Ben-Ami: I advocate for Israel, Palestinian groups should advocate for Palestinian human rights

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Jeremy Ben Ami 1
Jeremy Ben Ami

On a dreary, rainy evening in late November my friend Pat Carmeli and I were driving to Syracuse to hear Jeremy Ben-Ami speak.  I smiled when Pat turned to me and said, “I’m going to ask him a question about human rights and the Palestinians.”  I responded enthusiastically: “All right!  That should liven things up.”

 

I am not a big fan of Ben-Ami and went along mainly to see Pat and some Syracuse Israel/Palestine activists I knew would be there.  Yet from the moment Jeremy started to address us, I had the feeling this would be an interesting evening.  Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder and president of J Street, the self-described “political home for pro-peace, pro-Israel Americans” came to town in order to convince about 100 mostly elderly Jewish suburbanites that Israel should pursue a negotiated two-state resolution with the Palestinians.  And also to help promote a new local chapter of his organization.  The event, which was held at the Jewish Community Center (JCC), was tightly secured by two burly armed uniformed city policemen who were working privately, as is the custom at most Jewish events in and around this medium-sized city in the center of New York State.  (I have previously written about my surprised reaction to the very visible police presence and a bit about Jeremy’s presentation here.) 

 

Jeremy Ben-Ami is an experienced Democratic political hand, who worked for the Clinton administration.  He is a fluent and knowledgeable speaker with an earnest and friendly manner.   The J Street president and head cheerleader sports an adopted surname (I assume inherited from his father) which is quintessentially Zionist, translating as “son of my people.”  This fact alone would have set my late mother’s heart all atwitter.  Reinforcing his appeal to this pro-Israel crowd, Jeremy was decked out in an expensive Washington blue power suit, while wielding an impressive resume that recently expanded to include three years living in Jerusalem.  Peppering his remarks with the common Hebrew  phrase, “kol-hakavod” (trans. all right, way to go; literally, all the respect), Ben-Ami cut quite an impressive figure which kind of contradicted his otherwise strikingly nerdy physical appearance.

 

J Street Jeremy and his organization are highly controversial topics among American Palestine/Israel activists.  Some of the progressive supporters of J Street think that whatever this group can do to soften mainstream Jewish opinion is helpful to the cause of obtaining a lasting peace in the Middle East.  Although Pat Carmeli has some serious criticism of J Street policy and ideology, she subscribes to this view.  Others, like me, think J Street is not helpful because, among other reasons, it espouses a “solution” that will only perpetuate the occupation by creating a Palestinian entity having limited sovereignty that would be an independent state in name only. For Ben-Ami, the current Israeli opposition leader and Operation Cast Lead booster, Tzipi Livni, is the Israeli politician who would best support the J Street vision of peace.  Enough said.

 

At the Syracuse JCC, Ben-Ami’s remarks were much less liberal than I had expected, much less progressive than his organization’s web pages and his public pronouncements.  He praised AIPAC for delivering huge amounts of U.S. military aid to Israel.  Ben-Ami boasted that Tzipi Livni comes from “good Likud stock like me,” i.e., revisionist, terrorist and racist.  Then the topper for activists: he declared in all seriousness: “There is no Palestinian peace movement” other than Salam Fayyad!

 

These remarks were apparently crafted to curry favor with the many security hawks in the audience, and also those whose vacations in Israel must include a solidarity visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Jewish ultra-settlement of Tel Rumeida.  Considering the crowd, it was hardly surprising that when Pat Carmeli, the inimitable local activist, asked her question, Jeremy, the usually very slick pro-Israel advocate, who restricts his appearances to Jewish venues, was caught off-guard.  When reading the transcript below, notice that in his response to Pat, Ben-Ami did not recover his composure enough to answer the question he wanted to answer (not the one asked) until the second paragraph, when he returned to his recurrent theme of enthusiastic support for funding the Palestinian Authority.

