Who booed Yoffie?

US Politics
on 27 Comments

Much has been made of the fact that Rabbi Yoffie was booed at J Street when he dissed the Goldstone report. One of the booers was Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. And Jack Ross adds further info.

As the perpetual moderate and optimist, I thought you were too easy on J Street!

All told, the conference was more or less exactly as I expected: as David Brooks famously said of the major party conventions, J Street engaged in a great deal of crossdressing as "progressive Zionist" in contrast to its base.  But it’s important to keep in mind that AIPAC does this too – you yourself have reported on the contrast between the sweetness and light toward Obama on their main floor and the frank neoconservatism or worse in their breakout sessions.

For General Jones to assure J Street that "the Obama Administration will always be represented at future conferences", in effect to throw down the gauntlet to the whole lobby and say we will engage you on our terms, is highly consequential in my view.  It proves that what J Street is involved in is a very complicated game on behalf of Obama and his whole foreign policy agenda.  And this is what must always be remembered first and foremost.

Finally, I must register my pride in my beloved rabbi, Ellen Lippmann, who from the main floor upbraided Eric Yoffie, whose performance made clear that he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing, with a candid account of the carnage in Gaza.

27 Responses

  1. Queue
    October 30, 2009, 1:11 am

    On a related note, check out Scott Horton’s interview of Medea Benjamen.

  2. Richard Witty
    October 30, 2009, 1:53 am

    I’m glad that Yoffee was there.

    My own views are more in line with Ben-Ami’s on Goldstone, that the report is information, that Israel should seriously review, but NOT regard as authority, and should oppose any referral to prosecution as the report’s scope and methods did not meet the standard for criminal prosecution.

    If Medea Benjamin thinks that it did, then she should be ashamed in advocating for summary judgement rather than equal due process, including the establishment of high standards of evidence even as a basis for Grand Jury action.

    I would hope that she has been aware of the abusive powers of even Grand Juries (parallel to the WCJ), in the US during the civil rights ear in particular, that similarly were raised without sufficient evidence but passed prejudicial grand juries nevertheless, then tied up the litigants in expensive court cases.

    Sure, its a strategy to win, but a strategy that betrays morality in willfully adopting reprehensible strategy to pursue an “idealistic” goal.

    A similar criticism is appropriate for Israel in Gaza, that in its excess, applied a willingly abusive strategy to pursue an otherwise just goal.

    The accusation of “liar” is an easy one. Is it true that you lied to your teacher when you were 14 and didn’t complete that assignment? Is it true that you stated your interpretation as if it was authoritative? (“Liar” to Medea or Norman)

    I once yelled out at John Kerry at a public meeting in my hometown for co-sponsoring the Congressional authorization for unlimited force in Afghanistan in 2002. It was a low blood-sugar moment for me, truthful but a mistake, a vanity of knowledge and disrespectful (no matter to what extent he spun his vote).

    • Bruce
      October 30, 2009, 2:16 am


      You’ve made it quite clear there is only one authority for which you have regard.

      It is up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not the facts presented by Goldstone meet the standard for prosecution (or provide the basis for gathering further evidence that would meet the standard). You and the critics of Goldstone are demanding it meet a standard of evidence beyond its writ.

      If you are arguing that the facts as presented in the Goldstone report do not rise to serving as a basis for a prosecutorial investigation, then you need to defend that position. Otherwise, you are just blowing smoke and dissing the other. Quite arrogantly I might add.

      • Nolan
        October 30, 2009, 3:36 am

        RW is good at blowing smoke. In fact, I might start calling him “Chimney”, not to be confused with “Cheney”, although the rhetoric is often one and the same.

      • Richard Witty
        October 30, 2009, 6:22 am

        “You’ve made it quite clear there is only one authority for which you have regard.”

        I’m sure “everyone knows” what that could be? (What do you think that is?)

        In the states, the process for prosecution of a criminal case, initiated by a party (not direct police referral, if they didn’t see the crime in process) is it gets investigated, a prosecutor reviews if he/she wishes to present it to a Grand Jury or a judge for probable cause, then the Grand Jury rules if there is in fact probable cause, and then an indictment is issued, at which point there are MANY options for remedy.

        Summary justice in this case (mob approach to justice) is to regard any presentation as “evidence” in the legal meaning of sufficient to support the investment of time, money, attention, reputation of the courts on prosecution. In a word “probable cause”, not heightened emotion, not “a wrong was committed, lets find someone to blame”.

        It gets sticky when individuals that otherwise value full civil rights for all, in fact argue for it vehemently and conscientiously, willingly drop the standard in pursuit of their ends.

      • Richard Witty
        October 30, 2009, 6:25 am

        I’m not surprised that there is NO prospective criticism of any sort directed at Medea Benjamin.

