23 thoughts on “2 1/2 Cheers for Historic J Street National Conference – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Ultimately, the question will be if J Street can become part of the discusson which informs decision-making in Israel, or will it prove to be a talk-shop for a group of American Jews no-one listens to. At the moment, given that probaly 99% of Israelis have never heard of J Street, even after this week’s conference, things aren’t looking too good on the “relevancy” front.

  2. (1) What do you make of this: Jeremy Ben-Ami aligns “J-Street” with the Kadima party. If memory serves, they were the party that fought two wars in which they bombed the heck out of Lebanon and then Gaza and for which they were condemned by Goldstone as war criminals. How do you think all the BDS’s and Goldstoners at the conference will react to this?


    (2) I find it odd that you characterize yourself as being in the minority…you have told me more than once here that your views on controversial things like the “peace process”, dividing Jerusalem, and the such are supported by the majority of Jews both in Israel and in the US, and you have quoted polls backing this up (although you have not provided links). I am confused by this.

    (3) I see you heard Bernard Avishai. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how he divided Jews in Israel into two groups (“Judeans”-bad…..but not just “settlers” as you indicated but also Haredim, settler-supporters and other undesirable groups making up, say, 25-30% of the population, as contrasted with the good “Israelis”…secular, entrepeneural , progressive, universalist, etc) and that it was up to the US to threaten the “Israelis” in order to motivate them to eradicate the Judeans because without the threat of sanctions the Israelis won’t move against the Judeans. When I posted that you naturally didn’t believe me but now that you have heard it first hand, what do you think? Is that a practical way of dealing with the problem that the Israeli electorate has not voted the way the “progressives” want?

    (4) Were there any organized groups at the conference calling for BDS against Israel and, if so, how were they received by the crowd?

    1. I’ve told you countless times that anything the JPost publishes is automatically drivel unless confirmed by a reputable journalistic source. Jeremy Ben Ami has not allied J Street with Kadima. There were a few washed up Kadima politicians like Haim Ramon on panels. I’ve critiqued Ramon’s tired old rhetoric in a blog post I wrote yesterday. I don’t have the patience or low enough blood pressure to read the garbage you linked to fr. the Post. Suffice to say, I can tell it’s garbage just by the few words you use to describe it.

      I find it odd that you characterize yourself as being in the minority

      I demonstrated in Jerusalem in favor of Israeli negotiations with the PLO in 1972 when it was illegal to do so. I advocated a 2 state solution in the early 1980s when you were considered loony left for doing so. So yes, I have felt lonely at times in my life for my political views. But I am comforted by the fact that so many of the big ideas I advocated over time became accepted by the mainstream just as Israeli-Palestinian peace will be accepted by the main parties on terms I outline here & which you find anathema. When that happens it will satisfy me no end.

      it was up to the US to threaten the “Israelis” in order to motivate them

      As usual you provide not quotation or even link to allow us to tell whether you have quoted Avishai correctly. Knowing him as I do I doubt strongly he used the term “threaten.” That sounds like an interpolation by you.

      Avishai at J St. did not talk at all about threatening Israel or calling for sanctions. Again, unless you prove he’s said or written it somewhere else, I choose to disbelieve you. I’m not saying Avishai didn’t say this. I’m merely demanding that you prove yr claims before they can be taken seriously.

      If you’d bother to read this very post you’d know that BDS was not a subject for the conference. I raised the question for discussion at the blogger panel but no one took me up on it.

  3. Richard, thank you for your lengthy and comprehensive report on the J Street doings. I get the impression that you are coming around to my own belief that J Street is not all that different from the rest of the Lobby. They claim to be progressive but on almost all issues support the same positions: A “Jewish” state; two-state solution (which will never happen); oppression of Iran. What makes them different? Why bother supporting that old clichè, a rose by any other name?

    One of these days it will be apparent that neither, the U.S., nor Israel, want peace in the region. That does not conform with the hegemon’s program of perpetual war.

