J Street Needs Another Lane

This is cross posted by David Suissa

I was watching the J Street convention on their Web site the other day, and it reminded me a little of those underground meetings among religious settlers in the West Bank. That is, a constant flow of red meat served to the fervent and the like-minded.

In the case of J Street, this red meat can be boiled down to this: It is really, really, really, really important that Israel reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

One fervent speaker after another came down from the mountaintop to convince an already convinced audience of how really important this goal is. Whether it was Peter Beinart fearing for Israel’s democratic future, or Rabbi David Saperstein appealing to our highest Jewish values, or Sara Benninga finding her meaning in life by leading weekly demonstrations at Sheikh Jarrah, the theme was the same: Israel must make peace and end the occupation as soon as possible.

And who’s the bad guy in all of this? Take a guess. With the J Street crowd, the underlying assumption is always that the major obstacle to peace is Israel. Palestinian obstacles to peace? They’re as likely to be mentioned at a J Street convention as Avigdor Lieberman is of being invited.

Sometimes I wonder what it must feel like after three days of one of these J Street smugfests. How do you go from feeling absolutely certain that you are right to feeling even more certain that you are right?

I remember when Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun invited me to speak several years ago at one of their peace conventions in New York City. I was glad that he did, because it gave me a chance to ask a few hundred peaceniks a question they probably rarely hear: “When is the last time any of you woke up in the morning and asked yourself: ‘What if I’m wrong?’ “

No one raised their hand.

Yes, compassion is a great Jewish virtue, I told them, but so is humility. I confessed that, initially, I didn’t believe in the Oslo peace process (because I didn’t trust Arafat), but I asked myself, “What if I’m wrong?” and I ended up going along with it. So, I suggested, “What would happen if you all asked yourselves that same question?”

When I look at J Street now, I see some obviously good intentions (“We want peace!”), but not much humility. What comes across more than anything is an orgy of ideological self-confirmation toward pressuring Israel.

That’s disappointing. I expect more from open-minded liberals who claim to care for the “other side.” For one thing, I expect they would also care for the other side of an argument.

Have they studied, for example, the Palestinian Authority’s global campaign to undermine and demonize Israel and the corrosive effect this has had on the peace process? Have they studied why the Palestinians have consistently rejected offers to end the occupation and make peace with a Jewish state?

As a “pro-Israel” group, why hasn’t J Street pressured the Palestinians to end their glorification of terror and indoctrination of Jew-hatred that has made so many Jews reluctant to take more risks for peace?

As a “pro-peace” group, why did they not pressure the Palestinians to return to the peace table during the first nine months of a unilateral 10-month settlement freeze which the Obama administration itself lauded as “unprecedented”?

To balance their countless speakers who advocate putting more pressure on Israel, why haven’t they included speakers like Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, who has documented the continued anti-Semitic incitement in official Palestinian media, or an award-winning Mideast journalist like Khaled Abu Toameh, who makes a powerful case that the Palestinian Authority’s primary interest is not to make peace with Israel – but to delegitimize the Jewish state?

If the goal is to bring together two sides, isn’t it important to scrutinize both sides?

Why doesn’t J Street bring in experts to explain the danger of Hamas taking over a Palestinian West Bank and pointing 10,000 rockets at Israel’s nuclear installations, potentially creating a catastrophic meltdown in the Jewish state? Talk about fearing for a country’s democratic future.

J Street’s relentless focus on pressuring Israel isn’t only unfair, it’s also remarkably ineffective. A couple of years ago, Palestinian and Israeli leaders were negotiating directly as a matter of course. Now, in the face of the enormous and single-minded global pressure on Israel, Palestinians are negotiating in international forums on how best to demonize Israel. They won’t even consider talking to Israel until it commits to freezing all construction in disputed territory, including, I presume, freezing any renovation of the restrooms at the Western Wall.

We’ve seen that the greater the pressure on Israel, the faster the cockier-than-ever Palestinians have run away from the peace table. J Street’s reaction to all this is to bring 2,000 people together in Washington, D.C., to put even more pressure on Israel and urge the Obama administration to do the same.

In other words, after two years of generating bumper-to-bumper traffic on the failed road called “let’s pressure Israel,” J Street has decided that the best thing to do is to attract even more traffic to that road.

