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.