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Why J Street Is NOT “Not pro-Israel”

July 23, 2014 1 comment
IDF Soldier looks into Hamas Tunnel - Time Inc

IDF Soldier looks into Hamas Tunnel – Time Inc

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.”

Here is my response:
  • 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

A Moving Response from Jeremy Ben-Ami on the Tragic Murder of 3 Innocent Kids

July 2, 2014 Comments off

Any murder of innocents is clearly tragic.  No less so for the three Israeli Yeshiva students.  It has captured the hearts of people throughout the world.Picasso's The Tragedy

Yet, I have been thinking about why every Jewish organization out there is bending over backwards to see who can mourn “more” over these three young kids.  By doing so, they are elevating a tragic incident into a political snowball which is rapidly moving towards a violent ending.

Bibi and his government are leading Israel, the American Jewish community and anyone else that can be hoodwinked, down a path of violence and destruction.  Violence begets violence – until one side decides to act rationally (rather than with a knee-jerk), or until both sides finally beat themselves into oblivion (viz. WWI 100 years ago).  It doesn’t take a psychic to predict that there will be many more innocent Israeli (and Palestinian) victims to come – making a mockery of using all of this mourning for three to justify the killing of scores or hundreds more.

And, it is just sad to see how the American Jewish community has generally taken the bait.

That is why I find Jeremy’s statement, Enough of Tears and Bloodshed, to be honest, poignant and intelligent.  Here it is:

Enough of Tears and Bloodshed

July 1st, 2014

By Jeremy Ben-Ami

Over the past two and a half weeks, all of us who care deeply about Israel and seek peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been profoundly moved by the tragedy of the three teenage boys kidnapped and, we now know, murdered in cold blood on the West Bank.

As a father of young children, my heart simply breaks whenever violence snatches young lives, and families and communities are senselessly plunged into mourning.

While the grieving and sorrow have barely begun for the families, the debate over how to respond is in full swing as is, of course, an emotional argument over how the Israeli government should and should not react.

Fear and anger drive part of the debate, with calls for retribution dominating the public discourse. Seemingly easy, emotionally satisfying, answers flow freely: Tear down the houses of the alleged kidnappers’ families. Attack Gaza to root out Hamas’ infrastructure. Build new settlements. Take revenge.

Less free to flow are efforts to place this tragedy in a broader context or to recognize the real and legitimate pain felt on the Palestinian side as well. There is no way out of this spiral of violence and conflict if we can’t start to hear and understand the pain on the other side too.

The New York Times this week ran a moving, but difficult, article about two mothers, Rachel Fraenkel and Aida Abdel Aziz Dudeen. It was written before the discovery of the body of Rachel’s 16-year-old son, Naftali, one of the three murdered teenagers. “I was praying maybe he did something stupid and irresponsible,” Ms. Fraenkel recalled thinking when police came to her door at 4 a.m., “but I know my boy isn’t stupid, and he isn’t irresponsible.”

A few miles away in the West Bank town of Dura, Aida also tried to stop her 15-year-old Mohammed from doing something stupid and irresponsible. She locked the door of the family home to stop him from going out to confront Israeli soldiers after days or house searches and arrests. He got out anyway by jumping out the window and was shot dead, with the key still under Aida’s pillow, when soldiers opened fire on a group of young Palestinians hurling stones at them.

Times correspondent Jodi Rudoren succinctly summed up the gulf between the sides in the way they look at these twin tragedies. “Most Israelis see the missing teenagers as innocent civilians captured on their way home from school, and the Palestinians who were killed as having provoked soldiers. Palestinians, though, see the very act of attending yeshiva in a West Bank settlement as provocation, and complain that the crackdown is collective punishment against a people under illegal occupation.”

As President Obama memorably said in his speech to young Israelis in Jerusalem last year, we must try to see the world through the eyes of the other side. That does not mean accepting their narrative and abandoning our own. But it does mean abandoning the “we’re always right and they are always wrong” view of the conflict and trying to find a solution that begins with mutual compassion.

“Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day … Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land,” Obama said.

