J Street – Progressives or Propagandists?

J Street – Progressives or Propagandists?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 6:49 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”


Here is a little follow-up to my article on J Street with my summary of this
revealing video, “Israel and the American Left,” from the J Street
conference, which was called to my attention by the indefatigable James

Earlier article: “The False Hope of J Street and the Gentile Problem,”

Video: “Israel and the American Left,” 

The video is of a J Street panel, “American Progressives and Israel:
Friends, Enemies, or ‘It’s Complicated’?,” comprised of Michelle Goldberg,
J.J. Goldberg and Ezra Klein, with Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of “The
Nation,”  serving as the moderator.   The fundamental  goal of the panelists
was to try to reconcile the Jewish exclusivism of Zionism with the
universalism of the Left.  It should be emphasized that they find it much
more important to make this ideological reconciliation than to reconcile
loyalty to Israel with loyalty to the United States.  Quite obviously, in
progressive circles, being  attacked for being “right-wing” carries an
infinitely greater sting than being called disloyal to the United States
(and besides, no respectable  mainstream figure would dare to call a
partisan of Israel disloyal to the United States).  Moreover, those
progressive intellectuals not immune to critical self-reflection do have to
overcome the obvious contradictions between Zionism and the Left in their
own minds.

The reconciliation of Zionism and the Left is more than “complicated,”
requiring the panelists to engage in various mental gymnastics and
contortions transcending straightforward logic.   Why should liberal and
leftist Jews support Israel?  The progressive panelists understandably did
not express the religious view that God had given Jews the land or the
tribalist, historical argument that modern Jews had rightful ownership of
the land because their co-ethnics had controlled it over 2000 years ago.
Moreover, they did not take the victimologist position that Jews deserved
the land because in the Holocaust they had suffered more than any other
people in world history.  In fact, the panelists did not provide any
rational reason to support Israel beyond  saying that they supported and
even loved the Jewish state  because they themselves were Jewish. It is hard
to see how this explanation could mesh with the universalism of the Left,
since if all ethnic groups took a comparable position there could be no
universalism, or at least a very different type of universalism from that
advocated by Leftist Jews for countries other than Israel, namely, a world
consisting of a congeries of  ethno-states.

This issue of group loyalty, of course, becomes most salient in regard to
the Israel-Palestine issue. It is not apparent how people who are loyal to
their own ethnic group could possibly be unbiased in disputes where their
beloved ethno-state is involved. Yet this seems to be exactly what many
pro-peace gentiles seem to expect as they look to J Street to endorse a fair
resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

While these J Streeters identify with Israel, they do differ with the
hard-line Zionists in their willingness to acknowledge Israel’s flaws.  They
admit that the conventional Jewish presentation of Israel as a completely
benign state is false and that effective efforts have been made by
pro-Zionists to distort and suppress the truth.   They go much further than
mainstream media figures in acknowledging the existence of taboo truths
regarding Israel. Undoubtedly, any mainstream gentile writer  who  dared to
say anything  comparable would be inundated by attacks of anti-Semitism.

However, the J Streeters only provide a partial truth.  They never explain
what allows these taboos to exist.  In essence, a discussion of the
inordinate power of Jews in America is off limits (despite J.J. Goldberg’s
book “Jewish Power.”)  Moreover, they exonerate Jews of culpability for
suppressing truth by saying that this censorship of negative facts about
Israel is understandable because Jews, at least older Jews, have memories of
the Jewish persecution, which they fear could return if these inconvenient
facts were aired in the mainstream.  Placation of Jewish emotions is thus
considered at least as important as truth.  Such  concern for people’s
feelings, however,  does not seem to apply to gentiles. What about the
feelings of the oppressed Palestinians?  What about the feelings of those
people who are punished for expressing the truth regarding Israel? What
about the feelings of Americans who must support Israel’s oppression of the
Palestinians and consequently engender  the hatred of most of the world? 

Most detrimental to the expression of truth, the panelists imply that the
public airing of truths can lead to trouble if these truths are used
improperly by “anti-Semites” to make Israel and Jews in general look bad.
Michelle Goldberg refers to the disturbing phenomenon whereby various truths
cross the line to become “anti-Semitic.” Since her review of my book, “The
Transparent Cabal,” had placed my book in this lethal category, it would
seem that even a candid  presentation of the facts is unacceptable if it
puts Israel or its supporters in too negative a light, as perceived by
liberal supporters of Israel. 


