Avigdor Lieberman Israel J Street Michael Oren

Obama administration takes J Street’s side in the culture war

Officials from two different parts of the Obama administration have now sent strong public signals to the Israelis that J Street needs to be treated respectfully. Will Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s bosses get the message? Or will they keep insisting that he snub and insult J Street and, by extension, the vast numbers of American Jews and other Americans who support its positions?

According to Haaretz:

Remarks by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, against the liberal Jewish lobby J Street were “most unfortunate” according to Hannah Rosenthal, head of the U.S. administration’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

In an interview with Haaretz in Jerusalem, where Rosenthal was the administration’s envoy to the Foreign Ministry’s Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, Rosenthal, who once served on J street’s board of directors, said she opposes blurring the lines between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel…

…Rosenthal, who also served on the board of directors of left-wing group Americans for Peace Now, said she believed Oren “would have learned a lot” if he had participated in J Street’s conference.

“I came away realizing what a generational divide there is and I don’t know how it is in Israel. Young people want to be part of the discussion, they feel they have fresh ideas and they feel that we have to end the stalemate,” she said.

Rosenthal strongly believes that new and different voices need to be heard regarding Israel in the American Jewish community.

“We need to have as many people coming together to try and put an end to this crisis, the matzav [situation] can not continue – it’s unacceptable and that’s why I always paid my membership to AIPAC, but I have always paid my membership to Americans for Peace Now – because they all need to be supported and they all need to be at the table.”

Her remarks sent the same message as the one conveyed by Obama’s National Security Advisor, General James Jones, who gave the keynote address at the J Street conference and pointedly stated that the administration would be there the next time J Street convened.

Oren probably wishes he were not caught in the crossfire of an American Jewish culture war, in which some of the same right wingers who panned J Street came out against Hannah Rosenthal’s appointment, calling her an “anti-Israel lobbyist.” While my previous post came down hard on the Ambassador, he is a government employee and is clearly not a free agent in this matter.

Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Ministry is trying to step up efforts to make Israel’s case to the world and win over those who are hostile to the Jewish state. It ought to give its ambassador the green light to stop fomenting hostility within a segment of the American Jewish community that is friendly to Israel, and within the American government itself.

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