StandWithUs, which will co-sponsor an anti-Iran conference here in Seattle later this month, has disseminated a lie-filled dossier on J Street in anticipation of its upcoming October national conference in Washington, DC (where I will lead an independent Israel-Palestine blogger discussion). SWU, never terribly careful about facts or truth, stays true to form in its smear of J Street.
The first lie is that the group “echoes” Walt-Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby and “denigrates” American Jewish groups “across the spectrum.” As for the first charge, no evidence is provided and since it is so patently false it isn’t even worth engaging. But the second claim, also false, really points to the hostility of the pro-Israel advocacy groups like Aipac, SWU, ZOA, etc. who feel threatened by J Street’s popularity. The latter has certainly not denigrated any Jewish group and no evidence is offered to support the claim. But the aforementioned groups find J Street’s progressive agenda to be anathema to their own Likudist platform. What better way to smear the group than by claiming it disrespects other groups, when the opposite is the case.
The smearsheet then proceeds to tarnish personal reputations of those associated with J Street. First, they attack Trita Parsi, director of the National Iranian American Council by claiming his group is the “unofficial lobby for the Iranian regime.” This is not just a lie, it is a damned lie and one first offered by the Iranian darling of the pro-Israel right, Hassan Daioeslam, who is a member of the executive committee of the People’s Mujahadeen, which is recognized by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. Daioeslam is being sued by NIAC for slander and the case has survived dismissal motions and is in discovery. I find it interesting that Jewish smearmeister outfits like SWU would be making common cause with radical Iranian terror groups dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Iranian government.
Then they go after donors to J Street. Keep in mind that these are not leaders of the group. They’ve merely made a contribution. But that’s sufficient grounds for tar and feathering. The operative principle seems to be that Jewish organizations may not accept money from anyone who is Muslim or Arab. Apparently, anyone who is, ipso facto is an enemy of Israel. The proof for this claim is that no Jewish organizations ever receive donations from Arabs. That’s an odd statement to say the least. Should the reverse be the case? That Jews may not make donations to Arab organizations without the group’s bona fides being suspected by their fellow Arabs?
The next victim is a Palestinian donor who allegedly declares Aipac and Netanyahu “enemies of peace.” I’ve gone through all the links provided by SWU to this individual’s writings to find this offending phrase and I can’t. What he does say, and this is from an interview with a highly unreliable Jerusalem Post reporter, is the following:
…He donated to the J Street PAC because “I believe that they are sincere about being pro-Israel and they are sincere about being pro-peace. And AIPAC I consider an enemy of Israel rather than a friend of Israel because they’re not helping it to achieve peace.”The businessman…said that he wanted to see a home for Israel and a home for Palestinians, along the 1967 border with a shared Jerusalem and symbolic treatment of the refugees, and felt that J Street would help achieve that.
“They are equally hard on the Palestinians as they are on Israel, so they’re not pro-Palestinian. They are just pro-peace and pro-Israel. I believe that,” he told the Post.
Well, if he’s guilty so am I. And let’s keep in mind that even if this individual did say these things, J Street never did. He is a donor to J Street, not the director and not even a board member. Besides, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with what he DID say.
And get this–J Street actually has a single donor who is a board member of Human Rights Watch! Imagine the perfidy and shame of such association!
Another operative principle of the smear machine is that any State Department Arabist is automatically suspect. The fact that many of these nations are actually allies of the U.S. doesn’t enter into SWU’s calculations. Actually, SWU doesn’t seem to take U.S. interests into account at all. If the nation is an Arab nation (and even some of THEM are allies of Israel) it is an enemy of Israel.
Take for instance, Judith Barnett, a J Street advisory board member who once served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the Middle East and Africa. Since she’s become a registered lobbyist for Egypt, she’s apparently akin to a criminal. What SWU doesn’t explain is why someone working for the Egyptian ministry of trade is apparently selling Israel down the river. They seem to forget that our very own president found Egypt an important enough nation to make a major policy address there in June. And Egypt has joined Israel in enforcing a siege of Gaza. So what precisely is wrong for working for Egypt?
Next, SWU goes on to lie about J Street’s views of the Gaza war. The former claims:
J Street said it could not identify “who was right or who was wrong,”
Compare this to what J Street actually said, which bears no resemblance whatsoever:
As friends of Israel, we felt [at the beginning of the Gaza war] immediate pressure from friends and family to pick a side. Did we think that Israel’s actions were fully justified or disproportionate? Did Hamas bring this on itself by firing rockets and provoking Israel or are the strikes an act of aggression against a people trapped in misery and poverty? Couldn’t we see who’s right and who’s wrong?
Here’s another statement J Street never made:
We are deeply disturbed that J Street would equate the moral principles of Israel and Hamas…
According to SWU, the fact that the progressive Jewish lobby called Israel’s attack on Hamas “disproportionate” indicates it is not only “anti-Israel,” but “anti-Jewish!” Jews around the world felt precisely the same way, yet they too are somehow anti-Israel for these beliefs. These right-wingers are so extreme that any view that posits Israel’s interests lie in a peaceful, negotiated settlement of its differences with the Palestinians are automatically anti-Israel.