 

The real meaning of Carmeli’s question, as opposed to the words as understood literally, was “Will you, Jeremy Ben-Ami, speak out against the Israeli violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people?”  Ben-Ami’s answer was a clear and unequivocal, No!  His response was punctuated by his ironic use of the Hebrew phrase, “kol hakavod” and the audible nervous laughter of Pat and the audience which followed.

 

During the evening there was much talk about recognition.  If Hamas recognizes the right of Israel to exist, if the Palestinian Authority should recognize Israel as a Jewish State, if the United Nations should recognize Palestine as a member state– all were discussed during the evening.  From my point of view, the only important recognition is the recognition that the Palestinians are human beings who have too long suffered serious and tragic human rights abuses at the hands of the Israelis.  As long as Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street and the Jewish community refuse to recognize this fact they will never be effective agents for change.

 

*       *       *       *

 

I recorded the question Pat asked and Jeremy’s response.  The sound file is here.  (I apologize for the breathing sounds at the end of the recording.  They were caused by my holding the microphone of my recorder too close to my nose and my agitated reaction to what I was hearing.)

 

Transcript of the Carmeli/Ben-Ami exchange, November 29, 2011 at the Jewish Community Center of Syracuse. 

 

Pat:   You compared the Palestinians and the Israelis [to a couple] to like a couple that are going through a divorce and they shouldn’t be in a room together.  So you suggest …

 

Jeremy:  Alone. [Audience laughter]

 

Pat:  Alone.  So you suggested that the United States would be the mediator.  However, past and current… our politicians will say we support Israel regardless of anything that Israel does.  Usually, the mediator should be …

 

Jeremy:  More evenhanded.

 

Pat:  On both sides.  So AIPAC really has our government officials pretty much in their pockets and they steer them in a certain way toward Israel.  I support J Street to an extent, but you want to sway our government officials to be pro-Israel in another way.  But who is going to advocate for the human rights of the Palestinians?  I’m speaking as an Israeli citizen, I lived there, but I’m speaking to you now as an American and I am speaking about our supposed values.  And who is going to advocate for my values?  We are currently giving Israel 8 million dollars a day.  OK.   And we don’t do anything really to help the Palestinians.  Who is going to advocate?  Who is going to be that person?  Who would you suggest?  Because it is really about human rights and fairness.  Who is going to advocate, seeing that the Palestinians and Jews are people both deserving equally of human rights and fair play and justice?

 

Jeremy:  Those are important sentiments and I come at this from a pro-Israel point of view. [Inaudible] I care about all the people in the world.  I care about global warming, I care about hunger and there’s a lot of things I care about in the world.  The reason I work on this issue is I wanted to be in Israel, it’s the national homeland of the Jewish people… [inaudible]… and I’m proud of and my children and my grandchildren will be proud to be a part of.  That’s why I’m in this …. I’m going to advocate for that.  And I hope that human rights groups and Palestinian rights groups and others will advocate for the human rights of the Palestinian people.

 

In fact what J Street does is that we do advocate for aid to the Palestinian Authority, right now.  That’s one of our main things.  Because it’s so critical to Israel that there be a Palestinian Authority and the ability of the Palestinian Authority to pay its salaries and to assume their function is right now in question and as soon as that collapses, I think that the two-state solution is on life support.  So I would, we advocate for aid to the Palestinians.  The aid that they get through UNRWA, the UN Refugee Works Administration, we advocate for that.  Because if you don’t [inaudible] you have to get the money from Hamas.  So what a silly idea for us, if we’re trying to weaken the extremists, we’re going to take away the money from the group that’s providing the schools that teach democracy and human rights, we’re going to take the money away from the UN.  So Iran can make up the difference and ….. to have madrasahs … To teach the young kids their brand of fighting.  This is not what we should be doing. 

