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J Street's Last Hurrah?

At the J Street conference.

In a little over three years, a liberal lobby calling itself "passionately and unapologetically pro-Israel" appears to have either supplanted or co-opted other likeminded groups on the Jewish Left—among them, Americans for Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum, and the New Israel Fund. By any measure, this is a remarkable achievement, seemingly confirmed by the organization's just-concluded policy conference in Washington, D.C. The event drew 1,500 "pro-peace, pro-Israel" conventioneers, 500 animated college students, progressive rabbis, advocacy journalists, junketeering opposition Knesset members from Israel, and even a welcoming letter from Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima party.

Relevant Links
Kadima Split over J Street  Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post. A Kadima member of the Knesset laments colleagues who “do not understand the danger of supporting an organization that is working against Israel.”
Helping Goldstone  Ben Birnbaum, Eli Lake, Washington Times. J Street facilitated meetings between members of Congress and the jurist who accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in Gaza.
Doubts about J Street  James D. Besser, Jewish Week. The lobby has alienated Jewish members of Congress who are themselves critical of Israeli policies.
Clapping for Hate  Ben Sales, New Voices. “I believe that J Street and most of its base are pro-Israel. . . . But hearing them cheer for hate, I can understand those who doubt J Street’s love for Israel.”

One need not question the good faith of the attendees, most of whom may well have been unaware of J Street's real agenda and policy prescriptions, let alone its multiple ethical lapses. If they came convinced that they were bolstering a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, that, too, is a tribute to the artful political manipulation practiced by J Street's strategists, who have capitalized on the "fatigue" felt by many liberal Jewish Americans in having to defend unpopular Israeli positions to their social peers, on campus, or in the media.

But what, unadorned, is J Street and what does it advocate? In reality, it is the preeminent Jewish force committed to pushing Israel back to the 1949 armistice lines, no matter what the Palestinians do or do not do. As a registered lobby, moreover, J Street stands apart from other Jewish groups critical of Israel in its ability to raise money and give it away to political candidates who share its peculiar definition of "pro-Israel."

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.

J Street has openly relished the role of domestic enabler to the Obama administration in the latter's pursuit of policies whose net effect has been to harden the already intransigent positions of the Palestinian Authority. But circumstances have changed, and there is reason to think that this year's conference may be the group's last hurrah. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), a leading congressional dove, has acrimoniously broken with J Street, and he is not alone among his disillusioned peers; Taglit-Birthright, which brings young Jewish Americans to experience the state of Israel first-hand, has rebuffed the lobby's request to co-sponsor a trip; and even journalists sympathetic to its professed aims have registered discomfiture at what they witnessed at the recent conference.

But it is the momentous upheaval in the Arab world, along with Iran's ramped-up quest for the atom bomb, that may prove to be J Street's ultimate undoing. To anyone with eyes to see, no amount of wordplay may suffice any longer to make the case that pushing the Jewish state back to indefensible borders is the "pro-Israel" thing to do.

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chaim on March 1, 2011 at 3:01 am (Reply)
Can't the west see how unstable Arab governments really are. If there would be an open and free election in the West Bank, Hamas would either win or have a bloc of votes so great that Fatah would not be able to govern. Then what does Israel do. The stable rule of Fatah of today is certainly going to be gone tomorrow.
Ellen on March 1, 2011 at 6:53 am (Reply)
The good thing about the self-hating Jewish left is that they have a suicidal rate of intermarriage and a suicidal fertility rate. Time is taking its course and will obliterate this population by natural causes.

Think back to the 1960s for a nice comparison. How big was the annual meeting of Chabad emissaries? 0 people. How big was an OU conference? Not more than a few hundred people. Meanwhile, people like Noam Chomsky could draw thousands of Jewish leftists to his ranting sessions. Now look at the thousands who attend annual meetings of orthodox and proIsrael groups supported by the orthodox community (like AIPAC) and look at the one remaining Jewish leftist organization that is essentially a shell operation funded by George Soros.

