American Jews Americans for Peace Now Arab-Israeli conflict Far left Israel J Street Jewish identity

The kids are alright at J Street

It was Palestinian suffering that got me engaged with Israel and concerned about its future.

I had attended Habonim camp and had grown up in an ardently Labor Zionist household. But when I was in my twenties, I didn’t have much to do with Israel until the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon, in the Fall of 1982. Initially, I was appalled by Israeli officials’ denial of any responsibility. But my fury turned into something more constructive when I learned about a massive Peace Now rally, where hundreds of thousands of Israelis demanded that their government investigate the extent of Israel’s culpability and fire Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.

I began to investigate Peace Now and the Israeli left, to explore the nuances and complexities of The Situation, to participate in debates and conversations about the PLO and territorial compromise. I joined a group called Friends of Peace Now (the precursor to Americans for Peace Now). I became committed, in a way I had never been before, to the survival of a Jewish democratic state next to a Palestinian state. No doubt that will be unfortunate news to those who believe nothing about Israel is worth preserving, but it’s the news that’s fit to print.

This journey (described in a bit more detail in my book) was hardly unique. Over the years, I’ve seen others arrive at the doorstep of groups like Americans for Peace Now because they were mainly concerned about human rights and social justice. Initially, they didn’t feel many connections to Israel. Eventually, by aligning themselves with likeminded progressives in the Jewish state, they learned to see the world through the eyes of Israelis as well as Palestinians. And they developed ties to Israel that had not existed before.

J Street did not invent this process. But it has the potential to encourage it on a large scale, based on what was happening to the college students and recent grads who flocked to its just-completed, already-legendary conference in Washington. A small number of them were one-state advocates. Some were committed, left-leaning Zionists. My impression was that many of them were just trying to figure out what to think and how to feel, searching for ways to identify with a Jewish state and society that, to their peers, is a toxic and evil empire.

“I get inspired by the idea of a place where Jews are in the majority,” said a young man during the small-group discussion that followed the first plenary session. But he didn’t know whether “it’s possible to do that without oppressing another people.” I asked random young people what they were getting out of the conference. One said she had come because “progressive people” she knew were in the Palestinian solidarity movement and “I just kind of wanted to check out the liberal Jews, see what they were about for myself.”

Jim Besser writes of the “student faction that embarrassed J Street leadership with a debate about minimizing the use of the phrase “pro-Israel” in campus activism.” (By the way, it is not true that “pro-Israel” was deleted from the official description or platform of “J Street University,” as was reported in the
Jerusalem Post and then gleefully picked up in the vengeful right wing blogosphere. Here is an official statement that clears this up).

I don’t know if any of these young people will ever pass the “pro-Israel” litmus test that is imposed by the Jewish establishment. But there is a good chance that many of them will begin to swim in the waters of Israeli politics, understand the complexities of The Situation, then find themselves arguing vociferously with both the Israel-right-or-wrong types and the lefties who hate all things Israeli. In other words, they will join or stay involved with the Jewish community. That is a good thing. I, for one, want this extraordinary, ongoing experiment called the “Jewish people” to succeed.

In a post decrying the aforementioned, false report about J Street University, Michael Goldfarb wrote the following, astonishing sentence: “J Street is a left-wing group that supports social justice in occupied Palestine and a bunch of other dopey progressive ideas about the Middle East.” It is those “dopey” ideas that have a chance to salvage an entire generation of Jews, as long as J Street and its fellow travellers continue the kind of inclusive community-building that began at its conference.

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53 thoughts on “The kids are alright at J Street

  1. I didn’t agree with everything at the conference, but there was a nice minority that I felt in cahoots with.

    Some of the people I knew from other parts of my life – environmental work, religious stuff, my sister even!

    It was great seeing you there Dan. It feels like we are finally getting somewhere.

  2. Dan said:
    ——————————————–
    I don’t know if any of these young people will ever pass the “pro-Israel” litmus test that is imposed by the Jewish establishment. But there is a good chance that many of them will begin to swim in the waters of Israeli politics,
    ———————————————-

    What does it mean when you “swim in the waters of Israeli politics” if you don’t live in Israel? How many of these earnest young “progressive” idealists really have any understanding of what is going on Israel and the Palestinian territories, the history of Zionism and the Arab/Israeli conflict, what Israelis who have to carry the security burden have to face, etc?

    What I hear from the comments you quoted was “I like Israel, but…”, or “I’ll support Israel, if….”. In other words, conditional support IF WE BEHAVE PROPERLY according to “progressive tenets” . Thank G-d, Israel is able to defend itself now, but what if there is another existential crisis like that of the “waiting period” of 1967 before the Six Day War when Nasser announced openly this was going to be the final reckoning with Israel which was going to lead to its elimination? What are the “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” in America going to do then? Can we in Israel count on them?

    It is significant that the J-Street conference received very little support from the Israeli political system, EVEN FROM THE LEFT. Because as the Left knows, they can babble all they want about the so-called “peace process” but they repeatedly had to use massive force when the security of the population of the country was threatened, and the fact is that at least some of the supporters of J-Street have been demanding that these same Leftist politicians be put on trial for “war crimes”. So you see the problem.
    They also never froze settlement construction when they were in power.

    I think Jeremy Ben-Ami is becoming aware of the problem and that is why he is suddenly backpedaling on a lot of the “progressive” agenda on Israel and is now emphasizing the supposed “pro-Israel” aspects of their policies and why he said he is now aligned with the Kadimah party (which, of course, are the people accused by Goldstone and the “progressives” of “war crimes”). But that will make J-Street irrelevant because they will simply be doing the same as AIPAC with slight differences, and leave the “true believers” without a home, as was the case up until now.

