Israeli activists to J Street: ‘stop trying to gain political capital at the expense of dedicated peace activists’

The following form letter has been circulating on an Israeli activist listserv criticizing J Street’s leadership for their stance on the Berkeley divestment bill:

Letter from Israel to Jstreet: Please Do Not Call Me "anti-Israeli" !

Dear J Street folks

I am an Israeli citizen, I support the proposed Berkeley divestment bill, and I find your statement on this matter completely unacceptable.

Calling the bill "anti-Israeli" amounts to no more than shallow fear-mongering, and it is also an insult to me, an Israeli citizen who supports morally justified sanctions against companies that sell or operate military equipment facilitating the occupation.

Please stop trying to gain political capital at the expense of dedicated peace activists, Jews and non-Jews. If you truly disagree with the proposed bill, please engage in a serious debate.

Sincerely

Name:_____
City:______
 

I contacted the organizers of the letter to get the story of why they felt it was necessary. I heard back from Ofer Neiman who lives in Jerusalem and is coeditor of Occupation Magazine, an Israeli website about the occupation run by volunteer activists. Neiman wrote:

When I received the first messages from J Street two years ago, I felt there was something to celebrate. It certainly looked like a grassroots initiative to afflict the comfortable ones at AIPAC and comfort the afflicted ones, like frustrated Israeli peace activists who are fed up with AIPAC’s "pro-Israel" war mongering…

I am not an expert on the Jewish political arena in the US, but at that time I felt that there was something promising about J Street. Although they were not issuing poignant messages about the wrongdoings of the occupation, their cheerful bulletins about saying ‘Yes’ to peace and encouraging US involvement in the (so called) Middle East peace process seemed right.

J Street has grown since that time, and even held a festive conference with celebrity guests. With this came a more detailed agenda. We now know that J Street has failed to stand up for Richard Goldstone, an honorable human rights defender (and a Zionist), who has been vilified in an appalling manner by Alan Dershowitz and others. J Street has not criticized Israeli war crimes, and its representatives use very soft, whitewashing language, when they are asked to comment on the every day reality of apartheid in the Occupied Territories. Worse than that, J Street seems keen on smearing dedicated peace activists, like the staff and volunteers of Jewish Voice for Peace (and other groups!), labeling them as "anti-Israeli" (read their press release on the proposed Berkeley divestment bill). This is a nasty way of self-promotion. It’s the AIPAC way.

The question begs itself: should we lovingly endure these cutthroat tactics, because that’s the only way to win hearts and minds among the Jewish community? Well, perhaps not.

AIPAC sympathizers are unlikely to break ranks and support a group which may weaken the old lobby. Will progressives, especially young people, be inspired by J Street’s policy? We have a counterexample in Israel. The ranks of Peace Now, once a mass movement, have dwindled drastically since 2000, when, instead of taking Ehud Barak on as a right wing menace and the most reckless Israeli politician of all, they resorted to banal "peace is the only way" or "a ceasefire is possible" sloganeering (with the exception of their good work on settlement monitoring). The tasks of calling Israeli war crimes by their name and organizing grassroots activities in the OT have been left to others, the "radicals". This pattern was repeated in 2005, when Peace Now volunteered to be a foot soldier for Ariel Sharon’s destructive "Disengagement Plan", telling us that "This is the only game in town" (as if it’s impossible to say "we support the dismantling of Gaza settlements, but beware the dangerous consequences of an occupation-perpetuating, thuggish, unilateral step". Peace Now does not inspire. It seems that J Street too does not inspire.

It’s the "radicals" who are leading the Israeli peace camp these days, as anyone who goes to Bil’in or to Sheikh-Jarah can tell. These "radicals" are not horned, yellow-eyed beasts. They are ordinary citizens, many of them young, who have learned that they can only rely on themselves and on like-minded people abroad, like the Berkeley activists campaigning for selective, morally justified sanctions against the occupation and the cynical corporations profiteering from it.

Activists, in Israel or in the US, are looking for a political home, and for a big cause. A peace group which fails to address the most pressing issues on the agenda is not a political home, and a cause which amounts to no more than coy political maneuverings is not a big cause.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

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

  1. eee says:

    The radical left keeps splintering. The idea of the “big tent” never was really understood there. Any pragmatist on the left is a sellout to the radical left. Keep it up, you will get far, not.

    • Cliff says:

      There is only one true Left. Then there is the ‘Zionist Left’ – which is a farce.

    • Julian says:

      The radical left in the US always acts surprised that there is a radical left in Israel and that there are Israelis that hate Israel. They run these letters like they actually speak for Israelis. They speak for the letter writer and perhaps 1% of Jewish Israelis. Maybe less.

      • “There is only one true left”.

        Which one is that? The SWP left? The Larouche left? The Sparticists left? The greens? Labor parties?

        Thats up there with there is only one “truth”, not multiple perspectives.

        Flat earth.

      • jimby says:

        Julian, don’t you know that most of the earliest Russian Zionists were Bolsheviks who couldn’t wait for the revolution in Russia? Get real.