Pathetic rear guard action is the operative phrase. Demography is destiny and they are a dying species for whom no one will say kaddish.
Independent Patriot on March 1, 2011 at 8:01 am (Reply)
JStreet was a manifestation of the Democratic Jewish Council to give cover to Obama and his policy of Israel-hatred. That it found a following among the wack-jobs and nutcases of the loony left is not surprising. What is sad is that any Jew who truly loves Israel and the Jewish people would participate in the demonization of their own people and negate the Jewish people's right to self-defense. How pro-Israel can you be when you applaud Hamas, think that the Moslem Brotherhood is simply misunderstood and that Hezbollah has Lebanon on the right trajectory. The fact that JStreet gives a platform for those who would destroy the only true democracy in the Middle East not only shows an ignorance of the true issues of the region - its become akin to a mental illness. At least the judenrat recognized that the Nazis were evil, they did not have them explain their "judenrein" philosophy in a Jewish forum and expect praise from the Jewish community.
Tzemah on March 1, 2011 at 10:31 am (Reply)
As usual Jager and sympathizers, your tone is entirely offensive and you routinely twist facts.

People can actually disagree with the Israeli government's policies - such as the way it mishandled the Turkish flotilla situation, its war on Gaza, etc...
and be Zionist and fervently committed to Israel's existence and prosperity.

I am, and I am quite well informed and not "deluded" and whatever other offensive adjectives you chose to employ.

This is entirely possible sirs,
without actually being anti-Israel or anti-Zionist, or a self-hating Jews or PLO sympathizers or intermarried etc...

This is called democracy, I would like to welcome you to its ranks, but I am not entirely sure you belong there, since you only recognize the legitimacy of your own positions.
Independent Patriot/Elise on March 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm (Reply)
Tzemah- perhaps it is you who needs a lesson in democracy. Democracy is the right to speak one's mind, it does not mean that anyone listening has to respect your opinion. You sound like a whiny child.

Oh and by the way, when you support those who are antisemitic whether it's the BDS movement, Code Pink, the UN, HRW or take money from that Nazi collaborator Soros who never met an anti-Israel organization that he didn't fund, you are not a Zionist and definitely not committed to Israel's survival no matter what you want to tell yourself.
Mannie Sherberg on March 1, 2011 at 12:39 pm (Reply)
Todah rabah to Ellen for a perceptive -- and wholly accurate -- post. The self-hating Jewish left -- to use her apt nomenclature -- is proving the author of its own annihilation. What began as "progressive" self-worship -- the ultimate form of idolatry -- has, in the case of its Jewish adherents, degenerated into self-loathing. Ignoring the commandment to "choose life," the Jewish left has instead chosen to cast its lot with the jihadi death cult. Of many, many sad Jewish stories, this is one of the saddest.
Shraga on March 1, 2011 at 12:53 pm (Reply)
The first clue that this is not 1965 is that this "think" piece was published on the Web.
Danny Nu on March 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm (Reply)

Yes, honorable people can disagree.

But you accuse Jager, who does his homework and who chooses words with care, with routinely twisting facts.

Please do the right thing, and cite instances, preferably more than one, where he has twisted facts so as to misrepresent what J Street has done.

Absent proof to the contrary, I am apt to think Jager has it right. At a recent Jewish learning conference I attended, J Street principals appeared to play fast and loose on the BDS issue, and when I pointed it out to a J Street higher-up, he reacted by attacking me, not addressing J Street's lending support to those whose aim is pretty much unarguably destruction of the Jewish state.
SW on March 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm (Reply)
The interesting thing about the long-march, Gramscian approach to that kind of cultural relativism which has created self-identified Jews who revere the Left in a god-like manner, while dispensing with Judaism's God, Torah, centuries of rabbinic tradition and more is that this group dilutes itself until it is merely a mouthpiece of the internationalist socialist movement among which one finds an overt loathing for Israel as it grows and matures, and for Jews as a totality of more than just approved Leftists. That this modern and withering Jewish Left can mount such a poor apologia for itself is evidence that its intellectual prowess wanes, alongside its demographic numbers.
Ploni ben Ploni on March 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm (Reply)
Two points:

1) Remember back in 1910 when 90% of American Jews were Orthodox and they had ten kids? Within two decades the majority abandoned Orthodoxy in favor of the many opportunities America offered. In other words, demography is not destiny. Economics matters. Orthodoxy in America and Israel needs to prepare for a collapse. When there are not economic advantages to staying in, your teenagers and young people will go elsewhere.

2) The International socialist Left created the State of Israel. Chabad opposed it. Most of Orthodoxy opposed it. And unless you agree with the Satmars, then stop ranting.

