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.

22 thoughts on “Obama administration takes J Street’s side in the culture war

  1. I am sorry to sound like a broken record but any organization that invites Israel-haters like Richard Silverstein, Phil Weiss and MagnesZionist to conduct even an officially “unofficial” meeting at their conference can NOT be considered “pro-Israel”. And it is NONE of the Obama Administration’s business to mix into something like this because J-Street claims to be a “pro-Israel” lobby, and so the Israeli Ambassador (who is NOT a “right-winger”) has every right to weigh into it.

  2. YBD,
    They didn’t “invite” those people. The bloggers wanted to do an event and J Street let them have a room. I was in that room. Some of what was said was objectionable. Some of it was instructive. They play an increasingly important role in forming public opinion and I thought it was important to hear what they had to say, rather than to be terrified of listening.

    More importantly, J Street focuses on American policy towards the Middle East. That’s what it’s all about. It is absurd to say that the Obama admin. should not support an American NGO that endorses most of its policies or should not get involved in a fracas that involves domestic American politics. Oren certainly “has every right to weigh in,” but he is weighing in on the wrong side…

  3. On the one hand, based on what he says,Lieberman doesn’t seem to care one whit about Israel’s image around the world. On the other hand, he has cranked up the foreign ministry’s “hasbara” (propaganda/pr) machine to “explain Israel’s case.” As a result, I think a lot of careerists at the foreign ministry don’t want to be careerists anymore.

  4. “J-Street let them have a room”. Did they have to let them have a room, Dan? They could have said “no”. Would they let HAMAS have a room? Would they let anybody have a room? They knew what the views of Silverstein, Manekin and Weiss were, so obviously they were comfortable with the idea of having them there.

    Regarding having the Obama Administration criticizing Oren’s attitude to a “pro-Israel” organization, which is inappropriate, it seems a lot of American Jewish groups agree with me:


    Ultimately, J-Street is an artificial organization that will not surivive in the long run. It is not an organization set up with the single minded purpose of “supporting Israel” by advocating certain policies. It was set up by by people who are anti-Israel like George Soros (and YES, he does have a lot of influence there, even if he denies it) who were interacting with anti-Israel people in Obama’s circle and then they spewed out a lot of propaganda claiming it is a “grassroots” organization, when it clearly isn’t…it serves the particular interests of Soros and Soros-clones who hate Israel and Obama followers. As I have said I am GLAD they openly had Israel bashers like Weiss, Silverstein and Manekin there because it shows what the organizers really think. It can’t survive because it combines people who really ARE pro-Israel but support policies of the Left, along with true Israel-bashers who support BDS and apologize for Arab terror. Such an unnatural combination can not endure.

  5. YBD:
    I see you have taken it upon yourself to decide who is pro-Israel and who is not. Is this a new division of labor: the ultra-Orthodox decide who is a Jew inside Israel and the national religious decide who is pro-Israel outside the country?

    You (and Bill) keep going on and on about Phil Weiss. Yet Yair (Avraham Stern) tried to make a pact with Hitler and Shamir never disowned him. Shamir continued to commemorate Yair’s death when he was prime minister. Maybe Shamir isn’t pro-Israel? Now I realize that as an enemy of the Jewish people Hitler just doesn’t stack up compared to the demonic Phil Weiss, but still he could have said something other than simply denying any personal involvement.

  6. Phil Weiss, Richard Silverstein, are intentional distractions.

    With a fair and sincere peace intention, their objections would disappear.

    The most that can be said about them is that they are a bit too intense about something that SHOULD be done, gullible even, but gullible to what exists.

    And, it does come down to the settlement enterprise. That is the single effort that indicates Israel’s intent, whether to make peace, or to inhibit peace.

    The current facts on the ground of improvement in Palestinian lives and institutions (that the radicals dismiss as some collaboration), will be the motive force for the confidence that constructs an actual Palestinian state.

    Only naked suppression will deter the realization of a Palestinian state at some point soon.