An overall assessment of their view of criticism of Israel leads to the
conclusion that their concern about the suppression of truth reflects not a
concern about truth per se or about freedom of expression, but rather a
concern that suppression of truths about Israel is counterproductive.
Promiscuous use of the anti-Semitism charge has become so debased that it
alienates potential supporters of Israel and provides a favorable
environment  for anti-Zionists and anti-Semites to effectively sell their
version of the truth as a believable alternative.  Michelle  Goldberg opined
that these extreme Zionist falsehoods and taboos  created a  “Petri dish”
for anti-Semitism.

But while the panelists were opposed to the existing Zionist censorship,
they did not seek an environment of  unhindered expression.  Rather, they
sought the replacement of outright censorship by what might be called
managed truth.  There  was a need to air unflattering  truths about Israel
and Israel’s supporters, but the airing should be done by people who have
the interests of Jews and Israel at heart.  Factual truths would be revealed
but only in a benign context in regard to Israel and its supporters. Doing
otherwise would be seen as   tabooed anti-Semitism.  Progressive Zionists,
rather than hard-line right-wing Zionists, would presumably serve as the
gatekeepers. Obviously, the anti-Semitic charge coming from liberal J
Streeters carries far more weight than the same charge coming  from neocons
and hard core Zionists such as Norman Podhoretz

Now what type of concrete policy toward the Palestinians do the panelists
really want?  Once again, their concern is not so much about providing
justice to the Palestinians as about protecting the Jewish nature of Israel.
They fear that the failure to provide a two-state solution would ultimately
lead to demands for a one-state solution, which Israel would be unable to
resist.  And in the unified state, Jews, no longer representing a
substantial majority of the population, would be unable to maintain a
Jewish-dominated state.  This would spell “finis”  for Zionism.

Although the J Streeters’ fundamental objective is to protect Israel, they
also profess to believe that justice for the Palestinians is essential to
achieve that goal.  So, if true,  justice for the Palestinians would result
from the  rational self-interest of Zionist Jews-it would be the only way to
preserve the Jewish state. But do the J Streeters really offer a solution
that would provide the Palestinians with true justice?   

While the panelists are vocal about the fact that a majority of Israeli Jews
and most Israeli political leaders have, in recent years, supported a
two-state solution, they fail to point out the salient fact that no Israeli
government in the various “peace” processes has ever offered the
Palestinians  a viable state.  There are always Jewish settlements remaining
in  key areas, Israeli military roads criss-crossing the territory, Israeli
control of the West Bank aquifers (the Palestinians’ principal  supply of
water), Israeli control of the boundary along the Jordan River, etc.  In
short, no Israeli government, Left or Right, has been willing to offer the
Palestinians anything more than a series of non-contiguous, waterless
Bantustans, existing on only a portion of the West Bank.  However, it seems
that the panelists believe that Israel has offered  fair deals to the
Palestinians, which, recently,  have been undermined by the Israeli Right
and Hamas. 

Looking at all this, it becomes apparent that the actual effect of J Street
will be not to change Israel’s actual policies, but instead simply to change
the perception of Israel  by liberal opinion in the United States and the
West.  J Street’s achievement will be to provide a “moderate” and “fair”
image to Israeli plans for a Palestinian “state.”  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 the “fairness” image of 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.  But all of this should be understandable given the fact
that J Streeters explicitly identify with Israel.  When lobbies dominate the
policy-making process, it is conventionally assumed that such policies do
not advance the general good.  There is no reason to think otherwise in the
case of an Israel lobby-even a lobby that comes cloaked in the veneer of
justice and moderation. 

This is not to imply the J Streeters have ulterior motives.  With their
ideological blinders and ethnic loyalty,  the J Streeters probably are
sufficiently self-deceived to believe that Israel will treat the
Palestinians justly.  But all the evidence shows that, to the contrary,  the
Israeli government is unwilling to provide the Palestinians with a viable
state.  Quite likely, the Israeli governing elite believes that the security
of the state of Israel precludes making the requisite concessions to the
Palestinians to  actually allow for a viable state.  Thus, despite any
intentions to the contrary,  J Streeters simply serve as public-relations
propagandists for perpetuating the policy of subordinating the Palestinians
to Israel. 

Transparent Cabal Website

Amazon: http://tiny.cc/zNV06 

My recent article “Obama, nuclear-arms reduction, and the power of the
Israel Lobby” is posted at

Stephen Sniegoski


The False Hope of J Street and the Gentile Problem


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