15 thoughts on “Jeffrey Goldberg on J Street and the Blogger Panel – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. If the Law of Return IS an automatic right then I simply don’t see how you can ask Palestinians to constrain their own Right of Return. Once again, this is a question of two competing rights. If you want to achieve an equilibrium between peoples and respective rights, then both sides will have to accept compromises of their basic rights.

    In the context of a two-states solution (which J Street supports) immigration rights would be internal matters of each state, not contingent on the respective other state’s laws, and certainly not competing rights. The right of a Jew to immigrate to Israel would not depend on the right of a Palestinian to immigrate to a Palestinian state and vice versa.

    Ideas like equilibrium between peoples and compromises of each people’s rights are relevant in the context of a one-state solution and in the necessary evolution of the status quo with a view to a non-sectarian, democratic future.
    I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if that was your view.

    J.G.: But there are others who are glomming on to you guys as a cover, just using you to advance another agenda entirely.[…]
    To say that we are exploiting J Street’s success in order to promote an anti-Israel agenda is objectionable.

    Far be it from me to read Jeffrey Goldberg’s mind, but I read his remark the other way round: he wasn’t criticising you (for exploiting J Street’s success) but J Street for having supposedly unwanted allies such as Richard Silverstein, Hamas, Abu Mazen, Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, etc, who all oppose the occupation (and therefore must all be alike).
    Of course that’s moronic, but it’s what you get when you divide the world in either for or against Israel.

  2. Interesting. I’m on J Street’s email list and I guess they’re still a small enough group with few enough people that they actually send back personal responses to a couple of emails I’ve sent them. Which I thought cool.

    It now turns out they only wanted lefty support as a stepping stone (sort of like Obama). I should have known once they got onto the front cover of the NYT Sunday Magazine it would be time to start purging the ranks of their supporters, to become fully mainstream.

    I guess I can put up with their political machinations if the end result is a just solution for both sides. The odds of that don’t look too good right now. If they don’t help achieve that, then it’s just another power struggle between two lobbying groups, of no interest at all.

  3. Richard, Mobius wrote this article on J-Street’s feint to the right & alienation of the left. http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-27877-NY-Israel-Policy-Examiner~y2009m10d24-Peace-lobby-breaks-from-left-as-conference-approaches

    I wish to respond to this para from the Mobemeister:

    “In response to Ben-Ami’s interview with Goldberg, one reputed anti-Zionist blogger, Mark Elf of Jews Sans Frontieres, quipped on Twitter that J Street was ‘AIPAC-lite.'”

    — To be precise, it was I, Nedster a JSF co-blogger, who twitted that line. I’d like to explain it a bit. At Sully’s link, http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/10/talking-j-street.html he quotes Ben-Ami as saying that cutting aid to Israel is never an option on the table. Which prompted this response from Sully:

    “What’s interesting here is that J-Street’s head insists that the only serious lever the US has over Israel should be taken off the table before any deal is even negotiated. This is the lefty, peacenik, goddamned hippie position! Military aid, mind you, is already formally illegal because of Israel’s secret nuclear bomb program (which no American president can, you know, mention), but is retained because, well, because it would never be repealed by the Congress. And so Netanyahu knows he can do anything he wants without any real blowback from the US. And he has about as much interest in a two-state solution as I have in marrying a woman.

    “This leaves the US with no leverage over a central party in critical discussions which indeed affect the national security of Americans. In what other case does that apply?”
    I agree w/Sully. If the liberal-left wing of Zionism refuses to countenance bringing any real pressure on Bibi to stop building, that is, stop forking over our money to their treasury, it’s as good as giving him their good housekeeping seal of approval for building roads & chalets in Efrat & Itamar. Ergo: AIPAC-lite (a term coined by Abunimah, not I.)

  4. “…that there is some diabolical conspiracy behind the scenes…”

    The so-called “neo-conservatives” (who are neither “conservative” nor “neo-“, but that’s another comment for another time) are unabashed imperialists, and are quite upfront about it. There’s nothing remotely ‘conspiratorial’ about them.

  5. Thank you for this piece. I had been planning on going to the conference, but was quite disturbed by some of Ben Ami’s answers. (J street does not go far enough for me.) Your analysis at least made more sense of their context.
    I think I look forward to the blogger’s lunch most of all however!

  6. Goldberg is a plain hack, Richard. It’s nice of you to want to find something redeeming in there, a testimony to your general good will and humanity, but Goldberg’s portrayal of the Walt-Mearsheimer book is just plain old deception and intellectual dishonesty. I seriously doubt he’s even read it. This is indicative of his journalistic standards in general, and in a civilized, sane country with its head up, he would not be considered a serious journalist. The fact that he occasionally throws out a few crumbs of contrarianism that might stick in the craw of the pseudo-fascists over at Commentary, does not mean he’s a critical thinker. Have our standards become so low? At least an H.L. Mencken, notwithstanding his annoying prejudices, had dazzling raw color and verve and some real literary meat to his writing.

