J-Street is setting up strawmen and speaks for a small minority
5 Myths About Being ‘Pro-Israel’
By Jeremy Ben-Ami, The Washington Post,
Six decades ago, my father fought alongside Menachem Begin for Israel’s independence. If you’d have told him back then that politicians in the world’s last superpower would be jockeying today to see who can be more “pro-Israel,” he would have laughed at you. Grateful as I am for decades of U.S. friendship to Israel, I have to wonder, as the state my father helped found turns 60, just who is defining what it means to be pro-Israel in the United States these days.
[This is a curious statement. Few countries can be described as pro-Israel . Even those countries act to pressure Israel to not defend themselves and to give up her security. Secondly, the US has been at the forefront of forcing Israel to retreat from Judea and Samaria even though it was given to the Jews in the Mandate.]
Some purported keepers of that flame claim that supporting Israel means reflexively supporting every Israeli action and implacably opposing every Israeli foe — adopting the talking points of neo-conservatives and the most right-wing elements of the American Jewish and Christian Zionist communities. Criticize or question Israeli behavior and you’re labeled “anti-Israel,” or worse. But unquestioning encouragement for short-sighted Israeli policies such as expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank isn’t real friendship. (Would a true friend not only let you drive home drunk but offer you their Porsche and a shot of tequila for the road?) Israel needs real friends, not enablers. And forging a healthy friendship with Israel requires bursting some myths about what it means to be pro-Israel.
[On the contrary, we supporters don't remotely "reflexibly" support Israel's every move. In fact we challenge her all the time. As much as J-Street suggests this is true of AIPAC, the truth is that AIPAC leans to the left while not publicly opposing what Israel does. J-Street just leans more to the left. They support the ridiculous notion that friends should force Israel to capitulate. It is a lie to say that criticism of Israel gets you labelled anti-Israel. Only some king of criticism does, namely where a double standard is involved or where the threats to Israel are ignored. Much has been written about his and Ben-Ami should be ashamed of himself for suggesting otherwise.]
1. American Jews choose to back candidates largely on the basis of their stance on Israel.
This urban legend has somehow become a tenet of American Politics 101, which is why politicians work so hard to earn the pro-Israel label in the first place. But it’s a self-serving fable, cultivated by a tiny minority of politically conservative American Jews who actually are single-issue voters. Most Jewish voters make their political choices the way other Americans do: based on their views on the full spectrum of domestic and foreign policy issues.
Moreover, the American Jewish community still has a markedly progressive bent. Exit polls suggest that nearly 80 percent of Jewish Americans voted for John F. Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004; some 70 percent of them were opposed to the Iraq war in 2005, according to the American Jewish Committee; and polls show that most American Jews say they favor a more balanced U.S. Middle East policy that’s aimed at achieving peace.
[Once again, he is setting up a strawman. Everyone knows that Jews are joined at the hip with Democrats. No one can argue that Democrats have been better for Israel than Republicans have. So they are voting for the party regardless. But there is a minority that uses, as a litmus test, the attitude to Israel expressed by each party. I can assure you that while most Jews support the Democratic Party and will continue to do so, they do not back J-Street which wants the US to apply pressure on Israel for their own good.]
2. To be strong on Israel, you have to be harsh to the Palestinians.
Wrong, and counterproductive to boot. One popular way for members of Congress to earn their pro-Israel stripes is to come down as hard as possible on the Palestinians, by using economic and diplomatic pressure or giving the Israelis a freer hand for military strikes. That may satisfy some primal urge to lash out at Israel’s foes, but it does Israel more harm than good.
As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has argued, Israel’s survival depends on offering the Palestinians a more hopeful future built on political sovereignty and economic development. As long as Palestinians despair of a decent and dignified life, Israel will be at war. And as long as the only channel for the Palestinians’ ingenuity is building better rockets, not even the Great Wall of China will protect Israel’s cities from their wrath. Helping the Palestinians achieve a viable, prosperous state is one of the most pro-Israel things an American politician can do.
[The converse of this is to be good for the Palestinians you have to be weak on Israel. This is what J-Street recommends. History has shown that the Palestinians aren't interested in their welfare. They just want to destroy Israel. They receive the highest per capital aid and prefer to spend it on armaments than developement. They organize for hatred and war. J-Street would have you believe that they do so because Israel is harsh on them. They blame Palestinian terror on Israel. Palestinians have been trying to destroy Israel from the beginning. The fact that Israel is now harsh on them is due to their murderous intent. The West has been offering them economic development since Peres introduced Oslo based on a "new Middle East". They rejected it then and rejected it again when Israel disengaged from Gaza. Yet J-Street won't change their paradigm. Israpundit believes that only strength will bring peace.]