  4. Hello? Richard? If you ever get around to posting my comment, please fix the typo – it should be “relevance”, of course. There’s no such word as relevancy.

    Should you decide not to post it, I will obviously post it on my side, to publicly document your fear of freedom of expression.


    1. Stop being such an idiot would you. The next time you engage in such snark I won’t publish your comment. So drop it. If you don’t, you won’t publish another comment here.

      I could care less if you publish at yr own blog any other of your comments you attempt to publish at my blog. If you think this is what anyone wants to read or is a way to boost interest in your blog you’re mistaken. Though I urge you to knock yrself out.

  5. Thanks for the report. Wish I could’ve been there.

    I wonder, however, about this:

    Another denizen of the right-wing Jewish deep slime, Hillel Stavis, crashed the panel, taking pictures of the panelists and attendees without authorization and had to be escorted from the room. Since he was a registered conference goer, J Street allowed him to remain in the hall even though he wrote a scummy report at his own blog complaining of his “shabby” treatment.

    What’s wrong with his taking pictures (whatever his political views)? For that matter, I tracked down the blog post, and whatever the accuracy of his depiction of events, it seems like he had a legitimate beef — he’d paid & registered, others were taking pictures, why couldn’t he stay and do the same?

    This seems like another episode in what this blog calls the “war on photography” — attempts to get people to stop taking pictures which is, after all, part of a fundamental right to free expression.

    So could expand on this a bit more?

    1. Everyone at the conference had to have credentials, a tag around their neck to identify who they are & confirm they were paid registrants. He did not wear a credential when he crashed our session & started filming it. To take pictures during a session you needed to get special permission to do so. He didn’t. That’s why he was thrown out of our session.

      Stavis has a history of shoving cameras in the face of Boston peace activists, asking insulting demeaning questions and then circulating the images publicly. He also threatened another peace activist who used the same tactic by shoving a camera in Stavis’ face saying to him: “If you don’t get out of my way I’ll punch you in the fucking face.” I knew his M.O. before he crashed our session. I chose not to stand for it.

      If you Google Stavis’ name here you can find the video & watch it. If you think that I’m opposed to public photography you’re mistaken. I’m opposed to photography being used by bullies to bully people exercising their right of free speech as we were.

  6. I’m happy that at least the grass-roots attendees of the conference sound like they were mostly progressive, and recognize the deeply problematic nature of Israel’s behavior. The leadership of J Street and speakers’ roster strikes me as very right-wing and reactionary, though, for the most part. The fact that the main J Street organizer could compare Walt & Mearsheimer’s book to the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ shows how radically off-target much of the organized American Jewish community remains. That is plain offensive and highly slanderous.

    Ben-Ami’s remark also points to a deeper problem I see subtly embedded in a lot of the conversation about J Street. There’s this implicit sentiment that American Jews have more of a right to weigh in on Israel and American Middle East foreign policy than the rest of Americans. It is precisely this assumption that must be discarded by a sizable majority of Americans before, imo, a real shift will happen on this issue. The present (if undeclared in so many words) notion that American Jews have more of an inherent right than other Americans to influence America’s Israel policy is offensive to the vast gentile American majority, for Americans as a whole are greatly affected by our country’s destructive and harmful Israel policy and Middle East foreign policy. It affects our whole relationship with the Arab/Persian/Muslim world, Americans’ ability to travel in that part of the world, our safety as a whole, etc. This assumption also reveals a degree of exceptionalist, and frankly even supremacist, thinking vis-a-vis the rest of their fellow Americans that is quite disturbing.

  7. J-Street is not a new phenomenon is Jewish-Zionist political history.

    Shalom Achshav and American Friends of Peace Now very quickly became adjuncts of the Israeli Labor Party.

    J-Street and AFPN make sure that Jewish Zionists control discourse when the current Zionist orthodoxy loses its hold.

    J-Street is just as much a part of the Israel Lobby as the American Friends of Peace Now.

    There really is no concern for justice or for Palestinians.