The most important sentence is the last. Until there is a two-state solution, this awful conflict will grind on and on and on, and there will be more tragedies – more Naftalis, more Mohammeds. It’s now two decades since the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin memorably said on the White House lawn that we have had enough of tears, enough of bloodshed. It was his guiding principle to fight terror as if there were no effort to reach peace and to seek peace as if there were no terror.

We at J Street too have had enough of tears and bloodshed.

That’s why we will never stop working for peace, for justice, for reconciliation, for compassion and for an end to this conflict.

May the memories of all our young people be for a blessing.

 

 

Pity Norman Podhoretz: He ignores the real issue in his recent WSJ op-ed

April 14, 2014 Comments off

A good friend, Dan Sabol, President of the Chicago Chapter of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, asked me to comment on Podhoretz’ recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal,  Pity the Palestinians? Count Me Out found here:  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304640104579487444112949138?mg=reno64-wsj   In the piece, Podohoretz excoriates the Palestinians with gleeful delight – but fails to address the real issues.  Here is what I wrote to Dan:

 

This op-ed is pure, unadulterated tripe.  Mr. Podhoretz is known for his Israel right-or-wrong viewpoint, which he promotes vociferously and acrimoniously via Commentary.

He shows his bias from the very first paragraph when he labels John Kerry’s diplomacy as “farcical”.

Provoked by the predictable collapse of the farcical negotiations forced by Secretary of State John Kerry on the Palestinians and the Israelis, I wish to make a confession: I have no sympathy—none—for the Palestinians. Furthermore, I do not believe they deserve any.

I agree that many did predict that the talks would collapse – so therefore the failure was “predictable”.  And even more, probably most, while not “predicting collapse”, gave the chance of success as low.  But certainly folks said the same thing about George Mitchell in Ireland.  As Mitchell so famously said:  “We had 700 days of failure and one day of success”.  By inference, I assume that Mr. Podhoretz also found Mitchell’s work in Ireland to be farcical as well.

Further, in virtually every paragraph he says something that is either factually incorrect, incomplete or biased in interpretation. [Which I don’t have the time nor desire to go into here – but certainly can]

All this is fine.  But there are two things that aren’t.

First, his attitude, which is gleefully acrimonious, tendentious and supercilious.

But my biggest issue with this article is that he does not really address the problem.  I, too, have no sympathy for the Palestinians that want to destroy Israel and even less (I don’t know if you can have less than no sympathy, but I do) for those who want to kill all of the Jews.  But what Mr. Podhoretz does not address is that while blaming the Palestinians might make us fell righteous and good, the occupation is really our problem – no matter what the Palestinians do.  Nor is how other Arab states treat the Palestinians or their citizens relevant to our problem.  As a Jew, what I care about is how Jews treat other people.  I believe we Jews choose to hold ourselves to Jewish values – higher values.  The Occupation endangers Israel remaining both a Jewish and democratic state.  That is our problem as Jews.  We need to find a creative way to end it.

No Partner?

June 5, 2013 Comments off

 

English: Mahmoud Abbas

English: Mahmoud Abbas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Cynics don’t believe him, but this is what Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday according to Haaretz:

 

“The Arab and Islamic world would be happy to recognize Israel if it withdraws from occupied land, and if a Palestinian state, with its capital East Jerusalem, is established,” he said, adding that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in “very serious” in his attempts to renew peace negotiations.

 

Read more here: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/erekat-palestinians-will-not-allow-kerry-s-peace-talks-efforts-to-fail.premium-1.527814?localLinksEnabled=false

 

 

 

President Obama’s Plans Trip to Israel: Hopefully It Can Break the Logjam

February 6, 2013 Comments off

Gilad Shalit Is Home – You Already Know That – But Have To Say It Is A Great Day

October 18, 2011 Comments off

Haaretz: 

IDF: Gilad Shalit back home in Israel after five years in Hamas captivity

Gilad Shalit returns.  The debate will now begin on “what this means”.  Will the one thousand plus reported prisoners to be released begin new violent attacks on Israel?  Does it upstage the P.A.’s bid for membership in the U.N.?  Does this strengthen Hamas’ hand vis-a-vis Fatah?  These questions and more will debated over the next days and weeks.