    I’m afraid J Street is indeed looking more and more like Aipac-lite, and, no, that isn’t good enough. I’m glad they’re giving you guys a space to do your thing (now you Philip, Helena and the rest really are shining lights in the wilderness), however, J Street’s positions to date do not indicate an organization of solid moral core and foundation. Their objection to the targeted and principled stance of the Toronto Film Festival protestors, and their support for sanctions against Iran, show an organization that really doesn’t get it.

    Why exactly is it wrong for Iran to pursue nuclear power, or even—gasp—nuclear weapons (which there’s no actual indication they’re currently doing)? Israel has scads of nuclear weapons and I don’t see J Street protesting that. Israel has shown itself to be a far more consistently brutal regime than Iran. I don’t see Iran dispatching defenseless Palestinian children willy-nilly like they’re out on some perverse human safari, as Israel is wont to do. Israel is arguably the most brutal & destructive-of-human-life regime in the Middle East today. Saudi Arabia is probably second in line a little ways back (note that these shining lights are our two biggest “allies” in the Middle East). Iraq under Saddam would have been a serious contender in this group (you can’t count contemporary Iraq and Afghanistan because those are wars WE started—thanks in part to the Israel lobby—and are hence responsible for).

    I’m glad that an increasing number of American Jews have found their consciences (are dusting them off) and are seeing a problem with the behavior of the Jewish state. I realize the looking in the mirror moment must be very psychologically difficult for a lot of (American) Jews, particularly when they’ve been indoctrinated to think of Israel as a supremely moral, superior place existing in a hostile sea of barbaric sub-humans, but after the IDF’s display of its ‘values’ in Gaza back in January, and the continuing immense Palestinian suffering, we need more than these baby half-steps away from Aipac fanaticism. I just don’t see the fundamental change coming from J Street, sorry. And if J Sreet is falsely seen as a real alternative, it once again warps our already badly warped American debate, wherein humane, rational voices informed by Enlightenment values seem to inevitably get shunted to the side and marginalized.

    1. J Street is indeed looking more and more like Aipac-lite

      J Street has always been AIPAC lite. That was obvious to some of us after about the first five seconds. The only reason others did not see it right away was that they were blinded by hope. The fact that a few more people are beginning to see J Street for what it really is is a good thing.

      the IDF’s display of its ‘values’ in Gaza back in January

      Yes, well, here is the part I don’t get. The IDF, and the Israeli government, have freely displayed their “values” ever since they came into existence, so why did it take Gaza, 2008-2009 to get people’s attention. What they did in Lebanon in 2006 was no less horrific, and no more justified, and one could give a chronology of IDF mass murder and mayhem going back to 1948 that would make most people’s hair stand on end, and have them screaming for justice. So, what was so special about Israel’s latest massive spasm of violence that people finally sat up and took notice after all these decades?

      1. Good point. I don’t profess to know the history of Israel’s oppression of and crimes against the Palestinians like you do. I know there was widespread ethnic cleansing perpetrated against Palestinians from the founding of the state, and since. I’m just an American outraged at my country’s Middle East foreign policy and I know Israel is a very big piece of it. I feel helpless a lot of time (like I think a lot of Americans do).

        The recent Gaza massacre is something to hold onto precisely because it was recent, and some images I’ve seen from it just sear in my mind. You can grasp onto it and it’s an effective illustration of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, as is the blockade.

  7. Jesus, when he finds out he’s been denied by the apostle Paul

    It was Peter, not Paul, who denied Jesus thrice. And Jesus actually predicts it, so “finds out… he’s been” is a bit oddly phrased.

  8. Rachel: you note an audience member asked: “Whether the solution is BDS or not, one state or two-state, what’s the way to move?”

    Did anyone comment on BDS?

    1. I raised it as a topic for discussion for the panel but I don’t recall that anyone took me up on it. We had 90 mins. w. 13 bloggers so it was tough to pursue any one subject in any sort of comprehensive way.

  9. The thing I found most dispiriting about the interview was the way Ben-Ami repeatedly dismissed the notion that American military aid to Israel might ever be even referenced as a lever in changing the Israeli government’s behavior at some point in the future not just as something to be avoided at all costs, but as an illegitimate thing for Americans to even consider as a possibility. As if sustained military aid to Israel at the present level is a perpetual fiduciary duty of the United States and not a discretionary commitment that we keep because of shared interest and a close alliance.

    it’s not that I expect him to say aid should be on the table, but something about the way his language suggests he sees his position in this country with respect to that question really bugs me.

    1. Looked at it again — it’s not as bad as I thought the first time. Certainly he’s clear how he sees the question, though.

  10. What I find disturbing is Ben-Ami’s comment to Goldberg:
    “…[leftist groups are upset with J Street] for refusing to embrace the Goldstone report and for standing up for the right of Israel to defend itself.”

    Refusing to embrace the Goldstone report is not the same as standing up for the right of Israel to defend itself. Goldstone clearly stated in his report and in interviews like the recent one with Bill Moyers that Israel has every right to defend itself. This is a false juxtaposition that distorts the truth. I want J Street to stand for truth and justice, without resorting to the sort of lies we have been getting for AIPAC for years.

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