Commentary Magazine


Topic: American Jewish Committee

Why Shouldn’t We Defund the Boycotters?

When the American Studies Association joined the ranks of those supporting boycotts of the state of Israel, it probably never occurred to members of the group that someone might turn the tables on them. But they underestimated the ingenuity of pro-Israel activists and their friends in various state legislatures who decided that if the academic group wanted to play the boycott game, they ought to see how felt being on the other side of the table. Thus, legislators in New York, Maryland as well as some members of the U.S. House of Representatives have presented bills that would cut off or reduce funds for institutions of higher learning that used the money they get from the state to finance attendance at conferences sponsored by boycotters like the ASA or participated directly in boycott efforts.

But an interesting thing has happened on the way to passage of these common sense bills. As JTA reports, Jewish groups that are leaders in the effort to fight against the BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement against Israel are opposing them. Both the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee say such bills are a potential violation of academic freedom. Others, like the New York State United Teachers Union go further and make the argument that using the state money that goes to colleges to penalize institutions that are, albeit indirectly, supporting boycotters is an attack on freedom of speech. These protests led the New York legislature to shelve the original version of the bill and replace it with one that would essentially give schools a pass for subsidizing the ASA since it would allow them to use non-state money to support the boycott-related activity.

 I don’t doubt the commitment of either ADL or the AJC to the fight against BDS and I understand their reluctance to associate themselves with any measure that would potentially limit the ability of academics to express themselves or to penalize schools for the activities of what might only be a few radicals on their faculties. But I believe they’re wrong to have weighed in on this issue this manner. The problem is not just that the opposition of the ADL and the AJC to these bills makes their passage extremely unlikely. But they are also wrong on the merits. Defunding those who aid boycotts is both legal and morally correct.

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When the American Studies Association joined the ranks of those supporting boycotts of the state of Israel, it probably never occurred to members of the group that someone might turn the tables on them. But they underestimated the ingenuity of pro-Israel activists and their friends in various state legislatures who decided that if the academic group wanted to play the boycott game, they ought to see how felt being on the other side of the table. Thus, legislators in New York, Maryland as well as some members of the U.S. House of Representatives have presented bills that would cut off or reduce funds for institutions of higher learning that used the money they get from the state to finance attendance at conferences sponsored by boycotters like the ASA or participated directly in boycott efforts.

But an interesting thing has happened on the way to passage of these common sense bills. As JTA reports, Jewish groups that are leaders in the effort to fight against the BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement against Israel are opposing them. Both the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee say such bills are a potential violation of academic freedom. Others, like the New York State United Teachers Union go further and make the argument that using the state money that goes to colleges to penalize institutions that are, albeit indirectly, supporting boycotters is an attack on freedom of speech. These protests led the New York legislature to shelve the original version of the bill and replace it with one that would essentially give schools a pass for subsidizing the ASA since it would allow them to use non-state money to support the boycott-related activity.

 I don’t doubt the commitment of either ADL or the AJC to the fight against BDS and I understand their reluctance to associate themselves with any measure that would potentially limit the ability of academics to express themselves or to penalize schools for the activities of what might only be a few radicals on their faculties. But I believe they’re wrong to have weighed in on this issue this manner. The problem is not just that the opposition of the ADL and the AJC to these bills makes their passage extremely unlikely. But they are also wrong on the merits. Defunding those who aid boycotts is both legal and morally correct.

Both the federal government and states routinely put all sorts of conditions on any entity that takes their money. Some of those terms involve bureaucratic or legal obligations. But some are rooted in the basic concept that the state is under no obligation to fund activities that are immoral or discriminatory. Aiding BDS groups and those, like the ASA, who endorse and actively support Israel boycotts, fall into that latter category. Simply put, it is outrageous for schools or any institution to expect the taxpayers to stand by and let them use their hard-earned dollars to support activities that are inherently discriminatory.

Is this is a violation of academic freedom?

If the state were to mandate penalties for schools that taught courses that were deemed insufficiently supportive of Israel or requiring them to fire professors that were anti-Zionists, that would constitute unethical interference in academic activity. But no one is proposing that anti-Zionists be fired or that curricula be vetted for hostility to Israel in order for a school to be eligible for state money. What is at stake here is the question of whether schools will use their budgets to subsidize outside groups that support BDS or sponsor such activities on their own. Doing so would not restrict academic freedom but it would prevent the haters from being funded on backs of the taxpayers.

At the heart of this question is some confusion about the nature of the BDS movement. Reasonable people can differ on many issues including many of the elements of the Middle East conflict including borders, settlements and refugees. But the question of whether the one Jewish state in the world should be singled out for discriminatory treatment and marked for extinction is not just one more academic debate. It’s a matter of life and death as well as whether Jew-hatred should be treated as a matter of opinion.

Just as no one would question whether state funds should be used, even indirectly, to subsidize the Ku Klux Klan or any other racist group, neither should federal or state dollars go to institutions that are willing to underwrite the BDS movement and those that officially support its discriminatory policies.

Jewish groups like the ADL and the AJC are right to be cautious about bills that could be represented as unconscionable state interference with higher education or the freedom of academics to express their theories and beliefs. Part of being in a democracy means the obligation to tolerate opposing and even obnoxious or hateful views. But toleration of haters is not the same thing as a stance that deems such groups to be entitled as a matter of right to state money no matter what they do. Colleges and universities are forced to jump through innumerable hoops in order to get research grants or aid money of any kind. Asking them not to use their budgets to support a hate campaign against Israel is neither onerous nor a threat to academic freedom. Defunding the boycotters is not only legal and moral. It’s the right thing to do.

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Time for Honesty from Obama on Iran

How far are Democrats willing to go to squelch efforts to put a chill on the administration’s headlong rush to embrace Iran? We got a taste of just how important the effort to prevent the enactment of tougher sanctions on Iran is to the president this week when he assigned his Jewish surrogates the job of smearing mainstream Jewish groups that have been lobbying for the bill.

As JTA reports, Rabbi Jack Moline, the head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, slammed both AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee for engaging in what he called “strong-arm tactics, essentially threatening people that if they don’t vote a particular way, that somehow that makes them anti-Israel or means the abandonment of the Jewish community.” That was enough to prompt David Harris, the head of the liberal-leaning AJC to wonder what exactly Moline was up to by engaging in that kind of invective on the issue:

“We support the Iran sanctions bill, as do a bipartisan majority of U.S. senators,” he said. “Can a group differ with him on a critically important issue like Iran, where potentially existential issues are at stake, without being maligned or misrepresented, or is that the price we’re supposed to pay for honest disagreement?”

Yes, that is exactly the price. Especially when the stakes involve anything that would potentially upset the administration’s effort to create a new détente with Iran. Though it is highly unlikely that proponents of the measure have enough votes to override a threatened presidential veto, the administration is not only doing its utmost to spike the effort, it is calling out the dogs in yet another attempt to intimidate those determined to speak out in favor of stricter sanctions.

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How far are Democrats willing to go to squelch efforts to put a chill on the administration’s headlong rush to embrace Iran? We got a taste of just how important the effort to prevent the enactment of tougher sanctions on Iran is to the president this week when he assigned his Jewish surrogates the job of smearing mainstream Jewish groups that have been lobbying for the bill.

As JTA reports, Rabbi Jack Moline, the head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, slammed both AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee for engaging in what he called “strong-arm tactics, essentially threatening people that if they don’t vote a particular way, that somehow that makes them anti-Israel or means the abandonment of the Jewish community.” That was enough to prompt David Harris, the head of the liberal-leaning AJC to wonder what exactly Moline was up to by engaging in that kind of invective on the issue:

“We support the Iran sanctions bill, as do a bipartisan majority of U.S. senators,” he said. “Can a group differ with him on a critically important issue like Iran, where potentially existential issues are at stake, without being maligned or misrepresented, or is that the price we’re supposed to pay for honest disagreement?”

Yes, that is exactly the price. Especially when the stakes involve anything that would potentially upset the administration’s effort to create a new détente with Iran. Though it is highly unlikely that proponents of the measure have enough votes to override a threatened presidential veto, the administration is not only doing its utmost to spike the effort, it is calling out the dogs in yet another attempt to intimidate those determined to speak out in favor of stricter sanctions.

The NJDC’s stand is particularly discreditable since the group is trying to have it both ways on the issue. As JTA notes:

The National Jewish Democratic Council, in an effort to back a Democratic president while not expressly opposing intensified sanctions, issued a mixed verdict on the bill, saying it does not support its passage at present though the option of intensified sanctions should remain open down the road if the president seeks it.

This is utterly disingenuous since the sanctions bill wouldn’t go into effect until the interim nuclear deal signed in November runs its full course, during which the Iranians will have six months to negotiate another agreement with the West and during which they will be able to continue refining uranium. Passage of the legislation will only strengthen President Obama’s hand in his dealings with Tehran and will underscore the point that he and Secretary of State John Kerry have continually made about the Geneva accord not fundamentally weakening the economic restrictions that brought the Islamist regime to the table in the first place.

However, the context of this dispute isn’t merely a spat among Jewish groups. The administration’s position on Iran has fundamentally shifted in the last several months during which secret talks with representatives of the ayatollahs were conducted. As articles in publications like the New York Times have made clear, Washington now regards Iran as a useful partner in Syria (where Tehran has ensured the survival of its ally Bashar Assad) and in Iraq. The move to step back from confrontation with Iran over its nuclear quest predated the election of faux moderate Hassan Rouhani last summer, but it has now reached the point where the White House considers any move to put more pressure on the regime as a threat to the hopes for better relations with the ayatollahs.

Just as chief White House flack Jay Carney has falsely implied that support for more sanctions is tantamount to a desire for war with Iran, Moline seems to be reading from the same playbook when he claims Jewish groups that won’t keep quiet are misbehaving. Far from stepping out of line, AIPAC and the AJC are reminding members of Congress that they can’t have it both ways. If they are sincere about their campaign pledges to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons they can’t also refuse to back more sanctions. The same point applies to the president since the position that the sanctions are not only unnecessary but a hindrance to diplomacy is illogical.

