Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jeremy Ben-Ami

J Street Defends Ground Zero Mosque

It’s been obvious for some time now that J Street is neither pro-peace nor pro-Israel. Its rhetoric and ideology tell us it is pro-Obama and pro-anti-Israel. The latest proof comes from a statement released by Jeremy Ben-Ami, which has nothing to do with Israel:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

This is daft. We are going to annoy Osama bin Laden if we don’t let them have the mosque steps from where his followers incinerated 3,000 Americans? I think they were annoyed before. They don’t need an excuse to whip up global jihadism. Moreover, the J Streeters refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns — it’s just casting aspersions, you see — of Jews and non-Jews about the associations and identity of the mosque builders.

Compare that pronouncement with Rudy Giuliani’s, who issued his first blast on the subject:

“It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about. So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at Ground Zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an Imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at Ground Zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

Well, yeah.

But returning to J Street, how is this related to their ostensible mission? It seems — shocking, I know! — that it is indistinguishable from the leftist party line and the pro-CAIR message. Maybe they’ve given up trying to disguise themselves as liberal pro-Zionists (whatever that is). If so, it would introduce some refreshing honesty into the debate as to just which groups are “pro-Israel” and which are pro-Israel’s enemies.

But here’s the thing: is there a market for pro–Ground Zero mosque-building in American Jewry? I think not, and I think even the J Streeters get that. Their audience — yeah, another shocker — seems to be not pro-Israel Jews but leftist pro-Muslims.

It’s been obvious for some time now that J Street is neither pro-peace nor pro-Israel. Its rhetoric and ideology tell us it is pro-Obama and pro-anti-Israel. The latest proof comes from a statement released by Jeremy Ben-Ami, which has nothing to do with Israel:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

This is daft. We are going to annoy Osama bin Laden if we don’t let them have the mosque steps from where his followers incinerated 3,000 Americans? I think they were annoyed before. They don’t need an excuse to whip up global jihadism. Moreover, the J Streeters refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns — it’s just casting aspersions, you see — of Jews and non-Jews about the associations and identity of the mosque builders.

Compare that pronouncement with Rudy Giuliani’s, who issued his first blast on the subject:

“It sends a particularly bad message, particularly (because) of the background of the Imam who is supporting this. This is an Imam who has supported radical causes, who has not been forthright in condemning Islamic (terrorism) and the worst instincts that that brings about. So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at Ground Zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an Imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at Ground Zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

Well, yeah.

But returning to J Street, how is this related to their ostensible mission? It seems — shocking, I know! — that it is indistinguishable from the leftist party line and the pro-CAIR message. Maybe they’ve given up trying to disguise themselves as liberal pro-Zionists (whatever that is). If so, it would introduce some refreshing honesty into the debate as to just which groups are “pro-Israel” and which are pro-Israel’s enemies.

But here’s the thing: is there a market for pro–Ground Zero mosque-building in American Jewry? I think not, and I think even the J Streeters get that. Their audience — yeah, another shocker — seems to be not pro-Israel Jews but leftist pro-Muslims.

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National Jewish Democratic Council Meltdown

It’s Sunday, so by now David Harris, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, has stopped digging the hole he excavated for himself on Friday. He finally may have run out of retractions and completed his initial damage control. It’s not clear, however, whether the NJDC will keep him around after his performance on Friday.

Harris showed that there is far more “D” than “J” in his organization when he rushed forth with a partisan swipe at the Emergency Committee for Israel:

The controversial new pro-Israel outfit, Emergency Committee for Israel “is playing with fire,” says David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which recently released a “fact sheet” aimed at exposing what it says are ECI’s “dangerous” smear tactics. …

“They’re using Israel solely as a partisan wedge issue and they’re employing tactics that have been decried by the organized Jewish community and the government of Israel — and those are the facts.”

But when asked whether J Street didn’t fit that description, he rushed to the Israel-bashers’ defense:

“J Street and other groups are bi-partisan in their approach, first of all,” he explained. “This range of Jewish community organizations traffics in facts, and they represent the mainstream of views within the American Jewish community, although individual Jew are free to disagree with them.”

Oops. That’s just hooey, and his members know it. And to make matters worse, Jeremy Ben-Ami proved Harris’s statement to be foolish:

“J Street’s purpose is clear and non-partisan: to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that brings peace and security to Israel and its neighbors,” he said in a statement to me. “Attempts by Republican political operatives to shift elections toward candidates they support but who have poor records on Israel like Pat Toomey are transparent and bound to backfire.”

By this time, the phones must have been ringing off the hook. So Harris rushed forth with a retraction:

Upon Learning of Ben-Ami’s partisan pot shot, Harris immediately responded: “NJDC would not label a candidate like Pat Toomey as having ‘a poor record on Israel.’ We think it is destructive to the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship to tear down those who are Israel supporters, whether from the left or from the right.”

So Harris managed to offend both mainstream and lefty Democrats.

But his no-good, horrible, cringe-inducing day was not yet done. There was also the “Jewish money” story. Harris issued a statement that promptly disappeared and was replaced by a retraction (what he was retracting wasn’t precisely clear):

At the time of this morning’s statement, we had initial press reports in hand but not all the facts. Now that we have the facts, including Congressman McMahon’s comprehensive apology, we must retract our previous statement and thank Congressman McMahon not just for his quick actions but his clear sentiments. His reassurance that what took place is ‘in no way indicative of my beliefs or of my campaign’ is deeply appreciated, as is his assertion that ‘any comments that could serve to divide our community along religious or ethnic lines have no place in our community or my campaign.’ These statements and his comprehensive apology, combined with his swift action, put this issue to rest as far as we are concerned.

It remains wrong to ‘count Jews’ or to perpetuate stereotypes about the Jewish community, but it is now clear that any such behavior here was that of an individual, and that the candidate had no knowledge of it. Mike McMahon’s swift actions in this matter should be commended, not condemned.

Nothing like firing off statements without the facts.

