‘J Street’ refuses to cave to the forces of reaction

In a bold statement on its blog today, J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami has refused to buckle under the pressure being applied by the Forward newspaper and Reform Rabbi Eric Yoffie. Some day this exchange will be taught in religion classes. Ben-Ami has taken a stand. He puts J Street in the category of those Jews who are "extremely disturbed and hurt" by the attacks on civilians in Gaza.

We believe that the actions taken this week – disproportionate to
the threat and escalatory in nature – will be seen, with time, as
counterproductive.  They will further isolate Israel and the US
internationally, deepen hatred among the Palestinian and Israel
peoples, foment extremism throughout the Arab world and undercut the
position of more moderate Arab regimes
Further, we have asked from the first day of this operation, for clarity as to Israel’s exit strategy…. [T]o call our views “morally deficient”, “naïve” and “out of
touch” with Jewish sentiment is to misread the emerging dynamics of
centrist, pro-Israel Jews.

J Street has called for a cease-fire. These are historic moments. Great matters are at stake, and countless lives. No matter where you stand, you have to cheer the efforts of this centrist organization to open up some space within the Israel lobby to speak about Arab human rights.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Beyondoweiss, Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 5 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. S Kneedler says:

    See John McCarthy in the Independent:

    link to independent.co.uk

    'And while its disproportionate response does provoke calls for restraint from many international bodies, the Israeli establishment continues to paint itself as the passive underdog under threat. Ehud Barak has described Israel as "a villa in the middle of a jungle"– a place of civilisation surrounded by savage hordes.

    I've met many Israelis who see themselves as just that, convinced that the rest of the world does not understand their plight and that the only important issue is to stop the Hamas rockets. This week's OCHA report may state that Israel's blockade means that food, medical supplies, fresh water and fuel are so severely limited that Gaza is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, but Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, denies any such problem. She promotes a widely held view that the suffering of the people in Gaza is their own fault for tolerating Hamas leadership.

    Is this intransigence so surprising? We have had 60 years during which the modern state of Israel has never been taken to task for ignoring international criticism. It has ignored, with impunity, countless UN resolutions on the right of return of Palestinian refugees, on ending its occupation of the West Bank and encouraging its civilians to settle in the Occupied Territories, among others.

    And why are they not brought to task? The simple fact is that Israel has the most powerful psychological influence to count on – the world's collective guilt over the Holocaust. This means that although the world may sporadically slap Israel's wrists, no one dare go too far, perhaps out of fear of being accused of anti-Semitism or in any way attacking a people who have historically suffered so much. The tragedy is, though, that it is now another people, the Palestinians, who are suffering because of the world's hesitation to offend Israel.

    Pro-Israeli sentiment is reinforced by many in the international arena who, privately perhaps, approve Barak's "villa in the jungle" metaphor. To some, Israel represents a foothold of Western values on the edge of the Arab world, which, with the rise of fundamentalist Islam, is perceived as a growing threat. And there is, to me, the very frightening growth of fundamentalist Christian belief – especially in the United States – that, given that the existence of the Israeli state is part of God's plan, it is above criticism.

    President Bush and other world leaders have stated that if Hamas stopped firing rockets, then peace negotiations could resume.

    But is there really a viable peace process to restart? The idea is that peace will come with a two-state solution and that Israel will graciously give up occupied territory in the West Bank to create a Palestinian state there and in Gaza.

    But there are few signs that the Israeli establishment, fully committed to the Zionist goals of creating Eretz Israel (a Greater Israel that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan), plans to relinquish very much land at all: 250,000 Israelis already live on the West Bank. On the contrary, Israel's road and settlement building programmes continue apace.

    Israel's policy has always been to build "facts on the ground" while delaying accepting any final borders. Her founding father and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, summed this up with the phrase "where we plough our last furrow is where we put our border".

    Ben-Gurion's political heirs are still ploughing. While conceding that a Palestinian state of some sort is necessary to ensure Israel is kept as purely Jewish as possible, they will put off delineating that state until Israel ends up with as much land and as few Palestinians as possible on that land.

    As Israel continues to create ever more "facts on the ground", the prospects of the Palestinians being offered a reasonable share of what was meant to be their homeland become ever more remote. The Israelis presumably will count on Palestinians becoming so desperate for their own state, amid international weariness and ineffectiveness, that they will achieve their territorial and demographic goals.

    One can only hope that president-elect Obama will bring pressure on Israel to change its policies. But that is not a strong hope. How many more times will the world rub its hands in despair and feebly "call on all parties to show restraint" as our television screens show civilians cowering under bombing raids and hospitals unable to treat the wounded?

    Yes, Hamas must stop its rocket attacks. But surely, above all, it is time for Israel to be taken to task and charged with recognising the will of the international community.'

    link to independent.co.uk

  2. S Kneedler says:

    As the misnomer "settlements," implies, Israel won't stop till it's replicated the "American" West and herded the Palestinian people into Reservations. Oh, yeah, Israel's already done that, and neither Obama nor the corporate left has uttered a peep.

    We have to demand that Israel be held to account. First, war-crimes investigations and trials for Bush-Cheney and co, then for Israeli leaders, and a STOP to the US billions' financing.

    Next, a moratorium on "news"people's pseudo-helpless whine of feigned innocence: "I don't know what can be done to stop the intractable violence." Follow the $ and bring them home–which is in the US, not in Palestine-Israel. Actually, we owe the Palestinians reparations, don't we?

  3. Doppler says:

    Good for J Street. The Neocons are bankrupt, their Ponzi scheme of escalating aggression supported by escalating protests of victimhood on the verge of collapse.

  4. Craig says:

    To call J Street "morally deficient" is empty bombast, and an offensive and presumptuous misuse of Yoffie's position as a rabbi.

  5. Eva Smagacz says: