J Street just sent out an e mail blast trumpeting a Jerusalem Post story (!) which first caught my glance because of an outrageous statement by an anonymous Israeli foreign affairs source, who had the temerity to claim that when J Street “forced” Danny Ayalon to boycott its Congressional delegation it was J Street that was harming Israel’s image:
One Foreign Ministry official, a man whose privately-expressed political views are not those of the deputy foreign minister, admitted that J Street had scored a political victory, but said it was a Pyrrhic one.
“The Foreign Ministry is very angry with J Street. They demanded to push themselves into the meetings with the representatives,” something ministry officials were instructed not to allow. “In the final analysis, they are happily harming Israel’s image once again, this time from Jerusalem. They’re using the American representatives to bash Israel. How can you be a friend of Israel and behave in a way that is so hurtful and arrogant and damaging? They didn’t make any friends in Israel this week.”
These are the words of an utter fool. If anyone, it was Danny Ayalon’s fault for bashing Israel’s image. As the JPost reporter makes clear in this report, no Aipac or AJC staffer is made to wait in the hallway or listen at the peephole when their own Congressional delegation visits at the MFA. It’s certainly not J Street’s fault that Ayalon made an idiot of himself once again in this matter. J Street was only insisting on what was its due. Presumably the group will bring many future such delegations, as Aipac does regularly. Does the MFA plan on blackening its own eye with a refusal every time J Street is in town??
I was fully prepared to write yet another positive piece about J Street and the constructive strategy it was adopting. But my eyes were riveted by this passage I didn’t expect:
To his credit, J Street director Jeremy Ben Ami seems to understand this [lack of trust in its pro-Israel credentials], and used the current trip to try and put Israeli doubts to rest. Thus, he told Israeli reporters in Tel Aviv on Wednesday that J Street “urged members of Congress to vote for additional sanctions on Iran” and “urged the United States to prevent the [Goldstone] Report from moving forward in the United Nations.” Anti-Iran, anti-Goldstone; what more can you ask from a “pro-Israel” organization?
I hate to say it, since the only JPost columnists I ever agree with are Larry Derfner, Gershom Baskin and Naomi Chazan (may her column rest in peace). But here I agree with the reporter when she writes:
J Street suffers from a trust deficit in Israel that is partly of its own making. Over the past two years, it tried to hedge its bets on Iran, going beyond a White House-like urging of dialogue…Its position on Goldstone took time to become clear, a gap that suggests to many that the group’s new position – opposed to the report, but supporting an Israeli inquiry into possible transgressions suggested in it – is born of tactical, not moral, principles.
I think J Street and its former Clinton White House operative are playing the old triangulation game, trying to navigate down a narrow channel between the Israeli right and progressive left. When in Israel it tacks right, when in Washington or Seattle it tacks left. Jeremy Ben Ami told me himself that J Street, while in favor of the Berman Iran sanctions bill, was not in favor of sanctions yet and in fact was in favor of diplomatic engagement. You can’t have it both ways, Jeremy. Let’s be clear, there are two roads here and only two: one leads toward military confrontation and the other toward a comprehensive negotiated solution of the nuclear impasse. If you favor the position Jeremy espoused in Jerusalem you’re on the road to war. You may swear you’re not and not even intend for things to end in military adventure. But you are. If you try to be on both roads at the same time you’re nowhere at all.
As for J Street’s enunciated position on Goldstone, it’s even worse than the sanctions position. J Street actually favors our government interposing itself between Israel, UN consideration and ultimately international justice. Yes, I hear Jeremy say: “But we do favor an independent Israeli investigation.” Yes, and I favor the elimination of poverty in our time. But will it happen? Jeremy, Bibi and I all know there will be no credible Israeli investigation of Gaza. There simply will be none. So J Street’s position on Goldstone is to all intents and purposes a nullity. It is a recipe for sweeping potential war crimes under the carpet. It is also guaranteed to render J Street AWOL on an important moral issue facing Israel and modern Zionism: can Israel exist on a foundation of moral depravity that is the Occupation and concomitant wars like Gaza and Lebanon? I say no. J Street says, hold on a second–maybe. That is simply unconscionable for a truly progressive Jewish peace group. Goldstone deserves better.
I’m sorry, but on this I part company with J Street. Theirs is a big mistake. A sacrifice of moral principle for temporary tactical advantage. You can only do this so many times before your moral chits are exhausted. I hope J Street doesn’t make a habit of this sort of moral temporizing. I note that even Steve Rosen and Daniel Pipes are writing positively about Barack Obama’s collapsing Israel policy. I’d hate to see J Street become collateral damage in this looming disaster.