  3. Meanwhile back in the real world, has opposed to the virtual reality of Dan Fleshler and Jeremy Ben Ami, hezbollah is firing rockets into northern Israel and Iran is cruising toward the bomb. And Turkey is switching sides. Just a few curves in the road to peace, love and happiness. But then again what do those idiotic Israeli’s know. You know, the people that actually live there. After all, they are a bunch of idiots who don’t really understand the situation. Right Dan.

  4. I wonder how J Street will revise this following bit of Clinton era history. They will have to because it highlights an ugly truth- for decades, peace with Israel has never been a real goal for the Palestinians. The very goal of J Street is anathema to the Palestinians and the Arab world.

    “In December 2000, the president had put forward his far-reaching set of parameters on all the final status issues. . . . He was even prepared to spend his last four days in office negotiating the deal. A desperate Barak was waiting for the call to a final summit meeting. Barak’s foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, was so keen to reach an agreement that he had gone beyond his instructions and informed Arafat that he could even have sovereignty over the Jewish Holy of Holies, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But at the last moment, Arafat reneged.”

    —Martin Indyk, Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account
    of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East

    http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/2009%20-%20Fall/abstract-Abrams-and-Singh-Fall-2009.html

    Yesiree, a J Street approved course of action will eradicate over a hundred years of institutionalized and state sanctioned bigotry, hate and racism- because J Street ‘means well’.

    When I see J Street as demanding of the Palestinians as they are of the Israelis in a real way, I will consider them to be a credible alternate voice.

    As long as the Palestinians and Arab world insist on violence as an acceptable form of political expression, there will be no peace with Israel. To blame Israel for Palestinian dysfunction and violence is absurd. Every other Arab regime is a testimony to that.

    Violence and threats of violence are the status quo, the way business is done in the Arab world- and that has nothing to do with Israel.

    Arab money can’t make J Street legitimate players, only marionettes.

    As Abba Eban wisely noted, ‘Men behave wisely when they have exhausted all other options’.

  5. God commanded the “IF”. Did you miss that in your religious training Yakov?

    “IF you keep my commandments”, not unconditional, conditional.

    “Kill before you are killed” is NOT one of the ten.

    The zealous and solely defensive path will lead to no Israel as Israel. Its far more dangerous and impractical than J Street’s proposals.

    J Street is not particularly demanding of Israel. Where did you get that overly fearful reaction?

    It should be more demanding of Israel, as the US should be as well.

    And, the US should continue to be demanding of Hamas which it is and has been consistently.

    You mentioned that you believed that development of Palestinian institutions was a pre-requisite, a criteria for pursuing peace. I agree.

    The next question though is “Do you support the development of Palestinian institutions, including armed police, authoritatively Palestinian definition of law (assuming conformity with equal due process clauses), Palestinian border management of their side of the borders (not Israel on both sides)?

    Historically, Israel has periodically militarily destroyed the means of Palestinian governance and development of institutions. The question of armed Palestinian police was a critically sticky one.

    On the one hand, if Arabs are as violent as you say, then it is NECESSARY for Palestinian police to be able to deal with individual and group lawlessness authoritatively. But, on the other hand, my expectation is that you would have some qualms about Palestinian police being so armed.

    Historically, the last time Netanyahu was prime minister, Palestinian police had become armed, but Netanyahu undertook policies and inititiated the intentionally provocative archaeological digging under the Al Aqsa Mosque (to prove long-term Jewish presence), that led to those armed police firing on Israeli military.

    The early vanguage of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade were those Palestinian police that felt so betrayed by Netanyahu’s application of the “letter of Oslo”, that they determined that militancy was more rational than compliance with his games.

    A bad choice, pressed by the games of a “restaurantuer” that is only source of food in town, and only offers three choices, but each of rotten food.

    It takes intention and courage to make peace. Defense isn’t enough.

    There are signs of willingness, commitment even. The presence of animosity does NOT diminish the EFFORT to build the accountable Palestinian institutions that are a viable Palestine.

    If/when you go to war with that Palestine, Israel will be VERY isolated.

  6. Richard-
    There are 613 commandments, not just 10. “Kill before they kill you” is in the Talmud.

    Settling Eretz Israel while treating the Arab population fairly BUT WITHOUT ACKNOWLEDGING ANY SOVEREIGNITY ON THEIR PART is fully in keeping with the Divine command you keep quoting. Read Rabbinic literature for further information. In English, try Rabbi J. David Bleich’s “Contemporary Halachic Problems”, vols 1 and 2.

  7. Obviously the Michael Goldfarbs of the world aren’t going to be satisfied by anything J Street does, but the thing with the university groups does raise a legitimate concern. The whole idea of J Street is supposed to be that “pro-Israel” doesn’t necessarily mean pro-settlements, pro-maximum use of military force in every situation, etc…but, in addition, that people who actually WANT to be “pro-Israel” can actually be that without being those other things. It’s not supposed to be a group for people who explicitly *don’t want* to be “pro-Israel” under *any* conceivable definition of the term.

    The official statement they put out about the J Street U thing seems to be trying to have it both ways, in the context of the reports from the conference. The statement emphasizes that they’re only going to support the university groups that work “in a context that always embraces the right of a state for Jewish people in the land of Israel to exist beside a state for Palestinian people in the land of Palestine,” but obviously this is conceding ground on the “pro-Israel” language.

