The Garbanzo Annex

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The only thing J Street got right

I have just returned from a showing of the film The J Street Challenge: The Seductive Allure of Peace in our time. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Here is the trailer:

The film made a lot of good points about J Street’s ideology (“they couldn’t sell their ideas in Israel, so they imported them into America”), the psychology of its appeal, especially to young Jews, and its dishonesty. I’ve written quite a lot about J Street in FresnoZionism.

I live (until the beginning of August, when my wife and I return to Israel after 26 years) in a metropolitan area of about 500,000 people, in which there are fewer than 1000 Jewish families. I am used to being told that I’m the first Jew someone has met, although I neveroffer to let them touch my horns.

You have no idea what ‘apathetic about Jewish issues’ means until you have seen my town. There is a Reform temple of about 350 families, a Conservative shul with about 40, and a smallish Chabad house. When I first suggested that the local Jewish Federation should show the film, several people asked me “what’s J Street?”

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But Ben-Ami’s shtick wears thin. In suggesting that those who challenge J Street’s positions are intellectually incompetent, he does not live up to the very standards he purports to promote. He does not debate the substance of arguments. Instead, he smears his opponents by calling them names so he won’t have to address the issues. Ben-Ami portrays those who object to his musings as evil people who must be censored and whose ideas must not be considered.  He imagines that his own opinions are inherently superior and displays prejudicial intolerance for the views of others. This is fascism and it is unacceptable.

J Street engages in the tactics its founders claim to eschew. This is why we have an aversion to the organization. We are less concerned with its official policies (regardless of how utterly ludicrous they are) and more disturbed by its members’ deliberate feigning of victimhood all while they harass those who disagree with its policy prescriptions. The notion that J Street alone possesses all the right answers and that dissenting naysayers are to be perceived as a threat to the Jewish people illustrates just how hot the air is that fills all of Ben-Ami’s sanctimonious talk about refraining from “calling us [J Street] names because one doesn’t agree with us.”

We have a phrase for your scam, Mr. Ben-Ami.  Pot. Kettle. Black.

According to its website, J Street has no problem engaging with Hamas since “one makes peace with one’s enemies not one’s friends.” Thus,  J Street is willing to engage in dialogue with a genocidal Islamist internationally recognized terrorist organization that calls for the annihilation of all Jewry,  hangs homosexuals in the public square, and perpetrates human rights abuses against women. But God forbid people should ever speak to a 21-year-old junior at Brandeis University who commits the egregious crime against humanity  by blogging about politics.

The absurdity would be comedic if it wasn’t so morally reprehensible.

One thing is certain. Because of its clear disregard for human rights as well as its shameful adoption of bullying tactics to silence its critics, J Street has no authority to dictate who should and should not be spoken to.  If it sincerely desires to stand for the values it claims to represent–”Peace” “Israelis” and “Palestinians”—it would behoove J Street to not promote organizations that engage in murder, anti-Jewish, and anti-Arab activity.

In the meantime, it is time to end this hypocrisy. People’s lives are literally at stake.

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Making no substantive demands on the Arabs, J Street blames Israel alone for the breakdown in negotiations between Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority. Claiming to support Israel’s right to self-defense, J Street since its founding has opposed every measure Israel has taken to defend its citizens. It is against the security barrier that has kept suicide bombers at bay. It opposed military action to stop Hamas’s bombardment of the Negev. It abandoned Israel in the face of the Turkish flotilla frenzy. And it had to be dragged kicking and screaming to embrace even mild congressional sanctions against Iran.

J Street professes to oppose the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. In practice, it has partnered with BDS proponents and shown no scruples about aligning itself with the vociferously anti-Zionist U.S. Council of Churches. Far from repudiating Judge Richard Goldstone’s lawfare campaign to enfeeble Israel’s right to self-defense, J Street staffers actively promoted Goldstone’s appearances in Congress. The organization has even provided cover for the crusade to delegitimize Israel by the UN’s so-called “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.”

