Wednesday, March 28, 2012

J Street or Pal Street?

J Street or Pal Street?

Ruthie Blum

The phenomenon of professing support for Israel while simultaneously abetting its enemies seems to be the new fashion among Jews on the far Left. Rather than simply coming out in the open with their hostility, they have figured out a way to do more harm to their brethren by calling themselves “true-blue” Zionists who are merely concerned about Israel’s “declining and endangered” democracy.

This so-called concern extends to all facets of Israeli society and statehood. Whether they are “worrying” about the “religious-secular divide,” the “economic gap between rich and poor,” or the “plight of Israeli Arabs,” this group can always be counted on to have a dim view – and to express it at every opportunity.

But their absolute favorite point of “distress” is the one that gains them the most brownie points among those Israel-haters who came out of the closet as soon as the statute of limitations on anti-Semitism ran out after the Holocaust: the “Palestinian problem.” To be more precise, they are perturbed by the problem that Palestinians have with Israel. That the main problem Palestinians have with Israel is that it exists at all doesn’t feature in their discourse.

No Jewish organization is more troubled by the Palestinians’ predicament than J Street, the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace organization that was established in 2008 to counter-balance AIPAC’s work on Capitol Hill, which has consisted of looking out for Israel’s interests by representing the position of any and every Israeli government.

J Street’s executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, wanted to change all that. His idea was to look out not for Israel’s interests, but rather for those of “peace in the Middle East” – a euphemism for Israeli concessions in exchange for nothing. Well, nothing other than terrorism, that is. But Ben-Ami and his ilk don’t see it that way. In their view, if it weren’t for Israeli settlements, the Palestinians would have no reason to commit acts of terror. Too bad the Palestinians don’t actually agree with that, as has been proven repeatedly with every Israeli withdrawal from anywhere.

But because Ben-Ami has impeccable Zionist credentials, his ability to garner support for a two-state solution that the Palestinians keep rejecting while undermining the Jewish state as a whole is quite an easy task.

His late father, Yitzhak, was among the leaders of the Irgun (the militantly anti-British Mandate underground) in pre-state Palestine. From Tel Aviv – a city his parents were instrumental in establishing -- Yitzhak Ben-Ami traveled to Europe right before the outbreak of World War II as an emissary for the illegal immigration of Jews. From there, he went to the U.S. to raise funds for the Irgun.

It was Yitzhak Ben-Ami who personally purchased the Altalena arms ship, and who was on it when it was attacked off the coast of Tel Aviv by the newly formed Israel Defense Forces, at the order of David Ben-Gurion, the head of the provisional government and subsequently Israel’s first prime minister. The clash, that has its repercussions between Left and Right in Israel to this day, caused him to emigrate to the U.S., asserting that he would not live in a country led by Ben-Gurion. It is thus that his son Jeremy, now 49, came to be born in New York.

That he grew up to be the kind of Jew whom his father would have considered a member of Ben-Gurion’s camp is fodder more for psychoanalysis than politics. One wonders what his father would have made of this week’s J Street conference in Washington, titled “Making History.”

Ben-Ami Jr. couldn’t have been too happy a camper at the event, which consisted of a lot of wailing on the part of “well-wishers” wishing Israel would stop being so intransigent – you know, like Peter Beinart (there to promote his book, “The Crisis of Zionism”) and Amos Oz (always on the lookout for junkets abroad to promote his entire body of work).

Not only did a mere 2,500 activists attend the conference, as compared with more than 13,000 at AIPAC’s gathering three weeks ago at the same venue. But its raison d’etre had long ago wilted. Grad missiles from Gaza, Fatah reconciliation with Hamas, and Iranian nukes tend to put a damper on concepts like “peace process.”

Still, Ben-Ami and his flock were not deterred from insisting that Congress not focus too much attention on Tehran, when there are Israeli settlements obstructing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.N  Human Rights Council members in Geneva couldn’t have said it better themselves. In fact, they just passed a resolution to establish a “fact-finding mission on the influence of settlements on Palestinians,” a Palestinian-initiated maneuver that has caused Israel to suspend ties with the body and reprimand the Palestinian Authority for engaging in cynical political moves, rather than coming directly to the negotiating table. Yet they have no more intention of doing so than J Street has of persuading anyone other than its own “amen corner” that it is pro-Israel.

Ruthie Blum, a former senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, is the author of a book on the radicalization of the Middle East, to be released by RVP Press in the spring.