    Ben-Ami says in the J Post article that he’s “concerned but realistic” about this issue with the campus groups. He wants them to be “pro-Israel,” but he also feels it’s important for his group to stand out from the existing pro-Israel establishment in having wider latitude for differing views. That’s fine, to some degree, but the concern for people who maybe aren’t crazy about AIPAC–but still on the fence about J Street–is that J Street’s redlines might be too fuzzy. Conceding ground to university groups who are explicitly uncomfortable with describing themselves as “pro-Israel” is, I think, pretty clearly a mistake for a group that wants to re-define/re-claim/expand the accepted bounds of what “pro-Israel” means in America.

    To paraphrase a common saying of Matthew Yglesias (who seemed surprised that a bunch of people at the conference were explicitly not “pro-Israel” by choice), in order to be “pro-Israel,” however you define it, you first have to, you know, *be “pro-Israel.”* Meaning, you have to want to describe yourself that way. If you’re not even willing to do that, then…well, sorry. You’re not pro-Israel.

  8. Richard-

    Once more you prove yourself to be ill informed.

    You said, “Netanyahu undertook policies and initiated the intentionally provocative archaeological digging under the Al Aqsa Mosque (to prove long-term Jewish presence), that led to those armed police firing on Israeli military.”

    The fact is that Jewish presence has never really been in dispute. The Waqf has for centuries acknowledged the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount (the claim otherwise is new) and in fact, Jewish cemeteries can be found inside and outside the old city of Jerusalem. They preexist Islam.

    Further, an armed Palestinian police force has never been the principal problem, as you suggest.

    The fact is that every and all Palestinian factions are armed and more often than not, the PA nor Hamas police never cared. Unless of course, they used the weapons against them. Then it was open season as they took each other out.

    So you have a situation where there are huge amounts of guns and weapons in the hands of people who are committed to murder Jews. Time and time again, they have proved they would rather kill Jews than have a state of their own.

    Their words and actions have made that abundantly clear.

    Until it becomes clear who speaks for the Palestinians, the PA or Hamas, it is absurd to continue to arm either side.

    It is moral to reject those who claim violence as a response of the first resort.

    It is moral to reject those who claim state supported and institutionalized racism, bigotry and hate as an inviolate part of their identity.

    Israel and the Palestinians are not moral equals.

    Not at all.

  9. Were you around in 1996 to 1998? Do you remember the incident I was referring to?

    What does the question of Jewish presence have to do with Netanyahu’s provocations?

    Its not necessary to do them. Only those that desire to stick it to the other, do those kinds of actions.

    The settlement program in East Jerusalem is one of those. It is a statement to the Palestinians “You never lived here. Your property rights (absolute or relative) are invalid. Your hopes for a healthy self-governing state are invalid.”

    Ask a Palestinian, not yourself, not your rabbi, not the Jerusalem Post. Get some real confirmation of what is communicated by that action.

    If its not important to you what Palestinians need, say so, so the pretense of “I desire peace” is exposed as false. (Presuming that peace is only possible with two healthy individuals/communities/states.)

    Currently, there is NO active violence directed at Israel from either the West Bank or Gaza, at least by Fatah or Hamas and those factions that are at all accountable to them. (Al Quaida is unknowable.)

    I expect that for Hamas that is just a temporary tactic. For Fatah, its realized commitment for the entire period that Abbas and Fayyad have been executives, leaves me confident of their personal and organization commitment (on all grounds, ethical as well as tactical).

    “Time and time again, they have proved they would rather kill Jews than have a state of their own.”

    A repeated Pavlovian thesis. False currently.

  10. Rich, Netanyahu opened one end of a tunnel that ran from the kotel plaza. It was NOT under the Temple Mount. NOT. I don’t mind you going on bended knee and begging forgiveness on mondoweiss but at least have your facts straight.

  11. “Currently, there is NO active violence directed at Israel from either the West Bank or Gaza, at least by Fatah or Hamas and those factions that are at all accountable to them. (Al Quaida is unknowable.)”

    Agreed. The Security Fence and incursion into Gaza has had a dampening effect on Palestinian exuberance when it comes to violence.

    Wars end when the cost of waging war becomes too high.

    Wars end with the use of disproportionate force.

    Occupations end when peace is in place.

    Are you saying that in 40 plus years, there has not been a single Israeli government that was suitable peace partner for the Palestinians? Not a single one?

    What I can show you is that in the past 40 years, there has not been a single Palestinian regime that has not made the eradication of Israel and calls for genocide more important than any peace treaty with Israel.

    Lastly, you pointedly say my remark is a ‘Pavlovian response’.

    Rather than attack my words, why don’t you provide some kind evidence or argument that proves me wrong? Do you believe that a lull in decades long propensity to institutionalized violence means anything? Do you believe that decades of institutionalized racism, bigotry and hate will magically disappear because you are a part of J Street?

    Sorry Richard, but at some point you are going to have to deal with the reality of who the Palestinian leadership really is, what they really stand for and the decades of state sponsored and institutionalized racism, bigotry and hate.

    Then again, based on what on what you deliberately ignore, distort and clearly misrepresent, that may not be an issue for you.

  12. Richard-
    NO ONE has dug UNDER the Temple Mount except the Arabs who destroyed invaluable archaelogical findings when they made ILLEGAL construction in Solomon’s Stables….and, ironically, this occurred under the “tough, right-wing” Netanyahu government.

    The reason there has, thank G-d, been a major decrease in violence in Judea/Samaria has been mostly due to the presence of the IDF there…the wall is secondary. Without the IDF’s ability to move around freely, the violence would return. Dayton’s Palestinian forces would NOT stop the attacks, just as Arafat’s forces didn’t.