    Is that failure for Israel, or success? I say success.

  7. Tom-You have raised this red herring about Avraham Stern in the past. Do you really think Yair was “pro-Nazi” or “pro-Hitler”? You are aware that most Arabs sympathized with Nazi Germany and even today view Hitler as as a postive figure (there was an article in the Jerusalem Post about a non-Jewish American student who visited Cairo and commented to a liberal, non-religious Egyptian Muslim woman in a book store about how Mein Kampf was popular in Egypt, particularly among educated liberals). We call this “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” syndrome. The same was true in Latin America where anti-American and anti-British feeling was strong.
    Hitler wanted the Jews out of Europe (Stern’s contacts were before the Holocaust began with the June 1941 German invasion of the USSR) and Stern wanted to bring them to Eretz Israel. Almost everyone in the Yishuv opposed this, even the Revisionists and ETZEL.
    But your “progressives” ally Manekin-MagnesZionist himself said at his blog that “he would make an alliance with anyone who opposes the settlements”. Sharon made an alliance with the fascist Gemayel Falangists in Lebanon, Churchill and Roosevelt made an alliance with Stalin who had previously made an alliance with Hitler, Carter and Bush I made an alliance with Osama Bin Laden, Bush I made an alliance with Saddam Hussein against Iran, Israel supported Khomeini’s Iran against Saddam Hussein….the list goes on and on.
    That’s why Shamir didn’t disown Stern. Maybe he even disagreed with that policy, especially since he was pro-Soviet (you want to ask me any more trick questions about that or any other subject in order to “out me” on something? Go ahead!).

  8. Correction-In the article I mentioned about the doctoral student in Cairo, I meant to say that the “liberal non-religious Muslim Egyptian woman” told the student how her “liberal” Egyptian friends were admirers of Hitler, saying how reading Mein Kampf could teach them about how to deal with British Imperialism, Jewish Wall Street Plutocrats and the Jewish threat in general.
    Sadat admitted he was an admirer of Hitler and IIRC he contacted German agents during Rommel’s drive into Egypt. He even wore a tie covered with swastikas when he met Begin (I will be glad to privately E-mail anyone who asks for a copy of the picture-
    if you are interested contact me at:

    bar_kochba132@hotmail.com )

    The swastika tie didn’t bother Begin any and I’m sure you, Tom, are an admirer of “peacemaker” Sadat as well.

  9. “Hitler”.

    How about current choices. There are many lessons from the past, most of the relevant ones are of how to influence the present to realize good.

    Preventing evil is only a SMALL portion of our influence, necessary, but achievable without expansion.

    There is a positive side to this game, of the possibility of actual peace, of the actual realization of Torah in transforming the Jewish soul.

    I’m not sure why you reject the important for the unimportant.

  10. YBD:

    Thanks for a brilliant demonstration in dancing around the issue. The issue is that you claim that Dan is to be condemned because there is a link on his site to Weiss’s site and he doesn’t condemn him. Yet Shamir failed to condemn Stern who–it is well documented, read Heller or J. Bowyer Bell or Eldad on this point–attempted an alliance with Hitler. Stern saw Britain as (Am) Israel’s main enemy at the time that Hitler was preparing to carry out the final solution. What does that say about his judgement? Why don’t you question his pro-Israelness?

  11. Come on Rich, Your boy Phil ( Hitler should have finished the job ) Weiss would be on Israel’s side if there were peace intentions. A little disingenuous don’t you think.

    Dan, I think its interesting that your boy Hussein Obama’s anti-semitism pick, the first thing she does, the very first thing, is to come out against, wait for it, ISRAEL. What a shock.

  12. Tom:
    I am trying to understand your Stern point. Seems like it’s proffered for something beyond Dan’s innocuous decision (I think) to link to Weiss. Could you think of a more measured argument? Or are you like really into that genre of Jews into Nazis and therefore. . .?

