Israeli ambassador Michael Oren has had an awkward relationship with J Street. Despite much tender wooing by the group’s director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Oren stayed away from its first national conference. This was viewed as a something between a slap in the face and a slap on the wrist for the Jewish peace lobby, which often disagrees with the views of the current rightist Israeli government.
Writing in The Forward, Josh Nathan-Kazis reports that Oren has not only taken the gloves off, he’s taken leave of truth:
Addressing a breakfast session at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s biennial convention December 7, Ambassador Michael Oren described J Street as “a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.”
…This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there. We understand there are differences of opinion,” Oren said. “But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion.
This is patently a lie. And Oren certainly knows this. But the fact that he somehow believes that American Jews interested enough in J Street or what he has to say about it will not know it is a lie, indicates he is beyond cynical.
We should add to this that an inside source informed me that Israel’s consul general in San Francisco, Akiva Tor, told a prospective major local donor they should not give to J Street because it is supported by Arab extremists. When I queried him, the consul general flatly denied the charge and told me anyone making it was lying. Which is interesting because the person who informed me, heard this directly from the prospective donor. So in effect, Tor is accusing the prospective donor or his confidant of lying.
On a different subject, Oren again engaged in sophistry when asked his opinion about a Conservative Jewish woman arrested at the Kotel for removing a Torah scroll from the handbag she was carrying. The Orthodox mafia controlling the Kotel insisted that she be arrested for violating an agreement that found women could not read Torah or carry it at the Kotel. Here is Oren’s response:
“It is not a perfect situation.” Oren said. “We in Israel have to strike a balance between our respect for pluralism and our respect for tradition.”
What is disingenuous in this response is that the Conservative movement represents Jewish tradition just as much as the Orthodox mafiosi do. So to presume that “tradition” is only represented by the Orthodox sets up a false dichotomy between the latter and Conservative Judaism.
In this statement as well, Oren dissembles:
Oren said that original reports stating that Frenkel had been arrested were mistaken, and that she was simply led away from the Kotel area.
Actually, Haaretz (and Nathan-Kazis in this article) confirms she was detained by Israeli police and taken to a police station and questioned there for an extended period. Frenkel herself wrote in The Forward of her detention at a police station. She may not have been arrested. But much more was done to her than leading her away from the Kotel.
How does it look when the Israeli ambassador, supposedly a well-respected academic expert on Israel-U.S. relations before his appointment, has such an elemental disdain for truth and facts? To me, this signifies his basic disrespect for American Jews and our intelligence. I have no problem with an Israeli diplomat disagreeing with my views or those of liberal groups I support. But I expect at the very least an accurate depiction of what those views are before expounding on our differences. Oren can’t even give us that respect.
Oren is very aware that J Street is becoming a powerful counterforce to AIPAC and thereby endangers the “special relationship” Zionist Israel enjoys with the US government. Thus, every effort is made to discredit J Street whenever it is possible to do so, especially now that Israel has been making one huge blunder after another, beginning with Operation Cast Lead. J Street has the power to change Jewish opinion of Israeli policies, especially at a time when these opinions are already changing. Oren is trying so hard to perform “damage control” whenever J Street is mentioned in the discourse (and sometimes even when it does not). This is hardly an appropriate role for an Ambassador to the US; Oren is behaving more like a press secretary than a diplomat, and I have lost a lot of respect for him as a result.
Perhaps Oren would be happy to know that the very dangerous Glenn Greenwald is on the ADL list of “persons who are anti-Israel.” Last night while googling for something else, I came upon it, and I laughed aloud.
My point is that both Oren and the ADL are resembling each other a little too much these days.
RE: the very dangerous Glenn Greenwald is on the ADL list of “persons who are anti-Israel.”
MY COMMENT: Of course. Anyone who truly believes in human rights and civil liberties (and Greenwald is clearly a principled advocate* for these) is a threat to the Likudniks and is therefore misnomered as “anti-Israel”. I recall reading that back in the mid 90s Netanyahu was working on a strategy to diminish U.S. support for ‘human rights’. It does does not surprise me at all that the ADL is part of his campaign.
*as opposed to George W. Bush, who stood by his principals, rather than any principles
RE: “George W. Bush, who stood by his principals, rather than any principles”
A RELATED FACEBOOK GROUP –
Name: George W. Bush Virtual, Alternative Presidential Library
Category: Common Interest – History
Description: A group for individuals seeking to commemorate the true legacy (as opposed to the fictional, fabricated, “official” legacy) of George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009.
Privacy Type: Open – All content is public.
LINK – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=324239910435
I took the liberty of making a contribution to the library.
I really am a little incensed by Oren’s loose-lipped criticism of a group that not only has the right to exist in the US but also acts as a watchdog against another interest group, or set of interest groups, and this was a long time coming. It is highly inappropriate for a foreign ambassador to try to influence the internal politics of the US, but I guess he thought AIPAC was falling down on the job and personally stepped in.
And I think, to set the record straight, a correction should be issued as to the slanderous and outrageous statement being made about J Street being funded by terrorists. It’s a slanderous gutter remark and should be publicly retracted.
Mary: My point is that both Oren and the ADL are resembling each other a little too much these days.
What’s new? When I served in the Israeli army’s hasbarah unit many moons ago, the general commanding the unit would receive faxes direct from Abe Foxman. There was constant communication between the ADL and the Israeli army’s PR team.
It confirms my suspicion that the country of Israel suffers from collective neurosis, namely, paranoia. Some of us are quite weary of Israeli special interest groups permeating our political system. The ADL is an organization with a sleazy, criminal past, but that doesn’t seem to bother the IDF. Many consider the ADL to be a hate group (I mostly share that opinion, except that I think they do a fairly good job of keeping tabs on white supremacist organizations). Seeing Glenn Greenwald on their sh*t list was both laughable and outrageous because he is another important watchdog who upholds an honorable journalistic tradition, that being, report the truth even if it’s ugly.
I recently saw an article in Haaretz saying the IDF was forming a special hasbara unit that will do its propagandizing on the internet. Any truth to this?
It looks very poorly, but it is not entirely surprising. The ambassadorial posts for the Israeli government are appointed (like in the United States), and are no doubt highly politicized. Oren is likely speaking what Netanyahu and his cabinet have told him to speak.
Then Netanyahu is at fault for abusing the ambassador’s mission, which is to promote goodwill between the countries and not to criticize the groups who do not share the Likud Party’s vision. Whether the position is political or not, I do not think it is appropriate for Oren to make public appearances before Jewish groups and publicly denounce J Street. If a Saudi ambassador made an appearance before an American Muslim group and did the same thing, I’m sure heads would roll.
Michael Oren did not begin lying when Netanyahu took office, or when he became ambassador. He’s had years and years of practice.
RE: “Israel’s consul general in San Francisco, Akiva Tor, told a prospective major local donor they should not give to J Street because it is supported by Arab extremists. When I queried him, the consul general flatly denied the charge…” – R.S.
MY COMMENT: “All governments lie.” – I.F. Stone
Amend that to “all governments and their ambassadors lie, especially Israel’s.”
Richard Silverstein says
“Oren has not only taken the gloves off, he’s taken leave of truth”
Michael Oren, like any Israeli government official, took leave of truth long before now. I can’t remember the last time I heard him speak anything but the standard-issue Israeli government lies.
PS Don’t get me started on Akiva Tor.
Richard Silverstein says
That’s right, he’s a neighbor of sorts of yours. Let me know privately if you know other information about him.