To sum it up, Harris spent most of Friday in retraction mode, exposing himself as the partisan wedge-maker he routinely rails against. Is a retraction of his ECI jabs next? Well, that would make it a trifecta in the apology derby. It’s hard to believe this is the best the NJDC can do. Granted, it’s not easy flacking for the most anti-Israel president ever, but, surely, they could find someone who doesn’t compound their problems.

It’s Sunday, so by now David Harris, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, has stopped digging the hole he excavated for himself on Friday. He finally may have run out of retractions and completed his initial damage control. It’s not clear, however, whether the NJDC will keep him around after his performance on Friday.

Harris showed that there is far more “D” than “J” in his organization when he rushed forth with a partisan swipe at the Emergency Committee for Israel:

The controversial new pro-Israel outfit, Emergency Committee for Israel “is playing with fire,” says David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which recently released a “fact sheet” aimed at exposing what it says are ECI’s “dangerous” smear tactics. …

“They’re using Israel solely as a partisan wedge issue and they’re employing tactics that have been decried by the organized Jewish community and the government of Israel — and those are the facts.”

But when asked whether J Street didn’t fit that description, he rushed to the Israel-bashers’ defense:

“J Street and other groups are bi-partisan in their approach, first of all,” he explained. “This range of Jewish community organizations traffics in facts, and they represent the mainstream of views within the American Jewish community, although individual Jew are free to disagree with them.”

Oops. That’s just hooey, and his members know it. And to make matters worse, Jeremy Ben-Ami proved Harris’s statement to be foolish:

“J Street’s purpose is clear and non-partisan: to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that brings peace and security to Israel and its neighbors,” he said in a statement to me. “Attempts by Republican political operatives to shift elections toward candidates they support but who have poor records on Israel like Pat Toomey are transparent and bound to backfire.”

By this time, the phones must have been ringing off the hook. So Harris rushed forth with a retraction:

Upon Learning of Ben-Ami’s partisan pot shot, Harris immediately responded: “NJDC would not label a candidate like Pat Toomey as having ‘a poor record on Israel.’ We think it is destructive to the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship to tear down those who are Israel supporters, whether from the left or from the right.”

So Harris managed to offend both mainstream and lefty Democrats.

But his no-good, horrible, cringe-inducing day was not yet done. There was also the “Jewish money” story. Harris issued a statement that promptly disappeared and was replaced by a retraction (what he was retracting wasn’t precisely clear):

At the time of this morning’s statement, we had initial press reports in hand but not all the facts. Now that we have the facts, including Congressman McMahon’s comprehensive apology, we must retract our previous statement and thank Congressman McMahon not just for his quick actions but his clear sentiments. His reassurance that what took place is ‘in no way indicative of my beliefs or of my campaign’ is deeply appreciated, as is his assertion that ‘any comments that could serve to divide our community along religious or ethnic lines have no place in our community or my campaign.’ These statements and his comprehensive apology, combined with his swift action, put this issue to rest as far as we are concerned.

It remains wrong to ‘count Jews’ or to perpetuate stereotypes about the Jewish community, but it is now clear that any such behavior here was that of an individual, and that the candidate had no knowledge of it. Mike McMahon’s swift actions in this matter should be commended, not condemned.

Nothing like firing off statements without the facts.

To sum it up, Harris spent most of Friday in retraction mode, exposing himself as the partisan wedge-maker he routinely rails against. Is a retraction of his ECI jabs next? Well, that would make it a trifecta in the apology derby. It’s hard to believe this is the best the NJDC can do. Granted, it’s not easy flacking for the most anti-Israel president ever, but, surely, they could find someone who doesn’t compound their problems.

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Will J Street Weigh Down Its Endorsed Candidates?

Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.

In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.

This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?

Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.

J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.

Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?

J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval?  It’s hard to see why they would.

Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.

In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.

This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?

Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.

J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.

Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?

J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval?  It’s hard to see why they would.

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Will Obama’s Israel Policy Inflict Damage in the Midterms?

This report on the impact of Obama’s Israel policy on the midterm elections should be read in full. Particularly telling are the Obama sycophants in the Jewish community. How do you defend the worst presidential record on Israel in recent memory? There are two options.

First, deny there is anything wrong — anything at all — with Obama’s policy. For ludicrous spin, nothing quite matches the National Democratic Jewish Council: “The U.S.-Israel alliance ‘has never been stronger or more strategically aligned than it is today,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.” Statements like that reveal the group is nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party. Harris doesn’t have much to work with when defending a president who has condemned the Jewish state, demanded unilateral concessions from Israel, insulted the prime minister, recited the Palestinian-victim narrative from Cairo but has not visited Israel, hinted about (and then retreated from) an imposed peace deal, singled out Israel in an NPT statement (and then told Bibi he didn’t mean anything by it) and refused to commit America to Israel’s defense against an existential threat (to the contrary, has suggested military force against Iran is off the table). However, for the sake of his own credibility, he’d be wise to stop the over-the-top flackery.

Another option is to take refuge in the notion that many American Jews don’t give much thought to Israel. J Street — which says (but only some of the time) that it is pro-Israel — seems downright pleased that many Jews are more concerned with ObamaCare and global warming than with the Jewish state:

J Street officials boast that their political action committee has distributed more money to candidates for the 2010 elections – some $680,000 – than during the entire 2008 campaign. But J Street also argues that Israel policy is not a top priority for most Jewish voters. The group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said a recent poll it commissioned found that less than 10 percent of American Jews cited Israel as one of their top two voting issues.

“It’s really a small percentage for whom this is a top-tier issue,” Ben-Ami said.

For a guy trying to pass himself off as Israel’s friend, he doesn’t sound like this is a problem — or like his job is to elevate Israel to the top tier of concerns.

But out in the country where real candidates are running, and where real voters roll their eyes over Beltway spin, there will be contests in which Israel plays a key role. As The Hill points out,  the J Street endorsed Joe Sestak (a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter and a friend of CAIR) is facing a tough challenge from Pat Toomey, who has been hammering at this and other issues as evidence of Sestak’s extreme leftism. There are important House races as well:

The battle between J Street and other Jewish groups has flared in a House race in Illinois, where incumbent Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D), has come under fire from a Republican challenger, Joel Pollak, for her stance on Israel. Pollack won the endorsement of Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat known for his hawkish support of Israel. In response, J Street circulated an online fund-raising petition for Schakowsky, collecting $40,000 in a day.

