Uncategorized

J Street Co-Founder Daniel Levy: Israel’s Creation “An Act That Was Wrong”


This is cross-posted from the blog, Mere Rhetoric

Daniel Levy

Quite the few days that J Street had last week, what with all the admitting they’re foot soldiers in Soros’s anti-Israel army after lying about it for years and then trying to get ahead of the story by lying about it some more. Most of the criticism has focused on co-founder Jeremy Ben-Ami, who did not exactly fall on his sword and instead tried to hamfistedly change the subject. But it’s probably unfair to blame him for all of J Street’s failings, from rigging polls to being more anti-Israel than the Saudis to expressing fake confusion about Hamas’s intentions.

Per Eli Lake’s first story, Ben-Ami seems to have been the one who did most of the “misleading” about J Street’s fundraising, from furtively squirreling away Soros’s cash to opaquely raising 50% of the group’s 2008 money from a single foreign source.

But per Lake’s second article, when it came time to shuttle Goldstone around DC and peddle his endlessly inaccurate and venomously biased libels around the Hill, J Street delegated the task to one of the adults in the organization. It was J Street co-founder, advisory board member, and international socialite Daniel Levy “who accompanied the judge to several of the [10-12] parleys” with Congress. It was also Levy’s New America Foundation that hosted a high-caliber lunch for Goldstone with “a group of analysts and Middle East wonks.”

The Goldstone tour wasn’t the first time that Levy willingly served as a channel for de facto Hamas propaganda. He’s been a tireless advocate of pro-Hamas diplomacy, and sees the Iranian proxy as an integral part of Palestinian civil society. A few years ago Noah Pollak took him out to the woodshed for historical revisionism that seemed jarringly anti-Israel and borderline anti-Zionist.

If sometimes it seems like Levy doesn’t really think that the modern Jewish State deserves defending, it’s because he kind of doesn’t really think that the modern Jewish State deserves defending. You can be confident on that point because he said so himself – quite definitively – at last May’s Fifth Al Jazeera Forum. Levy was on a panel with Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor-in-chief Abdel Bari Atwan, NAF Strategic Program Director Steve Clemons, surrealHamas apologist and one-stater Allister Sparks, and accused terrorist Basheer Nafi.

Mere Rhetoric has obtained a transcript of Levy’s remarks. They conclude with him asserting that it’s “natural” for Gazans to want to attack Israelis on account of the ostensibly unbearable situation in the Strip or something, and with him nonetheless urging Palestinians to hold off on their genocidal campaigns because those aren’t very strategic or disciplined.

But the most ideologically pointed part was just before those musings. Levy quite explicitly revealed that he thinks that Israel’s creation was a “an act that was wrong.” Quote unquote. For good measure he added that “there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice” in Israel’s founding. Gamely, he also implied that had he been a diplomat in 1948, he would have been so overwrought at the incineration of six million Jewish souls that he would have deemed the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the ancestral Jewish homeland “excused.” Generous!

I’ve put the full quote, in all of its prevaricating nuance, at the bottom. Begin reading it for the risible claims of Hamas pragmatism, and stay around for the spectacle of a “pro-Israel” activist dismissing the moral basis for Israel as misguided and historically fleeting. In the middle, don’t miss how the only flavor of Zionism he’s willing to support is a kind that exists only in his mind.

In fairness, you can’t blame him for the “natural” violence stuff too much. There aren’t a lot of places you can argumentatively go after something as blunt as “an act that was wrong.” Once you’ve embraced the anti-Israel version of Middle East history – where the revival of the Jewish State was an ethically injudicious colonialist overreaction to the Holocaust rather than a centuries-old legally-codified international movement – you can’t then forcefully insist that Jews have an ethical right to live securely in the Holy Land. Because those two things mean the opposite of each other.

No wonder J Street wants to redefine “pro-Israel” to justify their rhetorically creepy “we beat up Israelis for their own good, and it hurts us more than it hurts them” campaign. The group’s directors are beholden to major anti-Israel donors. They have political skin in anti-Israel diplomatic gambits. And their personal feelings about the Jewish State leave them no room for speaking out in defense of Israel’s ethical legitimacy, legal basis, or strategic importance. So they end up shilling for Hamas in Congress. At least that’s consistent.

Anyway, to preempt the inevitable claim that Levy was taken out of context, here’s the extended quote:

“One can be a utilitarian two-stater, in other words think that the practical pragmatic way forward is two states. This is my understanding of the current Hamas position. One can be an ideological two-stater, someone who believes in exclusively the Palestinian self-determination and in Zionism; I don’t believe that it’s impossible to have a progressive Zionism. Or one can be a one-stater. But in either of those outcomes we’re going to live next door to each other or in a one state disposition. And that means wrapping one’s head around the humanity of both sides. I believe the way Jewish history was in 1948 excused – for me, it was good enough for me – an act that was wrong. I don’t expect Palestinians to think that. I have no reason – there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice in the creation of Israel.”

4 replies »

  1. So – what’s not to like about J Street and its main men? Levy, Ben-Ami, Soros … what a nice crowd.

  2. Reading the full quote, I really can’t tell what Levy was trying to say– the statement is something of a rorschach card depending on what you think J Street stands for and whether or not you like J Street.

    This has long been the problem with J Street: their communications and activities are so confused that I don’t even think they know what they’re doing or saying half the time.

    I’m not defending Levy, but based on the full quote, I don’t actually think that he was saying that “[Israel’s Creation was] an act that was wrong.” This isn’t to say he hasn’t put his foot in his mouth, I just don’t think he was advocating this position in the full statement.

  3. The other thing I noticed is that the Mere Rhetoric article is that it very heavily relies upon The Washington Times which, as someone who actually lived in Washington D.C. and visits frequently, I can assure you that it is a paper held in very low repute with regards to its journalistic integrity and is generally seen as a willing mouth-piece for the Republican Party– essentially the newsprint equivalent of Fox News.

    Furthermore, looking at J Street’s own statements what we see is not support for Judge Goldstone, but a clear denial that they in any way facilitated his visit to the United States.

    It doesn’t excuse Levy for not making any sense, but it makes it pretty clear that neither The Washington Times nor Mere Rhetoric are bastions of intellectual honesty or integrity. As you can see, The Guardian does not have a monopoly on journalistic hackjobs.