 

So we advocate for those people and we do it from a pro-Israel perspective.  The organization was founded on the principle that we are fighting for the future of the State of Israel and the Jewish people are where we come from.   Yes, someone has to do human rights work.  I totally agree.  Again, kol hakavod. You know, good luck. [nervous laughter] I’m really supportive, but it’s not for me to answer, that is for other people to do.

About Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY.

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38 Responses

  1. Gellian
    December 22, 2011, 1:02 pm

    “The reason I work on this issue is I wanted to be in Israel, it’s the national homeland of the Jewish people… [inaudible]… and I’m proud of and my children and my grandchildren will be proud to be a part of. That’s why I’m in this ….”

    Then why doesn’t he live there?

    • stevieb
      December 22, 2011, 8:06 pm

      Because, like many ‘diaspora’ Jews, Ben-Ami feels his life’s work is to insure the survival of Israel as a Jewish state. And for me that’s acutally a damning indictment of Zionism, as well as being an excellent example of “the banality of evil”. I can hear the howls even now as i write this, but, for me, ‘evil’ is also an outcome – not necessarily an action or individual. Like most diaspora supporters of Israel(and other fanatical actors throughout history), it doesn’t compute that their actions are depriving others of their liberty – or their life. That’s what scares me.

    • pnkfloid
      December 22, 2011, 11:14 pm

      “The reason I work on this issue is I wanted to be in Israel….”

      Not that it matters in the overall critique of Ben-Ami or J-street, but I think I hear him say: “The reason I work on this issue is I want there to BE an Israel….”

      He also (perhaps inadvertently, unintentionally?) acknowledges that the US does not play and “evenhanded” role (his word) as mediator between Israel and Palestinians.

  2. Dex
    December 22, 2011, 1:14 pm

    Jeremy Ben-Ami is a complete and utter joke, as is his J-Street organization. Look at how he answered Pat’s question: he admits meddling in Palestinian internal affairs, proping up one political faction over the other. Imagine if a Palestinian-Americans openly sought to influence Israeli politics. What would Americans say?

    J-Street is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: a racist, Zionist organization that pretends to stand for peace, but really advocates for the status quo. I’ll take my chances with AIPAC; at least they are openly racist.

    p.s. I think UNRWA can handle its job without “Saint Ben-Ami” trying to advocate for it. This guy clearly sees Palestinians as a charity case…

    • Charon
      December 22, 2011, 1:53 pm

      link to jadaliyya.com

      Finkelstein ‘pwns’ Ben-Ami. This roundtable shows the true colors of J Street

      • Dex
        December 22, 2011, 2:17 pm

        Thanks for the link. I have actually seen this before…sometimes I wish Finkelstein hit harder though!

  3. eGuard
    December 22, 2011, 1:18 pm

    So, a liberal says he’s a Zionist.

    Oh and by the way, what he said sounded more like “You know, go luck yourself” or so.

    • eGuard
      December 22, 2011, 9:22 pm

      Let me sum it up:

      -apart from sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, fresh water system, public health, what have the Zionists ever taken from us?
      - Peace?
      - Oh peace. Shot up!
      .

  4. Woody Tanaka
    December 22, 2011, 1:24 pm

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, if you aren’t willing to apply your principles to yourself and your people (however you define them) then you have no principles, on preferences. If BenAmi isn’t willing to condemn the Israelis for human rights violations of Palestinians — instead leaving it to Palestinians and human rights activists — then he does not have “human rights” as a principle.

  5. American
    December 22, 2011, 1:29 pm

    No difference in AIPAC and J-Street, they both use the same ‘means’ to try and acheive their visions for Israel.
    Both dedicated to a foreign country, both dedicated to sucking money out of America, both dedicated to using American power for Israel.

    A Zio is a Zio is a Zio.

    • teta mother me
      December 22, 2011, 3:18 pm

      Dec 11 2006,Dennis Ross and Hisham Melhem discuss Israel-Palestine on Diane Rehm show

      Melhem: (17 min) (paraphrase) Whenever Israel is criticized in the United States critics are put in a “very defensive position.” US does not behave that way with other allies. The power of the Israel lobby ensures that a price is paid for criticism of Israel.
      “This is the American game!”