Now, the most compelling evidence that Obama’s Israel policy has been a flop and has domestic political consequences comes from the White House itself. Had Obama not polluted the U.S.-Israel relationship and shocked even faithful Democratic supporters, would he have launched a “charm offensive”? Had a do-over meeting with Bibi? Maybe he isn’t the swellest pro-Israel president ever.

This report on the impact of Obama’s Israel policy on the midterm elections should be read in full. Particularly telling are the Obama sycophants in the Jewish community. How do you defend the worst presidential record on Israel in recent memory? There are two options.

First, deny there is anything wrong — anything at all — with Obama’s policy. For ludicrous spin, nothing quite matches the National Democratic Jewish Council: “The U.S.-Israel alliance ‘has never been stronger or more strategically aligned than it is today,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.” Statements like that reveal the group is nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party. Harris doesn’t have much to work with when defending a president who has condemned the Jewish state, demanded unilateral concessions from Israel, insulted the prime minister, recited the Palestinian-victim narrative from Cairo but has not visited Israel, hinted about (and then retreated from) an imposed peace deal, singled out Israel in an NPT statement (and then told Bibi he didn’t mean anything by it) and refused to commit America to Israel’s defense against an existential threat (to the contrary, has suggested military force against Iran is off the table). However, for the sake of his own credibility, he’d be wise to stop the over-the-top flackery.

Another option is to take refuge in the notion that many American Jews don’t give much thought to Israel. J Street — which says (but only some of the time) that it is pro-Israel — seems downright pleased that many Jews are more concerned with ObamaCare and global warming than with the Jewish state:

J Street officials boast that their political action committee has distributed more money to candidates for the 2010 elections – some $680,000 – than during the entire 2008 campaign. But J Street also argues that Israel policy is not a top priority for most Jewish voters. The group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said a recent poll it commissioned found that less than 10 percent of American Jews cited Israel as one of their top two voting issues.

“It’s really a small percentage for whom this is a top-tier issue,” Ben-Ami said.

For a guy trying to pass himself off as Israel’s friend, he doesn’t sound like this is a problem — or like his job is to elevate Israel to the top tier of concerns.

But out in the country where real candidates are running, and where real voters roll their eyes over Beltway spin, there will be contests in which Israel plays a key role. As The Hill points out,  the J Street endorsed Joe Sestak (a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter and a friend of CAIR) is facing a tough challenge from Pat Toomey, who has been hammering at this and other issues as evidence of Sestak’s extreme leftism. There are important House races as well:

The battle between J Street and other Jewish groups has flared in a House race in Illinois, where incumbent Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D), has come under fire from a Republican challenger, Joel Pollak, for her stance on Israel. Pollack won the endorsement of Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat known for his hawkish support of Israel. In response, J Street circulated an online fund-raising petition for Schakowsky, collecting $40,000 in a day.

Now, the most compelling evidence that Obama’s Israel policy has been a flop and has domestic political consequences comes from the White House itself. Had Obama not polluted the U.S.-Israel relationship and shocked even faithful Democratic supporters, would he have launched a “charm offensive”? Had a do-over meeting with Bibi? Maybe he isn’t the swellest pro-Israel president ever.

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Kagan Hearing: Just Say No

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) — make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) — make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

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Goldberg: What’s Wrong with J Street?

Jeffrey Goldberg shares a letter from a frustrated reader:

I watched your debate with Jeremy Ben-Ami the other night and it seemed like you agreed with nearly everything the guy had to say. You should understand that J Street is not a Zionist group at all. It supports congressional candidates who are hostile to Israel, and, in its own statements it says it’s opposed even to the threat of military action against Iran, something that Obama does regularly. Why don’t you understand that J Street is a wolf in sheep’s clothing? It is designed to separate Israel from the Democratic Party. It is not interested in supporting Israel, it is interested in providing cover for Jews who dislike Israel but need a Jewish cover to say so.

Goldberg’s retort is as unpersuasive as it is sad. He doesn’t rebut the readers’ points but says he’s troubled that the reader thinks such awful things. He also assures us that the people from J Street he’s met love Israel (he knows this, I guess, because they say so) and that they’re in favor of ending settlements just like Goldberg is. They are also in favor of carving up Jerusalem and lifting the Gaza blockade — and opposed to sanctions against Iran and statements, however bland, in support of Israel’s right of self-defense. But Goldberg doesn’t bother with all that. Nor does he address why it is that J Street hosted a confab filled with apologists for the mullahs.

He then makes this mind-boggling assertion: “Since I’m for an end to the settlements myself, I find it hard to believe that J Street is anti-Israel, since I am certainly not anti-Israel.” What?! (CAIR is in favor of ending settlements too, so does that mean … oh never mind.) He ends with a non-sequitur: “There has to be room in American Jewry for people who disagree with the policies of Israeli governments but want Israel to survive as a Jewish democracy. ” This of course sidesteps the question as to whether J Street is really pro-Israel and what it means by “survive.” (And there is “room” for everyone engaged in nonviolent debate in America, but not everyone deserves recognition as “pro-Israel.”)

Goldberg’s post is so halfhearted and unreasoned that one almost suspects he is mocking those who defend J Street. But alas, I think he’s serious — and exemplifies the difficulty that liberal Jews have in discerning who is on Israel’s side and what it means to be on Israel’s side.

In any case, next time there is a debate with Jeremy Ben-Ami, the organizers should come up with someone (Goldberg’s reader, maybe) who actually disagrees with J Street and can explain why not everyone who is against settlements (Jimmy Carter?) is pro-Israel. But maybe the organizers of these events aren’t so much interested in shedding light on J Street as in providing cover for it. In that case, they picked the perfect man. Goldberg is, by the way, also the perfect man to run Politics and Prose.