  13. Haggai is on to an important point that was also emphasized by Shmuel Rosner in the Jerusalem Post. People like Jimmy Carter and other Israel bashers will say they are “pro-Israel” in the sense that they would prefer if the Jews weren’t thrown into the sea. That doesn’t mean anything. Saying you accept the existence of the State of Israel does NOT make you “pro-Israel”. To be “pro-Israel” means you support certain policies that the Israeli government decides are in the countries interests.

    After reading the accounts of the J-Street conference, it is clear that a large percentage of the attendees were NOT supportive of Israel (Goldfarb put it well, he said they are the “as I Jew, I am shocked….”, “as a Jew, I am appalled…”, “as a Jew, I oppose…”, etc, etc. except in some abstract way that has no real meaning. Many pointed out that most applause was directed at those who were moaning about the “suffering of the Palestinian people”. This means that the attendees were using the conference as a way for various unhappy Jews to air their angst about their torn loyalties, AND NOT as a way to become mobilized for the J-Street lobby, no matter what it is they claim to want. By identifying with the Kadima party (which does NOT identify with J-Street) in a partisan way, they have lost any claim to being a true Washington lobby. Thus, I am feeling much better now, realizing that J-Street will not succeed in seriously dividing the Jewish people and turning Congress against Israel.

  14. “To be “pro-Israel” means you support certain policies that the Israeli government decides are in the countries interests.”

    Well, that’s not what I think. I doubt I’m going out on too much of a limb in guessing that you weren’t exactly full of support when the Rabin/Peres government decided that the Oslo accords were in Israel’s interests. But that doesn’t mean you’re not “pro-Israel.”

    What I was getting at vis-a-vis the J Street U thing is that when college groups say that people on their campus are uncomfortable with the term “pro-Israel,” J Street should help those groups CONVINCE their classmates that pro-Israel is a good thing, and that it isn’t just restricted to pro-settlements/pro-Likud. Capitulating on an important rhetorical point, even if it just rhetorical and not really substantive, is a mistake for an advocacy group.

  15. The point you make about how the Right reacted to the policies of Rabin/Peres with Oslo is an important one. They pressed AIPAC to lobby for the US to give money and weapons to Arafat. We opposed it saying they would be used against us in Israel, which indeed was the case. So the Left said “how can you oppose the legally elected government of israel?”. The Right in the US claimed they could because the Oslo Agreements were passed surreptitiously in violation of campaign promises by Rabin and that they didn’t have full legitimacy within the country because there was a large minority (maybe even a majority) of the population strongly opposed it.

    IN any event, today the situation is very different. There is a strong national consensus against Goldstone and against many of the policies J-Street is advocating.

    I do not object to J-Street pushing any policies they want…there already are numerous American Jewish groups that operate in this realm, American Friends of Peace Now, the New Israeli Fund, Israel Policy Forum, ….so now there is one more. What I strongly object to is their blatant attempt to create a rift in American Jewry by arrogating to themselves they they are the TRUE representatives of American Jewish opinion. I emphatically believe most America Jews support the Israeli government’s right to make policy and that American Jews will generally support actions they take, such as the Lebanon II and Gaza wars, which have raised the ire of so many “progressives”.

  16. An important national policy doesn’t have legitimacy because a minority opposes it? Whatever. That’s an absurd argument.

    In any event, it’s irrelevant. Clearly, my point was that just like you and other right-wingers were well within their rights to oppose Oslo without having your “pro-Israel” bonafides questioned or slammed, people should accord the same benefit to J Street. Their status as a “pro-Israel” group should not be subjected to policy-based litmus tests on settlements or anything else like that.

    Your point about them claiming to be representative of American Jewish opinion–a different point from your previous comment where you declared a litmus test for being “pro-Israel”–is one where I do have some agreement with you. I do think J Street is more representative of US Jewish opinion on settlements than AIPAC is, but it was the opposite on the Gaza war. When rockets are flying and Israel fights back, most US Jews support Israel’s use of force.

  17. RF and Yakov,
    What I am stating, I think fairly clearly, is that I find your presentation of “there is no possible Palestinian partner for peace” to be a cowardice, an ignorance, a statement of poverty of imagination, a poverty of design.

    Again, as I stated, EACH of your three criteria are either currently met, or constructable by Israel (with the help of the US and other third parties), or entirely the responsibility of Israel originally.

    The question of blame is off the point. Who is to blame is irrelevant.

    The question of what is possible, and what one does in response to what is possible IS the question.

    And, the question of what one makes impossible by pig-headed policies and deceptions IS the point.

    You repeatedly speak of “just talk”, and you know clearly that that is a misrepresentation of my views, and of J Street’s. The formation of a treaty, backed by layers and layers of militarily and diplomatically (both) firmed accountability is a foundation, capable of bearing weight.

    In the contrast, the reliance solely on military and military oriented morale, is pettily thin and short-lasting.

    Again, Netanyahu, primarily by his provocative decision to continue East Jerusalem settlement and exclusively Israeli residential construction, DESTROYS any goodwill, any rational motivation for Palestinians to reconcile, short of abusive suppression.

    Israel is Jewish AND democratic, not one in preference of the other. To pick the defensive, the ethnic solely, IS to oppose Israel, is to be ANTI-Israel.

    Israel as Jewish alone (rather than Jewish AND democratic), is NOT Israel. It is Etzel, cherut, likud, but NOT Israel.

    As to be of Jewish birth but abandon Jewish values (even if contempted diaspora values, the vast majority of Jewish wisdom), is to be jewist (an ism) only.