      Dennis Ross: (18.20 min) (verbatim) “It’s the American system, not the American game.”
      [Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote in a recent email blast, "We think money should be taken out of the American system but that's the way the system works, and until it's changed, we will operate under that system" --or words to that effect]

      Rehm: “How would you compare the strength of the Israel lobby to those who speak for the Palestinians in this country?”

      Ross: (18.30 min) (verbatim) “Oh I think there’s no comparison. Those who are supporting Israel, lobbying for Israel are far better organized, far more geared toward trying to create a political program than those who would be supportive of the Palestinians are.
      Now, that shouldn’t be an argument against the Israeli lobby or those who lobby for the Israelis, it should be an argument for those who believe in the Palestinian cause to organize better. This is the nature of America! So number one, let’s recognize who we are and what we are.
      Number two, you had on your program Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer. They’ve been going all around the country; they have no difficulty in terms of making their case. Again, we are an open society. We can debate issues.” . . .

      Two points:
      1. In effect, Ira Glunts and Pat went to hear a speech by Jeremy Ben-Rossbama of J-StrAIPAC; Change you can believe in.

      2. What Dennis Ross did NOT say is how Israel lobbyists gain and maintain that financial and political clout.
      Let’s get real — the Israel lobby can do what it does because it has access to vast wealth and financial support. Even Jews who could not recite the names of the five books of Torah or tell the difference between zionism and zebras contribute Jewish fund appeals religiously, and those funds, combined with sums the Bronfmans have extorted from Switzerland, Germany, etc; and that Ben-Ami and Jewish rabbis and AIPAC lobbyists extort from US government, create a golden calf the size of the US national debt.
      And Israel lobbyists can sustain their political clout because they do not register their many lobbyists as foreign agents; they treat law and order with dismissive disdain; and they buy loopholes, such as the ‘travel for education purposes’ loophole that exempts travel to Israel from the rules restricting gifts to members of congress. And if Israelis or their lobbyists are called to account, likely as not, somebody ends up dead.** The Israel lobby is not a political action group, it is a gang of thugs with no scruples, no moral center, no interest other than aggrandizing their ideological impulses.
      _____
      **the other day American quoted passages from Stephen Green’s “Taking Sides.” Here’s more from that book –
      Thomas Wasson had just taken his post as US consul general in Jerusalem at the time of the Deir Yassin massacre.

      “His reaction to the attack . . .was one of outrage and despair. In addition to his duties as Consul General, Wasson was also the American representative on the UN Security Council’s Truce Commission, and Wasson now reported to Washington that after Deir Yassin, he saw little chance for a cease-fire and truce. . . .”

      The situation deteriorated. In mid-March 1948 the US ambassador to United Nations “announced to the Security Council that that the US no longer thought the UN particion plan could be carried out. He called for an immediate truce in Palestine, to be followed by a temporary UN trusteeship when the British mandate terminated. The proposal, if it had been implemented, would have knocked the legal underpinnings out from under the Jewish Agency’s plans to announce a new Jewish state on May 14, 1948.”

      The speech caused great consternation among Israelis; Clark Clifford caused it to be walked back; Israel’s statehood plans were pursued on May 14, and on May 22, 1948 Consul Wasson was assassinated.

      If you cross Israel you risk ending up dead.

  6. Avi_G.
    December 22, 2011, 1:43 pm

    Ira,

    Thank you for your candid remarks.

    About Ben-Ami’s salemanship of the Israel brand, it always struck me as odd how superficial Zionist American Jews are when they try to sell the brand, vis-a-visKol Ha-Kavod and other soundbites.

    The reason I work on this issue is I wanted to be in Israel, it’s the national homeland of the Jewish people… [inaudible]… and I’m proud of and my children and my grandchildren will be proud to be a part of.