For now, I believe that we should all be thankful that Gilad is safe and presumably sound.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/idf-gilad-shalit-back-home-in-israel-after-five-years-in-hamas-captivity-1.390585

Alan Dershowitz’ Impassioned Speech Calling Out the U.N. for Its Pro-Palestinian Bias In No Uncertain Terms. What Do You Think?

October 4, 2011 1 comment

Alan Dershowitz from Israelseen.com

This post is going to be long.  It consists of a e-mail exchange between myself and one of our best friends.  She is an Israeli liberal.  She recently forwarded me a video of a speech that Alan Dershowitz gave about ten days ago at the “Durban Watch” Conference sponsored by the Hudson Institute and Touro University(“the largest Jewish-sponsored educational institution in the United States” according to its website).  I had hoped to embed the video right here so you could watch it, but it is at Pajama Media’s PJTV and evidently can’t be embedded here.  I urge you to view the clip (or part of it – it runs about 17 minutes): 

Durban Watch: Alan Dershowitz — Harvard Professor and Best-Selling Author

In this speech, Prof. Dershowitz very convincingly asks how the U.N. can dare to say that it has any moral authority since as far back as 1975 it has done virtually nothing for oppressed people of the world like the Cambodians under Pol Pot, the Rwandans, the Chechens, etc.  because they have been preoccupied with discussing Israeli human rights violations.  Further, he points out that it is ludicrous to say that a vote to admit the Palestinians is in support of the two-state solution because a large number of the voting countries do not recognize Israel as a legitimate state.  So, they are really only supporting a one state solution – Palestine.  He then goes on to talk about the rights of Arabs in Israel, the great medical and other scientific devices that Israel has given the world, and the very effective counter-terrorism methods which have become the state of the art.

The following is the email trail between my friend and myself.  I have eliminated the identifying names and the chronological order has been set in reading order so that the earliest posts are first, but otherwise, the debate is verbatim.

My question to all out there:

A. Is my correspondent correct?  Did I “reject it all”, or did I give Dershowitz his due and refute him where appropriate?

B. Do you agree with Dershowitz’ argument?

C. Do you agree with Dershowitz’ style and delivery?

I would love to hear your comments

__________________________________________________________________

From:  A FRIEND OF G’s – M.S.  Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 10:19 PM
To: G     Subject: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 None of you will suspect me to be a Zionist or a pro State of Israel’s policy. But you all must listen to this profound words of the no. 1 supporter of Israel, the fame Alan Dershowitz, and I am very serious.Listen to him. Go to this link.

http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&load=6057&mpid=457

From, M.S.

__________________________________________________________________

From: G    Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 3:10 PM
To:  Mark Zivin;
Subject: FW: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 Hi,

Although I do not support the policy of Israel these days, I do think that Dershowitz’s speech to which you can listen on this link is really impressive and has a lot in it.

Let’s hope for better news this coming year

__________________________________________________________________

From: Mark Zivin Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:02 AM
To: G
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 Although Dershowitz makes some excellent points, I find him to be one of the most arrogant, one-sided and sometimes hypocritical apologists for Israel.  He has become a caricature of his early pro-Israel self and he has lost all credibility with me.

 The points that resonated with me include the following:

  1. There is no doubt that the UN continues to be an extremely anti-Israel body – I personally do not believe that it should be condemned wholesale as many on the right here in the US do.  I believe that it is a flawed organization  – but still accomplishes much good in the world.
  2. I particularly liked his suggestion that any state that is not willing to recognize Israel not be allowed to vote on Palestinian admission. However, unfortunately, while the application obviously implies that it is within a two-state framework, I am not sure that there is anything explicit about that in the application
  3. I was very surprised to hear his claim that Fayad is asking for multiple times the land area for acceding to 1) Jewish Quarter, 2) Route to Hebrew U. and , 3)Western Wall.  I have NOT heard that anywhere else.  As a matter of fact, it was my understanding that in several of the previous proposals, Israel offered less land.   This is the type of claim that causes me to question the veracity of everything he says.  Look, he claims that Fayad told him this face-to-face, so I guess I have to believe him.  However, as with most political statements, one really needs to know the context in which a statement is made – so as to make sure that it was not in some way taken out of context.