  2. J Street is rationally opposed to BDS, and I expect regarded even the very limited divestment proposal as the foot in the door for more maximalist and potentially cruel forms of BDS.

    J Street has positioned itself as a plausible voice that someone like Obama or liberal democrats can rely on. There is no US president or Congress that would rationally desire to enter a BDS relationship with Israel.

    That is a radical fantasy, a failure in fact.

    The Obama scale criticism of Israel is appropriate and is underscored by commitment to Israel’s security, and is seeking the best means to achieve that and regional peace simultaneously.

    I can see how Adam would complain about it.

    • Cliff says:

      You are like the Likud Zionists who seek to extremise totally reasonable opinions and tactics, such as BDS.

      BDS is the result of decades of Israeli oppression, aided and abetted by the US and Zionist lobbying.

      BDS should be viewed in the context of how quickly Israel is able to turn things like the Gaza massacre into ‘history’ and how Israel is able to defy international norms and the rule of law openly and without reproach. The American President has no power over Israel.

      Hence, ordinary people need to bypass the bureaucracy that thugs, intellectual crooks, and racist Jewish supremacists that parade themselves as ‘liberals’ and voices of ‘reason’ [like Dick Witty], construct around the plain truth – to pressure Israel into changing.

      All activism is antagonistic. There is always an activist and his/her opposition. To imply that the oppressor, the oppressor’s society is guilt-less and is to be coddled by the oppressed is a diversion and a deceit.

      Typical Witty. You don’t want a solution. You want the whole of Palestine.

      So what do you propose? NOTHING. You make asinine suggestions towards some vague conception of a ‘peace’ between two unequal parties. Justice first. I know you want to get away with murder. Look at your supporters? Idiots like eee or yonira? The religiously psychotic like BSD/UNIX?

      Investing oneself in the ‘peace industry’ will only enable the Zionist State to continue stealing Palestinian land, denying Palestinians their humanity, and continuing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine which began in 48′.

      • Cliff says:

        I should also add, that a person who dismisses international law as ‘political correctness’ is a Nazi.

        I won’t hold myself back in that regard. You are a fascist Jewish supremacist Witty.

        I bet you would, like to dismiss the UN, IHL, IL, and totally re-write the rules of war in your favor. That’s because you’re a goddamn criminal.

        • eee says:

          Cliff, the person who believe the Jews in the US corrupted its Congress,

          BDS first and foremost must be applied to the USA. Is is not the USA that is killing civilians and gutting pregnant women? Is it not the US that is the most racist country in the world (where else is there such a huge gap in SAT or similar scores between blacks and white)? Isn’t the US occupying Texas and California and has millions of settlers there that they do not want to move? Isn’t the US manipulating the puppet regime in Mexico in order to deny justice to Mexican masses? Why is the US interested in keeping its privileged and supremacist attitudes instead of agreeing to one united US-Mexico state?

          BDS the US!
          But you are a coward, instead of BDSing the US, you pick on small countries. Deal with the world superpower of which you are a citizen, you cowardly hypocrite. Change the US and the rest will follow. Lead by example.

        • Shingo says:

          “Is is not the USA that is killing civilians and gutting pregnant women?”

          Guttign pregnant women eee?

          Do you have evidence that the USA is gutting pregnant women?

          “‘Is it not the US that is the most racist country in the world”‘

          No, becasue unlike Israle, the USA has anti racism laws.

          “Isn’t the US occupying Texas and California and has millions of settlers there that they do not want to move?’”

          No because unlike the West Bank, the international community and even Mexico, recognizes Texas as US territory.

          “Isn’t the US manipulating the puppet regime in Mexico in order to deny justice to Mexican masses?”

          There have been many regimes in Mexico.

          “But you are a coward, instead of BDSing the US, you pick on small countries. “‘

          You are a corward, because Israel doesn’t even pick on countries, but populations in open air prisons.

        • eee says:

          Shingo enjoy,

          Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has finally admitted that Special Forces troops killed two pregnant Afghan women and a girl in a February, 2010, raid, in which two Afghan government officials were also killed. Brilliant reporting by Jerome Starkey of The Times of London has blown apart the U.S. military’s cover-up story that the women were killed by knife wounds administered several hours before the raid.

          It now appears that the knife wounds may have been inflicted by the Special Forces troops retrieving their bullets from the dead or dying women’s bodies. Starkey’s story last Sunday in The Times reported that “Afghan investigators also determined that American forces not only killed the women but had also ‘dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then “washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.

        • eee says:

          Shingo,

          The US, being a mafia state, coerced the international community to endorse its illegal territories in Texas and California and its illegal settlers. We demand justice. Only a united USA-Mexico will bring justice. Why do you insist on remaining a privileged supremacist? Why can’t you see yourself and the Mexicans as citizens in the same state? Are you a racist?

        • Shingo says:

          Thanks eee,

          Yes, that’s horrific, but irrelevant because Im still waiting on your evidence of the USA gutting pregnant women. Gutting is the practice of dissembowling and removing the digestive organs.