Jeffrey Goldberg shares a letter from a frustrated reader:

I watched your debate with Jeremy Ben-Ami the other night and it seemed like you agreed with nearly everything the guy had to say. You should understand that J Street is not a Zionist group at all. It supports congressional candidates who are hostile to Israel, and, in its own statements it says it’s opposed even to the threat of military action against Iran, something that Obama does regularly. Why don’t you understand that J Street is a wolf in sheep’s clothing? It is designed to separate Israel from the Democratic Party. It is not interested in supporting Israel, it is interested in providing cover for Jews who dislike Israel but need a Jewish cover to say so.

Goldberg’s retort is as unpersuasive as it is sad. He doesn’t rebut the readers’ points but says he’s troubled that the reader thinks such awful things. He also assures us that the people from J Street he’s met love Israel (he knows this, I guess, because they say so) and that they’re in favor of ending settlements just like Goldberg is. They are also in favor of carving up Jerusalem and lifting the Gaza blockade — and opposed to sanctions against Iran and statements, however bland, in support of Israel’s right of self-defense. But Goldberg doesn’t bother with all that. Nor does he address why it is that J Street hosted a confab filled with apologists for the mullahs.

He then makes this mind-boggling assertion: “Since I’m for an end to the settlements myself, I find it hard to believe that J Street is anti-Israel, since I am certainly not anti-Israel.” What?! (CAIR is in favor of ending settlements too, so does that mean … oh never mind.) He ends with a non-sequitur: “There has to be room in American Jewry for people who disagree with the policies of Israeli governments but want Israel to survive as a Jewish democracy. ” This of course sidesteps the question as to whether J Street is really pro-Israel and what it means by “survive.” (And there is “room” for everyone engaged in nonviolent debate in America, but not everyone deserves recognition as “pro-Israel.”)

Goldberg’s post is so halfhearted and unreasoned that one almost suspects he is mocking those who defend J Street. But alas, I think he’s serious — and exemplifies the difficulty that liberal Jews have in discerning who is on Israel’s side and what it means to be on Israel’s side.

In any case, next time there is a debate with Jeremy Ben-Ami, the organizers should come up with someone (Goldberg’s reader, maybe) who actually disagrees with J Street and can explain why not everyone who is against settlements (Jimmy Carter?) is pro-Israel. But maybe the organizers of these events aren’t so much interested in shedding light on J Street as in providing cover for it. In that case, they picked the perfect man. Goldberg is, by the way, also the perfect man to run Politics and Prose.

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J Street Weighs In

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Jeremy Ben-Ami:

With details still emerging and propaganda spinning furiously on all sides — one simple truth stands clear to us: today’s events are the natural outgrowth of the larger, ongoing failure to resolve this conflict peacefully through a two-state solution. …

J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed and dozens more wounded (including Israeli soldiers) this morning as Israel intercepted a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery. …

This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. [Emphasis added]

I am puzzled — what exactly is Ben-Ami referring to as “propaganda”? There are claims that the Islamist lynch mob aboard one of the ships is actually a group of “peace activists.” Mahmoud Abbas says that the IDF “slaughtered” the “peace activists.” J Street should explain precisely which claims made by the Israeli government are “propaganda.” When the Gaza war started in 2008, J Street said that there was no difference between terrorists trying to murder Israeli civilians and the Israeli military trying to stop those attacks. Here we have another easy slide into moral equivalence.

It is a classically demented J Street product: there is moral equivalence; the refusal to place blame on the guilty party; the eager repetition of Islamist propaganda by classifying terrorists as civilians; outright sympathy with the lynch mob, which J Street incorrectly says was composed of civilians, and the expression of condolences for those who tragically lost their lives as they tried to beat and stab Jews to death; and, ultimately, the laying of blame on Israel, which created this whole situation in the first place with its cruel and pointless Gaza blockade.

This is your pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby.

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Jeremy Ben-Ami:

With details still emerging and propaganda spinning furiously on all sides — one simple truth stands clear to us: today’s events are the natural outgrowth of the larger, ongoing failure to resolve this conflict peacefully through a two-state solution. …

J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed and dozens more wounded (including Israeli soldiers) this morning as Israel intercepted a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery. …

This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. [Emphasis added]

I am puzzled — what exactly is Ben-Ami referring to as “propaganda”? There are claims that the Islamist lynch mob aboard one of the ships is actually a group of “peace activists.” Mahmoud Abbas says that the IDF “slaughtered” the “peace activists.” J Street should explain precisely which claims made by the Israeli government are “propaganda.” When the Gaza war started in 2008, J Street said that there was no difference between terrorists trying to murder Israeli civilians and the Israeli military trying to stop those attacks. Here we have another easy slide into moral equivalence.

It is a classically demented J Street product: there is moral equivalence; the refusal to place blame on the guilty party; the eager repetition of Islamist propaganda by classifying terrorists as civilians; outright sympathy with the lynch mob, which J Street incorrectly says was composed of civilians, and the expression of condolences for those who tragically lost their lives as they tried to beat and stab Jews to death; and, ultimately, the laying of blame on Israel, which created this whole situation in the first place with its cruel and pointless Gaza blockade.

This is your pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby.

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Aaron David Miller: Obama Is the Biggest Concern in the Middle East

In an interview with JTA, Aaron David Miller recaps and puts an exclamation point on his important piece calling for an end to the “religion” of the peace process — that is, the reality-free belief in the centrality of the Palestinian conflict to all Middle East issues and the equally fantastical conviction that an agreement is possible in the first place. He says:

“What I find difficult to reconcile is how you’re going to get to a conflict-ending agreement which addresses the four core issues that have driven the Israelis and the Palestinians and brought each issue to a finality of claims. … I just do not see how to do that given the gaps that exist and the inherent constraints on the leaders in the absence also of a real sense of urgency.”

He reminds us that the Oslo paradigm is now badly outdated:

Miller describes how the situation has worsened since the last major effort at a resolution, the Camp David-Taba talks of 2000-01: The status of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been wounded profoundly by the ouster of his moderate party, Fatah, from Gaza at the gunpoint of Hamas; Netanyahu is bound by a right-wing coalition (of his choosing) that is not ready to countenance a full-fledged settlement freeze, never mind compromise on Jerusalem; and Obama has had 15 months, distracted by the economy and health care, to match Clinton’s six full years focused on the issue.