Maybe they ought to consider adding another lane to their congested highway and calling it “Let’s pressure the Palestinians to stop undermining Israel and return immediately to the peace table.”

In Los Angeles, we would call that the carpool lane.

22 replies »

  1. They are infected with a huge inferiority complex, which they strain to eradicate by their craven posturings to Israel’s enemies.

    It’s as simple as that.

  2. LOL – When has a settler ever asked himself if he is wrong ?
    When has a J-Street member burned tires and blocked roads because the govt enforced the law ?
    What is the Likud policy on the future of the West Bank ?
    Why must the “only democracy in the Middle East” follow a policy dictated by rabbis who simply do not care about the consequences of their actions because they speak directly to God ?
    Remember how Israel rebuffed Sadat’s peace initiatives before 73 – only to accept the same offer in 79 – after 2,400 were killed. Who asked themselves what if I am wrong before 73 ?


  3. “And who’s the bad guy in all of this? Take a guess. With the J Street crowd, the underlying assumption is always that the major obstacle to peace is Israel. ”

    Which reflects the view of about 98% of the world’s population.

    Maybe it is YOU who should ask yourself if you are wrong.

  4. diss
    Which reflects the view of about 98% of the world’s population.

    Could you prove this assertion (please don’t quote The Aryan Nation, Stormfront, Press TV or Electronic Intifada). Maybe you have heard this from Nadia of the Manchester Uni ME department?

  5. MindofCrap.

    The question is — when is a settler not a settler?
    When it’s anyone other than a Jew.

    Are the Arab immigrants who poured into Palestine settlers?
    If not, why not?

  6. diss.

    Since when is the majority view necessarily the correct one?

    Where’s your evidence that 98% of the world’s 7 billion population thinks Israel is wrong?

  7. Actually, this is a good article. It isn’t based on numbers pulled out of thin air and historical revisionism about Anwar Sadat, which is the main reason it has found some critics, as well as the main reason it’s worth reading.

  8. MTC – do you ever feel the slightest bit uncomfortable regarding your penchant for making broad, sweeping, stereotypical statements about the ‘settlers’ you so obviously dislike?
    All 300,000, or however many, are apparently just one homogeneous mass of deeds and opinions to you.
    The only criteria worth relating to as far as you are concerned, it seems, is place of residence.
    Where I come from, pre-judging people or assigning them characteristics or opinions because of specific characteristics (colour, religion, race, nationality etc.) is called bigotry.
    What is it termed in your neck of the woods?

  9. mind of crap and diss

    what’s your solution? i cannot think of any country in the world that, dealt the same hand, would have behavedbetter than israel has.

    This piece poses entirely reasonable rhetorical questions. by rubbishing it you expose yourselves as hypocrites

    I don’t know about 98 percent, but there are certainly too many mean spirited folk who can tolerate jews well enough when they are being slaughtered but find it hard to stomach them when they dare to stand up for themselves.

  10. Does it really matter what the rest of the world thinks? in the end it is up to the negotiating parties (plural) who have to live with the final settlement. That everyone else is happy, does not mean that the parties to the negotiations are satisfied and that the agreement will stick.

    On another note, my college son went to an open lecture about recent events in Egypt(required for the class which he was taking—-he is in fact a mathematics major). The speaker during the course of the presentation alluded to the I/P conflict and failure by Israel to commit to a resolution as somehow being responsible for the chain of events leading to unrest in the Middle East. More than one student stood up to confront him, he ignored their position and moved on. The following day in my son’s class several of the students confronted the Professor re: to the guest speaker and the Professor said(I kid you not), that the speaker, really didn’t mean what they were saying, a matter of interpretation! Suffice it to say the students were not impressed and let this Prof know how they felt, don’t mess with math majors!

  11. Sarah Jane, You should welcome sparring with MindOfCrap and diss-entery and the rest of the axis of evil.

    They help us sharpen our debating skills.

    As long as islamofascists are at war with people all over the world, Mumbai India massacre for example, Israel and all Infidels will win.

    Thank God Israel is not the unarmed Jews of WW2 nazi filth infested europe.

  12. “there are certainly too many mean spirited folk who can tolerate jews well enough when they are being slaughtered but find it hard to stomach them when they dare to stand up for themselves”

    Zeitgoose, that says it all.