    Your children and grandchildren will not be a part of it because your delusional and false perceptions will bring about the inevitable collapse of your beloved ‘Jewish’ state.

    So to recap, the difference between AIPAC and J-Street is that Ben-Ami wants a slice of the money pie. No wonder AIPAC was against J-Street’s rise to power. They didn’t want the competition. It was never about opposition.

    • Hostage
      December 24, 2011, 3:03 pm

      So to recap, the difference between AIPAC and J-Street is that Ben-Ami wants a slice of the money pie. No wonder AIPAC was against J-Street’s rise to power. They didn’t want the competition. It was never about opposition.

      Oddly enough, I made donations to J-Street and was a member for a while because they had made an anomalous one-time request for supporters to sign a J-Street petition demanding that the US Justice Department investigate organizations and individuals who were providing financial support to the illegal Israeli settlements. They never followed-up on that effort and simply dropped the issue. When Israeli officials boycotted visiting Congressional delegations because they were associated with J-Street, the organization turned into little more than a blatant pro-Israel booster organization that openly panders to the Likudniks. So, I dropped-out, unsubscribed, and added them to my spam filter.

  7. Krauss
    December 22, 2011, 1:53 pm

    Ben-Ami is yet another Jew who has been Goldstoned and never quite became the same again. He was crushed by the attacks and now toes a line which is basically the same as AIPAC’s, but dressed up in nicer colors.

    Do not forget J Street supported the veto against the creation of a Palestinian state at the UN by the Obama admin, after incessant pressure from the lobby.

    Even if Ben-Ami has publicly chided other ‘pro-Israel’ groups for saying one thing(oppose settlements) and then in practice support them and rushing to strike down anything that the Palestinians do.

    Now he is in the same boat and this report doesn’t exactly make the picture prettier.
    His organization could once be called a ‘bridge to a better place’. Not anymore. He is firmly in the status quo now. He wants to be accepted and given a seat at a table more so than he wants to be on the right side of history.

  8. marc b.
    December 22, 2011, 2:12 pm

    what an insufferable douche bag. it’s ‘for other people to do’? what if ‘other people’ don’t have easy access to the MSM? or billions in private donations to lobby the US Congress and others? is that his vision for a mediated settlement? one side brings the lawyers, and pays off the mediator, and the other party shuffles into the conference room with their pants around their ankles? ben-ennemi is indistinguishable from eee or hophmi. maybe except for the suit.

    • eljay
      December 22, 2011, 2:50 pm

      >> Jeremy: … there’s a lot of things I care about in the world.

      Justice, equality and accountability appear not to be among the things he cares about.

      >> The reason I work on this issue is I wanted to be in Israel, it’s the national homeland of the Jewish people …

      It’s the national homeland of the Israeli people.

  9. Mndwss
    December 22, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Ben-Ami: I advocate for Israel, Palestinian groups should advocate for Palestinian human rights

    Adolf Hitler: I advocate for Germany, Jewish groups should advocate for Jewish human rights.

    Ben-Ami and Adolf Hitler are like the two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner…

  10. Sin Nombre
    December 22, 2011, 3:48 pm

    You know, on the one hand I feel that it’s easy to be too hard on Mr. Ben-Ami given that I do think there’s a huge huge difference between those who want a two-state solution and those who don’t. (Mainly because I think that most of those who don’t must, granting them the assumption that they think at all, and as a logical matter, believe then that ultimately it will be okay to ethnically cleanse whatever territory Israel declares since there really will be no other option left open to it.)

    And this is true even though there’s aspects of Mr. Ben-Ami’s two-state advocacy that are pretty bad. (For instance, a second Bantustan state which I think Mr. Ben Ami would welcome so long as it brought an end to things doesn’t strike me all that virtuous to wish for.)

    Thus I’m inclined to cut Ben-Ami and his ideas quite a bit of credit over the AIPAC crowd at least.