Then there’s the region: “Hezbollah and Hamas,” Miller says referring to the terrorist groups in Lebanon and Gaza, respectively. “You have two non-state actors, two non-state environments who are not proxies of Iran and or Syria but who clearly reflect their capacity to want to influence events — and then you have Iran” and its potential nuclear threat.

What concerns him most? Not another failed round of peace-processing. Not the continued Palestinian radicalization. No, it’s Obama that has him most nervous:

The prospect that Miller says unnerves him most is that the Obama administration says it will step in with a conflict-ending agreement if the current proximity talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians go nowhere.

“I’m very uneasy because at the end of the day, I don’t see what the game is, I don’t see what the strategy is,” he said. “Even if it’s an initiative, what’s the objective, what’s the strategy?”

Interestingly and predictably, Jeremy Ben-Ami lets it be know that he doesn’t care much for reality: “We don’t have the luxury of time; the tensions on the ground are too high. … That’s the difference between being an analyst and actually trying to assess outcomes.” What? Even for him, that’s incoherent.

But it’s a helpful reminder that the people who favor Obama’s obsession with the peace process are the same who demand that Israel make all sorts of unilateral concessions, oppose sanctions against Iran, and are content to carve up the Jewish state into a shrunken carcass of its former self. They couldn’t be happier with Obama — enabled by the no-longer-reality-based Dennis Ross — who’s just the one to jam a deal, or try to, down Israel’s throat.

In an interview with JTA, Aaron David Miller recaps and puts an exclamation point on his important piece calling for an end to the “religion” of the peace process — that is, the reality-free belief in the centrality of the Palestinian conflict to all Middle East issues and the equally fantastical conviction that an agreement is possible in the first place. He says:

“What I find difficult to reconcile is how you’re going to get to a conflict-ending agreement which addresses the four core issues that have driven the Israelis and the Palestinians and brought each issue to a finality of claims. … I just do not see how to do that given the gaps that exist and the inherent constraints on the leaders in the absence also of a real sense of urgency.”

He reminds us that the Oslo paradigm is now badly outdated:

Miller describes how the situation has worsened since the last major effort at a resolution, the Camp David-Taba talks of 2000-01: The status of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been wounded profoundly by the ouster of his moderate party, Fatah, from Gaza at the gunpoint of Hamas; Netanyahu is bound by a right-wing coalition (of his choosing) that is not ready to countenance a full-fledged settlement freeze, never mind compromise on Jerusalem; and Obama has had 15 months, distracted by the economy and health care, to match Clinton’s six full years focused on the issue.

Then there’s the region: “Hezbollah and Hamas,” Miller says referring to the terrorist groups in Lebanon and Gaza, respectively. “You have two non-state actors, two non-state environments who are not proxies of Iran and or Syria but who clearly reflect their capacity to want to influence events — and then you have Iran” and its potential nuclear threat.

What concerns him most? Not another failed round of peace-processing. Not the continued Palestinian radicalization. No, it’s Obama that has him most nervous:

The prospect that Miller says unnerves him most is that the Obama administration says it will step in with a conflict-ending agreement if the current proximity talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians go nowhere.

“I’m very uneasy because at the end of the day, I don’t see what the game is, I don’t see what the strategy is,” he said. “Even if it’s an initiative, what’s the objective, what’s the strategy?”

Interestingly and predictably, Jeremy Ben-Ami lets it be know that he doesn’t care much for reality: “We don’t have the luxury of time; the tensions on the ground are too high. … That’s the difference between being an analyst and actually trying to assess outcomes.” What? Even for him, that’s incoherent.

But it’s a helpful reminder that the people who favor Obama’s obsession with the peace process are the same who demand that Israel make all sorts of unilateral concessions, oppose sanctions against Iran, and are content to carve up the Jewish state into a shrunken carcass of its former self. They couldn’t be happier with Obama — enabled by the no-longer-reality-based Dennis Ross — who’s just the one to jam a deal, or try to, down Israel’s throat.

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If Jews Back Obama’s Pressure, Why Was the ‘Charm Offensive’ Necessary?

For those who were thrilled by President Obama’s decision to distance the United States from Israel and to treat Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as illegal settlements, the recent “charm offensive” by which the White House has sought to deflect the growing criticism from friends of the Jewish state has to be a downer. With recent polls showing that a majority of American Jews disapprove of Obama’s handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and with most of the centrist leadership of American Jewry expressing dismay over the president’s positions on Jerusalem, the left’s assertion that the president can count on Jewish support for his pressure on Israel has been effectively debunked.

But that hasn’t stopped The New York Times from once again trotting out one of the standards of their coverage of American Jewry. The headline of the piece published today on their website couldn’t make the agenda of the article any clearer: “On Israel, Jews and Leaders Often Disagree.” The familiar conceit of the feature is that while the big names of American Jewry and the leaders of the alphabet soup of organizations still support Israel, the rank and file do not.

The piece argues that the overwhelming support for Obama in the 2008 election and the reliably liberal Democratic cast of Jewish voters must mean that they applaud his clear animus for Israel. Of course, if that were true, Obama wouldn’t have bothered campaigning as if he were a devoted friend of Israel. Despite that, the leader of the left-wing J Street lobby is still trying to promote the idea that most Jews don’t support Israel’s policies and want Washington to pressure it to accept a two-state solution. But as uneasiness over the administration’s hostility grew in recent months, it became clear that even most Jewish Democrats knew that Israel’s government has accepted such a solution but that it is the Palestinians who won’t make peace. Thus, J Street has made little headway in Washington with a Congress that is still reliably pro-Israel and unhappy about the administration’s drift. But that doesn’t stop the Times from treating its claims as self-evident.

But for all the protestations by the left of Jewish support for pressure on Israel, it has to be obvious that the White House doesn’t buy it. If they were as confident as J Street that their Jewish Democratic base liked what they were doing, then why would they have spent so much time in the last month trying to back away from a fight with Israel that they had picked in the first place. Why shlep Elie Wiesel to the White House yesterday for a private audience with the president after he published an ad in several newspapers warning Obama that Jerusalem was the “heart of our heart and the soul of our soul” if the administration wasn’t convinced that the famed Holocaust survivor’s concerns weren’t far more representative of public opinion than the partisan natterings of J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami?