It should be remembered that this administration opposed the current sanctions regime they claim is sufficient for their purposes. But while those who back the new bill hope diplomacy succeeds, they rightly understand that nothing short of a complete shutdown of all business with Tehran, including the embargo of Iranian oil, will be enough to convince the regime that it must abandon its nuclear dream. Having already sanctioned Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium, there seems little chance that the current diplomatic track will succeed in shutting down the centrifuges or the dismantling of its nuclear infrastructure.

Contrary to the White House spin, Iran is already showing signs that it is shaking off the problems created by the existing sanctions. As Mark Dubowitz and Rachel Ziemba wrote in a piece published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the improvement in the Iranian economy—a trend that may be rooted in a belief that the sanctions will soon be lifted—is weakening the West’s leverage over Tehran at the very moment when the president needs it the most in order to get a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Iran.

As such, the enactment of new tougher sanctions could help convince Tehran that its efforts to stall the West on the nuclear issue will fail. But the president seems more afraid of “breaking faith” with a terror-supporting, anti-Semitic regime that remains a potent strategic threat to America’s Middle East allies than he is of appearing too solicitous of the feelings of the ayatollahs.

But the administration is still nervous about appearing to have openly abandoned efforts to isolate Iran. That’s why the White House is hoping the president’s veto threats as well as the attacks on sanctions supporters by attack dogs like Moline will prevent him from having to veto a measure that bolsters his stated policy aims.

Supporters of sanctions shouldn’t be intimidated by innuendo from either Carney or Moline. It is time for the administration to be honest with the American people about its Iran policy. If it is serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear threat, it should stop opposing the new bill. If not, the administration should end its prevarications and make a straightforward, public case for détente with the tyrants of Tehran—if they dare.

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The Make Believe Argument Over Israel

This week, the American Jewish Committee earned the plaudits of New York Times columnist Roger Cohen for issuing a direct denunciation of Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, for saying that the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was dead. The statement blasted Bennett, the head of the Habayit Hayehudi Party that had an impressive showing in last January’s Knesset election in the following manner:

Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks, rejecting outright the vision of two states for two peoples, are stunningly shortsighted,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Since he is a member of the current Israeli coalition government, it is important that his view be repudiated by the country’s top leaders.”

“Bennett contravenes the outlook of Prime Minister Netanyahu and contradicts the vision presented earlier this month to the AJC Global Forum by Minister Tzipi Livni, chief Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians,” Harris continued. “Livni stated clearly that a negotiated two-state settlement is the only way to assure that the State of Israel will remain both Jewish and democratic. That is a view we at AJC have long supported.”

“We are under no illusion about the difficulties of achieving a two-state accord,” Harris concluded. “But Bennett’s alternative scenario offers only the prospect of a dead-end strategy of endless conflict and growing isolation for Israel.”

While liberal on domestic policy, the AJC has been solidly pro-Israel under Harris’ tenure, so his decision to call out a member of an Israeli government is more than a little unusual and it was enough to send both Cohen, who has solidly opposed the AJC’s pro-Israel policies, into spasms of joy that were echoed by one of the writers on the Open Zion website. They hope that this constitutes a turning point in the relationship between American Jewish organizations and the Jewish state. Their notion is this is the moment when the pro-Israel community will cease being a bulwark for Jerusalem and begin to throw its weight behind efforts to pressure the country into concessions that leftists think will save it from itself. If groups like AJC start acting like the decidedly non-mainstream left-wingers of J Street and condemning settlements and calling for Israel to accept the 1967 borders, then they imagine Israel’s resistance to such measures will be broken down when faced with the loss of its American Jewish allies.

Cohen and the Open Zion crowd are wrong about that. But it’s not just that they are overestimating the willingness of mainstream groups to challenge the judgment of a democratically elected Israeli government. The dustup between the AJC and Bennett as well as other members of Netanyahu’s government is not so much about whether these right-wingers are actually thwarting a two-state solution, as Harris’s statement seemed to be saying, but whether it was appropriate for him to not to play along with the pretense that such a scheme is possible in the foreseeable future. Reading much significance into the admonition aimed at Bennett is a mistake because although he and the AJC do disagree about what a solution to the conflict might be, it is not exactly a secret that Palestinian intransigence makes this a purely theoretical dispute.

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This week, the American Jewish Committee earned the plaudits of New York Times columnist Roger Cohen for issuing a direct denunciation of Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, for saying that the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was dead. The statement blasted Bennett, the head of the Habayit Hayehudi Party that had an impressive showing in last January’s Knesset election in the following manner:

Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks, rejecting outright the vision of two states for two peoples, are stunningly shortsighted,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Since he is a member of the current Israeli coalition government, it is important that his view be repudiated by the country’s top leaders.”

“Bennett contravenes the outlook of Prime Minister Netanyahu and contradicts the vision presented earlier this month to the AJC Global Forum by Minister Tzipi Livni, chief Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians,” Harris continued. “Livni stated clearly that a negotiated two-state settlement is the only way to assure that the State of Israel will remain both Jewish and democratic. That is a view we at AJC have long supported.”

“We are under no illusion about the difficulties of achieving a two-state accord,” Harris concluded. “But Bennett’s alternative scenario offers only the prospect of a dead-end strategy of endless conflict and growing isolation for Israel.”

While liberal on domestic policy, the AJC has been solidly pro-Israel under Harris’ tenure, so his decision to call out a member of an Israeli government is more than a little unusual and it was enough to send both Cohen, who has solidly opposed the AJC’s pro-Israel policies, into spasms of joy that were echoed by one of the writers on the Open Zion website. They hope that this constitutes a turning point in the relationship between American Jewish organizations and the Jewish state. Their notion is this is the moment when the pro-Israel community will cease being a bulwark for Jerusalem and begin to throw its weight behind efforts to pressure the country into concessions that leftists think will save it from itself. If groups like AJC start acting like the decidedly non-mainstream left-wingers of J Street and condemning settlements and calling for Israel to accept the 1967 borders, then they imagine Israel’s resistance to such measures will be broken down when faced with the loss of its American Jewish allies.

Cohen and the Open Zion crowd are wrong about that. But it’s not just that they are overestimating the willingness of mainstream groups to challenge the judgment of a democratically elected Israeli government. The dustup between the AJC and Bennett as well as other members of Netanyahu’s government is not so much about whether these right-wingers are actually thwarting a two-state solution, as Harris’s statement seemed to be saying, but whether it was appropriate for him to not to play along with the pretense that such a scheme is possible in the foreseeable future. Reading much significance into the admonition aimed at Bennett is a mistake because although he and the AJC do disagree about what a solution to the conflict might be, it is not exactly a secret that Palestinian intransigence makes this a purely theoretical dispute.

Most American Jews—including those in mainstream groups—may not agree with Bennett that a two-state solution is a bad idea in principle. But like most Israelis, most of those who are informed about the reality that Israel faces understand that it isn’t happening anytime soon no matter what the Netanyahu government or American Jews say about it. The Palestinians have turned down three offers of statehood including a share of Jerusalem and have boycotted negotiations for four and a half years. They also understand that the left’s focus on what Israel must supposedly do to secure peace is irrelevant because so long as the Palestinians refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, these questions aren’t much more relevant that the old one about how many angels can dance on the head of pin.

Like Netanyahu, leading American Jewish groups are publicly supporting Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to revive the peace process. Unlike Cohen most understand the secretary has sent himself on a fool’s errand. Pointing this fact out, as Bennett has done, may not help Israel’s diplomatic position or its image. But it also doesn’t really change a thing. 

Harris is right that Bennett is undermining Israel’s public image in the West since such statements do feed into the false notion that most Israelis don’t want to compromise. That’s also a myth because, as I wrote earlier this week, even Bennett probably knows that if the Palestinians would ever to come back to the table and offer a complete end to the conflict and a renunciation of the right of return, most of his countrymen would be willing to make far-ranging sacrifices of territory that he wouldn’t like.

If most Israelis have given up on the two-state solution for the near term it is not because, like Bennett, they don’t want it, but because, unlike Cohen and other leftists, they’ve paid attention to what’s happened during the last 20 years of peace processing. Israelis need no urging to make risks for peace if peace was really in the offing. The problem is that it isn’t. The Palestinians have made such a deal impossible and there’s no sign that the sea change necessary in their political culture to make two states a viable solution is on the horizon. As unpalatable as this may be, even many liberal American Jews are coming to understand that all Israel can do is to wait until it happens.

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Has the Shoe Dropped on Hagel?

On Fox News Sunday this morning, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward said that some Democratic senators have called the White House asking if Chuck Hagel will withdraw from the battle to confirm him as secretary of defense. The apparent answer to that question is not yet. But the furor over the Washington Free Beacon’s reporting of a statement Hagel made in 2007 alleging that the Israeli Foreign Ministry was running the U.S. State Department is turning up the heat on the nominee.

On Thursday, Contentions called on some of the major Jewish organizations that have been conspicuous by their absence from the debate about Hagel to finally break their silence on the issue and to demand an explanation about the 2007 speech given at Rutgers University during which Hagel is alleged to have made the crack about the Israelis and the State Department. Last night, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that both the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have made such statements. The ADL told JTA Hagel needed to explain the remark but the American Jewish Committee went farther in saying that “further Senate deliberation is called for before any final vote is taken.”

These comments are part of the growing furor over Hagel that is not going to be defused by the nominee’s assurance to Senator Lindsay Graham that he “doesn’t recall” making the controversial statements about Israel and the State Department. The allegations about the Rutgers speech are credible not just because of the contemporaneous account of the event but also because of Hagel’s history of saying similar things about the “Jewish lobby” and disavowals of past stands favoring outreach to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. As Hagel “twists in the wind” — a Watergate allusion made today by Woodward —pressure is growing on pro-Israel Democrats to abandon him.