    And you’re also correct that no other country in the world would have behaved better than Israel does under the same circumstances. In fact, the vast majority would behave (and does behave) much worse. Including those we consider to be democracies worthy of emulation.

  13. The real problem with J Street is that it has put all its marbles on confronting the illusion of some AIPAC-style monopoly on Israel/Middle East policy. Most, if not all of its supporters are inspired by the belief that J street is an alternative movement to the traditional, “right-wing” policies of pro-Israel american groups.

    The REALITY is AIPAC’s mantra is fairly mainstream and consistent with general US policy. If anything J Street’s weak approach to Hamas and immature understanding of the Palestinian leadership’s intra-fighting is a major conflict with the US’s long-standing struggle against Hamas and isolation of it.

    J street supporters and mainstream leadership refuse to look at the facts on the ground, and instead yell at the sky about right wing jews and AIPAC influence.

    There is room for discussion about Israel policy but you can only say “I’M BEING SILENCED BY THE ZIONISTssS!11!!!” so many times before people start to ignore your complaints.

    with the latest soros revelation it is quite clear j street is far from pro-israel or pro-american.

  14. MindTheCrap [from the Linda Grant thread] quote: The comments that label every deviant as a Nazi follower, preferably with several scatological references, are enthusiastically applauded by the regulars. endquote.

    There is something opaquely peculiar about a poster who, while complaining about scatological references used by other posters, travels under the name *MindTheCrap*.

    Scatteredlogic perhaps would be a more appropriate name for this poster – to reflect his confused take on reality.

  15. “Which reflects the view of about 98% of the world’s population”

    1) Leaving aside the fact that this is a gross exaggeration, we should not forget that an overwhelming percentage of the world’s population either actively collaborated in the Holocaust or approved of its consequences.
    The very best that can be said about the U.S. is that if FDR had been in the SS and the nation had fought under the Swastika, she could not have done less to assist the drowning Jews of Europe. The world was completely wrong then and she is completely wrong now.

    2) I always have to smile when U.S. citizens talk about Israeli settlements. After all, the U.S., having been built on genocide and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale, is nothing but one big settlement. The Jews of Judea and Samaria and the Golan have an infinitely better moral claim to those lands than the “white” man does to any part of the United States (I would exclude the black man who was brought there in chains).

  16. Hoi Polloi, Add to that list of settlements/occupations, Australia and Canada (TRUE friends of the US), Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, the entire Spanish and Portugese speaking South and Latin America, the former Soviet Union which extends for the West, alllll the way to the Pacific Ocean.

  17. JStreet is attempting to sop up at one go all those don’t fit into the AIPAC format (whatever that is). They just don’t all fit in together. They’re funded by people who are basically against Israel (Soros) and so speakers like Barghouti (any Barghouti) seem to be more welcome than Dennis Ross, a man who really knows what has happened at negotiation. Strange, but talking about JStreet & negotiation seems to be talking of two different universes.

    They might have as members the kind of left wing Israelis who want peace but don’t want the settlements but I see no real evidence of them. Though I think that this is the kind of Israeli who identifies with them. There were no tweets indicating this kind of orientation at #jstconf.

  18. “They’re funded by people who are basically against Israel (Soros) and so speakers like Barghouti (any Barghouti) seem to be more welcome than Dennis Ross”

    Precisely. If J street is truly interested in influencing Israel policy in Congress, trying to discredit experienced and tested politicians who have had a real presence on the peace process circuit must be invited to speak.

    Inviting people who have NO experience and no first hand understanding of the Palestinian/Israel relationship shouldn’t be anywhere near J street platform organizers.

    J Street will get NOWHERE if they refuse to cooperate with the mainstream pro-Israel movement.

    those on the extreme right wing I probably laughing their ass off at J street. 50 congressman? LOL. 20+ years of strong, bipartisan support with 30 billion in grants to the IDF and J street thinks they can undermine this with 50 congressman?

    Good LUCK J street.


  19. As far as pressuring the Palestinians, I think that the unspoken thinking is that they (and other Arabs) are several hundred years behind the west in civilization, morality, all sorts of things, but that the Jews, when violating international law and engaging in constant harassment of the Palestinians, should know better.