While the charm offensive may not do much more than calm some panicky Jewish Democrats who are willing to believe Obama’s new promises just as they swallowed his campaign pledges, it does prove one thing: the White House knows that an open feud with Israel and its friends is political poison.

Indeed, the best the Times could do to support its thesis that Ben-Ami is right is to gather a few members of a Secular Humanist Temple in suburban Detroit to find a some Jews who are willing to attack Israel’s government. While the members of that tiny slice of Jewish demography are as entitled to their opinions as anyone else, the notion that this small splinter group of Jews who eschew religious faith in favor of a secular ethnicity is representative of American Jewry is absurd. But even there, among members of a Temple who cannot help but be far more liberal than the average Jewish congregation, the Times still discovered that there were some who were concerned about those who unfairly blame Israel for the conflict. As 87-year-old Rosetta Creed stated: “It makes me angry that the Israelis are always blamed for the problems and asked to make concessions,” Ms. Creed said. “You know, the Israelis are not the ones launching rockets and placing fighters in houses with children inside.”

For those who were thrilled by President Obama’s decision to distance the United States from Israel and to treat Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as illegal settlements, the recent “charm offensive” by which the White House has sought to deflect the growing criticism from friends of the Jewish state has to be a downer. With recent polls showing that a majority of American Jews disapprove of Obama’s handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and with most of the centrist leadership of American Jewry expressing dismay over the president’s positions on Jerusalem, the left’s assertion that the president can count on Jewish support for his pressure on Israel has been effectively debunked.

But that hasn’t stopped The New York Times from once again trotting out one of the standards of their coverage of American Jewry. The headline of the piece published today on their website couldn’t make the agenda of the article any clearer: “On Israel, Jews and Leaders Often Disagree.” The familiar conceit of the feature is that while the big names of American Jewry and the leaders of the alphabet soup of organizations still support Israel, the rank and file do not.

The piece argues that the overwhelming support for Obama in the 2008 election and the reliably liberal Democratic cast of Jewish voters must mean that they applaud his clear animus for Israel. Of course, if that were true, Obama wouldn’t have bothered campaigning as if he were a devoted friend of Israel. Despite that, the leader of the left-wing J Street lobby is still trying to promote the idea that most Jews don’t support Israel’s policies and want Washington to pressure it to accept a two-state solution. But as uneasiness over the administration’s hostility grew in recent months, it became clear that even most Jewish Democrats knew that Israel’s government has accepted such a solution but that it is the Palestinians who won’t make peace. Thus, J Street has made little headway in Washington with a Congress that is still reliably pro-Israel and unhappy about the administration’s drift. But that doesn’t stop the Times from treating its claims as self-evident.

But for all the protestations by the left of Jewish support for pressure on Israel, it has to be obvious that the White House doesn’t buy it. If they were as confident as J Street that their Jewish Democratic base liked what they were doing, then why would they have spent so much time in the last month trying to back away from a fight with Israel that they had picked in the first place. Why shlep Elie Wiesel to the White House yesterday for a private audience with the president after he published an ad in several newspapers warning Obama that Jerusalem was the “heart of our heart and the soul of our soul” if the administration wasn’t convinced that the famed Holocaust survivor’s concerns weren’t far more representative of public opinion than the partisan natterings of J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami?

While the charm offensive may not do much more than calm some panicky Jewish Democrats who are willing to believe Obama’s new promises just as they swallowed his campaign pledges, it does prove one thing: the White House knows that an open feud with Israel and its friends is political poison.

Indeed, the best the Times could do to support its thesis that Ben-Ami is right is to gather a few members of a Secular Humanist Temple in suburban Detroit to find a some Jews who are willing to attack Israel’s government. While the members of that tiny slice of Jewish demography are as entitled to their opinions as anyone else, the notion that this small splinter group of Jews who eschew religious faith in favor of a secular ethnicity is representative of American Jewry is absurd. But even there, among members of a Temple who cannot help but be far more liberal than the average Jewish congregation, the Times still discovered that there were some who were concerned about those who unfairly blame Israel for the conflict. As 87-year-old Rosetta Creed stated: “It makes me angry that the Israelis are always blamed for the problems and asked to make concessions,” Ms. Creed said. “You know, the Israelis are not the ones launching rockets and placing fighters in houses with children inside.”

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It’s Time to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction J Street

Solomonia has the details on the latest from the anti-Israel group J Street, which has organized a trip to Israel in partnership with Churches for Middle East Peace. CMEP is a leader in the so-called “BDS movement” — boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. These are the people who want to isolate Israel in the way that the world is currently isolating, say, Iran — which is a tremendous irony, being that J Street is opposed to anything resembling BDS when it comes to the Islamic Republic.

These guys have gone so far off the deep end that I think if Ismail Haniyah invited J Street on a solidarity mission to Gaza City, Jeremy Ben-Ami would have to sit down and think really hard about the offer.

Solomonia has the details on the latest from the anti-Israel group J Street, which has organized a trip to Israel in partnership with Churches for Middle East Peace. CMEP is a leader in the so-called “BDS movement” — boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. These are the people who want to isolate Israel in the way that the world is currently isolating, say, Iran — which is a tremendous irony, being that J Street is opposed to anything resembling BDS when it comes to the Islamic Republic.

These guys have gone so far off the deep end that I think if Ismail Haniyah invited J Street on a solidarity mission to Gaza City, Jeremy Ben-Ami would have to sit down and think really hard about the offer.

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Comedy from J Street

J Street is “gravely concerned about escalating threats to the character of Israel’s democracy” and is worried about “a perfect storm brewing that threatens the core of Israel’s democratic character.” The e-mail that contains these warnings is titled “Swiftboating Israel’s democracy.” Time to stockpile bottled water everyone, something serious is happening! It is this: an obscure Zionist youth group has criticized the leftist New Israel Fund for giving money to leftist NGOs.

This youth group is, of course, doing something fully consistent with democratic values — participating, albeit harshly, in a political debate.