    We who value our Jewishness, won’t accept that conclusion, diaspora or not, dismissable or not.

  18. Again, the REALITY of the Palestinian leadership is varied.

    I’ve met and conversed with minor members of the Palestinian leadership over years, and some wouldn’t give me as a Zionist the time of day. Others were conditionally open. If I respected their experience (not their conclusions), they were willing to talk.

    Those that hold conditionally respectable views are reachable, are treatyable. To generalize that “they are all ….” , to state “you are going to have to deal with the reality of who the Palestinian leadership really is, what they really stand for and the decades of state sponsored and institutionalized racism, bigotry and hate” is to express YOUR ignorance (your not knowing, but spouting confidently anyway).

    Again, I’ve met my Abrahamic 50, my clear motivation for seeking peace, rather than seeking rationalization for ignorance.

    If you were a Jew in fact, you would seek as well, rather than only rationalize.

  19. What good is you being closer physically to the conflict, if you are so ignorant of the variety of perspectives among Palestinians, so ignorant of your neighbors’ experience and conclusions from those experiences.

  20. Haggai-
    When I stated that Oslo lacked legitimacy because a large minority (if not a majority) opposed it, I was referring to the situation which the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution was dealing with when they required large majorities in Congress in order to change the Constitution and the such…i.e. when dealing with policies that involve major risks to national security, putting the lives of civilians on the line, and tearing territory away from the state and expelling its citizens, it is dangerous to rely on slim majorities. Rabin bribed two Knesset members who were elected on a “right-wing” list (Rafael Eitan’s Tzomet list) to defect and vote for the Oslo Agreements because he didn’t even have a majority in his own coalition for it. Same for Sharon with his destruction of Gush Katif. Both were rammed through without discussion because they knew there was large-scale public opposition to them. Recall that Sharon even called a referendum of Likud party members which he lost in a lopsided vote, but he decided to disregard it. Of course, technically, both decisions were “legal”, but as many of those who opposed them saw them as immoral, illegitimate, even criminal, for these reasons. Having a large number of embittered, disenfranchised people in a country, even if they are only a “minority” can be a very dangerous.

  21. Richard-

    “Again, the REALITY of the Palestinian leadership is varied.”

    Where EXACTLY is the leadership of the Palestinians that you are referring to?

    If the Israelis negotiate with them, are they the ones who can sign and endorse peace treaties and conditions set therein?

    Are they in a position to neutralize Hamas and the other, similar terror organizations?

    What documented efforts have they made to stop the institutionalized and state sponsored violence as well as the embedded racism, bigotry and hate?

    Your argument is disingenuous at best, Richard.

    Maybe we should not have fought fascism and WW2 because there were 50 Germans who were opposed to the Nazis. In your sick world, the loss of up 50 million souls is not relevant of course (or, we can go with up to 44 million. Those 6 million Jews appear to be meaningless to you).

    I’m delighted that you have met your Abrahamic 50. I’m sure that God has spoken and instructed you as well, in the same way he spoke with Abraham. I am sure that modesty prevents you from claiming that you are saving the lost souls of those Jews who you despise (read: anyone who disagrees with you).

    I will focus on my concern on the hundreds of millions of Arabs that are dedicated to the destruction of Israel and Jews.

  22. “I will focus on my concern on the hundreds of millions of Arabs that are dedicated to the destruction of Israel and Jews.”

    I don’t believe that you’ve investigated if your assertions are true. But, still you speak them repeatedly.

    I am certain that there are Arabs that hate Jews, and hate Israelis particularly, as I am certain that there are Israelis that hate Arabs and Palestinians specifically.

    Both are examples of ignorance in the mean usage of the term. (Not “I’m ignorant, I don’t know yet.”

    If you are hearing me say “Israel should not fight fascism, or should not defend itself”, then you are listening to yourself, not me.

    I am stating that Israel should pursue what is EFFECTIVE in securing safety for its people, and that includes skillful, ABLE (not rationalization for incapacity) negotiation firmed by overlapping layers of accountability.

    I accuse you of negligence, military AND ethical.

    Not of word exploring, “how could we”, just “we can’t”.

    Got it. You can’t then be trusted to do, only to defend.

    And I get your desparation as to your role in society. When war is unnecessary, when zealotry is unnecessary, counterproductive, what is the role of a zealot? What do they do in the society?

    I would suggest that they learn other contributory skills, that use their prior experience rationally.

    Shifting to caution and confident design rather than anticipatory aggression, for example.

    Yeah, turn your swords in plowshares. Do something useful.

  23. “Wars end when the cost of waging war becomes too high”

    Just out of curiosity…who came up with this concept? It strikes me as almost “uniquely Israeli”. I am no historian, but I have read a fair amount of western history, and I have never come across this concept before, except in comments by Israelis and some of their supporters.

    It seems to me…totally inaccurate; precisely the opposite of human nature.. Nations will wage war up to, and including “national suicide”.
    They will, quite literally, “fight to the death”.
    Isn’t this Israel’s own position? (i.e. a willingness to fight to the death”, if necessary?

    But others “can be pounded into submission”?

  24. “‘Wars end when the cost of waging war becomes too high’

    Just out of curiosity…who came up with this concept? It strikes me as almost “uniquely Israeli”.

    Interesting interpretation. To me, it’s simply another way to of saying that one side has to be exhausted: their morale, economy, physical reality–before they decide it’s no longer worth it.

    Which is usually how it’s happened. I don’t see anything unique to this conflict in that concept.