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On Fox News Sunday this morning, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward said that some Democratic senators have called the White House asking if Chuck Hagel will withdraw from the battle to confirm him as secretary of defense. The apparent answer to that question is not yet. But the furor over the Washington Free Beacon’s reporting of a statement Hagel made in 2007 alleging that the Israeli Foreign Ministry was running the U.S. State Department is turning up the heat on the nominee.

On Thursday, Contentions called on some of the major Jewish organizations that have been conspicuous by their absence from the debate about Hagel to finally break their silence on the issue and to demand an explanation about the 2007 speech given at Rutgers University during which Hagel is alleged to have made the crack about the Israelis and the State Department. Last night, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that both the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have made such statements. The ADL told JTA Hagel needed to explain the remark but the American Jewish Committee went farther in saying that “further Senate deliberation is called for before any final vote is taken.”

These comments are part of the growing furor over Hagel that is not going to be defused by the nominee’s assurance to Senator Lindsay Graham that he “doesn’t recall” making the controversial statements about Israel and the State Department. The allegations about the Rutgers speech are credible not just because of the contemporaneous account of the event but also because of Hagel’s history of saying similar things about the “Jewish lobby” and disavowals of past stands favoring outreach to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. As Hagel “twists in the wind” — a Watergate allusion made today by Woodward —pressure is growing on pro-Israel Democrats to abandon him.

With each passing day during the Congressional recess over the next week, the Hagel deathwatch will become a bigger and bigger story. Though Democrats closed ranks behind the president’s choice in a partisan votes on Hagel last week the failure to block a delay of the decision on him via a filibuster on Thursday will give some of them the time to change their minds. Some of the pro-Israel senators like Chuck Schumer who have been using the silence of mainstream Jewish groups about his nomination as cover for their decision to go along with what they knew was a questionable choice are now on the spot. As John wrote in the New York Post on Friday, it’s time for Schumer to live up to his boast that he was the “guardian” of Israel in the Senate. In light of the latest revelations about the nominee’s record, that pose is meaningless if he doesn’t jump off the Hagel bandwagon.

It is true that many of the Republicans who voted to oppose cloture of Hagel on Thursday were doing so in order to try to force the White House to give up more information about what the president knew about the Benghazi terror attack. But the extra time gives members on both sides of the aisle to reconsider the Hagel fiasco.

The White House campaign to silence concerns about his prejudicial statements about Israel and its supporters that had seemingly quashed opposition to the nomination is no longer working. The nominee’s incompetent performance during his confirmation hearing only served to reinforce the qualms that many senators had about both his qualifications and his troubling record of out-of-the-mainstream stands on Israel and Iran. The administration can grumble all it likes about how unfair the scrutiny on the nominee has been but the fact is Hagel’s chances of leading the Pentagon are being sunk by the nominee, not his critics.

In the coming days, the calls for Hagel to withdraw will grow. So, too, will the pressure on pro-Israel Democrats to stop acting as the nominee’s guardian rather than the cause they have pledged to protect.

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Morning Commentary

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

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Time Magazine Takes Its Israel Hatred to a New Level

Yesterday, I wrote that the recent controversial legislation at the Knesset would likely result in a full-fledged freak-out from the left over Israel’s supposed slide toward totalitarianism, and this morning Time magazine didn’t disappoint. How bad is it? Let’s just say that Time might as well save the money it spends on its Jerusalem-bureau reporters by publishing full press releases from the Elders instead.

The article, titled “Israel’s Rightward Lurch Scares Even Some Conservatives,” is packed full of misinformation and outright contempt for the Jewish state. The online version also includes links to alleged atrocities committed by Israel — i.e., “Watch video of Israel preparing to deport children of migrant workers,” “See photographs of young Palestinians in the age of Israel’s security wall,” “Watch video of the water crisis in the West Bank.”

It was written by Time’s Jerusalem-bureau chief, Karl Vick, who penned the November cover story about how Israelis were too busy living the 90210 lifestyle to worry about the peace process. The biased statements and factual inaccuracies in his latest piece are honestly too numerous to go through for a line-by-line rebuttal, but here’s a brief rundown of the worst of it.

1.    It claims — without evidence — that Jawaher Abu Rahma was killed by tear gas from IDF soldiers:

Last week, after a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops, army spokesmen mounted a whisper campaign suggesting she died of natural causes. The unlikely, anonymous explanation was played prominently by Israeli newspapers. Those who said otherwise stood accused of “trying to de-legitimize the Israel Defense Forces.”

I wrote a full roundup of the IDF’s investigation into Abu Rahma’s death — which Vick nonsensically characterizes as a “whisper campaign” — here.

2.   It reports factually incorrect information about the recent NGO law passed by the Knesset and compares Israel to authoritarian states:

“Just last week, the coalition prompted cries of McCarthyism when it moved to crack down on Israeli human rights organizations deemed suspicious by a government that increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty. Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions.”

There are good reasons to oppose the NGO law, but to say that the panel was appointed to investigate groups simply because they are “critical of government actions” is completely disingenuous and inaccurate. The panel was created to examine whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization movement were being funded by foreign governments. It’s fine to disagree with such a move, as the American Jewish Committee did, but there is no need to blatantly mischaracterize it as Vick does.

3.   It quotes a historian who stops just shy of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany:

Ron Pundak, a historian who runs the Peres Center for Peace, sees the current atmosphere of Israeli politics as the ugliest in the nation’s history. “It’s totally abnormal,” he says. “From my point of view, this is reminiscent of the dark ages of different places in the world in the 1930s. Maybe not Germany, but Italy, maybe Argentina later. I fear we are reaching a slippery slope, if we are not already there.”

Yes, Time has always been renowned for its anti-Israel bias, but this article takes it to a new level. This is the type of story you’d expect to find on the Electronic Intifada — and it’s shameful that a mainstream publication is stooping to that level.

Yesterday, I wrote that the recent controversial legislation at the Knesset would likely result in a full-fledged freak-out from the left over Israel’s supposed slide toward totalitarianism, and this morning Time magazine didn’t disappoint. How bad is it? Let’s just say that Time might as well save the money it spends on its Jerusalem-bureau reporters by publishing full press releases from the Elders instead.

The article, titled “Israel’s Rightward Lurch Scares Even Some Conservatives,” is packed full of misinformation and outright contempt for the Jewish state. The online version also includes links to alleged atrocities committed by Israel — i.e., “Watch video of Israel preparing to deport children of migrant workers,” “See photographs of young Palestinians in the age of Israel’s security wall,” “Watch video of the water crisis in the West Bank.”

It was written by Time’s Jerusalem-bureau chief, Karl Vick, who penned the November cover story about how Israelis were too busy living the 90210 lifestyle to worry about the peace process. The biased statements and factual inaccuracies in his latest piece are honestly too numerous to go through for a line-by-line rebuttal, but here’s a brief rundown of the worst of it.

1.    It claims — without evidence — that Jawaher Abu Rahma was killed by tear gas from IDF soldiers:

Last week, after a Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops, army spokesmen mounted a whisper campaign suggesting she died of natural causes. The unlikely, anonymous explanation was played prominently by Israeli newspapers. Those who said otherwise stood accused of “trying to de-legitimize the Israel Defense Forces.”

I wrote a full roundup of the IDF’s investigation into Abu Rahma’s death — which Vick nonsensically characterizes as a “whisper campaign” — here.

2.   It reports factually incorrect information about the recent NGO law passed by the Knesset and compares Israel to authoritarian states:

“Just last week, the coalition prompted cries of McCarthyism when it moved to crack down on Israeli human rights organizations deemed suspicious by a government that increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty. Taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states, Netanyahu encouraged support for the law, appointing a panel to investigate independent organizations that are critical of government actions.”

There are good reasons to oppose the NGO law, but to say that the panel was appointed to investigate groups simply because they are “critical of government actions” is completely disingenuous and inaccurate. The panel was created to examine whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization movement were being funded by foreign governments. It’s fine to disagree with such a move, as the American Jewish Committee did, but there is no need to blatantly mischaracterize it as Vick does.

3.   It quotes a historian who stops just shy of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany:

Ron Pundak, a historian who runs the Peres Center for Peace, sees the current atmosphere of Israeli politics as the ugliest in the nation’s history. “It’s totally abnormal,” he says. “From my point of view, this is reminiscent of the dark ages of different places in the world in the 1930s. Maybe not Germany, but Italy, maybe Argentina later. I fear we are reaching a slippery slope, if we are not already there.”

Yes, Time has always been renowned for its anti-Israel bias, but this article takes it to a new level. This is the type of story you’d expect to find on the Electronic Intifada — and it’s shameful that a mainstream publication is stooping to that level.

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Is Israel’s Controversial NGO Law Simply a ‘Foreign Agent Registration Act’?

Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, has written a persuasive defense of the Knesset’s new inquiry panel that will investigate whether Israeli NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement are funded by foreign governments. Critics of the initiative have compared it to McCarthyism and say that it unfairly targets groups for their political beliefs. But Ayalon argues that the law is no different from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act:

The Knesset panel of inquiry is simply about transparency. If there are groups who receive funds from foreign nations then the Israeli public deserves the right to know. Some voices have mistakenly declared that this type of inquiry is reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act which is, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

But while FARA laws apply equally to all individuals and organizations, regardless of political affiliation, it’s unclear whether Israel’s new law will apply only to groups involved in the delegitimization movement. Plus, FARA rules put the onus on foreign agents to register and disclose their own affiliations, while the whole concept of an investigative government panel is much more proactive. The American Jewish Committee, which normally doesn’t comment on Israeli domestic policy, issued a harsh criticism of the new initiative yesterday.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a press release. “If there is a concern that foreign, and possibly malign, forces are funding civic or political groups in Israel, then let there be a debate on the advisability of requiring full disclosure of the revenues, and their sources, of all such groups across the political spectrum.”