          Gutting is more akin to the israeli technique of stealing their organs.

        • Shingo says:

          “The US, being a mafia state, coerced the international community to endorse its illegal territories in Texas and California and its illegal settlers. ”

          Coreced? Do yuio have a historical account of this coersion?

          “We demand justice. “‘

          Nice ttempt at humor.

          “‘Why do you insist on remaining a privileged supremacist?”‘

          Strange comming from a pratitionerand defnender of aprtheid.

          “Why can’t you see yourself and the Mexicans as citizens in the same state? ”

          I am only too happy for this to happen.

          “Are you a racist?”‘

          Why, are you inviting me to ISrael?

        • eee says:

          I used the more colloquial meaning of gutting which is using a knife to make a mess of a belly.

        • Shingo says:

          “I used the more colloquial meaning of gutting which is using a knife to make a mess of a belly. “‘

          As opposed to Israelis who literally gut the organ source and then clean up afterwards by stitching their victim?

        • Cliff, the person who believe the Jews in the US corrupted its Congress,
          eee
          ——————
          It’s not a “belief”. It’s a well documented fact..

    • Julian says:

      link to divestthis.com
      “Does anyone ever wonder why the Palestinians, alone among peoples without a state, have their own seat at the UN (an organization that spends almost a quarter of its time fighting on their behalf)?
      Why does the Palestinian refugee problem have its own international organization (UNWRA) with annual budget of $350 million, while every other refugee in the world (almost twenty million at last count) are lumped together in the “other” category, supported by the United Nationals High Commission”…

      Great article on the BDS scam.

  3. Pingback: The Progressive Mind » Mondoweiss — The War of Ideas in the Middle East

  4. “All activism is antagonistic. ”

    One reason that I don’t call myself an activist. And, sadly you are proud of being an antagonist.

    I CERTAINLY and strongly want a solution, a fair one. I don’t see it emerging from BDS. I see only unfair, coerced, malevolent solutions, pendulum swings INSTEAD of justice/peace.

    I would claim that individuals that misrepresent international law, do more to dismiss than those that respect it, but in context of cardinal law, bi-lateral international law, multi-lateral international, national law, local law.

    In other words, Cliff, I believe that you trivialize international law by exagerating its role and content.

    If you are not critical of the UN power structure, then I would suggest that you are not much of an activist. To then hold the UN as panacea is to present yourself as a hypocrite.

    Your interpretation of international law, isn’t exactly what it is in fact. You have to read more.

    • Shingo says:

      “One reason that I don’t call myself an activist. And, sadly you are proud of being an antagonist.”

      You’re only problem with antagonism is that it’s antagonism directed towards Israel. You’re perfectly happy with antagonism towards the Palstinians.

      “I CERTAINLY and strongly want a solution, a fair one.”‘

      and I strongly want to be a multi millionaire, but it won’t happen by sittign on my ass.

      “In other words, Cliff, I believe that you trivialize international law by exagerating its role and content.”‘

      That must take the Orwellinan prize for more absurd statement 0f the year.

      “Your interpretation of international law, isn’t exactly what it is in fact. You have to read more.”‘

      Yes, don’t bother citing ny references or being specific. Just give advice abotu reading more while you yourslef perpetuate ignorance.

      • What are the limits of international law? What is the scope of international law?

        What is the role of bi-lateral law/agreements, multi-lateral law/agreements.

        Orwellian? You mean rather than pronouncement.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          Witty, if you have to ask questions like that, you’ve already made the first step on the path of a war criminal — or a war criminal’s spokesperson.

  5. Tuyzentfloot says:

    With the current shift to the right suddenly everybody ends up on the same side.

  6. If maximalist. punitive, “effective” BDS is racialist, oppressive; and a proposed boycott of GE and United Technologies is a foot in the door, then the Berkeley boycott could be the example of “first they came for… and I said nothing, then they came for …. and I said nothing, and then they came for me and there was noone to speak up for me.”

    If maximalist BDS is benign, the whole story is different.

    In effect it is a speculation into trusting the radical vanguard to know when to stop on a dime.

    • Shingo says:

      “‘If maximalist. punitive, “effective” BDS is racialist, oppressive…”

      So havign failed to demonstrate any maximalist. punitive agenda, you’ve gone right back to repeating the lie.

      How predictable of you Witty.

  7. Chaos4700 says:

    Aren’t we missing the point that J Street apparently represents no one? Even what there is of the Israeli left that exists, rejects J Street.

  8. Chu says:

    link to original.antiwar.com

    This is the present atmosphere in Israel – one of a rising, violent nationalist self-righteousness, especially among the younger generation. A recent poll shows that while 35% of Israelis over the age of 30 said they would vote for right-wing parties, this number almost doubled for youths up to the age of 29, and stood at 61%.

  9. Pingback: Which side are you on, J Street?

  10. Pingback: Which Side Are You On, J Street? By Alex Kane « Kanan48

  11. Pingback: What, and Why is J Street? | Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place