In fact, one is hard put to discern any policy differences whatsoever between the stated positions of J Street and the Palestinian Authority or the PLO. Both J Street and the PLO oppose any and all Jewish presence beyond the pre-June 1967 borders; like the PLO, moreover, J Street brazenly prodded the Obama administration not to veto the recent UN Security Council resolution branding as illegal any Jewish presence whatsoever over the Green Line—metropolitan Jerusalem included. Both the PLO and J Street (through its partner, the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement) want to abolish the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund. Both oppose Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

These positions—they are only a representative sample—may help explain why J Street advocates that the U.S. impose a solution in the Middle East. How else, after all, are the demands of the PLO concerning boundaries and the return of all Palestinian refugees to be met? The same positions may also explain why the PLO ambassador in Washington was glad to address J Street’s just-concluded conference while Israel’s ambassador declined.

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In my opinion, based on the new film, “J Street Challenge”, which was premiered last night in Miami, Jeremy Ben-Ami may be a far more dangerous and morally problematic traitor to his people than were any of the Judenrat leaders during the Shoah. I say this because no one is threatening Ben-Ami with imminent death (each kapo and judenrat leader was death threatened while in captivity). Ben Ami lives in the United States and is a free man.

Yet, in classic Orwellian style, he presents his organization as both “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” when he is neither. He condemns Israel at every turn and he does so in an era when Israel is under existential siege and a Second Holocaust is fully underway in slow motion. Jews are being blamed for and physically attacked outside of Israel because of Israel’s alleged “apartheid” and “occupation” policies. Israeli civilians are also being attacked—blown up, knifed—inside Israel proper.

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-Ben-Ami is up front. He wishes to dismantle organized Jewry entirely and replace all structures with J Street. And J Street wants America to dictate to Israel the terms of surrender. Ben-Ami comforts the cowardly and the assimilated, he supports liberalism as if it were orthodox Judaism; cleverly, he says “we make a mistake when we tell (our) children that they have to check their Jewish values at the door of Zionism”—as if Zionism is not a Jewish value or as if it opposes Jewish values.

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eretzyisrael:

The Hillel chapter at Swarthmore College recently rejected the guidelines of Hillel International which state, in part:

“Hillel will not partner with, house or host organizations, groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice: Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders.”

Based on that controversy, Hillel’s CEO and President Eric Fingerhut has called for a review of how his organization’s national 2010 guidelines will be applied to Hillels on college campuses around the country and talked about welcoming other points of view such as those of the faux pro-Israel organization, J-Street.

In 2010, J Street received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from Arab- and Muslim-Americans, according to the Federal Election Commission filings cited by the Jerusalem Post, as well as money from individuals connected to Palestinian and pro-Iranian advocacy groups. 

In the same year, J Street sent out a mass e-mail opposing a bipartisan push in Congress for tougher sanctions on Iran: “On Iran, the President is promoting tough, direct diplomacy to address concerns over their nuclear program, support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and threats against Israel. The President has made clear that the diplomatic road ahead will be tough — but the chances of success won’t be helped by Congress imposing tight time lines or a new round of sanctions at this moment.”  

In 2012, J Street hosted the book launch of Peter Beinart who had just published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a “Zionist BDS” campaign that would seek to economically suffocate all Israeli Jews who live beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Also addressing this conference was Mustafa Barghouti, a leading figure in the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment) campaign. 

During the most recent congressional campaign cycle, J Street solicited funds for congressional candidates who are openly hostile to Israel or failed repeatedly to support Israel (Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Lois Capps, George Miller, David Price and Peter Welch). And at the same time, they targeted for defeat explicitly pro-Israel lawmakers who don’t agree with its anti-Israel agenda (Charlie Bass, Judy Biggert, Frank Guinta and Joe Walsh).

 While I applaud Eric Fingerhut for taking a stand against the Strathmore College Hillel position of working with groups who wish to destroy Israel, his stance on J-Street is horribly naïve. And prospective Hillel donors should understand that stance before they send their checks to Hillel International.

 J-Street is not a pro-Israel group with a different perspective; it is an Arab-funded anti-Israel “wolf” in “sheep’s clothing.” For Hillel to tolerate it is an outrage.

While arguing for itself to be included in the “big tent” of pro-Israel activism, J Street in 2010 worked for the exclusion of Christians United for Israel. David Brog, the group’s executive director, asserted in a Washington Jewish Week Op-Ed that “J Street has made a series of false claims about CUFI policy and Christian theology” and “gone so far as to pressure public figures [including, unsuccessfully, then Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)] not to speak to our members.”
 