I definitely applaud the idea of a FARA law for Israel, but I agree with the AJC that the policy shouldn’t be based on the politics of the organization. News reports have indicated that the law singles out left-wing delegitimization groups; but from Ayalon’s defense, I get the sense that it applies to all NGOs. Of course, the Knesset obviously doesn’t have time to investigate every NGO in Israel, and I’m sure politics will play a sizable role in which organizations ultimately get scrutinized.

Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, has written a persuasive defense of the Knesset’s new inquiry panel that will investigate whether Israeli NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement are funded by foreign governments. Critics of the initiative have compared it to McCarthyism and say that it unfairly targets groups for their political beliefs. But Ayalon argues that the law is no different from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act:

The Knesset panel of inquiry is simply about transparency. If there are groups who receive funds from foreign nations then the Israeli public deserves the right to know. Some voices have mistakenly declared that this type of inquiry is reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act which is, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

But while FARA laws apply equally to all individuals and organizations, regardless of political affiliation, it’s unclear whether Israel’s new law will apply only to groups involved in the delegitimization movement. Plus, FARA rules put the onus on foreign agents to register and disclose their own affiliations, while the whole concept of an investigative government panel is much more proactive. The American Jewish Committee, which normally doesn’t comment on Israeli domestic policy, issued a harsh criticism of the new initiative yesterday.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a press release. “If there is a concern that foreign, and possibly malign, forces are funding civic or political groups in Israel, then let there be a debate on the advisability of requiring full disclosure of the revenues, and their sources, of all such groups across the political spectrum.”

I definitely applaud the idea of a FARA law for Israel, but I agree with the AJC that the policy shouldn’t be based on the politics of the organization. News reports have indicated that the law singles out left-wing delegitimization groups; but from Ayalon’s defense, I get the sense that it applies to all NGOs. Of course, the Knesset obviously doesn’t have time to investigate every NGO in Israel, and I’m sure politics will play a sizable role in which organizations ultimately get scrutinized.

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American Jews Wising Up?

The second AJC poll of the year has some interesting results:

Some 49 percent of U.S. Jews approve, while 45 percent disapprove, of the Obama administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, according to a just-completed American Jewish Committee survey, its second national survey of American Jewish opinion conducted this year … AJC’s earlier survey, conducted in March, found that 55 percent approved and 37 percent disapproved.

In contrast, … 62 percent of American Jews approve, and 27 percent disapprove [of Bibi’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations], according to the new survey. In March, 57 percent approved and 30 percent disapproved.

A bare majority of American Jews (51 percent) approve of Obama’s overall performance, still higher than the nation as a whole, but not nearly the level of support (78 percent) he enjoyed on Election Day or for a good stretch of his term. American Jews’ specific views on Israel and Iran explain, in part, why they have become disenchanted with Obama:

American Jewish confidence in Obama’s approach to Iran has dropped with 43 percent approving of the administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue compared to 47 percent in March. Some 46 disapprove, up from 42 percent. Some 59 percent support and 35 percent oppose U.S. military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Some 70 percent support and some 26 oppose Israeli military action. …

Like the March results, the new survey found that 48 percent favor, and 45 percent oppose, establishment of a Palestinian state.

Regarding the future of West Bank settlements, 6 percent say “all,” 56 percent say “some,” and 37 percent say “none” should be dismantled as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.

A majority of American Jews, 60 percent, continue to support a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 35 percent say Israel should compromise on the city’s status in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

American Jews remain nearly unanimous, at 95 percent, in supporting a proposal requiring Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement.

These findings, in conjunction with the recent poll of all Americans that I discussed here, here and here, point to several important developments. In answer to the question of whether anything can wean Jews of their “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, the answer seems to be “Obama.” At this rate, his level of support among Jews will roughly match the general population’s, an unheard of phenomenon for the past 75 years.

In addition, there is no significant market among American Jews for what Soros Street is selling; the front group’s disappearance on the national stage will not be missed. (Except perhaps by Richard Goldstone.)

And finally, “charm” or a “charm offensive” is no match for substance. Obama has changed his outward demeanor toward Bibi and lowered the anti-Israel rhetoric, but his policies haven’t changed. Jews and the rest of Americans increasingly are tuning out what he says and scrutinizing what he does. That spells trouble for a politician who has gotten all the way to the White House on words alone.

The second AJC poll of the year has some interesting results:

Some 49 percent of U.S. Jews approve, while 45 percent disapprove, of the Obama administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, according to a just-completed American Jewish Committee survey, its second national survey of American Jewish opinion conducted this year … AJC’s earlier survey, conducted in March, found that 55 percent approved and 37 percent disapproved.

In contrast, … 62 percent of American Jews approve, and 27 percent disapprove [of Bibi’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations], according to the new survey. In March, 57 percent approved and 30 percent disapproved.

A bare majority of American Jews (51 percent) approve of Obama’s overall performance, still higher than the nation as a whole, but not nearly the level of support (78 percent) he enjoyed on Election Day or for a good stretch of his term. American Jews’ specific views on Israel and Iran explain, in part, why they have become disenchanted with Obama:

American Jewish confidence in Obama’s approach to Iran has dropped with 43 percent approving of the administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue compared to 47 percent in March. Some 46 disapprove, up from 42 percent. Some 59 percent support and 35 percent oppose U.S. military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Some 70 percent support and some 26 oppose Israeli military action. …

Like the March results, the new survey found that 48 percent favor, and 45 percent oppose, establishment of a Palestinian state.

Regarding the future of West Bank settlements, 6 percent say “all,” 56 percent say “some,” and 37 percent say “none” should be dismantled as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.

A majority of American Jews, 60 percent, continue to support a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 35 percent say Israel should compromise on the city’s status in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

American Jews remain nearly unanimous, at 95 percent, in supporting a proposal requiring Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement.

These findings, in conjunction with the recent poll of all Americans that I discussed here, here and here, point to several important developments. In answer to the question of whether anything can wean Jews of their “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, the answer seems to be “Obama.” At this rate, his level of support among Jews will roughly match the general population’s, an unheard of phenomenon for the past 75 years.

In addition, there is no significant market among American Jews for what Soros Street is selling; the front group’s disappearance on the national stage will not be missed. (Except perhaps by Richard Goldstone.)

And finally, “charm” or a “charm offensive” is no match for substance. Obama has changed his outward demeanor toward Bibi and lowered the anti-Israel rhetoric, but his policies haven’t changed. Jews and the rest of Americans increasingly are tuning out what he says and scrutinizing what he does. That spells trouble for a politician who has gotten all the way to the White House on words alone.

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It’s Not the “Right Wing” That Did in J Street

As I observed on Sunday, all but a select few among the hard-core left have abandoned any hope of rescuing J Street from its self-inflicted wounds. This is not, as Jeremy Ben-Ami would have us believe, a plot by the right to do him in just when the peace talks are at a critical point. (It truly is delusional to imagine that talks are at a critical point, and even more delusional to imagine that he is critical to the fate of the Middle East peace process.)

David Harris of the AJC is no right-winger. He does, however, represent mainstream American Jewish leadership:

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said on Friday that J Street’s contact with Goldstone, coupled with last week’s revelation that it received funds from billionaire George Soros, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies on a number of occasions, undermined its stated mission of supporting the Jewish state.

“J Street has every right, of course, to express its viewpoint and lobby in Washington,” Harris wrote in an email. “But it arrogates to itself the right, from thousands of miles away, to determine what’s best for democratic Israel.

“In doing so, it espouses positions — e.g., ambiguity on the toxic Goldstone Report or prolonged hesitation to support legislative sanctions against a nuclear-aspiring Iran which seeks a world without Israel — that can only make one wonder what exactly it means, beyond the glib tag line, to be ‘pro- Israel.’”

Ben-Ami and his few defenders are incensed at having been exposed as marginal figures in American Jewry. They hid their connections and most egregious behavior (drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense and easing his way around Capitol Hill) because, at some level, they understood how toxic it all was. Now their worst fears have come true, and their lies have been revealed.

It is true that prominent conservatives at the Emergency Committee for Israel have made life miserable for J Street and the recipients of their campaign loot. But the J Streeters have merely proved what their critics have maintained from the get-go: that the premise of their organization — that there was a market for an alternative to the pro-Israel alliance that spanned from the AJC to AIPAC to CUFI — was fundamentally flawed. That alliance is not a “right-wing” phenomenon, any more than the avalanche of criticism falling on J Street is a right-wing plot.

It turns out that, as troublesome as the Obama era has been for American Jewry (not to mention Israel), a president as hostile as the current one and an organization as noxious as J Street have helped forge a degree of consensus in the Jewish community. American Jewish organizations may not agree on tone. They may have different levels of enthusiasm about the peace talks. But they agree on this: Israel is a democratic country entitled to make its own national-security decisions; efforts to delegitimize Israel, whether by Richard Goldstone or the UN Human Rights Council, should be roundly condemned; the U.S. does harm to itself and to its democratic ally Israel by distancing itself from the Jewish state; peace depends on putting an end to Palestinian rejectionism and terror; and the greatest threat to the Middle East and to the U.S. is a nuclear-armed Iran. That J Street stands outside this uncontroversial statement of common principles tells us why its run is over. And, of course, all that lying didn’t help.

As I observed on Sunday, all but a select few among the hard-core left have abandoned any hope of rescuing J Street from its self-inflicted wounds. This is not, as Jeremy Ben-Ami would have us believe, a plot by the right to do him in just when the peace talks are at a critical point. (It truly is delusional to imagine that talks are at a critical point, and even more delusional to imagine that he is critical to the fate of the Middle East peace process.)

David Harris of the AJC is no right-winger. He does, however, represent mainstream American Jewish leadership:

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said on Friday that J Street’s contact with Goldstone, coupled with last week’s revelation that it received funds from billionaire George Soros, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies on a number of occasions, undermined its stated mission of supporting the Jewish state.

“J Street has every right, of course, to express its viewpoint and lobby in Washington,” Harris wrote in an email. “But it arrogates to itself the right, from thousands of miles away, to determine what’s best for democratic Israel.