Shraga on March 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm (Reply)
@ SW - are you familiar at all with the history of political Zionism?
Ellen on March 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm (Reply)
Demography is always destiny, but sometimes demographic trends take twists and turns in totally unexpected directions.

You are right that the Orthodox in Eastern Europe were against Zionism and did not come to terms with the modern world. That is why they suffered the huge loss of loyalty of Jews to liberalism and leftwing causes, especially Labor Zionism. Once upon a time, Labor Zionism was a devoted JEWISH movement that put the Jewish component first and the socialist component second. Ben Gurion was a devoted Jew in his own way and would never have consorted with the Oslo gang if he were around today. He also very clearly stated that no one has the right to give up the claim of Jews to the whole of the Land of Israel, even if it is not practical to reclaim it at the present moment. That is a Jewish statement, not an EU proclamation or NYT editorial statement. He knew where his loyalties lay. And it wasn't with the ridiculous Socialist Internationale, no longer in existence.

What an irony we have therefore, with the unfolding of history. The Jewish left created Israel while the Orthodox (mostly) stood on the sidelines or condemned it, and now the positions are entirely reversed. As the old Yiddish saying goes: Man plans and God laughs.
SW on March 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Reply)
The political history of Zionism, of course, included idealistic socialists as the term was understood through the lenses of pre- and post-war socialism. But the National Socialists were self-declared socialists, as were the forms of Soviet and Sino Socialism socialist. The question suggests that not all modern Leftists know the history of European socialism, and the catch-bag term it once was. As an example, one socialist, Mühsam, declared in his tract that "society should be freed from the state," and that socialist cum poet was murdered by other socialists for whom the state was the means for socialism of its ilk to vanquish others. Fast forward to today, the various meaning of socialism are so cluttered and confused that many rather nice people think themselves socialist or chic, academic Marxists until the actually read the Manifesto, much less any of the founding documents and lectures of the Frankfurt School. Once done, many nice modern Leftists learn rather quickly that the deed to their own home is at stake. As to the history of Zionism, it was not to build a particular socialist utopia as a political state, for too many German Jews who escaped knew full well that that flavor of state socialism was the direct antithesis of early Zionism.

We can delve further into names, references and definitions, but facts remain facts. Political Zionism was a lifeline in a time when Jews sought their own home in a murderously hostile world, and the politics took many shapes and colors, words being what they are.

Now a question for Shraga: Are you aware of the import of your own question? Equating what was seen as Left with what passes for its sister today is a poor equation, indeed. But such a question serves well the post-Gramscian world view of scholars such as Zinn who have carried the torch of the wrong sorts of socialism, while finding plenty to resent in Judaism itself, as did their mentor, Marx.
Shraga on March 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm (Reply)
@ SW Bravo! What amazing sophistry!
Chaim in Miami on March 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm (Reply)
Mr Jager's sympathies are very clear: keep every hill top, no to negotiations, no to compromise and "Not One Inch." But I draw your attention to a front page article I saw in The New York Times back in the early 80s, when Menahem Began and Yizhak Shamir were still around. The reporter quoted an Israeli barber who in discussing his choice for prime minister said that "Everyone knows what the final peace will look like." And he did not mean Not One Inch. Peace will not come from a Not One Inch mentality. And it will definitely not come from those on the right (such as Ellen) who call people like myself on the left "self hating Jews."

I briefly watched the J Street convention today on simulcast. A point was raised that I think sums up JStreet, Shalom Achshav, Oz V'Shalom, and all other pro-peace groups: If the Palileaks showed us anything, it is that meaningful negotiations have been going on for the last 15 years. Thus, said a JStreet panelist, our goal should be to get the US Government, the European Union, the United Nations et al to enforce these negotiations and not play the blame game against Israel or the Palestinians.
LT COL HOWARD on March 2, 2011 at 1:33 am (Reply)
I am impressed with Elliot Jager … He usually hits the nail on the head. I have been circulating his materials to my associates in the intelligence community. After 30 years being embedded in the Islamic world I believe the following is true:
The glue that binds Arab societies is hatred of Jews.
A Pew opinion survey of Arab attitudes towards Jews from June 2009 makes this clear. 95 percent of Egyptians, 97 percent of Jordanians and Palestinians and 98 percent of Lebanese expressed unfavorable opinions of Jews. Three-quarters of Turks, Pakistanis and Indonesians also expressed hostile views of Jews.
Throughout the Arab and Muslim world, genocidal anti-Semitic propaganda is all-pervasive. And as Prof. Robert Wistrich has written, "The ubiquity of the hate and prejudice exemplified by this hard-core anti-Semitism undoubtedly exceeds the demonization of earlier historical periods — whether the Christian Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Dreyfus Affair in France, or the Judeophobia of Tsarist Russia. The only comparable example would be that of Nazi Germany in which we can also speak of an'eliminationist anti-Semitism' of genocidal dimensions, which ultimately culminated in the Holocaust."
SW on March 2, 2011 at 3:08 am (Reply)
Amazing sophistry? What a fascinating and completely uninformative ad hominem response. Uninformative, excepting to expose that shraga's gambit is not one of debate nor citation of sources and examples, but rather of name calling.