In 2010, Elie Weisel placed full-page advertisements in major newspapers criticizing President Obama’s opposition to housing construction for Jews in eastern Jerusalem. J Street countered with ads attacking Weisel.
 
In 2011, after the slaughter of five members of a Jewish family in a West Bank settlement, four dozen members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama condemning the Palestinian culture of hatred that “damages prospects” for peace and “encourages terrorism.” J Street lobbied against the letter.  
 
That year Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), learning of J Street’s call for the Obama administration not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that would blame only Israel for the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, said “America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J Street ain’t it.”
 
The pro-Israel tent is big. But, J Street’s glittering generalities aside, it’s not made of Silly Putty.

At this week’s meeting of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), J Street’s regional director said that in the event that war broke out involving Israel, J Street would not necessarily support the Jewish state.

In an open letter published in the Boston Jewish Advocate, Paul Sassieni, treasurer of the JCRC, states that J Street’s Regional Director, Melanie Harris,  “reiterated proudly that J Street would not necessarily support Israel in a conflict, but would weigh the circumstances.”

Sassieni asserts that, “[I]f, heaven forbid, war breaks out, the wise sages of J Street (and supposed military experts) will decide whether or not Israel merits our support. And this is an organization which claims to be “pro-Israel”! With friends like that, who needs enemies?”

“While there is a plurality of views in our community on many issues, there is a broad consensus that if attacked, we put our differences to one side and stand by the people of Israel unambiguously. J Street has put itself beyond that consensus,” the letter reads.

“It’s one thing to question the likelihood of success of military action against Iran - and we certainly hope and pray that sanctions and diplomacy will work - but quite something else to say that if a conflict breaks out, we would not unambiguously stand with Israel.”

“Shame on them, but at least the pro-Israel community understands where they stand. In Israel’s hour of need, J Street cannot be counted on,” concludes the letter.

J Street then refuted the accusation stating that the organization would support Israel in the event that that it would “end up in an ill-advised military conflict with Iran.” 

These posts, about J Street conference speakers who advocate anti-Israel boycotts and sanctions, are becoming an annual tradition. Last year the ostensibly pro-Israel group hosted BDS advocates from fringe left-wing Jewish groups, raising questions as to why J Street’s commitment to “expanding the debate” over Israel only seems to involve stretching the spectrum to include the anti-Israel side.

This year J Street is hosting the book launch of Peter Beinart who — will wonders never cease — just published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a “Zionist BDS” campaign that would seek to economically suffocate all Israeli Jews who live beyond the 1948 armistice lines.

IN COMPARISON to Schiffer’s double whammy, Barnea’s article on Friday was nothing special. But it was a representative sample of Israel’s most esteemed political commentator’s consistent moves to distort current events in a manner that adheres to his radical politics.

Barnea opened his essay with a sympathetic depiction of a delegation of five anti-Israel US Congressmen organized by the anti-Israel lobby J Street. Barnea then attacked Netanyahu and his ministers for refusing to meet with the delegation.

From reading his column, you’d never guess that the members of the delegation were among Israel’s most outspoken opponents on Capitol Hill. And from reading Barnea, you wouldn’t know that J Street is an anti-Israel lobby, which among other things, has urged Obama not to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for allowing Jews to build on their property in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria; lobbied Congress not to pass a resolution condemning Palestinian anti-Jewish incitement following the massacre of the Fogel family; and lobbied Congress not to pass sanctions against Iran.

What you would learn from reading Barnea’s article is that Israelis shouldn’t take heart from the overwhelming support we receive from Congress because the thirty-odd standing ovations Netanyahu received were nothing more than political theater.

The underlying message of Barnea’s piece was clear. Israel’s supporters in Congress are not really supporters, they’re just afraid of angering the all-powerful AIPAC. And obviously, if we have no real friends, then anyone telling us to stand strong is a liar and an enemy and what we really need to do is learn to love J Street and its anti-Israel Congressmen who share Barnea’s agenda.

It doesn’t matter to Schiffer and Barnea that the majority of the public opposes their views. It doesn’t matter that the government’s policies more or less loyally represent the positions of the public that democratically elected it.