“In doing so, it espouses positions — e.g., ambiguity on the toxic Goldstone Report or prolonged hesitation to support legislative sanctions against a nuclear-aspiring Iran which seeks a world without Israel — that can only make one wonder what exactly it means, beyond the glib tag line, to be ‘pro- Israel.’”

Ben-Ami and his few defenders are incensed at having been exposed as marginal figures in American Jewry. They hid their connections and most egregious behavior (drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense and easing his way around Capitol Hill) because, at some level, they understood how toxic it all was. Now their worst fears have come true, and their lies have been revealed.

It is true that prominent conservatives at the Emergency Committee for Israel have made life miserable for J Street and the recipients of their campaign loot. But the J Streeters have merely proved what their critics have maintained from the get-go: that the premise of their organization — that there was a market for an alternative to the pro-Israel alliance that spanned from the AJC to AIPAC to CUFI — was fundamentally flawed. That alliance is not a “right-wing” phenomenon, any more than the avalanche of criticism falling on J Street is a right-wing plot.

It turns out that, as troublesome as the Obama era has been for American Jewry (not to mention Israel), a president as hostile as the current one and an organization as noxious as J Street have helped forge a degree of consensus in the Jewish community. American Jewish organizations may not agree on tone. They may have different levels of enthusiasm about the peace talks. But they agree on this: Israel is a democratic country entitled to make its own national-security decisions; efforts to delegitimize Israel, whether by Richard Goldstone or the UN Human Rights Council, should be roundly condemned; the U.S. does harm to itself and to its democratic ally Israel by distancing itself from the Jewish state; peace depends on putting an end to Palestinian rejectionism and terror; and the greatest threat to the Middle East and to the U.S. is a nuclear-armed Iran. That J Street stands outside this uncontroversial statement of common principles tells us why its run is over. And, of course, all that lying didn’t help.

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What Was Sestak Thinking When He Wrote to UN Human Rights Council?

If Joe Sestak was hoping to shore up his pro-Israel bona fides, he badly miscalculated with his “please be impartial” letter to the UN Human Rights Council. Dan Senor of the Council on Foreign Relations had this response, pointing to Israel’s own investigation:

The investigation is already taking place. If Sestak was genuinely concerned, he could have written the UNHRC and called it out for existing and operating in a blizzard of double-standards, and make it clear that he would not support any UNHRC investigation of Israel under any circumstances until the Council repudiates the Goldstone Report and stops singling out Israel time after time. That would have been praiseworthy. Instead he endorsed the investigation.

The American Jewish Committee, a rather liberal outfit, had this to say in early June:

“The UN Human Rights Council remains a kangaroo court, in which repressive and authoritarian states like Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can indulge their obsession with Israel, while ignoring serial violators such as Iran and North Korea,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Fresh from convicting Israel through the notoriously biased Goldstone Report into the war in Gaza, which presumed Israel’s ‘guilt’ before launching a fact-finding mission, the Council is now embarking on a new attempt to vilify Israel.”

(Well, before Harris got to the National Jewish Democratic Council, he was a bit more candid.)

Early last month, AIPAC also went after the UNHRC, urging that the Obama administration “maintain its longstanding position not to allow the Security Council and other U.N. organs such as the U.N. Human Rights Council to exploit unfortunate incidents by passing biased, anti-Israel resolutions that obscure the truth and accomplish nothing.”

What activist, lawmaker, or pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street, not you) genuinely concerned about the bile-drenched UNHRC and its serial attacks on the Jewish state would have sent a letter like Sestak’s? I’m going out on a limb: none.

Rep. Peter King gets it. He e-mails: “We should have no contact whatsoever with the UN Human Rights Council. It is impossible for that Council to even begin a fair investigation.”

CORRECTION: David Harris of the AJC and David Harris of the NDJC are not one and the same. David Harris of the AJC remains as candid as ever. I regret the error.

If Joe Sestak was hoping to shore up his pro-Israel bona fides, he badly miscalculated with his “please be impartial” letter to the UN Human Rights Council. Dan Senor of the Council on Foreign Relations had this response, pointing to Israel’s own investigation:

The investigation is already taking place. If Sestak was genuinely concerned, he could have written the UNHRC and called it out for existing and operating in a blizzard of double-standards, and make it clear that he would not support any UNHRC investigation of Israel under any circumstances until the Council repudiates the Goldstone Report and stops singling out Israel time after time. That would have been praiseworthy. Instead he endorsed the investigation.

The American Jewish Committee, a rather liberal outfit, had this to say in early June:

“The UN Human Rights Council remains a kangaroo court, in which repressive and authoritarian states like Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can indulge their obsession with Israel, while ignoring serial violators such as Iran and North Korea,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Fresh from convicting Israel through the notoriously biased Goldstone Report into the war in Gaza, which presumed Israel’s ‘guilt’ before launching a fact-finding mission, the Council is now embarking on a new attempt to vilify Israel.”

(Well, before Harris got to the National Jewish Democratic Council, he was a bit more candid.)

Early last month, AIPAC also went after the UNHRC, urging that the Obama administration “maintain its longstanding position not to allow the Security Council and other U.N. organs such as the U.N. Human Rights Council to exploit unfortunate incidents by passing biased, anti-Israel resolutions that obscure the truth and accomplish nothing.”

What activist, lawmaker, or pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street, not you) genuinely concerned about the bile-drenched UNHRC and its serial attacks on the Jewish state would have sent a letter like Sestak’s? I’m going out on a limb: none.

Rep. Peter King gets it. He e-mails: “We should have no contact whatsoever with the UN Human Rights Council. It is impossible for that Council to even begin a fair investigation.”

CORRECTION: David Harris of the AJC and David Harris of the NDJC are not one and the same. David Harris of the AJC remains as candid as ever. I regret the error.

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The Purpose of the Proximity Talks

The newly launched Israeli-Palestinian “proximity talks” have two remarkable features. One is the consensus, even among doves, that the talks have no chance of success. The other is the consensus that the onus for their success rests entirely on Israel.

Regarding the first, here are two of many examples: David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, once an enthusiastic peace-processor, warned last month that “whenever it is all-or-nothing in the Middle East, it is nothing. We should not set ourselves up for failure.” Avi Issacharoff, who covers Palestinian affairs for left-wing Haaretz, published an analysis whose title says it all: “Indirect Mideast peace talks – a highway to failure.”

Regarding the second, even Barack Obama’s media cheerleader-in-chief, Roger Cohen of the New York Times, noticed the embarrassing imbalance: “Israel will refrain from provocations of the Ramat Shlomo kind (those planned 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem) and will promise to get substantive, on borders above all. Palestinians will promise to, well, show up.”

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was explicit about it. Addressing the American Jewish Committee last month, she declared: “Israel must do its part by respecting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, stopping settlement activity, addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza, and supporting the institution-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority.” The Arab states also have obligations, like helping to fund the PA and backing its negotiating efforts. And the PA’s obligations? About that, she hadn’t a word to say.

Putting these two facts together, what emerges? Noah suggested that the talks’ inevitable failure is actually the point, as it will give Obama an excuse for imposing his own peace plan. I agree with the first half of this conclusion. But if the goal were merely an Obama peace plan, it wouldn’t be necessary to place the onus on Israel in advance: any impasse, regardless of who was to blame, would provide an equally good excuse.

Therefore, I think the goal is simpler: to provide an excuse for putting more “daylight” between America and Israel — presumably entailing substantive sanctions rather than merely the hostile rhetoric employed hitherto — and thereby further Obama’s goal of rapprochement with the Arab world.

Why is the proximity-talks charade necessary? Because currently, Obama lacks both public and congressional support for moving beyond mere verbal hostility. If he didn’t realize this before, the backlash to his March temper tantrum over Ramat Shlomo would certainly have convinced him.

So he needs to up the ante by painting Israel’s government as responsible for torpedoing a key American foreign-policy initiative — one he has repeatedly framed as serving both a vital American national interest and a vital Israeli one. He could then argue not only that Israel deserves punishment but that such punishment would actually serve Israel’s interests.

To avoid this trap, Jerusalem must launch its own PR campaign in America now to put the focus back where it belongs: on Palestinian unwillingness to accept a Jewish state. For if Israel lets Obama control the narrative, the public and congressional support on which it depends may be irretrievably undermined.

The newly launched Israeli-Palestinian “proximity talks” have two remarkable features. One is the consensus, even among doves, that the talks have no chance of success. The other is the consensus that the onus for their success rests entirely on Israel.

Regarding the first, here are two of many examples: David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, once an enthusiastic peace-processor, warned last month that “whenever it is all-or-nothing in the Middle East, it is nothing. We should not set ourselves up for failure.” Avi Issacharoff, who covers Palestinian affairs for left-wing Haaretz, published an analysis whose title says it all: “Indirect Mideast peace talks – a highway to failure.”

Regarding the second, even Barack Obama’s media cheerleader-in-chief, Roger Cohen of the New York Times, noticed the embarrassing imbalance: “Israel will refrain from provocations of the Ramat Shlomo kind (those planned 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem) and will promise to get substantive, on borders above all. Palestinians will promise to, well, show up.”

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was explicit about it. Addressing the American Jewish Committee last month, she declared: “Israel must do its part by respecting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, stopping settlement activity, addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza, and supporting the institution-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority.” The Arab states also have obligations, like helping to fund the PA and backing its negotiating efforts. And the PA’s obligations? About that, she hadn’t a word to say.

Putting these two facts together, what emerges? Noah suggested that the talks’ inevitable failure is actually the point, as it will give Obama an excuse for imposing his own peace plan. I agree with the first half of this conclusion. But if the goal were merely an Obama peace plan, it wouldn’t be necessary to place the onus on Israel in advance: any impasse, regardless of who was to blame, would provide an equally good excuse.

Therefore, I think the goal is simpler: to provide an excuse for putting more “daylight” between America and Israel — presumably entailing substantive sanctions rather than merely the hostile rhetoric employed hitherto — and thereby further Obama’s goal of rapprochement with the Arab world.