  25. Suzanne, i would agree with your interpretation, but the interpretation is just that…it is, at least in my opinion, entirely different to say…the Germans surrendered in WWII because “the cost to continue was too high”, or the more accurate…”they simply no longer had the ability to continue waging war”.

    I could be wrong, but it seems to me these are 2 different concepts, with very different implications.

  26. Richard- you said

    “I am certain that there are Arabs that hate Jews, and hate Israelis particularly, as I am certain that there are Israelis that hate Arabs and Palestinians specifically.”

    There is a difference, Richard.

    Institutionalized and state sponsored racism, bigotry and hate in that part of the world are uniquely Arab.

    “We’ll finish what Hitler started” and that favorite Hamas ditty, “Hamas! Hamas! Jews to the gas!” are popular expressions that don’t seem to bother you in the least.

    Why isn’t that surprising?

  27. Suzanne, you asked who said ‘Wars end when the cost of waging war becomes too high’.

    This truth is a globally recognized and standard military doctrine.

    Virtually all wars end when one side says’ uncle!’

  28. Richard, you also said, “I accuse you of negligence, military AND ethical.’

    Based on what? Simple assertions will not suffice.

    Evidence please.

  29. “Institutionalized and state sponsored racism, bigotry and hate in that part of the world are uniquely Arab.”

    Of course that is untrue. When rabbis use the force of their stature to instruct their students to adopt militant and abusive relations with Palestinians, that is institutionalization. That is the Jewish equivalent of radical Islamic preaching.

    Be a little more humble in your life. It is NOT a truth that “Arabs are dirty, evil and Jews are perfect, humane, saints”. It, like most generalizations, misrepresents more than it represents.

    How do you know that “Hamas! Hamas! Jews to the gas!” are popular expressions?

    Did you make that up? Did you hear it quoted once and then repeated, and then heard it again from someone that repeated the original?

    RF,
    I stated my reasoning why I regard your comments as negligent from really all relevant perspectives.

    You have two choices to rebut. You can question my statements of facts. Or, you can question my interpretation.

    Please have the intellectual integrity to describe your thinking in those terms.

    I’d rather you proceeded to become a “full Jew”, a Jew that is both committed to his community, and a Jew that is committed to goodness as instructed in Torah.

  30. Don-

    Nations which ‘fight to the death’ are more mythological that real.

    There may be psychotic leaders who exhort their followers to do just that, but in the end, if left to most people, surrender is always the better option.

    That is how empires are built. Conquerors exact a terrible price until their adversaries capitulate.

  31. On Hamas,
    Again, it is critical that you recognize the diversity within even Hamas.

    As, it is important for Palestinians to recognize that some Israelis don’t have a land lust for the land of their multi-generational homes.

  32. Ya’akov,

    Has it occurred to you that by your own definition you are not pro-Israel? After all, you bitterly opposed and continue to oppose the Gaza evacuation of 2005 and probably oppose decisions regarding the removal of illegal settlements. These are decisions approved by the elected legal governments of Israel. Or does this concept only apply to the Left? Because you, like the manufacturers of Kosher hotdogs “answer to a higher power?”

  33. I’m always going on about how Israel has bad PR. But it occurs to me…so do the so-called influential Palestinian peace brokers.

    I keep hearing 3rd party individuals claiming they exist. But I really can’t take someone else’s word for it.

    Why aren’t these people prominently featured in news media and elsewhere? Where is their campaign?

    Why should skeptical Jews be swayed to think differently? On a leap of faith? That’s asking the impossible.

  34. “That is how empires are built. Conquerors exact a terrible price until their adversaries capitulate.”

    I could not agree more. But again, this “brurally honest” statement strikes me as a far cry from the much softer, and misleading “the cost of waging war becomes too high”.

  35. I attended the conference and the gala dinner. I want to 2nd what Dan said.

    It is true that at times the clapping indicated a pro-Palestinian crowd. However, our message is pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine & pro-Peace. Perhaps people want the Palestinians to know that, contrary to prior behavior of most Jewish political groupings, there is now a group who respects the Palestinians and their aspirations for a state of their own.

    I suppose that a prominent feature of the on-going debate will be an effort to continue the Propaganda War. If Y. Ben-David wants to spend his life as a pretzel, that is his choice.

    I am reminded of Hubert Humphrey’s famous speech at the 1948 Democratic Convention which I am much too young to have witnessed at the time. There was that great line about “walking out from the dark shadow of states rights and into the bright light of human rights.”

    An end to the conflict is in the interest of both sides. We can respect the Palestinians, let them have their state etc while preserving a democratic Israel at peace with her neighbors. In a region surrounded by neighbors who are rather different, this is in Israel’s interest. Over time, we will get away from the past and forge a new reality.

  36. Lee, a number of problems with that rosy scenario. And I’ll just go with one of them. Israel cannot allow a soon to be nuclear Iranian proxy ( hamas ) on the west bank ridge line. That make all the major population centers vulnerable to rocket attack. And the empirical evidence from the gaza and lebanon withdrawals say that is exactly what will happen. And you and your kind, witness the joy over the Goldstone smear over at j-street say this. Israel cannot respond. I’d be interested in how you and your boys are going to square that circle. You too Dan.

  37. Where did I say a Hamas state? Show me.

    A secure Israel is part of the deal. Israel is an established power in the Middle East. Endless War, however, serves nobody. This poisonous status quo will explode at some point in the future.

    Sharon had no interest in working with Abbas. Quit giving us the snow job about Gaza.

    Whatever you want to say about Hamas, they are indigenous. Hezbollah is not indigenous.

