In response to my earlier post quoting David Weinberg’s column from the Jerusalem Post, several pro-Israel conservatives have taken issue with the extract I included that lumped the American Task Force on Palestine and its president Ziad Asali in with virulent Israel-haters. Three separate readers made the same point: J Street is actually much more hostile to Israel than ATFP. One comments that ATFP is “trying to create a Arab-American organization that advocates for a Palestinian state without being anti-Israel.” Another reader affiliated with a mainstream pro-Israel Jewish organization notes that ATFP believes reaching out to Hamas “undermines the peace process” so ATFP is “actually more pro-Israel than J Street, one could argue.”
Commentary contributor Josh Muravchik adds these thoughts:
I have spent many hours in public forums and private conversations with Ziad Asali and the other two principle leaders of the ATFP, Hussein Ibish and Ghaith al-Omari. They are, in a sense, what we supporters of Israel have been seeking: a group of Arabs and Arab-Americans who are working for the creation of a Palestinian state but not for the destruction of Israel. Because they take seriously the idea of a two-state solution, they are more thoughtful about Israel’s security needs than is J Street, an organization that is unrelentingly hostile to Israel.
Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow of AFTP, writes to us to explain:
The founding mission of ATFP is to promote the idea that a negotiated end of conflict agreement resulting in two states—Israel and Palestine —living side-by-side in peace and security is in the American national interest. Moreover, we strongly agree with both Pres. George W. Bush and Pres. Barack Obama that such a peace agreement is in the interests of Israel, the Palestinians and our own country. These positions are clearly reflected in all our public statements and are amply represented on our website www.americantaskforce.org).
This has been recognized throughout the foreign policy community in the United States and elsewhere. For example, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), who is both a staunch supporter of Israel and the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter addressed to Dr. Asali on the occasion of our Fourth Annual Gala that was held in Washington on Oct. 15, which I had the privilege of reading from the podium, and which reads in part: “I want you to know how much I, as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, value my association with you and your colleagues at ATFP. Your integrity, your knowledge of the issues, and your unswervingly principled stand on behalf of peace and fairness — as well as your deep commitment both to the land of your birth, Palestine, and your adopted homeland, America — have all had a powerfully positive impact on discourse in Washington about the Middle East. You and your colleagues have also been an important influence on my own thinking about Middle East peacemaking and that of many of my colleagues in the Congress.”
I welcome the chance to clarify ATFP’s views. This of course only serves to emphasize just how extreme and counterproductive ( if the real goal is a strong Israel and improved Israeli-Palestinian relations) are the positions of the J Street crowd.