Why is the proximity-talks charade necessary? Because currently, Obama lacks both public and congressional support for moving beyond mere verbal hostility. If he didn’t realize this before, the backlash to his March temper tantrum over Ramat Shlomo would certainly have convinced him.

So he needs to up the ante by painting Israel’s government as responsible for torpedoing a key American foreign-policy initiative — one he has repeatedly framed as serving both a vital American national interest and a vital Israeli one. He could then argue not only that Israel deserves punishment but that such punishment would actually serve Israel’s interests.

To avoid this trap, Jerusalem must launch its own PR campaign in America now to put the focus back where it belongs: on Palestinian unwillingness to accept a Jewish state. For if Israel lets Obama control the narrative, the public and congressional support on which it depends may be irretrievably undermined.

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Hillary Announces Proximity Talks

In remarks on Friday with the Kuwati Deputy Prime Minister, Hillary Clinton repeated her wishy-washy talking point on Iran:

I also updated the deputy prime minister on our ongoing efforts, along with our international partners, to secure a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iran. We discussed the importance of diplomatic efforts to encourage Iran to abide by its international nuclear obligations. On Monday, I will attend the conference in New York reviewing the Nonproliferation Treaty and we will be underscoring once again the importance of all nations upholding their responsibilities.

Good grief — could she sound any less serious about thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions? (Notice how nonproliferation meetings are used as camouflage to hide the utter lack of progress on the proliferation issue which is most urgent.) Later in the news conference, she adds: “We are working to isolate Iran through the United Nations. We’re in the midst of negotiations over a Security Council resolution that will impose consequences on Iran for its unwillingness to follow the IAEA or the United Nations Security Council requirements about its nuclear program. We are working to support the defense and territorial integrity of our partners and allies in the Gulf, and we consult closely.” You think that induces fear in Tehran? No, me neither.

Then she moves on to the “peace process” with her usual pablum. (“As I said last night at the American Jewish Committee, the Middle East will never realize its full potential, Israel will never be truly secure, the Palestinians will never have their legitimate aspiration for a state, unless we create the circumstances in which positive negotiations can occur.”) She announces that next week, after fifteen months, the Obami have been able to get the Palestinians to not talk directly to Israel. (Yes, this is a step backward from the Bush administration, which at least managed to force the parties into fruitless face-to-face talks.) She announces: “We will be starting with proximity talks next week. Senator Mitchell will be going back to the region. And we look forward to the meeting of the Arab follow-up committee in Cairo tomorrow night to support the commitment by President Abbas to move forward with these talks.”

Then, perhaps sensing this is indeed thin gruel and less than other administrations have achieved, she adds: “Ultimately, we want to see the parties in direct negotiations and working out all the difficult issues that they must – they’ve been close a few times before. I remember very well the Camp David experience, and I know that President Abbas negotiated with former Prime Minister Olmert. So we are looking to see the resumption of those discussions.” In other words: for all their smart diplomacy, the Obami have managed to set back the “peace process” by more than a decade.

In remarks on Friday with the Kuwati Deputy Prime Minister, Hillary Clinton repeated her wishy-washy talking point on Iran:

I also updated the deputy prime minister on our ongoing efforts, along with our international partners, to secure a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iran. We discussed the importance of diplomatic efforts to encourage Iran to abide by its international nuclear obligations. On Monday, I will attend the conference in New York reviewing the Nonproliferation Treaty and we will be underscoring once again the importance of all nations upholding their responsibilities.

Good grief — could she sound any less serious about thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions? (Notice how nonproliferation meetings are used as camouflage to hide the utter lack of progress on the proliferation issue which is most urgent.) Later in the news conference, she adds: “We are working to isolate Iran through the United Nations. We’re in the midst of negotiations over a Security Council resolution that will impose consequences on Iran for its unwillingness to follow the IAEA or the United Nations Security Council requirements about its nuclear program. We are working to support the defense and territorial integrity of our partners and allies in the Gulf, and we consult closely.” You think that induces fear in Tehran? No, me neither.

Then she moves on to the “peace process” with her usual pablum. (“As I said last night at the American Jewish Committee, the Middle East will never realize its full potential, Israel will never be truly secure, the Palestinians will never have their legitimate aspiration for a state, unless we create the circumstances in which positive negotiations can occur.”) She announces that next week, after fifteen months, the Obami have been able to get the Palestinians to not talk directly to Israel. (Yes, this is a step backward from the Bush administration, which at least managed to force the parties into fruitless face-to-face talks.) She announces: “We will be starting with proximity talks next week. Senator Mitchell will be going back to the region. And we look forward to the meeting of the Arab follow-up committee in Cairo tomorrow night to support the commitment by President Abbas to move forward with these talks.”

Then, perhaps sensing this is indeed thin gruel and less than other administrations have achieved, she adds: “Ultimately, we want to see the parties in direct negotiations and working out all the difficult issues that they must – they’ve been close a few times before. I remember very well the Camp David experience, and I know that President Abbas negotiated with former Prime Minister Olmert. So we are looking to see the resumption of those discussions.” In other words: for all their smart diplomacy, the Obami have managed to set back the “peace process” by more than a decade.

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Mearsheimer Makes a List

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

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Jews’ Support Declines

The Quinnipiac poll confirms a phenomenon we saw in Gallup and American Jewish Committee polls earlier in the year: American Jews remain among the most Obama-devoted voters. Yet even among this mostly pro-Obama group, support has slipped significantly. Overall, this poll has Obama with an approval rating of 46 and a disapproval of 44, his lowest to date. But there is a wide difference based on voters’ religion: “Obama gets a thumbs up from 32 percent of white Protestants, 42 percent of white Roman Catholics and 52 percent of Jews.” Interestingly Jews’ approval rating is almost identical to all women voters (51 percent) but still well below Hispanics (65 percent) and African Americans (89 percent).

On individual issues, Jews’ ardor has cooled but again remains more positive than that of the population as a whole. Forty-nine percent of Jews approve of Obama’s handling of health care, while only 38 percent of all voters do.

All this suggests that Jews remain among the most loyal of the Democratic party’s constituencies, even as the Obama administration has taken a hostile stance toward Israel, displayed a lack of seriousness toward the existential threat to Israel posed by a Islamic fundamentalist state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and made zero progress on the Middle East “peace process.” But he’s a liberal Democrat, and most Jews are, too, so they have shown great patience with Obama. And, of course, a segment of American Jewry may place a lower priority on (or have little interest in) Obama’s Israel policy.

Nevertheless, Jews are much less enthusiastic than a year ago, when 78 percent of them gave Obama their vote. They are perhaps not entirely impervious to experience. Obama’s presidency has given them, and all Americans, little to cheer about. Their support may continue to wane unless Obama shows he can achieve something more than an election victory.

The Quinnipiac poll confirms a phenomenon we saw in Gallup and American Jewish Committee polls earlier in the year: American Jews remain among the most Obama-devoted voters. Yet even among this mostly pro-Obama group, support has slipped significantly. Overall, this poll has Obama with an approval rating of 46 and a disapproval of 44, his lowest to date. But there is a wide difference based on voters’ religion: “Obama gets a thumbs up from 32 percent of white Protestants, 42 percent of white Roman Catholics and 52 percent of Jews.” Interestingly Jews’ approval rating is almost identical to all women voters (51 percent) but still well below Hispanics (65 percent) and African Americans (89 percent).

On individual issues, Jews’ ardor has cooled but again remains more positive than that of the population as a whole. Forty-nine percent of Jews approve of Obama’s handling of health care, while only 38 percent of all voters do.

All this suggests that Jews remain among the most loyal of the Democratic party’s constituencies, even as the Obama administration has taken a hostile stance toward Israel, displayed a lack of seriousness toward the existential threat to Israel posed by a Islamic fundamentalist state bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and made zero progress on the Middle East “peace process.” But he’s a liberal Democrat, and most Jews are, too, so they have shown great patience with Obama. And, of course, a segment of American Jewry may place a lower priority on (or have little interest in) Obama’s Israel policy.

Nevertheless, Jews are much less enthusiastic than a year ago, when 78 percent of them gave Obama their vote. They are perhaps not entirely impervious to experience. Obama’s presidency has given them, and all Americans, little to cheer about. Their support may continue to wane unless Obama shows he can achieve something more than an election victory.

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Watch Out, A. B. Yehoshua

This one is likely to tick off American Jews. A few months ago, the novelist A.B. Yehoshua set off a firestorm when he told members of the American Jewish Committee that “[Being] Israeli is my skin, not my jacket. You are changing jackets . . . you are changing countries like changing jackets. I have my skin, the territory.” As a result, he claimed Jewish life in Israel is far more complete than in America. (Yehoshua issued a semi-apology, in which he did not retract his remarks, but merely insisted that they were no different from what he’s said in the past.)

Now Uri Orbach, the influential Israeli journalist and TV personality, has written a column singing the praises of Israeli secular Jewish life, as opposed to the expressions of non-Orthodox Judaism found in the United States:

Israeli seculars enjoy a Jewish existence that is more intense than that enjoyed by any non-Orthodox American Jew. In America, if you do not observe the mitzvahs and are not connected to your community, your religion has not expression in your daily life. If someone would remind you, there is a chance that you would mark Passover or Hanukah (it takes place around Christmas time.)

If you are a non-religious Jew in America, the probability that your children will marry gentiles is huge, and the likelihood that this won’t bother you too much is also quite high. Based on various estimates, the Jewish people lose about 50,000 Jews annually in the US alone. Even within Reform communities the struggle is no longer against intermarriage, but rather, focuses on guaranteeing minimal Jewish education for the children even if their parents intermarried.

In Israel, on the other hand, it is easy to spot the scope of secular Zionism’s achievement. The Zionism that established the Jewish State managed to create a reasonable Jewish environment for seculars. Israelis enjoy a Jewish atmosphere thanks to Hebrew and political mechanisms: The Hebrew language and culture, Shabbats and holidays, life in the land of the Bible, the Jewish environment and the army.

