By Matthew M. Hausman
Recently, members of both houses of Congress sent letters to President Obama in the aftermath of the Gaza Flotilla. One letter was signed by 87 Senators and the other by 320 Representatives, and both recognized the flotilla’s terrorist connections, called for inquiry into the Turkish IHH and its links to Hamas, questioned Turkey’s role in creating the crisis, and chastised the U.N. Human Rights Council for its knee-jerk condemnation of Israel. The letters supported Israel’s right to defend herself and acknowledged the legality of her naval blockade. Not surprisingly, J Street responded by sending its own correspondence to Congress urging the Senators and Representatives not to endorse the letters drafted by their colleagues. Since then, J Street has also called on the Obama Treasury Department to launch a criminal investigation into Jewish charities that support synagogues, schools and similar institutions in Judea and Samaria.
These are but two of the most recent examples of actions taken by J Street that betray its claims to be pro-Israel. Despite the pretense that it is part of the mainstream, its true agenda appears to be in lock-step with a political left-wing that despises the Jewish state, engages in historical revisionism, makes excuses for Islamist terrorism, and facilitates antisemitism masked as political criticism of Israel. And yet, J Street continues to claim that it supports Israel and is committed to her survival.
In a recent statement attempting to justify J Street’s call for an assault on charities that support Jewish institutions in the territories, Executive Director Jeremy Ben Ami had this to say:
J Street reiterates our ongoing concern over the intention and impact of American organizations and individuals that fundraise for settlement activity over the Green Line, including for many outposts that even the Israeli government considers illegal. Ongoing settlement construction is diminishing the chances of a two-state solution and endangering Israel’s very future as a Jewish, democratic home. Funding such activity is both irresponsible and provocative.
(“Statement on U.S. Tax Exempt Organizations’ Funding of Settlement Activity,” J Street Blog, July 6, 2010.)
This statement, however, does not justify J Street’s hostile call against Jewish charities. Rather, it highlights the organization’s bias, which falsely presumes that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a reaction to the so-called settlements and is being exacerbated by Israeli provocations. Consistent with the traditional left-wing narrative, Ben Ami’s explanation ignores the history of Arab-Muslim rejectionism and antisemitism, which existed for generations before the repatriation of Jews to Judea and Samaria after 1967. Likewise, it ignores the three wars of annihilation waged against the Jews before the existence of any “settlements” and the war of attrition that has always existed between hot flare-ups. Finally, it ignores that only Israel has made any substantive concessions in the search for an elusive peace.
J Street’s positions are antithetical to Israel’s security and to her continuity as a Jewish state. If the organization were truly concerned with preserving Israel’s “future as a Jewish, democratic home,” how can it look favorably on the “Saudi Peace Initiative,” which calls for the demographic destruction of Israel and offers no guarantee of recognition? How does it justify providing forums for those who falsely claim among other things that Israel was complicit in the World Trade Center attacks? How does it excuse the rote condemnations of Israel for allegedly creating a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza that has been shown not to exist? And finally, how does it rationalize lobbying against Congressional letters of support for Israel’s right of self-defense?
While J Street devotes considerable energy to chiding Israel for all of her supposed transgressions, it has never seriously criticized Islamist terrorism, acknowledged the existence of Muslim antisemitism and its doctrinal basis, or questioned the dubious historicity of Palestinian national claims. While it seeks governmental scrutiny of Jewish charities – similar to the way Jewish New Dealers lobbied the IRS to investigate the Bergson Group and other Jewish critics of Roosevelt during World War II – it has not similarly demanded the investigation of Muslim charities that give aid and succor to Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. Nor has it offered honest disclosures concerning the sources of its own funding.
The inequity with which J Streets doles out criticism bespeaks an acceptance of the revisionist Palestinian narrative and a willful ignorance of Jewish history and modern political Zionism. Such conduct is consistent with the left’s habitual repudiation of historic Jewish values and its tendency to find common cause with those who are antagonistic to traditional Jewish interests, beliefs and national aspirations. In what appears to be a kind of political Stockholm syndrome, revisionist thinkers such as Chomsky and Finkelstein are lauded not only for their rejection of so-called Jewish particularism, but for their philosophical embrace of those who openly advocate the destruction of Israel and the extermination of her people.
In light of J Street’s record of unbalanced criticism of Israel, its failure to acknowledge or rebuke Arab-Muslim rejectionism, and its willingness to ignore the Jewish historical record in favor of the Palestinian myth, the organization’s claims of support for Israel don’t stand up to objective scrutiny. Rather, in actual word and deed, J Street increasingly appears to be anti-Israel, or at the very least disdainful of Israel’s foundation as a Jewish state. Despite its hollow claims of fealty for Israel, the organization does not seem so very different from those Jews of past generations who championed assimilation and worked to facilitate it. The only apparent difference is that J Street proclaims that it supports Israel and Jewish values even as it advocates positions that are contrary to both.
