignores the murder of 300 Palestinian children by the
Israeli Defense Forces and only differs from AIPAC’s position in tone:

    “Throughout the recent Gaza crisis, J Street consistently called for
strong American and international leadership to reach a cease-fire that
ended all military operations, stopped the rockets aimed at Israel,
instituted an effective mechanism to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza to
re-arm Hamas, and lifted the blockade of Gaza. While the military response
by the Israeli Defense Forces may be understood and even justified in the
wake of Hamas rocket attacks, we believe that a military response that is
disproportionate and escalatory will ultimately prove counterproductive,
igniting further anger in the region and damaging long-term prospects for
peace and stability for Israel, the Palestinians, and the whole region.
Obviously Israel has the right to employ military force to defend its
citizens and interests. The right question to ask, however, is not whether
Israel has that right, but whether the specific actions taken by Israel in
Gaza actually serve Israel’s legitimate long-term security interests and
America’s best interests. In this case, J Street believes they may well
not.”

There are other examples of allegedly moderate J Street positions actually
veering sharply to the right.  A J Street sponsored event in mid September
featured retired Israeli Major General Danny Rothschild.  The general was
being introduced around Washington where he openly advocated a two-state
solution with the Palestinians because of his belief that it is the best
solution for Israel.  But he also reiterated standard Israeli talking points
about “Islamofascism” and Iran, i.e. that there is no use talking to those
people and that Iran intends to develop a nuclear weapon and has repeatedly
threatened to destroy Israel.  He claimed, wrongly, that Tehran is rapidly
building up its armed forces and advocated a military solution to the Iran
problem.  One attendee commented afterwards that Rothschild sounded like an
Israeli version of Republican Senator John McCain.

J Street might well be sincere in its efforts and if they help bring about
something equating to a peace settlement in the Middle East, I wish them
success.  But it appears to me that J Street’s positions are just a
variation on the usual Israel-first policies that have been dominant in
Washington for so long.  Since its founding, J Street has been drifting
closer to the Israeli government positions that it once seemed to criticize
and, since I am naturally cynical, I might wonder if that was the intention
right from the beginning.  One might well question in any event why there
should exist a lobby operating in Washington consisting of American citizens
promoting the interests of a foreign country – but we live in strange times.
The founding fathers might have considered such a schizophrenic world view
inappropriate for ostensibly loyal American citizens, a view that I share.

—————————————————————————–
Disinformation about the Iranian “Threat” (by Dr. Stephen Sniegoski)
 
 
 
Yes, There Is a Guerrilla War Against Zionism in the U.S. What Should Jewish Institutions Do?
 
 
Howard Berman on Israel and the pro-Israel lobby
 
 
 
U.S. Middle East policy motivated by pro-Israel lobby
 
 
 
 
Is the End Near for the Right-Wing’s Vice Grip on U.S. Israeli Policy?
 
 

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