Only in Israel do seculars have the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat and the holidays a little bit, to eat kosher a little, to wed, and divorce, be born and die as Jews, and all that without observing the mitzvahs. Only in Israel nobody will tell you: What, you’re Jewish? I would have never thought that… (unless you are a construction worker.)

Zionism’s great achievement is therefore the guarantee of a Jewish existence for secular Jews.

I’m looking forward to the comments on this one. . .

This one is likely to tick off American Jews. A few months ago, the novelist A.B. Yehoshua set off a firestorm when he told members of the American Jewish Committee that “[Being] Israeli is my skin, not my jacket. You are changing jackets . . . you are changing countries like changing jackets. I have my skin, the territory.” As a result, he claimed Jewish life in Israel is far more complete than in America. (Yehoshua issued a semi-apology, in which he did not retract his remarks, but merely insisted that they were no different from what he’s said in the past.)

Now Uri Orbach, the influential Israeli journalist and TV personality, has written a column singing the praises of Israeli secular Jewish life, as opposed to the expressions of non-Orthodox Judaism found in the United States:

Israeli seculars enjoy a Jewish existence that is more intense than that enjoyed by any non-Orthodox American Jew. In America, if you do not observe the mitzvahs and are not connected to your community, your religion has not expression in your daily life. If someone would remind you, there is a chance that you would mark Passover or Hanukah (it takes place around Christmas time.)

If you are a non-religious Jew in America, the probability that your children will marry gentiles is huge, and the likelihood that this won’t bother you too much is also quite high. Based on various estimates, the Jewish people lose about 50,000 Jews annually in the US alone. Even within Reform communities the struggle is no longer against intermarriage, but rather, focuses on guaranteeing minimal Jewish education for the children even if their parents intermarried.

In Israel, on the other hand, it is easy to spot the scope of secular Zionism’s achievement. The Zionism that established the Jewish State managed to create a reasonable Jewish environment for seculars. Israelis enjoy a Jewish atmosphere thanks to Hebrew and political mechanisms: The Hebrew language and culture, Shabbats and holidays, life in the land of the Bible, the Jewish environment and the army.

Only in Israel do seculars have the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat and the holidays a little bit, to eat kosher a little, to wed, and divorce, be born and die as Jews, and all that without observing the mitzvahs. Only in Israel nobody will tell you: What, you’re Jewish? I would have never thought that… (unless you are a construction worker.)

Zionism’s great achievement is therefore the guarantee of a Jewish existence for secular Jews.

I’m looking forward to the comments on this one. . .

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Polling Jews

The American Jewish Committee has just released its annual survey of Jewish opinion. A few surprises:

1. Whereas it is commonly believed that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, the survey shows a more complex picture, with only 43 percent describing themselves as liberal; 25 percent calling themselves conservative, and fully 31 percent describing themselves as “moderate, middle of the road.” They still vote overwhelmingly Democrat, though (58 percent, vs. 15 percent Republican). So either voting is out of kilter with beliefs—or something has clearly happened to the L-word.

2. We have been hearing for years about the thriving of Orthodox Judaism, with its high fertility and low intermarriage rates, at the expense of the Conservative and Reform movements. According to the survey, however, only 8 percent of American Jews describe themselves as Orthodox. The vast majority divide evenly between Reform (30 percent), Conservative (29 percent) and “just Jewish” (29 percent). Chabad, take note.

3. American Jewish support for Israel does not really seem to be waning, or at least not seriously. In 2007, fully 69 percent were willing to say that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” (Haaretz disagrees.) Post-Zionism hasn’t really caught on, has it?

4. American Jews are said to side overwhelmingly with Israel’s peace camp when it comes to dealings with the Palestinians. Yet only a slim plurality support a Palestinian state (46 percent, compared with 43 percent who oppose it). And they certainly seem pessimistic when it comes to long-term prospects of peace: Fully 55 percent do not believe that there will ever come a time when Israel and the Arabs will live in peace (as opposed to 37 percent who believe they will one day).

You can read the full report here.

The American Jewish Committee has just released its annual survey of Jewish opinion. A few surprises:

1. Whereas it is commonly believed that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, the survey shows a more complex picture, with only 43 percent describing themselves as liberal; 25 percent calling themselves conservative, and fully 31 percent describing themselves as “moderate, middle of the road.” They still vote overwhelmingly Democrat, though (58 percent, vs. 15 percent Republican). So either voting is out of kilter with beliefs—or something has clearly happened to the L-word.

2. We have been hearing for years about the thriving of Orthodox Judaism, with its high fertility and low intermarriage rates, at the expense of the Conservative and Reform movements. According to the survey, however, only 8 percent of American Jews describe themselves as Orthodox. The vast majority divide evenly between Reform (30 percent), Conservative (29 percent) and “just Jewish” (29 percent). Chabad, take note.

3. American Jewish support for Israel does not really seem to be waning, or at least not seriously. In 2007, fully 69 percent were willing to say that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” (Haaretz disagrees.) Post-Zionism hasn’t really caught on, has it?

4. American Jews are said to side overwhelmingly with Israel’s peace camp when it comes to dealings with the Palestinians. Yet only a slim plurality support a Palestinian state (46 percent, compared with 43 percent who oppose it). And they certainly seem pessimistic when it comes to long-term prospects of peace: Fully 55 percent do not believe that there will ever come a time when Israel and the Arabs will live in peace (as opposed to 37 percent who believe they will one day).

You can read the full report here.

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An Alarming (But Not Surprising) Poll

According to an American Jewish Committee poll, out yesterday, a whopping 70 percent of American Jewish Democrats favor the New York Senator in her presidential bid. This isn’t exactly a shock. But maybe it should be. Mrs. Clinton has a record of serious gaffes in regard to Israel: her engagement with activist Abdurahman Alamoudi, for example, an avowed supporter of Hamas and Hizballah, whose contributions she returned publicly in 2000. Or her infamous kiss of Yasir Arafat’s wife after Mme. Suha accused Israel of using poison gas to kill Palestinians. Clinton tried to bow out of that blunder with the excuse that the translation in her earphones at the West Bank event was different from and less offensive than what she learned later to be the truth about Mrs. Arafat’s remarks.

While Hillary now enjoys massive support among American Jews, it seems the truth about whether that support will help or harm them will only be learned later.

According to an American Jewish Committee poll, out yesterday, a whopping 70 percent of American Jewish Democrats favor the New York Senator in her presidential bid. This isn’t exactly a shock. But maybe it should be. Mrs. Clinton has a record of serious gaffes in regard to Israel: her engagement with activist Abdurahman Alamoudi, for example, an avowed supporter of Hamas and Hizballah, whose contributions she returned publicly in 2000. Or her infamous kiss of Yasir Arafat’s wife after Mme. Suha accused Israel of using poison gas to kill Palestinians. Clinton tried to bow out of that blunder with the excuse that the translation in her earphones at the West Bank event was different from and less offensive than what she learned later to be the truth about Mrs. Arafat’s remarks.

While Hillary now enjoys massive support among American Jews, it seems the truth about whether that support will help or harm them will only be learned later.

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“Progressive” Critics of Israel

Alvin Rosenfeld’s essay, “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” published in pamphlet form by the American Jewish Committee, continues to provoke discussion. Articles in the February 23 Forward by Chicago rabbi Ira Youdovin and New York media strategist Dan Fleshler represent responses to Rosenfeld’s essay by Jews who consider themselves politically “progressive” yet also “pro-Israel.” Both fear that Rosenfeld’s essay, even if such was not its purpose, will be used to silence voices like their own, voices that identify with Israel but are critical of many of its policies, especially in regard to the Palestinians.

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Alvin Rosenfeld’s essay, “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” published in pamphlet form by the American Jewish Committee, continues to provoke discussion. Articles in the February 23 Forward by Chicago rabbi Ira Youdovin and New York media strategist Dan Fleshler represent responses to Rosenfeld’s essay by Jews who consider themselves politically “progressive” yet also “pro-Israel.” Both fear that Rosenfeld’s essay, even if such was not its purpose, will be used to silence voices like their own, voices that identify with Israel but are critical of many of its policies, especially in regard to the Palestinians.

Now, criticism of Israel, as of anything else, is all a matter of context, and if the context, from a Jewish point of view, is acceptable—if, that is, the identification with Israel is clear in it—then the criticism itself, whether or not one agrees with it, is certainly permissible. The question really is then: when is “identification” clearly present and when isn’t it? Ira Youdovin, for example, wants to know what’s wrong with Rabbis for Human Rights, “an Israeli-based pluralistic organization that . . . advocates a two-state solution, even as it accuses Israel of violating human rights.” Dan Fleshler argues on behalf of Jewish activists who are “ideal candidates for addressing the [anti-Israel] claims of the far Left [because they] aren’t afraid to say publicly that the occupation is morally repugnant.”

This is curious language for someone who “identifies” with Israel. “Morally problematic?” I’d have no difficulty with that. “Morally injurious?” I’d sign to that, too. But “repugnant?” It’s obviously not the Palestinians who are being labelled “repugnant” here, but the Israelis—the same Israelis who (whether or not you think they should be) are living, at considerable danger to themselves, as settlers in the historic heartland of the Hebrew Bible and whose presence there alone can enable Israel to redraw the perilous 1967 borders to its advantage. How identified with Jewish history or Israel can you be if you find such people, or the army that is protecting them and preventing daily acts of terror aimed at Israel proper, nothing but “repugnant?” How “identified” are you if you see in all this only a “violation of [Palestinian] human rights” and not, at the same time, an upholding of Jewish rights?

Dan Fleshler argues that only “pro-Israel” Jews like himself who are on the Left can make themselves heard when debating with the anti-Israel Left. That may be, but it’s not much of a debate when you say, “Yes, you think the Israeli occupation is morally repugnant and I think so too—but don’t forget that I love Israel.” Love has to do better than that to demonstrate its existence. Context is everything—and if men like Youdovin and Fleshler refuse to provide it in making their criticisms of Israel, their “progressivism” indeed plays into the hands of Israel’s enemies.