The insecurity of living within host cultures is not a new phenomenon. Since the Babylonian exile there have been apostates who have rejected Jewish society and identified with their critics and oppressors. During the Hellenistic period, for example, many Jews turned their backs on the culture, religion and ethical precepts of their ancestors in order to emulate the Greeks, while during medieval times many submitted to baptism and actively sought to convert the communities of their birth. In 1239, Nicholas Donin denounced the Talmud to Pope Gregory IX, roused the fury of the Dominicans, and instigated a public disputation followed by the burning of Jewish holy books. Later, in 1509, the apostate Johann Pfefferkorn recommended the expulsion of all adult Jews from the German countries, the kidnapping of their children to be raised as Christians, and the confiscation and burning of the Talmud. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, many Jews were attracted to the radical political movements in Europe, often severing their connection to Judaism in the process and becoming openly contemptuous of traditional values.
Although J Street would argue that it is motivated by a humanistic imperative and genuine concern for Israel and is not rejectionist at all, it has made statements and taken actions that are clearly contrary to Israeli interests and traditional Jewish beliefs. Its acceptance of the revisionist Palestinian narrative, which is predicated on a repudiation of Jewish history, resembles in spirit the efforts of the Jewish Dominicans to force the Jews of medieval Europe to forsake their heritage and submit to the Church. However, whereas the Dominicans attempted to dictate religious belief by violent coercion, J Street attempts to influence political belief by artifice. J Street’s affinity for a political left-wing that so easily injects antisemitic stereotypes into any dialogue regarding the Mideast is far more indicative of its real priorities – regardless of how loudly it proclaims its Jewish bona fides.
Unfortunately, many American Jews are ignorant of Jewish and Mideast history, and thus lack the education to recognize the incongruity between J Street’s claims of support for Israel and its contrary actions. Too many secular, liberal Jews are willing to accept the fiction of J Street’s supposed moderation simply because President Obama anointed it as a major American Jewish organization – despite its smaller constituency and its philosophical deviation from the mainstream – and because they have come to believe in the two-state solution as political orthodoxy. Many politically secular Jews have no idea that the majority of Palestinians reject a permanent two-state solution, or that many of J Street’s supporters want to see Israel transformed into a bi-national state instead of a Jewish one. Those who naively believe in “two states for two peoples” are less inclined to recognize the contempt for Israeli sovereignty implied by J Street’s contradictory pronouncements and actions.
In order to expose the true orientation of J Street, it is necessary to expose the fiction underlying the most seemingly neutral part of its agenda – the two-state solution. If the liberal Jewish masses could be made to recognize that this paradigm has no historical basis or political justification – and if more mainstream groups like AIPAC could set aside their timidity and challenge the two-state farce head-on – the rest of the J Street illusion would fall away.
There is no dispute that a country called Palestine never existed, or that the Arab people who call themselves Palestinian were not recognized as a distinct culture or nationality before the 1960s. It was only then – after the Six Day War – that Palestinian nationhood was employed as yet another weapon in the Arab-Muslim struggle against the State of Israel. Although Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan held the West Bank and East Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, there was no Palestinian outcry or U.N. mandate calling for the creation of an independent state in these territories. Moreover, there were no historic Palestinian cultural institutions in the area that had comprised the original Palestine Mandate, which included Israel proper as well as Judea and Samaria.
Despite the Obama Administration’s pressure on Israel to engage in direct negotiations with Fatah, the Palestinian leadership has been open in acknowledging that it considers a negotiated political solution to be merely the first step in the phased destruction of Israel. Indeed, Article 22 of the original PLO Charter states that:
Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.
Interestingly, J Street has not demanded that Fatah abdicate these sentiments or renounce its stated commitment to employ a two-state political solution to facilitate the incremental destruction of the Jewish State.
Although the uninformed belief in a two-state solution may not necessarily indicate malice towards Israel, J Street’s model solution implicates the “Saudi Initiative,” which is based not on ignorance, but on cold calculation. Among other things, the Saudi plan calls for Israel to retreat to indefensible borders, cede all of Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem and the Golan, and recognize the Arab “right of return.” Israel would receive nothing in return for these concessions except for the promise of “normalization,” which guarantees neither formal recognition nor any acknowledgment that she is a Jewish nation in the ancient Jewish homeland. The historically unjustified Arab “right of return” is intended to destroy Israel demographically by displacing her Jewish majority with a flood of Arab immigrants. Thus, the Saudi plan provides nothing more than a surreptitious prescription for deconstruction. An organization that truly supports the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish State could never endorse such an insidious initiative.
Unfortunately, acculturated American Jews often don’t have the backgrounds to be able to recognize dissimulation. Because so many of them have been programmed to believe in a two-state solution, and because J Street claims only to support such a solution, their limited knowledge of Jewish and Mideast history renders them more likely to consider this position moderate. Nevertheless, J Street’s record of denouncing Israeli actions without condemning Arab-Muslim aggression, of failing to acknowledge the unilateral concessions Israel has already made, and of lending credence to the Palestinian national myth, all suggest an institutional antipathy for Israel’s existence as a Jewish State.
To a large extent, J Street’s ability to exert influence depends on the sympathetic leanings or the naiveté of its membership and target audience. The most effective way to unmask its real agenda is to emphasize the disparity between its claims of support for Israel and its actions. The logical place to start is by debunking the two-state solution. It is crucial to show how this paradigm is historically unjustifiable, and how the Arab-Muslim world promotes “two states for two peoples” only for the purpose of subterfuge while it simultaneously rejects the concept of a permanent peace with Israel. Only by fully dissecting the key elements of J Street’s platform in this way will it be possible to lay bare the cynical incongruity between its words and deeds.
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