 Actually, the impression I got from the tone of Dershowitz’ rant was that he is damn pissed off that the Palestinians are making a very smart political move by going to the UN.

 Finally, I don’t if you are aware that Pajamas Media (PJTV) is a predominately right-wing media outlook that – similar to MEMRI and CAMERA – will rarely, if ever, publish anything that criticizes Israel.  While they claim to ‘set the record straight’ and ‘counter the left-wing media’ and do translate/publish some very interesting information – they are so one-sided that in my mind, they have very little credibility.  Camera in particular looks for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias everywhere – and in my mind often stretch the truth in doing so.

 Also, the Hudson Institute is a right-wing think tank in DC – and very partisan.

 Anyhow, thanks for forwarding this.  I am a big believer in listening to all points of view.

 Hope all is well with you guys.

 Love,  Mark

__________________________________________________________________

From: G Sent: Sunday, October 02, 2011 5:21 PM
To: Mark Zivin
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech 

Dear Mark,

Anything that you say about Dershowitz or the media that you mention is right. However, you do not address his main points! It is incredible to hear about the fact that the UN did not deal with Cambodia and at that time they were condemning Israel. It is amazing to realize that they never deal with what Turkey or Syria are doing while at the same time they are voting against Israel permanently. And so on and so on… I will not go again into the arguments that he brings. Most of the things he says are right! I am sorry to say that in your arguments you sound one sided also. You know that I do not agree with the politics of our government, but I am also tired of everybody (especially the British) blindly supporting the Palestinians only without really understanding the problem in depth.

Gmar chatima tova

G

__________________________________________________________________

From: Mark Zivin  Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:47 AM
To:Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 First, I didn’t address those issues because I have not had time to research whether he is totally correct or not.  He may well be – but I don’t take what virtually anybody says without fact checking.  Plus, I am sorry but for me citing events (as tragic as they may be) that are 35 years old don’t support or refute where the UN is today – and what positive role they may play in the world.     

 Finally, as my mom used to say, “two wrongs don’t make a right”.    The fact that the UN is anti-Israel does not address whether or not anything is really accomplished by the Palestinians going to the UN.  I personally don’t believe that Abbas went to the UN because he thought that somehow magically this would “create” the State of Palestine.  I think that he went because the peace talks are at a standstill and that he was trying to shake things up.  It appears that he has.

 Bibi has agreed to come back to the negotiating table with no pre-conditions.  I read that the Palestinians have rejected that – which makes me extremely angry at them – but perhaps that will change.  I certainly hope that the two sides can at least start talking.

__________________________________________________________________

From: G
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:02 AM
To: Mark Zivin
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech 

Even if part of it is right, you should give it consideration. But you reject it all at once just because it is him and also because it is about Israel. He is on the extreme side and so are you in your response.

__________________________________________________________________

From: Mark Zivin
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 10:19 PM
To:Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

While there is no question that I dislike Mr. Dershowitz, and that came through loud and clear in my response to you, I don’t reject all of his arguments out of hand and I am sorry that I didn’t do a better job of communicating that.  I should have spent more time in expressing my points of agreement and also in explaining my disagreements.  I did indicate a couple points of agreement:

  1. There is no doubt that the UN continues to be an extremely anti-Israel body – I personally do not believe that it should be condemned wholesale as many on the right here in the US do.  I believe that it is a flawed organization  – but still accomplishes much good in the world.
  2. I particularly liked his suggestion that any state that is not willing to recognize Israel not be allowed to vote on Palestinian admission. However, unfortunately, while the application obviously implies that it is within a two-state framework, I am not sure that there is anything explicit about that in the application

