For mainstream American Jewish groups, it has long been an article of faith that strong alliances with liberal Protestant denominations with whom they shared a common agenda on domestic issues is integral to the safeguarding of the security and the rights of the Jewish community. That has been tested in recent years, as some of their liberal Christian partners debated supporting efforts to boycott, divest and sanction the state of Israel. But the latest instance of liberal Christians attacking Israel ought to cut the cord completely.
As the Times of Israel and JTA report, the leaders of several of the leading American Protestant denominations and one small Catholic group have signed a letter calling for a congressional investigation whose purpose would be to end U.S. aid to Israel. The letter alleges that Israel is involved in crimes that violate U.S. law that should prevent the sending of aid or arms to the Jewish state. These charges are a tissue of deceptions, distortions and outright lies that are the product of Palestinian propaganda. (Though some of it is supported by radical leftist Jewish groups like B’Tselem, whose leaders own ambivalence toward Zionism has been documented in COMMENTARY.) The main focus of the letter is to delegitimize Israeli self-defense and to ignore the reality of Palestinian intransigence and opposition to peace. However, the reaction of Jewish groups to this latest development should not be ambivalent. To its credit, the Anti-Defamation League has said it will withdraw from a national Jewish-Christian dialogue event. They should not be the only Jewish group to do so.
Days after the ADL pandered to its liberal adherents with a report that attempted in part to link mainstream conservative critics of the Obama administration with extremists, the venerable watchdog group tilted in the other direction with a blast aimed at J Street, the leftist lobby that seeks to undermine the pro-Israel consensus in Washington. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, ADL national director Abe Foxman called up the wire service last night to condemn J Street for its attack on Sarah Palin’s recent statement opposing Obama’s stand on Jewish settlements. JTA’s Capital J blog said Foxman termed J Street’s statement “over the line” and wondered whether the group should be calling itself “pro-Israel.”
Palin had expressed support for the settlement movement in a Barbra Walters interview, though her explanation of the need for allowing existing settlements to expand was a bit off the mark. She said it was because “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” That is more than anybody in Israel knows about the possibility of an increase in aliyah. The argument for settlement expansion has to do with Israel’s rights to the land and its security as well as the needs of the existing Jewish population. This is, alas, another example of the former vice-presidential candidate sometimes having a correct opinion but not knowing the right reason for having it. But in a week when Obama personally blasted Israel for building new apartments in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, this is not a moment to quibble about the statements of those who are trying to help Israel rather than cut it off at the knees, as the administration seems intent on doing.
Which is why Foxman was absolutely right to point out that J Street was way out of line. Capital J claims that Foxman asserted that J Street’s refusal to support Israel’s invasion of Gaza, its opposition to new Iran sanctions, its failure to support last month’s congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, and the reaction to the Palin statement raise a “question mark” about the group’s own “pro-Israel” bona fides.
J Street’s willingness to use the settlements issue to jump on Palin, a popular liberal punching bag, illustrates again that its primary reason for being has nothing to do with a desire to back Israel or a peace process that is dead in the water due to a complete lack of interest in making peace on the part of the Palestinians. J Street’s only purpose is to pursue the political agenda of the Left with no concern for the need to maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition. But as much as Foxman’s anger at J Street was on target, we’d have a little more respect for the ADL’s own judgment had the full force of its efforts not otherwise been similarly aimed at delegitimizing anti-Obama and largely pro-Israel conservatives earlier in the week.