        She didn’t take the risk of proposing, just opposing.

      • Chaos4700
        October 30, 2009, 8:02 am

        That’s HILARIOUS! Now you’re criticizing an American Jew (oh, a Jewish woman to boot, fancy that… No pattern visible there) for being obstructionist.

        If irony and hypocrisy could be tapped as a green energy source, you would be a billionaire, Witty.

    • MRW
      October 30, 2009, 3:43 am


      “and should oppose any referral to prosecution as the report’s scope and methods did not meet the standard for criminal prosecution.”

      By your own admission, you did not read Goldstone’s report, so where do you get off saying it does not meet the standard for criminal prosecution.

      • MRW
        October 30, 2009, 3:45 am

        Or are you going to split hairs and say that you are only talking about “scope and methods” as delineated by people you’ve read and whose opinions you trust?

      • Citizen
        October 30, 2009, 7:18 am

        Summary judgement is a procedure to quickly dispose of a case [or some aspect of a case] without trial when there is no genuine dispute as to either material facts or inferences to be drawn from undisputed facts, or if only a question of law is involved. Israel obstructed the gathering of factual evidence and offered no
        factual evidence itself.

      • Richard Witty
        October 30, 2009, 7:50 am

        I “get off” from the Goldstone interview with Bill Moyers, in which he described his own definition that the report was of limited scope, and not sufficient to result in prosecution due to the limited scope, and that the legal remedy that he was authorized to recommend was requirement (not recommendation) for Israel to conduct a genuine internal investigation into the cases themselves and any identified patterns of deficiency.

        Its a good and thoughtful recommendation. He deserves praise for doing his best in difficult legal and objective circumstances, and Israel should take the information seriously, if it desires to be a confidently legal and effective military.

      • Chaos4700
        October 30, 2009, 8:03 am

        So… Goldstone is going back on what he wrote in his own report?

      • Dan Kelly
        October 30, 2009, 9:26 am

        I believe that Goldstone did say that the first course of action should be that the two sides (Israel and Hamas) investigate and prosecute internally. If they fail to do this, then he said that it should go on to international chttp://mondoweiss.net/2009/10/who-booed-yoffie.html#commentsourts.

        Goldstone has been subjected to some criticism because of this. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that either side would be interested in effectively investigating and prosecuting their own. I guess that’s the procedure. Or else the whole thing was just a charade.

      • MRW
        October 30, 2009, 10:18 am

        Richard, it most certainly did meet the standard for criminal prosecution: that’s precisely what Goldstone wrote. That’s why Israel is up in arms about it, and why the lackeys in Congress are wasting valuable time that should be spent on the economy and health care getting a law passed about it.

        Goldstone wasn’t writing this report for ISrael. He was writing it for the UN.

        Goldstone wrote that he recommended that Israel and Hamas conduct their own thorough internal investigations within the next six months into who, specifically, committed war crimes, and if they did, as he said in the interview, that would be the end of it. Goldstone wrote that if they dont do it, the UN should prosecute them in The International Court of Justice for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. You can’t get more criminal than that.

        Goldstone gave Israel an out: do it yourselves. But the teeth of his report to the UN was that if Israel and Hamas fail to do it, what transpired warranted prosecution at the IJC.

      • MRW
        October 30, 2009, 10:22 am

        Another thing: Canada takes these new international war crimes laws seriously: the ones where any country on earth can try someone accused of them. This week they put a Rwandan war criminal in jail for life. Someone in Montreal saw this guy on the street two years ago and tipped off the cops. His two-year trial concluded this week. Badly for him.

        That’s what Israeli officials and leaders have to look forward to.

  3. Bruce
    October 30, 2009, 2:00 am

    You might be right Jack, but if J Street was just shilling for Obama wouldn’t he send someone higher in rank than Jones to address the conference? Had the President, or Biden, or Hillary addressed J Street it would have given the organization much more media coverage and inside the beltway cred.

    My own sense is that the Obama folks are still sizing up J Street, not sure to what extent it will be helpful or a risk to its support within the established Jewish organizations.

    Obviously J Street would like to hitch itself to the Obama bandwagon. But it also wants to influence Obama’s foreign policy, not just reflect it.

    Based on his performance so far, I would bet that Obama is going to stick with the Lobby. He is speaking to the Federations next month. Obama won’t reject J Street or its support for his policies, but he will treat it as a minor player.

  4. Richard Witty
    October 30, 2009, 2:02 am

    Obama will not be played into the either/or approach.

    His chosen mode is to listen.

    • MRW
      October 30, 2009, 3:52 am

      I agree. I dont believe Obama is unaware of the pressures around him, their political cost, nor of the AIPAC-lite quality of J Street. I agree with the comment that J Street wants to “influence Obama’s foreign policy, not just reflect it.”