3. The Rev. John Hagee and his fellow Christian Zionists are good for the Jews.
Hardly. Are Israel and American Jewry really so desperate that we must cozy up to people whose messianic dreams entail having us all killed or converted to Christianity? Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, and his ilk believe that Israel dare not cede any territory in the quest for peace, claiming that the Bible promised all of the holy land to the Jews. In other words, Christian Zionists look at the trade-offs that Israel must make to achieve peace — and hope to thwart them. Then again, peace is not what these folks have in mind; they hope that Israel will seek to permanently expand its borders, thereby goading the Arabs into a war that will become the catalyst for Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. Do your ambitions for Israel extend beyond turning it into the fuel for the fire of the “End of Days”? Then Hagee and company are not — repeat, not — your friends.
[Since when do progressives worry about what will happen when there is a second coming. While some religious Jews, like evangelicals, believe that Israel shouldn't cede any land for religious reasons, they both believe, along with the 2/3 of Jewish Israelis, that no land should be ceded for security reasons. Ben-Ami proceeds on the proposition that trade-offs can achieve peace. That is wishful thinking. He favours embracing the the Saudi Plan. But no where is there any evidence that to accept such a deal will deliver peace. In a democracy, the majority rules. Since 2/3 don't want to cede any more land and certainly don't want to be forced to, he is ignoring democracy and simply wants to support the minority in Israel who want such pressure. Not for a moment do I believe that the evangelicals are resisting ceding any territory as a means to bring on Armageddon.]
4. Talking peace with your enemies demonstrates weakness.
You don’t need an advanced degree in international relations to recognize that pursuing peace only with people you like is pointless. Most Israelis know this; a recent poll in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz found that two-thirds of Israelis favor cease-fire negotiations between their government and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, exactly because Hamas is such a bitter foe. But in Washington, we self-righteously refuse to engage — even indirectly — with Hamas, Iran or Syria.
Hamas won the most recent Palestinian national elections in a landslide. Do we seriously think that it can be erased from the political landscape simply by assassinations and sanctions? Precisely because Hamas and Iran represent the most worrisome strategic challenges to Israel, responsible friends of Israel who’d like to see it live in security for its next 60 years should be engaging with them to search for alternatives to war.
[The appropriate question is given the Charter, words and intention of Hamas, does he really believe Hamas will abandon its goal if we talk to them. Hamas must be destroyed not talked to. Nowhere does he at all care for Israel's rights. Its tantamount to demanding Israel share its home which they have a legal right to, simply because Hamas is demanding it.]
5. George W. Bush is the best friend Israel has ever had.
Not even close. The president has acted as Israel’s exclusive corner man when he should have been refereeing the fight. That choice weakened Israel’s long-term security.
Israel needs U.S. help to maintain its military edge over its foes, but it also needs the United States to contain Arab-Israeli crises and broker peace. Israel’s existing peace pacts owe much to Washington’s ability to bridge the mistrust among parties in the Middle East. So when the United States abandons the role of effective broker and acts only as Israel’s amen choir, as it has throughout Bush’s tenure, the United States dims Israel’s prospects of winning security through diplomacy. The best gift that Israel’s friends here could give this gallant, embattled democracy on its milestone birthday would be returning the United States to its leading role in active diplomacy to end the conflicts in the Middle East — and help a secure, thriving Israel find a permanent, accepted home among the community of nations.
[His theory is that a friend should help Israel make peace which means should force Israel, against the will of its majority and government, to make peace. Wrong. The peace process exacerbates the conflict, just the opposite of what Ben-Ami suggests. If the world would stop forcing Israel's retreat and butt out, Israel will achieve peace in her own way. If the US insisted on all refugees being resettled in other countries, they would be serving peace. If the US supported Israel's claim to Judea and Samaria, it would serve peace. Despair doesn't lead to terror, hope does. So kill the hope.]
Jeremy Ben-Ami is executive director of J Street, a lobby and political action committee that promotes peace and security in the Middle East.
The New Republic just published a takedown of J-Street under the title, Street Cred?
Who does the new Israel lobby really represent?
It starts with
- Consider the plight of the American Jewish peacenik. With Hamas in control of Gaza, Ehud Olmert under investigation, and the West Bank government of Mahmoud Abbas shaky as ever, a negotiated deal between Israelis and Palestinians doesn’t exactly appear imminent. Meanwhile, closer to home, the likely Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, has said he won’t negotiate with Hamas. Under these grim circumstances, what’s a Peace Now type to do?
And ends with
Given that AIPAC and other similar groups already speak for most American Jews, and given that J Street’s founders are well outside the mainstream of Jewish public opinion, it’s far from clear what, exactly, the new organization can realistically hope to accomplish. Of course, if J Street someday surpasses AIPAC in membership and manages to convince the majority of pro-Israel voters in the United States that negotiations with Hamas are a smart idea, then it will rightly be able to accuse other groups of misrepresenting American Jews. But that is about as likely as crossing J Street on a journey from I to K.