However, I simply don’t agree with much of his assessment of why the Palestinians decided to go to the UN – but that opinion is not based on the fact Dershowitz’ delivery or how I feel about him personally, but simply that I don’t agree with his assessment of why they went (that is, his contention that they went because the UN is so pro-Palestinian and the Palestinians “occupy” the United Nations).  Don’t get me wrong  – yes, the UN is pro-Palestinian – I certainly believe that, and there are many, many examples of that.  However, going to the UN was not their first resort – but rather a pretty late resort.  That is, for example, Abbas has been in power since 2005 – and it is only now that he is going to the UN.  Instead, he spent a considerable amount of time trying to reach agreement with Olmert and reports are that they were very, very close to an agreement.  This seems to me to be a pretty strong argument against D’s contention that the Palestinians’ main reason for going to the UN was because of its advocacy in favor of the Palestinians to the detriment of all other oppressed minorities in the world.  In addition, while I personally don’t believe that going to the UN per se, is going to solve anything – I think that it is a very smart, clever and non-violent tactic.  Therefore, rather than ranting and raving (which you have to admit Dershowitz does), I think it behooves everyone – no matter whether they are on the right or the left – to calmly and intelligently analyze this significant change in tactics.  I am personally extremely happy to see that the main stream Palestinian authorities seem to have rejected violence as a tactic.  (There are glaring exceptions like their honoring suicide bombers, and the PA’s possible reconciliation with Hamas – (but so far, they have not been able to reconcile and presumably one of the issues is their point of view on violence and terrorism)).  I still have a lot of history to learn, but it is my recollection that Arafat never rejected violence.  As evidence that the current government has made tremendous strides in eliminating violence, one only has to look at the fact that the heads of Israeli security have indicated the great advances that the PA police forces have made.  So much so that they were able to open up a significant number of checkpoints about two years ago. 

Many experts believe that the most serious threat to the occupation now is if the Palestinians can maintain discipline and successfully mount massive non-violent protests.  Israel does not seem to have an answer to major non-violent protest.  A group of us met with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. a few weeks ago in Washington.  He had recently returned from a Congressional Delegation tour of Israel led by Steny Hoyer.  On that tour, he met with both the top Israeli political and military leaders, and the top Palestinian political leaders.  I know there are many people who think Jackson, Jr. is both anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, but you cannot deny that he is very concerned and well informed on the issues.  He has been to Israel as a Congressman five times and to the West Bank several times – and to the best of my knowledge, these tours were organized by AIPAC, so no one can suggest that he has been “brain-washed” by radicals.  In any event, he was visibly upset and pessimistic about the situation.  There was one thing in particular that he said that I found very insightful and worth considering.  He said they were briefed by Israeli military and security leaders about the entire security situation.  When it came time for questions and answers, he asked what their plan was for countering a major non-violent protest (e.g., a march on the East Jerusalem check point by hundreds of non-violent protesters).  He said that they had no answer.  They simply talked around the issue.  That is disturbing…

 On a separate issue, I was about as disappointed with Abbas’ UN speech as I was with Dershowitz’ YouTube clip.  Abbas basically reiterated all of the old Palestinian talking points about the Nakba, etc.  Of particular note was his mentioning “63 years of occupation”.  That goes back to 1948 so by implication he seemed to be denying Israel’s right to exist.  What a step backwards.  Pretty depressing for us two-staters.  Further, he offered virtually no ‘olive branch’ that could be used as a way to bridge the gap.  On the other hand, Bibi’s speech was masterful – as usual – and certainly went a long way to reaching out to the Palestinians.  It’s a shame that Abbas didn’t call Bibi’s bluff – and agree to meet him the same day at the UN.  Now that would have been the sign of a great leader.  Further disheartening, the Palestinians also appear to have rejected the Quartet’s current negotiations to get everybody back to the table. 

 My final word to you is simply that I hope I can convince you that I do my best to give all sides consideration.  That is one of my core ideals.  Like most ideals, one doesn’t always live up to them, but I certainly try to.

 Sending lots of love,

 Mark

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