The RJC may not realize it but if there is any justice in the world they’ve just stepped in a big pile of dog poop and some staffer’s head should roll.
First a little back story: recently 54 members of Congress and major peace groups (among them Peace Now, J Street and B’Tselem) sent separate letters to Pres. Obama urging him to pressure Israel to relieve the siege of Gaza. The letters were groundbreaking for several reasons. First, I can’t remember the last time a large group of Congress members and Mideast peace groups coordinated any political activity so publicly and forcefully. Second, never before have members of Congress been so bold as to call outright for the end of the savage suffering inflicted by this illegal siege. This is yet another nail in the coffin of the Israel lobby and its stranglehold over such discourse in Washington DC. In the past, publicly advocating a position sympathetic to Palestinians would have been absolute anathema.
I’m proud to declare that Jim McDermott, my House member, drafted this statement and spearheaded it together with the first Muslim-American member, Keith Ellison. The Forward covered the story. Here is a portion of the statement directed to Pres. Obama:
Thank you for your…commitment of $300 million in U.S. aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip. We write to you with great concern about the ongoing crisis in Gaza.
The people of Gaza have suffered enormously since the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt following Hamas’ coup, and particularly following Operation Cast Lead. We also sympathize deeply with the people of southern Israel who have suffered from abhorrent rocket and mortar attacks. We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups. This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. Truly, fulfilling the needs of civilians in Israel and Gaza are mutually reinforcing goals.
The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts. The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering, and we ask that you advocate for immediate improvements for Gaza…
The peace groups’ letter is slightly more forceful in addressing the siege:
We urge, therefore, that your administration use America’s unique relationship with Israel to persuade it to lift the closure of its border crossing with Gaza now.
Of course, the counter-attack has been hot and heavy. Yvette Clark (D, Brooklyn), who is African-American renounced her support when Agudath Israel, the far-right pro-Israel Orthodox group, organized constituents to read her the riot act and publicly humiliated her at a meeting they called. She obediently announced her capitulation.
Further, the slimeballs at the Republican Jewish Coalition have gotten in on the act. And when they do you know something really, really dirty will come out of it. The RJC has done nothing less than accuse two veteran Jewish journalists, Ron Kampeas (JTA) and James Besser (Jewish Week) of being “leftist propagandists and weasels.”
Why? Because they dared to question the truth and accuracy of claims the RJC made in attacking the Congressional letter. Kampeas had the temerity to accuse the RJC of telling an “untruth” in this statement:
These 54 Democrats expressed no concern whatsoever about the consequences their ideas might have for Israelis living under the threat of terrorism from Gaza!
Anyone who can read can see from the above passage that the Democrats who signed this letter expressed strong support for the residents of Sderot.
Besser also did something unpardonable: he implied the RJC was being racist and misleading in identifying the letter solely with its Muslim-American co-sponsor, Ellison. The latter is a convenient target for the Republican Jewish anti-minority machine. They don’t have much use for African-Americans OR Muslims and Ellison is the ‘daily double’ as far as they’re concerned.
Besser adds this interesting perspective to the controversy about Ellison:
…Everybody wants to blame Ellison, which raises some interesting questions, starting with this one: does being pro-Palestinian automatically mean a politician is anti-Israel? Can someone be friendly and sympathetic to both sides?
…Every time I’ve heard him speak…he’s stressed his belief that both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict need to do more to live up to past commitments and take greater chances for peace. He’s spoken clearly about Israel’s need for security as part of any ultimate settlement. He speaks the language of compromise – for both sides.
In short, he sounds pro-Palestinian without sounding anti-Israel.
Still, many castigate him as just another Israel hater, which they seem to find even easier because of his religion.
So I wonder: are pro-Israel forces only interested in working with those who are 100 percent on their side, and defining everybody else as beyond the pale?
So for penning some relatively mild and thoughtful questions for the Israel lobby about why it demonizes everyone it can’t control, you get tarred and feathered and practically called anti-Israel. Next thing you know they’ll be calling for Kampeas and Besser’s heads on a platter.
I know this is going to sound strange but…in a perverse way this is a good thing. Yet another example of the lobby overreaching. They see a chance to go for the jugular and point out the perfidy of Democrats toward Israel. But by the very nature of their attack they’ve discredited themselves among the lion’s share of American Jewry who are more fair-minded and lucid on these same matters.
So I say: whichever RJC goon tweeted that message about Besser and Kampeas–promote him. The higher this guy rises to his level of incompetence and pro-Israel fury, the quicker the lobby will be vanquished or turned into something truly pro-Israel.
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