As to the notion of the international Left knowing what peace will "look like" if only enough force is applied to both Israel and Palestinians, how quite like other views of the use of force throughout history is this. "Enforce these negotiations" is an oxymoron, for negotiations which might lead to something lasting means rather the opposite from "enforce" and "force."

One notes that "force" has the operative principle of those who would "enforce" peace as they historically have in the past by so many examples. In such examples with which I am familiar, peace was not the outcome, but rather its opposite.
LT COL HOWARD on March 2, 2011 at 2:08 pm (Reply)
As one of the military whose life would be endangered by any military action I am always appalled when a “pro-peace advocate” calls for “enforcement”. Currently, an outspoken opponent of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan called for the US military to intervene in Libya. (I do not debate the merits, or the pros and cons of this action. I just question those who qualified others to make sacrifices to satisfy their sense of “what is moral.”)

Israel should be particularly cautious of anything they give up in exchange for guarantees. Before Israel was attacked by Egypt the observer/peacekeepers were removed at the demand of Egypt. The Lebanese Army and the UN forces in Lebanon have permitted Hezbollah to rearm, in spite of US and UN guarantees to Israel that this would be prevented.

Any time the going gets hot, the peacekeepers are told to stay out of the way and then withdrawn.

The sad truth is that my Palestinian Associates and my associates from throughout the Islamic world have no intention of honoring any agreement. To them, any pause is a resting phase on their way to victory. One of my former students, now high up in Hezbollah ,went to great pains to explain to me that the saying “I'll see you tomorrow” means I don't have the strength or ability to take you on today, but as soon as I can I will… So watch out.

I do wish that the world was like the J Street people wish it were. But as a friend of mine said, “when the lamb and the lion will lie down together, I will place my money on the lion."
SW on March 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm (Reply)
When wolves and a lone sheep sit down to dine, the only remaining question is mint jelly or chutney?

The simple truth is that Israel as a state seeks its survival, at all costs as necessary.

This makes J Street oddly unimportant to Israel, but oddly important to political parties looking for nothing more profound than money, money and money. Since many have found how much largesse the Arab Muslim world is willing to spread around, it is no wonder that there are those who happily pick it up.
Larry on March 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm (Reply)
Thanks to J-street prodding Obama to constantly badger Israel over "settlements", the Palestinians have been pushed so high up their tree that they can't get down now.
J-street has killed the peace process. Thanks to J-street, the Palestinians (who at least were talking with Olmert, though they rejected his generous offers) have abandoned the peace talks.
james on March 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm (Reply)
As an attendee to the most recent JStreet conference let me assure you all that JStreet is the strongest it's been in the past three years. The Arab revolts have given many of the young people at the conference a renewed fervor in the pursuit of peace that will not be abated.
LT COL HOWARD on March 8, 2011 at 12:19 am (Reply)
excellent posts, which might help wake up James and tother “idealists” who self congratulate because “they are seeking peace”… We call it suicide.

