Commentary Magazine


Defending the Gaza 54

J Street and Peace Now rush to the pages of the Jerusalem Post to defend the letter sent by 54 Democratic congressmen (one subsequently fell off the Israel-bashing bandwagon) calling on the lifting of the Gaza blockade. It’s what we have come to expect from those who find Israel’s reasoned self-defense measures to be gross violations of human rights. It is also deeply misleading. As others have noted:

Note that for the Jerusalem Post, J Street and APN argue that first they were concerned for “Israel’s security,” but the text of the letter indicates that Israel’s security is of little concern. More than 90 percent of the letter deals with the “collective punishment of the Palestinian residents” of Gaza and easing their plight. This accusation of Israel’s “collection punishment” helps explain why J Street failed to condemn the Goldstone Report. This is not a letter from “pro-Israel” sources, but from “pro-Gaza” sources. And in the case of Hamas-occupied Gaza, the two are mutually exclusive.

There always seem to be those — the Gaza-letter brigade and their boosters at J Street, most prominently — who offer themselves as true friends of Israel, knowing better than the Israelis what sacrifices are to be taken. Lift the blockade, they say from the cozy confines of New York, waving off the notion that more Israeli children will die from the bombs smuggled among the “construction supplies” they seek to allow into Gaza.

As if to hammer this home, the Jerusalem Post also offers up the remarks of an actual pro-Israel congressman, Rep. Eliot Engel. He comments on the Israeli government’s decision not to meet with the J Street delegation:

“It’s up to Israeli officials to decide who they will meet with, and who not to meet with,” he said.

He pointed out that a number of the congressmen that J Street brought over vote against Israel on resolutions that generally carry massive support on the House floor.

For instance, two of those congressman – California Democrats Lois Capps and Bob Filner – voted against House Resolution 867 that slammed the Goldstone Report and re-affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense.

Another member of the delegation, Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), voted “present,” while Donald Payne (D-New Jersey) did not vote. The only member of the delegation to back the resolution, deemed in Jerusalem an important pro-Israel resolution, was Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio).

The resolution passed 344-36, with another 22 voting “present,” and 20 not voting.

Engel is also not buying J Street’s “pro-Israel” moniker (well, neither does the J Street gang, as its college group prefers not to use that label):

Engel, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch supporter of Israel in the House, said J Street takes “positions in Washington I have difficulty with.”

Engel said J Street’s statements “over-emphasize” what the organization feels Israel is not doing, “rather than putting the blame squarely where I think it belongs – the Palestinian attitude of denying Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state.”

He continued, “If you look at some of the votes we had in the US Congress pertaining to Israel and the Middle East, there are some people on that [J Street] trip who the government would be unhappy with regarding their votes – and that would be understandable. They probably feel that if people are going to criticize them, they don’t have to facilitate the criticism.”

Yes, what an odd thing indeed for a government to decide for itself how best to defend its population and to decide for itself whether those claiming to have its best interests at heart really do. In the meantime, those who profess to place Israel’s security first might forgo, for starters, the embrace of the Hamas position on Gaza and the aversion to crippling sanctions against the Iranian regime, which would like to eradicate the Jewish state rather than to nibble away at its edges.