We’re used to seeing smears of J Street by right-wing pro-Israel Jews in the press and blogosphere. One of the more outrageous is Isi Liebler’s outrage in the Jerusalem Post calling for an international meeting of the Jewish people that would label peace activists like those of J Street or Jewish Voice for Peace as “non-Jewish Jews” and “Jewish renegades.” One of the memes of the smearmongers has been the claim that the progressive peace lobby group has accepted donations from Arabs. Imagine the chutzpah of Arab-Americans believing they had the right to donate to such a cause! Imagine the chutzpah of J Street thinking it had the right to accept “dirty money!”
What we haven’t seen yet is such smears emanating from the Israeli government. Yes, Ambassador Oren unwisely rejected the group’s invitation to keynote its conference. Yes, the foreign ministry wagged its finger at the group and lectured it about what was and was not properly pro-Israel and where J Street was deficient. But now a source informs me that one of Israel’s consul generals told an American Jew that J Street is accepting donations from not just Arabs, but “Arab and Palestinian extremists.”
One of those ‘extremists’ is undoubtedly Rebecca Abou-Chedid, the former director of outreach at the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force and former national political director at the Arab American Institute. She writes an eloquent defense of an Arab-American right to participate in the struggle for a sensible U.S. policy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and asks this cogent question:
…Why on earth should J Street be ashamed to have the support of Arab-Americans like me? And why should Arab-Americans worry that participating in the political life of their country and exercising their freedom of speech might — simply because of their ethnicity — harm the candidates and causes they hold dear?
She explains in a manner that is simple, yet utterly clear her approach to the conflict as an Arab-American:
It is possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, not out of some blanket support for either government, but out of a sincere belief that peace is in both people’s best interests.
Lenny Ben David, a settler and former Aipac and Israeli embassy staffer (M.J. Rosenberg penned a delightful evisceration of Lenny ), advances the dubious notion that a pro-Israel organization may not accept money from Arabs (he even counts 30, count ’em, 30 such donations on J Street’s Federal Election Commission disclosure form). The notion is absurd on its face. But apparently Israel’s consul general agrees as he has told a high-level prospective donor to J Street that this individual should not give to it. Clearly any Jewish group that accepts money from such extremists cannot be a friend of Israel.
The smears get lower and lower and they emanate from sources higher and higher in the pro-Israel world. I don’t know if this indicates a desperation from the pro-Israel lobby that it is losing the campaign for America’s hearts and minds; or whether this is merely the pro-Israel right doing what comes naturally to them. Whatever the reason, these sulphurous fulminations only discredit their authors and enhance the reputation of J Street in the minds of everyday Jews who care about real solutions rather than smears that pass for real analysis.
Of course, non-Jewish money to AIPAC is not a problem for JStreet’s critics.
first, this rhetoric is not “smear” – it is bully politics. there is a big difference. a smear would be to say that j street takes money from organized crime or supports child pornography.
second, it’s 60 years too late to say that we should work towards an integrated state. americans figured out in 1964 that integration was essential to stability. Israelis never got the message. now it’s not suddenly going to happen.
ugly – but not smears. tragic – but we will persevere in spite of our own shortsightedness.
By the same token you could’ve said in the 1960s it was some 250 years too late for the US to work towards an integrated state, or half a century before that it was “too late” to consider universal suffrage, and so on.
And it’s not like 60+ years ago there was no one calling for an integrated Israel either, though you’re right that Israeli leaders either never got the message, or explicitly rejected it.
It may be that integration isn’t suddenly to happen now (certainly not by itself), but it’s never too early, much less too late, to start working for it. There are those who do so already, groups like Combatants for Peace, JVP, or Zochrot.
Oops, make that some 150 years.
In case anyone wishes to watch, the conference is streaming live
Ira Glunts says
“Such a panel [of bloggers] allows J Street legitimately to claim that it is open to voices to its left.”
Richard did you mean, “Such a panel shows that the left wing bloggers are open to the voices from JStreet?” I say this because JStreet did not permit the bloggers to be an official part of the conference.
“But the speech I most objected to …was delivered by Rep. Robert Wexler, who was Barack Obama’s court Jew during the election campaign.”
“Did no one at J Street brief him on his remarks?”
JStreet does not brief Wexler, Wexler’s staff briefs JStreet. As you write, Wexler is Obama’s house Jew. That status gives him the endorsement of JStreet with permission to go pro-Israel without the pro-peace, anytime, anywhere.
I am happy to hear this JStreet endorsee is leaving Congress. As Jeremy Ben-Ami personally told me, refusing to elaborate, “he is a special case.”
“Perhaps Neve Gordon and Naomi Klein will even be invited to enter the august halls of J Street next year.”
Richard, it is not going to happen. You are a dreamer. Your hope is truly audacious, here.
I enjoyed reading your take on the conference. I especially liked your reports on Eric (Not So) Yoffie, Wexler, and Haim (Grabs) Ramon.
The two and a half cheers you give to the JStreet conference: Is that out of a possible ten?
Keep up the good work!!!! I think that your report demonstrates a keen understand of the issues that other do not possess.
Richard Silverstein says
I choose to believe that J Street is listening to voices in the blogosphere to its left. I think they realize that this is where the best ideas will be coming from in the future & that it’s worth paying attention for that reason.