    Heaven forfend that there should ever be a discussion of the damage that the Israel Lobby, fellow travelers, and useful idiots do to America: Scaremongering Muslim Interns, Undermining Democracy.

    In addition, there is good evidence that major factions of the Israel Lobby are poisoning the health care debate as I point out in Health Care, Obama, Israel Lobby — somewhere about half way through.

    To have an effect, critics of the Israel Lobby must point out the skulduggery of the Israel Lobby on non-Israel bread & butter issues.

    1. Altho I am critical of some of Mr. Martillo’s ideas, with this I agree:
      “J-Street is just as much a part of the Israel Lobby as the American Friends of Peace Now.”

      The J-Street conference as described reminds me of a Brit-Zedek conference I went to years ago. I was new to the issue, had only recently come to a stance very critical of Israel, and was excited to be at this gathering of people who (so I thot) shared my view.

      What I found was a whole day of workshops about Jews. What should Jews do? The one workshop scheduled by a Palestinian was canceled.

      So often the question becomes tribal – what is good for the Jews?
      You have genocidal folk like Israel’s leaders and you have less than-genocidal people who think not all Palestinians should be killed; let a small number be kept alive on bantustans. [the “two-state solution”]

      In fact, the only honest appraisal is that the Palestinians are in a struggle for liberation, like peoples all over the world have fought for their liberation from oppression.
      One is either for Palestinian self-determination or against it.
      There is no middle ground.
      It is not possible to have a Jewish state and have Palestinian self-determination. This is what Richard, and J-street, and the “Two-staters” want.
      They want a Jewish state and they want a clear conscience.

      Not possible.

  8. Considering that something like 70% of Americans view Israel favorably, it doesn’t seem that most Americans agree with your view that America’s policy to Israel is “destructive and harmful”, as you put it. In any event, there are far more non-Jews in the strong core group of Israel supporters than there are Jews. Strong American support for a Jewish state goes back as far as the 1830’s and 1840’s (President Lincoln came out in support, for example), long before there was any sort of significant Jewish vote in the US.

    1. Listen, you must comment at so many sites (& repeat yrself so often) you can’t remember what you’ve published here. DO NOT REPEAT YOURSELF. You’ve said the same precise argument here before. I rebutted it before but I’m too tired to do so again. The next time you repeat yrself I’m going to delete the comment. Keep better track of what you publish here or I’ll have to become your editor.

      1. Richard –

        Why not simply let folks say things? You can always delete obscenities, if anyone posts them. Short of that, however, why intervene at all? It’s your blog, you get to have your say unimpeded, and then readers discuss.

        It’s called Free Speech.


        1. All I can say is that I’ve written this blog since 2003 and developed rules with which I feel comfortable. Over 20,000 comments seem to indicate debate here is fairly free & open. What I demand of you is that you attempt to state yr pt w/o threat or snark. Follow that rule & you’ll have no trouble publishing whatever you feel the need to say.

    2. RE: Considering that something like 70% of Americans view Israel favorably, it doesn’t seem that most Americans agree with your view that America’s policy to Israel is “destructive and harmful”

      MY COMMENT: The above statement is patently and logically flawed.

  9. I think that you were too busy with Hillel Stavis to notice the real development of the meeting. It is the decision of the J street U to remove “pro-Israel” from the pro-Israel, pro-peace motto

  10. Criticism of Israel or anti-Semitism?

    This article in Counterpunch should put this “debate” to rest.
    Michale Neumann:

    Antisemites have flocked to criticism of Israel precisely because criticism of Israel is so amply justified. Criticism of Israel isn’t a great disguise because the critics are sleazebags. Quite the contrary: it’s a great disguise because criticizing Israel is not only correct, it’s the right thing to do. The more-than-overwhelming majority of those who criticize Israel are genuine humanitarians, genuine enemies of oppression and ethnic nationalism, genuine fighters for justice. The more obvious this has become, the more antisemites get on board.


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