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News from the Continent: False Prophets

The new anti-Semitism described by Alvin H. Rosenfeld in a controversial essay published by the American Jewish Committee is not a myth, as his critics would have us believe. It is, sadly, all too real a phenomenon. If one criticism can be levelled at Rosenfeld’s essay on the succor that anti-Semitism receives from the anti-Israel rhetoric of liberal Jewish intellectuals, it is that his pool of examples, with the single exception of the British academic Jacqueline Rose, is drawn exclusively from the U.S. In fact, the emergence of Jewish voices demonizing Israel (and making condemnation of Israel, in some cases, their only expression of Jewish identity) is not unique to America.

This phenomenon is well known in Europe. If Rosenfeld ever publishes a second version of his essay, he will not have any difficulty bringing in literally dozens of additional examples. The continental landscape is littered with Jewish intellectuals engaged in exactly the kind of rhetoric he criticizes.

One of their newest outlets is Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), an organization now bidding to be the voice of Anglo-Jewry, as evidenced by its role in a debate hosted last week by the ultraliberal Guardian blog, Comment Is Free. Having taken part in this debate, I will not repeat what I said there. But a few more considerations are in order, as they apply to the debate triggered in America by Rosenfeld’s essay.

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The new anti-Semitism described by Alvin H. Rosenfeld in a controversial essay published by the American Jewish Committee is not a myth, as his critics would have us believe. It is, sadly, all too real a phenomenon. If one criticism can be levelled at Rosenfeld’s essay on the succor that anti-Semitism receives from the anti-Israel rhetoric of liberal Jewish intellectuals, it is that his pool of examples, with the single exception of the British academic Jacqueline Rose, is drawn exclusively from the U.S. In fact, the emergence of Jewish voices demonizing Israel (and making condemnation of Israel, in some cases, their only expression of Jewish identity) is not unique to America.

This phenomenon is well known in Europe. If Rosenfeld ever publishes a second version of his essay, he will not have any difficulty bringing in literally dozens of additional examples. The continental landscape is littered with Jewish intellectuals engaged in exactly the kind of rhetoric he criticizes.

One of their newest outlets is Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), an organization now bidding to be the voice of Anglo-Jewry, as evidenced by its role in a debate hosted last week by the ultraliberal Guardian blog, Comment Is Free. Having taken part in this debate, I will not repeat what I said there. But a few more considerations are in order, as they apply to the debate triggered in America by Rosenfeld’s essay.


First, the oft-repeated claim (framed in identical terms by both IJV and New York University professor and leading anti-Zionist Tony Judt) that the views of anti-Zionists are being censored is risible. Jaqueline Rose’s The Question of Zion was published by Princeton University Press, not by the Jewish underground in Warsaw circa 1943. Judt’s tirades against Israel feature in the New York Review of Books (and Haaretz, no less). The price that Jimmy Carter has paid for his book is, aside from exactly the robust debate he wished to trigger, a hefty financial gain from over a half million copies sold. Not exactly, in other words, the fate of beleaguered dissenters.

As for IJV, the percentage of professors in its membership suggests that establishment figures with access to mainstream publishing options predominate over the disenfranchised and voiceless. Antony Lerman, for example, is the director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, a once-serious Jewish think tank based in London, and a frequent guest at the court of London’s radical mayor, Ken Livingstone. IJV’s initiator, Brian Klug, and his colleague Avi Shlaim are both Oxford dons. Shlaim routinely publishes in the Guardian, the International Herald Tribune, and the London Review of Books (the same journal that published John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s “The Israel Lobby”). It is hard to pretend, with such credentials, that IJV does not enjoy all the privileges of membership in Britain’s intellectual establishment. How can these people claim that their views are suppressed? What they really object to, it seems, is the fact that their views are challenged.

The claim that these anti-Zionist Jewish intellectuals are dissidents whose daring words against Israel are an act of courage is absurd. By posing as victims, these quintessential establishment figures wish to hide their intolerance for opponents. Demonizing their opponents as the enemies of free speech and human rights serves, as University of London professor David Hirsh remarked in the IJV debate, one purpose only: to create a self-mythologizing narrative of resistance, through which liberals can reclaim their role as the enlightened but stifled vanguard.

Through their self-nomination as the true heirs of the biblical prophets, Lerman, Klug, and company demonstrate a complete ignorance of what the prophets actually stood for. They claim that the essence of Judaism lies in fighting for social justice, human rights, and pacifism. Yet the prophets they invoke—as even a cursory reading of scripture will demonstrate—were neither pacifists nor champions of human rights, but rather advocates of absolute rule by the divine, a system hardly palatable to the modern Left.

Such a clumsy effort at biblical interpretation reveals more than ignorance of Jewish thought. It shows that, for this class of liberal Jewish intellectuals, being Jewish is equivalent to being progressive. And if this is the case, then the converse must also be true: to be a progressive is to be Jewish. These days, most self-respecting progressive thinkers view Israel, the nation-state of the Jews, as nothing other than an embarrassment and “an anachronism,” as Judt wrote. Small wonder, then, that Jewish intellectuals avid of membership in the liberal elite must denounce Israel.

But surely the real question is not whether pro-Israel views are mainstream in the Jewish world; nor is it fruitful to debate who censors whom in the Jewish battle of ideas over Jewish identity and the place Israel occupies in that battle. The real question is whether liberal Jewish intellectuals, by speaking against Israel, merely exercise their freedom of speech, or whether by doing so they offer succor to Israel’s enemies.

The answer to this question is, sadly, the latter. The most extreme views of Israel, including distortions, fabrications, and double standards aimed at demonizing the Jewish state and providing a mandate for its destruction, become legitimate once Jews endorse them. This alibi—i.e., that Jews themselves level these criticisms—becomes a vital tool for those who harbor the oldest hatred but cannot freely express it. The cover offered by liberal Jews enables the anti-Semites, under the pretext of anti-Zionism, to attack all other Jews who fail to comply with the political orthodoxy of the age.

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Jews, “Progressives,” and the New York Times

The New York Times took notice yesterday of a pamphlet-sized essay posted on the website of the American Jewish Committee. Written by Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University and titled “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” the essay describes the mounting assault on Israel by Jews on the Left. Rosenfeld cites, among others, the two Tonys—Kushner and Judt—and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, each of whom was in turn duly quoted in the Times story as protesting Rosenfeld’s characterization of them. The paper’s reporter, Patricia Cohen, seems to side with them in this dispute, slyly suggesting that the AJC has overstated the problem of anti-Semitism on the Jewish Left. Thereby, she neutralizes or buries the very problem the AJC was trying to expose.

No surprise there. In this matter, as it happens, the Times has long been not merely a reporting agency but a major player. For the past sixty years the newspaper has denied the Arab war against the Jewish state, just as in World War II it denied the German war against the Jewish people. Rather than telling its readers about Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism and describing how it shapes the societies in which it flourishes, rather than documenting the growing infiltration of Europe and America by this same poison, it speaks of anti-Semitism as if it were merely a figment, an occasion for fratricidal conflict among Jews themselves with no objective correlative in the real world. In this internal slugfest of accusation and counter-accusation, the offense itself disappears, and with it any serious discussion of its source, its gravity, or its spread.

Even more than those cited by Alvin Rosenfeld, it is the newspaper of record that has long displaced onto Israel’s moral ledger the misery that Arabs cause themselves. This morning’s edition carries a three-column story about a former Israeli government minister convicted of French-kissing a female soldier. This is evidently what the Times considers news. Not news, evidently, are the dozens of mutual kidnappings and murders committed by Fatah and Hamas. Dead Palestinians appear to interest the Times only insofar as their deaths can be laid at the feet of Israel.

Similarly, real existing anti-Semitism seems to interest the Times far less than does the drama of Jew-against-Jew in which the Times gets to name aggressors and victims. In this offhand, underhanded manner the paper’s editors and reporters abet the anti-Semitic lie that the existence of Israel “explains” the misery and rage of the people yelling for its destruction and for the destruction of all Jews everywhere.

The New York Times took notice yesterday of a pamphlet-sized essay posted on the website of the American Jewish Committee. Written by Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University and titled “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” the essay describes the mounting assault on Israel by Jews on the Left. Rosenfeld cites, among others, the two Tonys—Kushner and Judt—and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, each of whom was in turn duly quoted in the Times story as protesting Rosenfeld’s characterization of them. The paper’s reporter, Patricia Cohen, seems to side with them in this dispute, slyly suggesting that the AJC has overstated the problem of anti-Semitism on the Jewish Left. Thereby, she neutralizes or buries the very problem the AJC was trying to expose.

No surprise there. In this matter, as it happens, the Times has long been not merely a reporting agency but a major player. For the past sixty years the newspaper has denied the Arab war against the Jewish state, just as in World War II it denied the German war against the Jewish people. Rather than telling its readers about Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism and describing how it shapes the societies in which it flourishes, rather than documenting the growing infiltration of Europe and America by this same poison, it speaks of anti-Semitism as if it were merely a figment, an occasion for fratricidal conflict among Jews themselves with no objective correlative in the real world. In this internal slugfest of accusation and counter-accusation, the offense itself disappears, and with it any serious discussion of its source, its gravity, or its spread.

Even more than those cited by Alvin Rosenfeld, it is the newspaper of record that has long displaced onto Israel’s moral ledger the misery that Arabs cause themselves. This morning’s edition carries a three-column story about a former Israeli government minister convicted of French-kissing a female soldier. This is evidently what the Times considers news. Not news, evidently, are the dozens of mutual kidnappings and murders committed by Fatah and Hamas. Dead Palestinians appear to interest the Times only insofar as their deaths can be laid at the feet of Israel.

Similarly, real existing anti-Semitism seems to interest the Times far less than does the drama of Jew-against-Jew in which the Times gets to name aggressors and victims. In this offhand, underhanded manner the paper’s editors and reporters abet the anti-Semitic lie that the existence of Israel “explains” the misery and rage of the people yelling for its destruction and for the destruction of all Jews everywhere.

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