J Street, the leftist lobbying organization that claims to be pro-Israel, is currently running a television ad that divides the world into two groups: The good guys who support the two-state solution, the end of the occupation and peace; and the bad guys who oppose these results and instead favor a continuation of violence. Pictured as representing the pro-peace position are President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and General Petraeus. Pictured as representing the anti-peace, anti two-state, pro expansion of settlements and pro violence position are Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Senator Lieberman, Malcolm Hoenlein (Director of the Conference of Major Jewish organizations), and — you guessed it — me!
Now Jeremy Ben-Ami, who runs J Street and who is responsible for the ad, knows full well that I support the two-state solution and peace, and have opposed Israeli settlements since he was in diapers. (I began publicly supporting the two-state solution in 1970 and began opposing settlements in 1973). Ben-Ami knows this because we debated each other at the 92nd Street Y and he publicly acknowledged that I support these positions. He knows that I wrote a book called The Case For Peace, advocating precisely these positions, which was praised by President Clinton (“the blueprint for stability presented in this book is among the best in recent years”), Amos Oz (Dershowitz’s The Case For Peace is an “enthusiastic voice for peace”) and other advocates of a peaceful resolution.
Why then would he falsely lump me with Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin when he knows that I fundamentally disagree with their positions? Why would Ben-Ami knowingly put out an ad containing such defamatory McCarthyism? (Joe McCarthy infamously lumped together liberals with communists, and progressives with Stalinists.) There are several possible reasons.
First, Ben Ami cannot tolerate the idea that there are liberals, like me and Professor Irwin Cotler of Canada, who support the two-state solution, the end of the occupation and peace, while fundamentally disagreeing with J Street’s general negativity toward Israel. As I argued during the debate and other occasions, J Street and I tend to agree on many substantive issues, but I publicly focus on the 80% of issues on which there is broad consensus within the pro-Israel community; whereas J Street focuses on the 20% of issues on which there is disagreement, such as the policy toward Iran, the Goldstone report and nuclear policy. It would have been fair for J Street to have an ad putting me on the other side of those issues. But for Ben-Ami to try to persuade the public that I oppose the two-state solution (as Rush Limbaugh does), favor expansion of the settlements (as Palin does) and oppose peace is simply a lie, and a deliberate one at that. No softer word will suffice.
The second reason why J Street decided to include me in their insidious ad is to appeal to hard left elements such as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and others who pay lip service to supporting Israel while condemning everything the Jewish state stands for. Ben-Ami is trying to build a large organization and in order to attract the hard left, he finds it useful to demonize me, because the hard left hates my liberal support for Israel. That also explains why J Street rarely if ever praises Israel, even when the Jewish state takes risks for peace. To praise Israel is to risk losing the support and membership of the hard anti-Israel left–and Ben Ami is not prepared to lower his numbers, even if he is required to distort the truth, in order to increase contributions and pad his membership list.
The J Street ad is fraudulent in yet another way. It suggests that I am saying certain words but the voice is not mine. Thousands of my words, in my actual voice are available on YouTube, but none of them have me opposing the two-state solution or favoring expansion of the settlements or opposing peace. So they just make it up by including a video of me with my lips moving and a dubbed voiceover, suggesting that they have me (along with the others) on videotape opposing the two-state solution. (All the videos have moving lips, but some include words actually spoken by the person in the video while others could be attributable to any of the people in the video whose lips are moving–watch it and judge for yourself!) If this were a political campaign ad, J Street would be in deep trouble. But this is even worse, because it is an attempt to deceive the public into thinking that mainstream supporters of Israel all favor the expansion of settlements and oppose the two-state solution and peace.
J Street continues to destroy its credibility by posting deceptive and divisive ads of this kind. If they are willing to mislead the public in this manner, they should not be trusted to tell the truth about anything relating to Israel. They are more interested in increasing their own power and contributions than they are in supporting Israel or promoting truthful dialogue. If they want to have any chance at restoring their credibility, they must begin to tell the truth. A good first step would be to remove this ad and admit that it was fraudulent. Otherwise, everyone will begin to understand what the J in J Street stands for: Joe McCarthy.