There is a group, however, that indeed doesn’t have much regard for Israel’s democracy. Leading figures in this organization have frequently expressed their wish that the United States would do more to reverse the democratic choices of the Israeli electorate. It is named J Street. Here is Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director, in an unguarded moment:

There’s got to be some sort of intervention here where the U.S. says to Israel the time has come to finally do something. … And within Israel, the Israeli prime minister may have a tough time because of their domestic politics fulfilling their commitments. It’s going to be a lot easier if they say to their coalition partners and to the rest of the government, “I have to do this because the president of the United States is telling me to do it.”

Or take a recent Daniel Levy piece in Foreign Policy. Both the Israeli democracy and the PA are “deeply dysfunctional polities,” he writes, and the peace process is “too important for them and for America for it to be left to the mercy of the vicissitudes of their respective domestic politics.”

J Street is scandalized that some Americans have given money to the Zionist youth group, but J Street has never protested the millions of dollars that European governments and the UN spend on anti-Israel political groups NGOs that play such an intrusive role in Israel’s democracy.

It’s time for J Street to send out a press release condemning J Street’s efforts to subvert Israeli democracy.

J Street is “gravely concerned about escalating threats to the character of Israel’s democracy” and is worried about “a perfect storm brewing that threatens the core of Israel’s democratic character.” The e-mail that contains these warnings is titled “Swiftboating Israel’s democracy.” Time to stockpile bottled water everyone, something serious is happening! It is this: an obscure Zionist youth group has criticized the leftist New Israel Fund for giving money to leftist NGOs.

This youth group is, of course, doing something fully consistent with democratic values — participating, albeit harshly, in a political debate.

There is a group, however, that indeed doesn’t have much regard for Israel’s democracy. Leading figures in this organization have frequently expressed their wish that the United States would do more to reverse the democratic choices of the Israeli electorate. It is named J Street. Here is Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director, in an unguarded moment:

There’s got to be some sort of intervention here where the U.S. says to Israel the time has come to finally do something. … And within Israel, the Israeli prime minister may have a tough time because of their domestic politics fulfilling their commitments. It’s going to be a lot easier if they say to their coalition partners and to the rest of the government, “I have to do this because the president of the United States is telling me to do it.”

Or take a recent Daniel Levy piece in Foreign Policy. Both the Israeli democracy and the PA are “deeply dysfunctional polities,” he writes, and the peace process is “too important for them and for America for it to be left to the mercy of the vicissitudes of their respective domestic politics.”

J Street is scandalized that some Americans have given money to the Zionist youth group, but J Street has never protested the millions of dollars that European governments and the UN spend on anti-Israel political groups NGOs that play such an intrusive role in Israel’s democracy.

It’s time for J Street to send out a press release condemning J Street’s efforts to subvert Israeli democracy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel is hosting J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. Does Hillel not know that J Street doesn’t like to be known as a “pro-Israel” organization? One wonders what those who support Hillel must be thinking.

Mitt Romney was either missing in action or responsible for Scott Brown’s success, depending on which narrative you like. If Scott Brown wins, lots of people will claim credit, but Scott Brown will be forever indebted to ObamaCare. Without that target, is there any doubt that a plain-wrap Democrat, even one as mediocre as Coakley, was going to win going away?

Martha Coakley in “free fall”? Down by 9 in one poll. And it’s a similar story in many other polls — making for one eye-opening graph.

Nate Silver also is picking Scott Brown to win.

Marty Peretz sums up: “A loss in Massachusetts for the Obami would be a disastrous event. A narrow win would be a terrible warning.”

Ruth Marcus thinks it’s a plane crash: “If the Democratic party were a plane, its captain would have gotten on the intercom and instructed passengers to brace for impact. But President Obama, in this instance, may be no Sully Sullenberger. The chances of pulling off a smooth landing seem slight. The consequences could be catastrophic. … [A] Coakley loss would not simply reflect her shortcomings; it would illustrate the desire, in Democratic Massachusetts and nationwide, to put some checks on Democratic control of the levers of government. The first victim could be the central legislative focus of Obama’s presidency.”

The Wall Street Journal editors think it’s “the classic political mistake of ideological overreach”: “Mr. Obama won the White House in part on his personal style and cool confidence amid a recession and an unpopular war. Yet liberals in Congress interpreted their victory as a mandate to repeal more or less the entire post-1980 policy era and to fulfill, at last, their dream of turning the U.S. into a cradle-to-grave entitlement state. … The lesson of Mr. Obama’s lost first year is that an economic crisis is a terrible thing to exploit. As they have each time in the last 40 years that they have had total control of Washington, Democrats are proving again that America can’t be successfully governed from the left. If that is the lesson Mr. Obama learns from Massachusetts, he might still salvage his Presidency.”

Nancy Pelosi’s not listening to a bunch of know-nothing voters. Full steam ahead! And they wonder why they’re on the verge of a political earthquake.

This suggests that a large plurality of voters want to stop ObamaCare dead in its tracks: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 49% of likely voters nationwide want Brown to win, while 34% are cheering on Coakley. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.”

University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel is hosting J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. Does Hillel not know that J Street doesn’t like to be known as a “pro-Israel” organization? One wonders what those who support Hillel must be thinking.

Mitt Romney was either missing in action or responsible for Scott Brown’s success, depending on which narrative you like. If Scott Brown wins, lots of people will claim credit, but Scott Brown will be forever indebted to ObamaCare. Without that target, is there any doubt that a plain-wrap Democrat, even one as mediocre as Coakley, was going to win going away?

Martha Coakley in “free fall”? Down by 9 in one poll. And it’s a similar story in many other polls — making for one eye-opening graph.

Nate Silver also is picking Scott Brown to win.

Marty Peretz sums up: “A loss in Massachusetts for the Obami would be a disastrous event. A narrow win would be a terrible warning.”