    “You and your kind”…….. “joy over Goldstone smear”…… heh heh heh. Oh Bill, you aren’t desperate or anything, are you? J Street is working for an end to the conflict. And by the way Bill, Palestinians are looking seriously at the notion of a demilitarized state.

    It is a little bit complicated Bill so you will have to think a little bit harder. I am not here to toy with you. This is a conflict that has gone on too long. I am going to hold people accountable, challenge them to defend their views etc. This conflict is solvable. I really believe that. And Israel will, I suspect, continue to be one of the world’s leading military powers. I forget the exact number……4th, 5th….. I think it will be sufficient Bill.

  38. Israel relies on a reserve force that takes time to mobilize. The country pre-67 is 9 miles wide at the waist. And when Hamas lobs rockets at Ben Gurion airport will j-street support retaliation, will Obama. I think not. And Hamas will take over, they have the guns and in Arab society that’s what counts. And Palestinians are most assuredly NOT looking for a demilitarized state. And J-street is not looking to end the conflict. It’s looking to lean on Israel, that’s all it is. Which is fine. But stop with the bullshit. And I understand that when Yoffie, who I consider weak, was critical of Goldstone it brought booing from the crowd. J-street is against sanctions on Iran, and against military action. It endorsed it endorsed “7 jewish children”. but these are details. Just give me a solution to a hamas government, allied with Iran, sitting atop the west bank ridge line. With the ability to hit Israeli population centers with impunity. When attacks came from south lebanon and gaza you and your boys took the hamas, hezbollah, UN, Goldstone line. Why should the average Jew believe that you would be on his side when this comes up again. Why?

  39. I saw the news, Eric Yoffie got booed. And he is about has weak has you could imagine. But I digress. What’s your brilliant plan. And why haven’t you communicated this to Jerusalem. Still Israel’s capital, although I know that doesn’t go over well with j-street supporters. What’s the plan Lee?

  40. A lot of American Jews, including Eric, have a somewhat limited view of the conflict. They are afraid to tell the truth: both sides have done horrible things.

    On balance, however, Eric Yoffie is a positive player. He agrees with us on the end game. Yes, there were people at the J Street conference who are a bit unbalanced. This is always the case. There are militants in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, etc. Attacking an organization over who identifies with it is quite lame.

    The plan was laid out at many of the breakout sessions. If you are seriously interested we can discuss it. Rest assured, it is not my plan although I’d be glad to accept the promotion. I know you can watch the video of the Palestinian Economy workshop online. Hopefully, more sessions will be added.

  41. And what is the end game? Serious question. And have you cleared this with I don’t know, the elected government in Jerusalem. Or for that matter, Hamas, and hezbollah. Not to mention the Iranians. And what is the truth. But I digress. Say the new palestinian governments armed wing hits Ben Gurion airport with mortars. I know your guys are big on the proportionate response. Or to put it another way, a higher jewish body count in the kill ratio. But what would you support in in just that one example.

  42. Oh, give me a break. Why do you caricature the Hawk? That is sort of self-defeating, isn’t it?

    I was a little sarcastic. You are basically dismissive.

    I probably did not mention US interests. Solving this conflict is in the American interest because we have an interest in stability.

    The truth is, as I said, that both sides are responsible for the conflict. Beyond that, we get into more nuance than I can do on Halloween.

  43. I suppose a caveat there would be how do you solve the conflict with destroying Israel. Something that Phil ( I think we got into WW2 on the wrong side ) Weiss, And Richard ( I love guys who bash in the heads of little Jewish girls ) Silverstein, would be all for.

  44. Lee Diamond-
    It seems you need a refresher course on the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is VITAL to understand it AS IT IS and NOT as you (and your fellow “progressives”) want it to be. You want it to be a “nationalist” conflict between two national groupings fighting over the same piece of land it will eventually be solved by some sort of compromise with the land being divided. Sounds nice, rather “American”.

    Only problem is that is not the real situation. No doubt there are Arabs/Muslims that would like to end the conflict on those lines, but they do not determine policy. The true situation is as follows: (Sayid Qutb, the radical Muslim theologian laid this out clearly)

    (1) The Muslims are destined to be the dominant power in the world, as they were in the centuries that followed Muhammed.

    (2) If they are not, that is a violation of the cosmic order.

    (3) ALL of the problems of the Muslim world are due to the fact that they are betraying their mission to be the dominant power in the world.

    (4) Why are the Muslims (or, at least, many Muslims) not carrying out their mission? Becuase the dhimmis (Christiand and Jews) have corrupted them, and tempted them away from carrying out their mission and have imported alien ideas, (what we would call today “secular, Western, materialist, consumerist values) into the Muslim world.

    (5) The existence of a dhimmi Jewish state in the heart of the Dar Al-Islam (Realm of Islam) is an especially abhorrent manifestation of the corruption and failure of the Muslims to carry out their divinely mandated mission. Here, an alien force, wielding corrupt values is found smack dab in the middle of the Dar al-Islam, using these values to subvert Muslims away from their true religion, using money, internet and all the manifestations of secular, materialist Western culture to lure Muslims away from their religion (this is waht Dr Bernard Avishai’s “Hebrew Republic” is expressly designed to do…he admits it himself).