The smearsheet claims J Street “accepted the discredited claims” of the Goldstone Report. It did not. In fact, the group’s carefully crafted statement on the subject did not endorse the Report at all. Rather, it called for the charges raised in it to be investigated BY ISRAEL.
Interestingly, SWU reveals its support for the most extreme of Israel’s settlers. When Bob Simon produced a 60 Minutes segment on the subject, he was excoriated by CAMERA, another rightist pro-Israel advocacy group. SWU apparently shares CAMERA’s support for the outrageous settlers who spit at elderly Palestinian women, set fire to Palestinian homes filled with helpless family members, expropriate Arab property by force, etc. The fact that J Street launched a letter writing campaign supporting Bob Simon seems proof of the group’s anti-Israel perfidy.
Another mark of J Street’s hatred of Israel is the fact that Jeremy Ben Ami has written that he “respects” Jimmy Carter. Apparently, in the Israel First community the president who earned a Nobel Prize and negotiated the only formal peace agreement Israel has ever signed with one of its former Arab enemies, is a Jew-hater. And SWU thinks this will fly?
The SWU statement also reveals that it opposes the 2005 Gaza withdrawal pursued by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon:
We are concerned because J Street…ignor[es]…the unfortunate results of Israel’s concessions for peace, such as the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
This further confirms that SWU supports the Israeli Occupation and supports maintaining Israeli control of the Occupied Territories. Those aren’t even positions embraced by the U.S. government or American Jews. On this basis, I think we can make a strong argument that it is StandWithUs in fact that is anti-Israel (rejecting a policy of a sovereign Israeli (Sharon) government).
SWU argues that the progressive group:
…Frequently opposes the positions of the Israeli government and its electorate…
A glaring misunderstanding evident in such statement is that J Street is not actually an agent of the Israeli government. It is, if anything, an agent of the American Jewish community. As such, J Street lobbies in this country not on behalf of Israel; but rather, on behalf of the interests of the American Jewish community as they relate to Israel and other issues. That is a nuance SWU completely misunderstands because it is a bought and paid for agent of not the Israeli government, but the most radical right-wing elements of it.
J Street certainly will oppose some positions of a right wing government like Bibi Netanyahu’s. Indeed, many Israelis do the same. So for SWU to accuse J Street of being a traitor to Israel for supporting a settlement freeze when Bibi opposed it has it completely wrong. J Street sees itself as empowered to support the policies of a U.S. government if they disagree with those of a right wing Israeli government. And there is nothing whatsoever wrong with this. J Street’s primary interest is those of the U.S. and American Jews, while SWU’s interests are those of Israel’s far-right.
Another SWU lie:
J Street opposed Israel’s war against Hamas
Actually, J Street supported Israel’s position that Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians were intolerable and that the IDF had a right to respond.
In some cases, J Street positions that SWU considers treif are actually quite admirable:
[It] rejects stronger sanctions against Iran
Actually, J Street supports the policy of constructive engagement of the Obama administration. That policy does not yet call for stronger sanctions. J Street and many other Iran analysts and many American Jews oppose the notion that sanctions can force Iran to do something it refuses to do. The progressive group also recognizes that the next stage after sanctions fail will be a military attack by Israel. This option is opposed not just by J Street, but by the U.S. government. SWU conveniently doesn’t tell you that it will support a military attack if Israel launches one. This means that SWU is opposed to U.S. policy while J Street supports it. Which side would you rather be on?
Here’s another common sense position of J Street which SWU finds anathema:
[It] calls for the U.S. and Israel to negotiate with Hamas…
Actually, an Israeli poll found that a majority of Israelis also favor negotiating directly with Hamas. So the progressive organization finds itself once again in accord with prevailing Israeli opinion (though unfortunately most American Jews reject such a position).
SWU doesn’t believe in democracy. How else to construe the following statement:
We are also troubled that many Israeli J Street members are affiliated with Israeli political parties that were soundly defeated and marginalized in recent elections and who seem to be trying to influence the American public and government to adopt their rejected platforms.
The last I checked there was nothing wrong with being a member of a legal Israeli political party. But for SWU, this seems again to be a mark of Cain. Also, J Street’s Israeli members (I believe this is another SWU error as I don’t believe J Street has Israeli members) do not control the organization’s agenda. J Street is an American organization and does not pursue policies on behalf of Israeli political parties or their individual members. In a democracy, this is precisely what J Street is supposed to do. Only in SWU’s perverted world view is such advocacy grounds for excommunication.
SWU further argues that an attack on a J Street poll by Commentary Magazine proves authoritatively that the poll was a fraud. My, my how convenient to turn to a fellow right wing pro-Israel advocacy publication to support your unfounded claims.
The smear document correctly notes that Rabbi Eric Yoffie criticized J Street’s position on the Gaza war. But SWU conveniently neglects to mention that the very same Rabbi Yoffie is J Street’s keynote speaker at its national conference. Guess SWU got caught with its pants down on this claim.
For more myths and truth about J Street click here.