      • Richard Witty
        October 30, 2009, 6:24 am

        I believe that they do. To the extent that they remain distinct, assertive, but responsible in their proposals and method of communicating those proposals, they will be RESPECTED by the Obama administration, their theses endorsed even, even if the compromises that result aren’t exactly what J Street proposes.

      • Bruce
        October 30, 2009, 7:32 am

        Who cares whether they are RESPECTED by the Obama administration?

        Obama has clearly demonstrated on all fronts that he is an algorithm icily calculating his own political well-being, and not a moral agent concerned with doing the right thing. (I will be happy to change my judgement once he provides a counterexample.)

        You want the Obama administration fearing you politically. Much more effective way to get responsible proposals out of this gang.

      • Richard Witty
        October 30, 2009, 8:08 am

        I have an entirely different view of Obama’s performance and behavior.

        I believe that he is primarily a mediator, and hopes to conclude 60%+ of executive responsibility (legislation – health and energy, foreign policy) on the basis of consensus building of a diverse team of perspectives.

        That consensus on Israel is to persuade Israel and Palestine that peace based on mutually healthy neighbors is the best outcome and approach. His approach is principled, more than incidentally effective beyond just appearance, and will reach decision points at some time soon.

        Did you see Jim Jones’ comments at J Street? He stated that he regarded Israel/Palestine reconciliation as THE critical catalyst to positive change in relations in the world.

        I think it is relevant to ask him to proceed on that commitment, to put it into practice with an incremental (but observable) additional pressure and help.

        In some ways, the announcement of Palestinian elections in January, slow things, as they add the again element of unknown. And, at the same time, they dare Netanyahu to act to functionally elect Hamas, like Sharon did.

        And, like Hamas elected likud by resuming shelling Israel weeks before the Israeli election.

      • Chaos4700
        October 30, 2009, 8:16 am

        Well you would, Witty. Obama’s just like you — a phony. He took a vocal stand against the settlements and then did absolutely nothing about stopping Israel.

        So yeah. Just like you.

      • Chaos4700
        October 30, 2009, 8:17 am

        Incidentally, I continue to be amazed that the Israelis are positively blameless in your eyes. Hamas wins elections… it’s the Palestinians’ fault! Likud wins elections… it’s the Palestinians’ fault!

      • Citizen
        October 30, 2009, 9:33 am

        “I think it is relevant to ask him (Jones-Obama) to proceed on that commitment, to put it into practice with an incremental (but observable) additional pressure and help.”

        And lose reelection like Bush I did? There’s a reason why Bush II left Israel alone to its whims; he got his two terms. Additionally, I’m sure Obama is schooled on
        what happened to JFK, Johnson’s operations, etc.

        RE: “He [Jones at J-ST) stated that he regarded Israel/Palestine reconciliation as THE critical catalyst to positive change in relations in the world.”

        And so it is, and any real commitment will be evidenced by “additional pressure .”

        Anyone see any pressure being applied beyond the stillborn rhetoric in the Cairo speech?

        I see nothing but Israel thumbing its nose at Obama, Mitchell and Hillary
        “it’s not helpful” Clinton. What’s to be done? BDS is the only viable way
        to put meaningful pressure on both the USA regime and Israel–work outside
        the corrupt system, outside the two peas in the pod.

      • MRW
        October 30, 2009, 10:26 am

        Well, Citizen, add American Greeting Cards to your BDS list just in time for the holidays.

  5. Nolan
    October 30, 2009, 8:31 am

    Yoffie you say?

    More like Mechu’ar

    In the article below, note his arguments concerning all kinds of racist proposals and policies regarding Transfer and the like. “You can convince……[blah blah blah]”.

    He’s already got the whole thing worked out for every group between the Jordan river and the sea and he announces it with such authority and arrogance as if he has the right to even interfere in such matters. Who is this schmuck, and why can’t he stay in the US and mind his own business?

    Can you imagine a Christian from Australia telling Christian Americans in the south (Dixie) that they need and should secede from the north?

    link to haaretz.com

    As for the colonies, yes, they do need to be stopped and eventually they should either be given to the Palestinian refugees of 1948 as reparations, just as Israel has demanded from many European countries after the Holocaust, or they should be razed.

  6. Tuyzentfloot
    October 31, 2009, 2:37 pm

    As the perpetual moderate and optimist, I thought you were too easy on J Street!(the ‘you’ being Philip Weiss). I’ve read Phil’s post differently. There’s a difference between trying to list the positive things about an event and being too easy. And as everyone knows, being against something is no excuse for being bad at extracting the positives.

    Oh well, maybe not everyone knows.
    Ok. Maybe it’s an excuse too.

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