    On the other hand something else bothers me and it is sort of an ineradicable commonality with lots (if not many, if not most) of the AIPAC pros and hard-core, and that is the clear sense that Ben-Ami likewise gives off that … he’s just simply here in America purely because it is here that he can most help Israel.

    That … it’s here in America, influencing us non-jews to be Israel’s ATM and perhaps its military too that pretty much if not solely explains why he isn’t living in Tel Aviv or wherever.

    Thus, I feel I’d have to say to Mr. Ben-Ami if I met him, “sorry but I just don’t get the sense that there’s really any concern for *my* interests in what you are advocating, and that if push came to shove my interests would indeed be sacrificed to your others.”

    • Richard Witty
      December 22, 2011, 4:34 pm

      He sincerely believes that advocacy of a peer peace is in the interests of Israel and of the US, both.

      It is good work. The path to the goal can appear to be not a straight one, and as it is not alligned with the general sentiment here, its not surprising that editors and commenters alike would relish the cheap shots against him.

      • Woody Tanaka
        December 22, 2011, 5:14 pm

        “advocacy of a peer peace”

        What is a peer peace? Because no 2ss any Zionist has proposed contemplates the two states as being peers.

      • Dex
        December 22, 2011, 7:23 pm

        Richard,

        All I ever see you do on this site is use three of the oldest Zionist tricks — in what is a deep bag of dirty tricks — and that is to deflect, confuse, and revise.

        It’s not like we don’t see it for heaven’s sakes.
        Face it, you are on the wrong side of history…

      • Chaos4700
        December 22, 2011, 8:44 pm

        And like you, Ben-Ami pretends that the Arab Peace Plan doesn’t exist, and hasn’t existed for nearly a decade.

      • Richard Witty
        December 22, 2011, 10:04 pm

        “And like you, Ben-Ami pretends that the Arab Peace Plan doesn’t exist, and hasn’t existed for nearly a decade.”

        More lying diatribe.

        Read my blog.

      • Chaos4700
        December 23, 2011, 12:44 am

        I don’t need to read your painfully verbose, sloppy, self-aggrandizing blog to know what your opinion is on yet another document YOU NEVER BOTHERED TO READ. You force your jingoistic pro-Israeli opinion on us right here every chance you get, Witty.

      • Cliff
        December 23, 2011, 6:29 am

        No one reads your blog, Witty.

      • Polly
        December 22, 2011, 9:46 pm

        I agree with Richard here, at least to the extent that the path to peace may not be a straight one.
        For sure, Ben Ami’s position in this exchange is littered with what most people at this site would probably agree are deal-breakers to any just solution – but I saw Ben Ami debate Dershowitz on Shalom TV recently and he argued the Palestinian position hard and long for over an hour and eventually had The Dersh’ foaming at the mouth and reaching for his usual bloody maps.
        I think you have to use a different set of criteria when judging public figures in the face of the zionist omnipresence.
        I can’t stand the cowardice, hypocrisy and backpedalling displayed by the likes of (popping to mind recently) Obama, Friedman and Goldstone – but surely that only serves to underline how incredibly fucking scary the lobby can be to those who dare to take it on.
        I don’t think any public figure who’s ever uttered a negative word about Israel or the lobby has done so by accident – and if that’s true there are a hell of a lot of people fighting this out there.

      • Richard Witty
        December 23, 2011, 5:59 am

        “I can’t stand the cowardice, hypocrisy and backpedalling displayed by the likes of (popping to mind recently) Obama, Friedman and Goldstone”

        All of their revisions are understandable and reasonable. I’m more disappointed with Obama in basically removing any conditionality for US support.

        The way to get Obama and political leaders to move forward is to organize. As Barney Frank stated clearly, ‘if there is a groundswell of reasonable and considerately presented material supporting a movement that I can stomach, I will then advocate for it.”