Ruth Marcus thinks it’s a plane crash: “If the Democratic party were a plane, its captain would have gotten on the intercom and instructed passengers to brace for impact. But President Obama, in this instance, may be no Sully Sullenberger. The chances of pulling off a smooth landing seem slight. The consequences could be catastrophic. … [A] Coakley loss would not simply reflect her shortcomings; it would illustrate the desire, in Democratic Massachusetts and nationwide, to put some checks on Democratic control of the levers of government. The first victim could be the central legislative focus of Obama’s presidency.”

The Wall Street Journal editors think it’s “the classic political mistake of ideological overreach”: “Mr. Obama won the White House in part on his personal style and cool confidence amid a recession and an unpopular war. Yet liberals in Congress interpreted their victory as a mandate to repeal more or less the entire post-1980 policy era and to fulfill, at last, their dream of turning the U.S. into a cradle-to-grave entitlement state. … The lesson of Mr. Obama’s lost first year is that an economic crisis is a terrible thing to exploit. As they have each time in the last 40 years that they have had total control of Washington, Democrats are proving again that America can’t be successfully governed from the left. If that is the lesson Mr. Obama learns from Massachusetts, he might still salvage his Presidency.”

Nancy Pelosi’s not listening to a bunch of know-nothing voters. Full steam ahead! And they wonder why they’re on the verge of a political earthquake.

This suggests that a large plurality of voters want to stop ObamaCare dead in its tracks: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 49% of likely voters nationwide want Brown to win, while 34% are cheering on Coakley. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.”

Read Less

Can the Palestinians Recite Them, Too?

In a letter to the International Herald Tribune, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami urges the U.S. to finally close an Israeli-Palestinian deal, “the parameters of which we can all recite in our sleep.” So if everyone agrees on the parameters, how is it that 16 years of negotiations have yet to produce a deal?

The answer, of course, is that there is no such agreement — not on the parameters, and still less on the pesky details.

For instance, “everyone knows” — even Ben-Ami — that any deal requires the Palestinians to abandon their demand to resettle millions of descendants of refugees in Israel, as that would spell the end of the Jewish state. Everyone, that is, except the Palestinians, who have yet to budge on this demand.

And “everyone knows” that any deal must give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount. (Well, actually, most Israelis disagree, but that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone — even their own prime ministers.) Yet every time Israel offers them the Mount, the Palestinians refuse to accept it, because they insist that it be accompanied by an Israeli renunciation of any Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest site, to which Jews have prayed three times a day for millennia. In other words, they insist that Jews deny their history, religion, and cultural and spiritual heritage as the price of a deal.

Hence they rejected even the ridiculous and totally unenforceable Clinton compromise of Palestinian sovereignty atop the Mount and Israeli sovereignty underneath. That effectively gave the Palestinians full control, since if they control the top, nobody can prevent them from doing what they please underneath — nor can Israel gain access to exercise its underground rights. But since this compromise did acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, even it was too much for the Palestinians.

They also rejected Ehud Olmert’s proposal last year that the Mount be controlled by a five-member international panel composed of “Palestine,” Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel, on which Israel would obviously be permanently and automatically outvoted. But its very membership would acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, and that was unacceptable to the Palestinians.

And then there’s the issue of borders. “Everyone knows” (except the Israeli majority, which doesn’t count) that the border must be based on the 1967 lines, with 1:1 territorial swaps for a few settlement blocs, since relocating 300,000 settlers is unfeasible. Yet the Palestinians rejected exactly that when Olmert offered it last year. Olmert proposed swaps equivalent to 6 percent of the West Bank, but the Palestinians say their maximum is 2-3 percent. It’s not enough for them to get the equivalent of 100 percent of the territory; they want the satisfaction of making Israel suffer by having to throw hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of their homes.

So it really doesn’t matter whether “everyone” knows the parameters or not. Because until someone manages to convince the Palestinians that Israel’s cultural, spiritual, and physical suicide isn’t part of the deal, there isn’t going to be one.

In a letter to the International Herald Tribune, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami urges the U.S. to finally close an Israeli-Palestinian deal, “the parameters of which we can all recite in our sleep.” So if everyone agrees on the parameters, how is it that 16 years of negotiations have yet to produce a deal?

The answer, of course, is that there is no such agreement — not on the parameters, and still less on the pesky details.

For instance, “everyone knows” — even Ben-Ami — that any deal requires the Palestinians to abandon their demand to resettle millions of descendants of refugees in Israel, as that would spell the end of the Jewish state. Everyone, that is, except the Palestinians, who have yet to budge on this demand.

And “everyone knows” that any deal must give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount. (Well, actually, most Israelis disagree, but that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone — even their own prime ministers.) Yet every time Israel offers them the Mount, the Palestinians refuse to accept it, because they insist that it be accompanied by an Israeli renunciation of any Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest site, to which Jews have prayed three times a day for millennia. In other words, they insist that Jews deny their history, religion, and cultural and spiritual heritage as the price of a deal.

Hence they rejected even the ridiculous and totally unenforceable Clinton compromise of Palestinian sovereignty atop the Mount and Israeli sovereignty underneath. That effectively gave the Palestinians full control, since if they control the top, nobody can prevent them from doing what they please underneath — nor can Israel gain access to exercise its underground rights. But since this compromise did acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, even it was too much for the Palestinians.

They also rejected Ehud Olmert’s proposal last year that the Mount be controlled by a five-member international panel composed of “Palestine,” Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel, on which Israel would obviously be permanently and automatically outvoted. But its very membership would acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, and that was unacceptable to the Palestinians.

And then there’s the issue of borders. “Everyone knows” (except the Israeli majority, which doesn’t count) that the border must be based on the 1967 lines, with 1:1 territorial swaps for a few settlement blocs, since relocating 300,000 settlers is unfeasible. Yet the Palestinians rejected exactly that when Olmert offered it last year. Olmert proposed swaps equivalent to 6 percent of the West Bank, but the Palestinians say their maximum is 2-3 percent. It’s not enough for them to get the equivalent of 100 percent of the territory; they want the satisfaction of making Israel suffer by having to throw hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of their homes.

So it really doesn’t matter whether “everyone” knows the parameters or not. Because until someone manages to convince the Palestinians that Israel’s cultural, spiritual, and physical suicide isn’t part of the deal, there isn’t going to be one.

Read Less




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