  13. Bruce:

    I’m not at all into Jews as Nazis–in fact I regard this claim as a sure sign of anti-semitism, and despite Bill’s idiotic claim I’m not an anti-semite or even an anti-Zionist. My point is that Dan has his reasons for maintaining a link with Weiss’s site. He claims that Weiss sometimes has some interesting insights into the conflict that make it worth maintaining the link. Bill and YBD claim that this therefore makes him a supporter of Weiss. Since I’ve never gone to Weiss’s site and only saw Weiss at the J-Street Conf. for about ten minutes when he was speaking because I was attempting to hookup with Dan, I have no personal opinion about Weiss.

    Shamir continued to maintain his loyalty to Yair, despite Yair’s desire to form an alliance with Hitler. I’ve never claimed, contrary to YBD’s assertion, that Yair did this because he shared Hitler’s ideology. Rather Yair did this because he was a romantic nationalist with a very poor understanding of Israel’s real interests. No doubt Shamir maintained his loyalty to Yair’s memory and reputation because of their service together in Etzel and Lehi. And possibly because, despite his denials, he agreed with Yair’s move at the time. My contention is that if one argues that Dan and J Street are anti-Israel because of this tenuous tie to Weiss, than by the same logic Shamir should be considered anti-Israel because of his tenuous tangential tie to the Nazis.

  14. Tom-
    I strongly suggest you DO go look at MONDOWEISS. You will see he is one of the biggest purveyors of antisemitism in the world today (“see, even Jews themselves admit what they really are!”), not just through the numerous postings he and his pals make every day , but signficantly, through the comments that appear there and which are supposedly moderated.

    It is legitimate to bring up Weiss in a thread like this one which is supposed to defend J-Street, since J-Street, like Dan, grant legitimacy to Weiss. I never said that Dan agrees with everything Weiss says, but by maintaining a link to the site, he is also granting legitimacy to the foul things that appear there.

  15. YBD:

    By that same logic, by continuing to honor Yair, Shamir was granting legitimacy to an alliance with Nazi Germany.

  16. A funny basis of condemnation of J Street, that a speaker was permitted to do so there.

    Oren was actually invited, but refused to present his perspective.

    I distinguish between Phil and the posse. They are different, even though many of his posts suggest dangerous and/or repugnant conclusions to my mind.

    The presence of criticism in the world should not scare you, if you have backbone. With a sincere attempt to realize an actual reconciliation, Phil’s and Richard’s arguments will melt away.

    The missed opportunity of the present (Arab League proposal), is the greatest tragedy. All for the land-lust of territory.

  17. Tom-
    Your going on and on about Shamir and Stern is really becoming tiresome. First of all, you assume that I approve of Shamir’s attitude, if he indeed approved of Stern’s actions, which has not been proven to my satisfaction. Secondly, you yourself admit that Stern was not “pro-Nazi” but rather followed a mistaken policy. So what the heck is it that you want? Go back to asking me provocative questions.

  18. I don’t have passionate feelings on Dan’s decision to link to mondoweiss–although personally, I wouldn’t link Phil’s site to any blog of mine.

    Phil DESPISES Israel and attracts anti-semites.

    I think everything that comes out of his mouth is from that standpoint, so I can’t take him seriously.

    That said, I guess I can tolerate someone’s reluctant decision to link to him. Although the only reason for doing so, I suspect, is his Jewish heritage.

    Would he get the same time of day if he weren’t Jewish?

  19. I think it is most relevant for Israel to proceed to being a prospective partner for peace, rather than continually renouncing that responsibility.

    That requires first respecting Palestinian identity and hope for dignified self-governance, second creating goodwill on the ground (especially in response to sincere responsible efforts by the PA), third entirely restraining from expansion so as to make a viable Palestine impossible.

    Rubber on the road is needed, not rationalization for failure.

  20. YBD:

    By the same token you have yet to establish that Dan or J Street approves of Weiss. You just get upset when I turn your loathsome logic back on yourself.

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