” why aren’t all Jews here?”.  The reason why is that many Jews pay more attention to what the Palestinians are saying to each other in Arabic.  For instance, they claim that they are going to wipe Israel and Israelis off of the map of Israel.  They encourage their children to murder Jews.
This is not heroic, but murderous.  It is not friendship, but enmity. It is not a future for Jewish and Arabic relations but their hope for an end to it.  J Street should open up its eyes and pay more attention to what the Palestinian Arabs are really saying.  They are singing Kumbaya to you in public while they are planning your demise behind your back.
Comment by Loretta77 on 3/07/11 at 3:26 pm

why aren’t all Jews here?” The answer is what most Jews fear (including Israelis, especially my friends who were previously lifelong labor supporters and voted for Netanyahu in the last election) is a repeat on the West Bank of what happened when Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon and Gaza. This area (West Bank) is truly a stone's throw from Tel Aviv, our main airport, Jerusalem and other critical areas of the country. While it is true that the overwhelming majority of Israelis and worldwide Jewry would love nothing more than a full peace, that overwhelming majority is also not suicidal.
Comment by Bill Bender on 3/07/11 at 11:24 am
Eric Roth on March 8, 2011 at 12:52 am (Reply)
Thank you for this quick primer on a strange, sometimes deceitful, and always disappointing organization. The birth, rise, and rapid collapse of J Street also illuminates the hopes and delusions of both "progressive" political operatives and mainstream liberal reporters.

At what point, will human rights advocates begin to critically look at the Arab governments and their oppressed people?
Steve Coplan on March 8, 2011 at 11:25 am (Reply)
Hi Eric - did you see the op ed by Sallai Meridor, former Israeli ambassador to the US in the Washington Post, expressing support for Hosni Mubarak? Are these the oppressive Arab governments that "human rights advocates" should spend their time critically looking at?
TOWERS on February 18, 2012 at 2:24 am (Reply)
I read Elliot Jager's piece with great relish--only to then discover that he was being serious. Long live the ability to tell the difference.
tessie on March 14, 2012 at 5:32 pm (Reply)
The J Streeters don't seem to understand that they are Jewish and Obama is not. As the world turns against Israel and the jewish people because of the intentions of Obama's rhetoric and policies, they and their loved ones will not be spared. Anti-Semites will not care that they were pandering J Streeters but only that they are Jews, and very foolish ones at that. Self-hating will not make you any friends. It has become a very dangerous world for Jews everywhere during the Obama years.
Jack on March 31, 2012 at 10:57 pm (Reply)
The Israel settler movement and its right-wing supporters in America are not much different from religious fanatics the world over--Islamic, Christian, Jewish. They all share primitive thought processes and distrust democracy because they think government should be subservient to religious law. In Israel, they have made the state unsafe. They think they are doing G-d's work, when all they have done is to keep up hostilities with the Palestinians in the deluded belief that Israel will annex the West Bank, which it never will. And of course, they are too busy praying to serve in the army but take welfare all day and night.
Beatrix on April 28, 2012 at 8:12 pm (Reply)
Islamists feel closer to the settlers because of their conservative religious beliefs than they do to any other Jews. In fact, if it weren't for the settlements, settlers and Islamists would be very compatible. Israelis and Palestinians were never close to peace. Arabs are not going to allow a renegade Jewish nation in their midst. They barely tolerate the Turks and Persians, who will nevertheless be future players in the area. Aside from the unlikely prospect of another great but vulnerable leader such as Sadat, it's going to take a canny American President offering the Palestinians something they can't say no to to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine.
LT COL HOWARD on April 29, 2012 at 6:01 pm (Reply)
Unfortunately, the only thing the Palestinians will accept Is Israel's head on a silver platter ---and that only if it is perceived as a step to completely eliminating the Jewish presence (100%) from the area. Any president who thinks he can arrange a deal (and most do) is a tool of Israel's destruction.
norman Lerner on May 15, 2012 at 11:23 am (Reply)
The article is pure fabrication. J Street sends out reps to various religious bodies and argues against these organizations' joining the BDS Movement. My daughter was one of these reps. At the last J Street conference, there were members of the Knesset, the former mayor of Jerusalem, members of the Israeli military, and a mayor of an israeli town discussing how his town in the Negev was being cut off from funds, funds which were going to the settlements. J Street has not proposed going back to the 1948 borders. Too bad Jewish Ideas Daily does not employ a fact checker before it allows such fabricated articles to be printed.
LT COL HOWARD on May 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm (Reply)
J St. lobbied the White House and Congress to accept the Goldstone accusations most of which have been proved false. They lobbied for tough love. I was there on White House staff. Behind the scenes they're damaging, even if observers don't see it.
Beatrix on May 15, 2012 at 8:26 pm (Reply)
Lerner's comments are so different from any that I've read anywhere else, I have to wonder about their accuracy and would like some verification of their authenticity. There are so many lies posted online about Israel, it makes your head spin.

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