Why J Street Is NOT “Not pro-Israel”
A good friend (whose views skew quite a bit – OK, a lot – to the right of mine) sent me an email this morning:
Subject: “THE PROOF THAT J STREET IS NOT PRO-ISRAEL.
Content: “IF YOU CAN NOT STAND WITH ISRAEL WHILE IT IS UNDER SIEGE, YOU MUST BE PRO-HAMAS! http://www.timesofisrael.com/j-street-explains-pullout-from-boston-pro-israel-rally/#.U8_MEy40bwI.email”
The article he references describes how the Boston J Street chapter was originally a co-sponsor of a Pro-Israel rally, but then pulled out “because its officials did not feel that issues they wanted addressed were sufficiently represented, including grieving for victims on all sides, an emphasis on a diplomatic solution and especially the role of the US Jewish community in advancing such a solution.” The article goes on to say that Jeremy Burton, executive director of Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council , “told JTA [a Jewish news agency] that speakers at the rally did address suffering on both sides and noted that its immediate emphasis was on Israel’s right to defend itself and Hamas’ responsibility for the current violence.”
- As noted in the article, “J Street has co-sponsored other pro-Israel rallies across the United States during the current conflict.” That implies – correctly – that this was not a position of J Street national, but rather a local issue based on inter-Boston issues. There has been tension within the Jewish community there with J Street for years. It is a good thing, but amazing, that Boston JCRC has J Street as a member but there remains unease with other organizations that belong.
- Recognizing the suffering of innocent civilians on all sides is important (and it sounds like, as it turns out, that this was done at this rally). Noting the very real suffering of innocent civilians in Gaza does not make a person pro-Hamas. Nor does criticizing the government of Israel make one anti-Israel. I would dare say that you are not pro-the current U.S. administration, but that does not make one anti-American.
- The run up to this war began with the very tragic, heart-wrenching, senseless murder of three innocent Yeshiva students, z’’’l. But from what I have read, this event was then used quite cynically by the Israeli government to take down the Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank. On one level this was a good thing – but on another level, it fanned the flames for the current incursion. It also fanned some very dangerous flames of racism and hatred among a group of right-wingers in a horrific way with the revenge killing of an equally innocent Israeli Arab (i.e., also an Israeli citizen) teenager. One of the reasons that it is so important to make sure that pro-Israel rallies not paint every Arab as seeking to wipe Israel off the map is that once the genie of racial hate is let out of the bottle, it is very hard to get back in.
- While it was the rockets that instigated the Israeli air retaliation, thanks in large part to the Iron Dome system, the rockets do not present a strategic threat to Israel. I am not condoning rocket fire by any means nor saying that Israel doesn’t have a right to retaliate – only that a war like this is not a strategic solution for Israel. Because previous operations failed to deter the threat from Hamas, I originally opposed the escalation. However, as the sophistication and extent of Hamas’ tunnel system came to light once the ground operation began, I have totally changed my mind and I personally believe that this war is extremely necessary and the current land operation totally justified. The Hamas’ tunnel system represents a very, very real threat to the security of Israel.
- One of the most important things that this war re-emphasizes however is that the Israeli government has no strategy for dealing with the Palestinians. As much as we all might like it, the 4 million Palestinians are not just going away. One of J Street’s key points is that we must address the long term solution to these issues: a negotiated two state solution. There is no better time than these rallies to focus the American Jewish community on this fact, instead of simply supporting war. I believe that the lesson from prior military actions (Lebanon, previous Gaza wars) is that when you “mow the lawn”, it just grows back higher and longer The Israeli government, and American Jews, should do everything it can to support moderates – including Mahmoud Abbas.
- Finally, you can read J Street’s official reaction to similar criticisms here: http://jstreet.org/blog/post/myths-and-facts-does-j-street-stand-with-the-proisrael-community-when-israel-is-under-attack_1
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