    Now, the question is what to do about this situation. This is the subject of violent disagreements in the Muslim world. Ths Sunnis have their approach , the Shi’ites have theirs. HAMAS and HIZBULLAH say the way to defeat Israel (the first step on the road to realizing the Muslim mission of world domination) is open confrontation, openly expressed. Another approach is the “war of attrition” approach, used by Sadat and Arafat, in which partial, temporary cease-fires are signed with the Zionist enemy, the possibility of “peace” is held out on the horizon “if only more concessions are made”, and the concessions are designed to weaken Israel, and, in addition, the cease-fire allows the Arab/Muslim side to strengthen itself, just as Muhammed did with the (IIRC) treaty he signed with the Meccans. Part of this struggle is to send “peace delegates” to forums like that of J-Street, to talk about “peace”, “if only Israel would make more concession” and to speak in deliberately ambiguous tones in order to weaken the Jewish side and to sow confusion there, while not opening themselves up to charges by the more extremist elements back home that they are “selling out”.

    Others, like al-Qaida, oppose “nationalist” Islamic movements (such as HAMAS) and say that the war must be carried out on all front with the dhimmi enemy and the struggle of the Palestinians may be secondary to the larger conflict.

    Now, at this point it is legitimate to ask “how many Muslims really believe this? How many, while carrying out the tenets of their religion simply want to lead a quiet life and are not interested in the larger struggle?”. I can’t really answer this question, but let’s say that 10% really believe this all the way, as Sayyid Qutb laid it out. That’s over 100,000,000 people in the world, and its a few hundred thousands of Palestinians. However, a good, eloquent preacher can sway many of the weaker elements, or foolish Israeli actions like destroying Gush Katif gives the extremists the ability to say “you see, it’s just as is stated in the Qur’an…the Jews are cowards and run away from true Muslim fighters” and, of course, HAMAS won the Palestnian elections held shortly afterwards (yes I know many claim that many of their voters were “really” voting against the corruption of FATAH, but HAMAS never hid its total rejection of peace with Israel in its platform so it was acceptable to the Palestnians who voted for them).

    During the height of the terror war, the Jerusalem Post interviewed an Israeli Arab who stated that he was willing to fight for 500 years to get rid of Israel. When asked by the reporter if he realized that he was thus condemning his children and their children and their children to endless warfare and conflict, he said yes, but they had not choice to keep up the fight, just as it two centuries to finally defeat the Crusaders.
    Unquestionably, there are many Muslims who will think that the process of the defeat of the dhimmis is “inevitable” but they, as a result, don’t have to take an active role. Qutb felt it was his duty to awaken this type of Muslim and to show that passivity is not enough.

    This is the situation that Israel faces. It may sound hopeless to you, but I am sure that it is NOT hopeless, that there is a real chance for a realitively peaceful modus-vivendi to evolve, but it will require Israelis, Jews and other friends around the world to realize that the “2-state solution”, “settlement freezes”, “peace processes” and the such merely EXACERBATE the conflict and that what is needed instead is Jewish “tsumud” (an Arabic word meaning “steadfastness”) and standing firmly on Jewish rights in Eretz Israel which will prove that the Qur’anic view of Jews as cowards and the such are NOT true, and that Israel is here to stay.

  45. Its a false description.

    Its a fear (with truth in it, but incomplete), that can be addressed optimally through a combination of treaty, military preparation, international accountability.

    The alternative concept is that of the 1 billion Muslims in the world, in the absence of just reconciliation, the number of angry enemies is 100,000,000 million, but with a just reconciliation, the number is 10,000,000 and they are busy fighting among themselves, and only occassionally against Russians, Chinese, Indonesians, Phillipines’, Indians, and even less occassionally against Israelis and Americans.

    The notion that the only approach to a complex and periodically hostile world is by fortress is medieval.

  46. The valuing of life, which compels parents to care about their families, which compels leaders to responsibly care for their communities, exists within Islam as well.

    And, Within Jewish thought there is a martyr concept as well, an encouragement of zealotry, on the basis of helping “God’s will”, especially in difficult times.

    Better that we adopt a multi-communal pro-life movement, than foster in any way a consented fortress and aggression movement.

  47. There is falseness in fact. (It probably was stated as you reported).

    There is falseness in extent. (I think you miss this considerably.)

    There is falseness in interpretation. (I think you miss this as well.)

    There is falseness in proposal. (I think you miss this by a barn.)

    There is falseness in effort. (I think you miss this by a soul.)

  48. Come on Lee, Dan, Witty. When Israel responded to attacks from gaza and south lebanon you and the rest of the world said it was disproportionate, ( which means there wasn’t enough dead jews, correct ). Explain to a guy like y-ben, who you know, actually lives in Israel. Why he should put himself and his family under more of a threat. Especially when a piece of toilet paper like the Goldstone report is looking to take away Israel’s right of self defense. And there is an administration in the White House that isn’t exactly honorable. When the Iranians are cruising towards the bomb. Mubarak is on his way out in Egypt. And Turkey is looking to switch sides. I look forward to the j-street solution.

  49. I apologize for not having time now to give a systematic response.

    I believe that Israel has demonstrated its military valor and will continue to battle any enemies fiercely. But, we expect that there will be no more enemies after the all inclusive peace deal.

    The time has come (kind of passed actually) for Israel to cash in and cut the deal. I do not see what other solution ensures Israel’s long term survival. The two state solution is best for Israel. It is, I think one has to agree, not AS good for the Palestinians since they will get about 22% of the land. I think it will clearly be necessary for Israel to remain vigilant. I think the Palestinian state should be a demilitarized one.

    I am familiar with Qutb. It is true that Hamas comes out of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have not, however, articulated the same approach as the Egyptian followers. Meshal has said it is for the next generation to decide. A peace treaty should include provisions about what is taught in schools etc. They should reach a point where they are successfully engaging in mutual society building etc.

    Bottom line, Endless War is not a solution. A solution here helps to isolate Iran.

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