        Hearts and minds, effectively persuaded more than by polemic accomplishes social and then political change.

        Polemic to a vanguard accomplishes only vanity, which ends up as failure.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 23, 2011, 8:27 am

        All of their revisions are understandable and reasonable

        nope. obama vetoing his own position on settlements at the UN was not reasonable in the least. ever wonder how many voters he lost on that one decision?

      • marc b.
        December 23, 2011, 8:51 am

        The way to get Obama and political leaders to move forward is to organize. As Barney Frank stated clearly, ‘if there is a groundswell of reasonable and considerately presented material supporting a movement that I can stomach, I will then advocate for it.”

        this is just horse shit, a variation on the ‘we don’t have a partner for peace’ goebbelesque talking point, or the ‘where is the palestinian gandhi?’ claptrap, the same lie put forth by Dennis Ross in the interview above. zionists don’t want a debate, and every attempt at organization of pro-palestinian advocates as a counterforce to AIPAC/J-Street is met by hostility, the implication that such advocates must be associated with or sympathetic to terrorists, and federal prosecution. your tribal autism is really wearisome, witty.

        I agree with Richard here, at least to the extent that the path to peace may not be a straight one.

        polly, with all due respect, witty doesn’t give a dried fig about ‘the path to peace’, nor do the vast majority of zionists. eternal conflict is a necessary component of their ‘ein volk, ein blut’ vision for isreal.

      • Koshiro
        December 23, 2011, 7:19 am

        link to freedomfunnies.com
        The first two panels sum up the foolishness of your way in a nutshell.

        Israel is the oppressor. The Palestinians are the oppressed. They are not in any way, shape or form “peers”, hence a “peer peace” is nonsense. Palestinians do not need to make peace with Israel, they need to be freed from Israeli oppression.

        Nobody who claims to have a “pro-Israel perspective” can ever approach any Palestinian and claim they are equals.

  11. MHughes976
    December 22, 2011, 3:49 pm

    The inaudible bit seemed to affect the overall meaning quite seriously. Did he mean that he wanted to be able to live in Israel and be proud of the place, but cannot do that because of the injustices being inflicted there, so his objective is to influence Israel from a pro-Israel point of view (in short, call for a 2ss) rather than to call directly for Palestinian rights, though he hopes others will. But if Palestinian rights have reached that degree of legitimacy, and if the Israeli rejection of those rights is correspondingly illegitimate, it is doubtful if there is any logical room for his pro-Israel sentiments. How can there be moral significance in the idea of a national home if that idea could never have been made reality without injustice? How can injustice be justified?

  12. Shingo
    December 22, 2011, 4:34 pm

    Ben Ami sounds like Witty without the incoherence.

    So let’s apply this logic to the holocaust. Does Ben-Ami believe the world let the Jews down by turning a blind eye to those atrocities? Was it only a Kewishxoncern what happened to Kews?

  13. W.Jones
    December 22, 2011, 7:32 pm

    I’ll let you guess who said this regarding the Gaza attacks of 2009:
    “We’re tired of this either-or, right-or-wrong dynamic, because this is an issue that has shades of grey, which you seem incapable of absorbing or expressing. So, yes, Israel does have a right of self-defense when rockets are rained down on its citizens and school buses are blown up. It does have the right to strike back against those who perpetrate terror in the interests of pursuing their own interests.”

  14. Ambiv
    December 22, 2011, 10:14 pm

    For what it’s worth, there are American Jews in Ben-Ami’s camp who have been calling on J Street types to speak out against violations of Palestinian human rights. My impression is they keep getting over-ruled by organizers who might agree with their sentiments –as Ben-Ami probably does- but opt not to take the chance of alienating the organized Jewish community.

    Dan Fleshler, for example, spoke out against the Gaza assault over at “Realistic Dove” and, in his book, called for American Jews in the so-called pro-Israel peace camp to denounce Israeli behavior when it was clear that there was no reasonable explanation for it. I don’t think he and those who agree with him in J-Street land have gotten very far. But who knows, maybe they’ll persist and prod some changes.

