Apparently, the Israeli embassy has moved slightly off its position rejecting an invitation from J Street to the ambassador to attend the group’s national conference later this month. Nathan Guttman reports in The Forward that “Jewish groups” have exerted great pressure on Michael Oren not to attend the event allegedly because J Street has “attacked” them. Of course, this is totally untrue and J Street’s opponents never present any evidence of specific individuals associated with the organization doing or saying anything in the way of attacking another Jewish group. Besides, it’s quite laughable for these groups to be so sullen towards the progressive Jewish lobby by claiming it doesn’t “play well with others.” In truth, it is the Israel lobby itself that feels its turf encroached on by the new kid on the block. It is they who don’t like the competition and want to shut the new guy out. It’s classic commercial behavior. Reminds me, in fact, of a N.Y. Times story of how NYC food vendors go out of their way to sabotage the competition when it attempts to encroach on their traditional selling locations.
I have learned through a reliable source that the lobbying against J Street is coming from none other than Aipac. It should surprise no one that this is the case. Josh Block, if you’re reading this, call me to deny this and I’ll be happy to print your denial. But I think most of the rest of us know different. This surreptitious behavior follows the Aipac M.O. They want to wound their perceived enemies but refuse to leave their fingerprints on the weapon.
[UPDATE: Josh Block must use Google Alert because I received an e mail from him like clockwork. It was not only a denial it was a very convincing, strenuously demonstrative denial:
What you write is an absolute, flat out lie. It can only be based in your or someone else’s fantasy, or perhaps paranoia.
If you care at all about accuracy or choosing fact over fiction, you will take it down or remove any reference to AIPAC.
Aipac’s denial is duly noted.]
Guttman quotes the embassy spokesperson relaying the Israeli government’s slightly more nuanced position toward the conference:
“We decided to move ahead in a measured and cautious way,” the spokesman said, adding that the embassy has yet to make a final decision on whether Oren will speak at the upcoming J Street conference.
One can only hope that petulance will not vanquish common sense on this matter. Oren and his boss, Bibi, don’t have to like J Street. But they have to accord them a minimal level of respect unless they want to brand themselves as ideological extremists before the entire American Jewish community. Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street is playing this very well having extended a respectful personal invitation to Oren both by letter and in the pages of the rightist Jerusalem Post. The ball’s in Oren’s court. I hope he doesn’t muff it. Letting Howard Kohr determine the Israeli government’s position toward J Street is preposterous. I hope it won’t happen.
Eric Alterman has an excellent op ed in today’s Times. The money quote is this:
Commentary’s Noah Pollak called J Street contemptible, dishonest and anti-Israel; James Kirchick of The New Republic called it the Surrender Lobby; Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard said it was obsequious to terrorists and hostile to Israel. Perhaps, but it is at least equally plausible to view the intemperance of their language as evidence of panic. The days of right-ruled American Jewish debate appear to be numbered, and with good reason.
…So the paradox is that while American Jews remain committed liberals — they voted overwhelming for Barack Obama…— they fund and support a neoconservative-dominated lobby when it comes to the Middle East.
Jerry Haber and I will be hosting a progressive blogger session at the J Street conference on Monday, October 26th at 12:30PM. If you’d like to hear me, Jerry, Phil Weiss, Kung Fu Jew, Matt Duss, Helena Cobban, Ray Hanania and Laila el-Haddad talk on the issues facing Israel-Palestine bloggers, come by and join us. Our event is NOT officially sponsored by J Street nor is anything said by the bloggers endorsed by it. We are all independent.