    Here is an excerpt on the topic from Fleshler’s book in Religion Dispatches a few years ago (See ttp://www.religiondispatches.org/books/1508/transforming_america%e2%80%99s_israel_lobby/):

    “There must be a reasonable explanation for what is happening in the Gaza Strip,” we tried to tell ourselves in December 2008 and January 2009, when confronted by news coverage of innocent civilians mauled by Israeli attacks, a UN school destroyed, and the rest of the terrible carnage resulting from Israel’s attack. “There must be a good reason why all of those people had to die or get maimed, why the Gaza hospitals had to overflow with the dead and wounded. The Israelis wouldn’t have done that unless it was absolutely necessary.”

    “After awhile, though, the evidence accumulated and for some of us in the pro-Israel peace camp, it was impossible to believe that the Israeli ends (stopping Hamas rocket fire) could justify the means: a disproportionate response that did not, and probably could not, draw adequate distinctions between military and civilian targets, crammed together in the houses and warrens of one of the world’s most densely-populated areas. It was impossible to take the official Israeli explanations or rationalizations on faith. In the midst of that Gaza Strip assault, I used words like “appalling” on my blog to describe Israeli actions. Whether I was correct or not is beside the point. The point is that many other relatively moderate American Jews agreed with me and, once again, the vast majority of them said nothing and did nothing. When people in my camp confront Israeli behavior that appears to be morally offensive, the standard response is that there is no such thing as a benign occupation or a war without brutality. Unless and until there is a political solution, according to this logic, morally-grounded Israelis will be forced into circumstances in which it is difficult and sometimes impossible to be humane; it is difficult and sometimes impossible to be good. I have used that argument and it is true—up to a point. The problem, however, is not merely that the brutality and humiliation inflicted on Palestinians is an inevitable consequence of occupation; the problem is that it is just plain wrong. I believe American Jews who support Israel should start saying that it is wrong. They must somehow find a way to stop suppressing their moral instincts, to stop ignoring what is best within themselves, and to start finding a vocabulary to acknowledge the moral horrors attendant on the occupation; and to do so without denouncing Israel as a whole or minimizing its need to defend itself.”

    • straightline
      December 23, 2011, 12:31 am

      I will keep saying this so that no-one – not even RW – can be in any doubt. His last attempt at a “lying diatribe” (or was it a “candid discussion”) on this topic ended in abject failure – thanks to the wonderful MDWsers – but I am sure he will be back. There were NO Hamas rockets for 4 months leading up to the Israeli attack on Hamas at the end of 2008! So let’s not bring out that excuse of “stopping Hamas rocket fire” again, please. Here’s Mark Regev confirming and squirming it again.

      • Richard Witty
        December 23, 2011, 9:07 am

        The sin is the dissing of the effort, rather than encouragement of the effort.

        Even Dan Fleshler has been abused on this site for not being condemnatory enough, for being a liberal Zionist, rather than an anti-Zionist.

        Bernard Avishai abused. Gershon Gorenberg abused. Akiva Eldar abused (when it was apparent that he was a liberal Zionist), Gideon Levy (a liberal Zionist), Richard Goldstone abused.

        Its petty and utterly counter-productive.

        The two-state approach remains the only viable one, and those that articulate paths towards a healthy Palestine living as a good neighbor to a healthy Israel, with much interaction, deserve praise and encouragement.

        Simply.

      • Chaos4700
        December 23, 2011, 9:53 am

        I’m sorry, Witty, did you just neatly pretend that there wasn’t a glaring fact that Hamas actually respected the cease fire that Israel broke? You’re just going to Nakba-deny the facts so you can gush over your Zionist heroes? “Oh those poor abused liberal Zionists! Think of the liberal Zionists! You will NEVER know our pain, you violent extremists Gazans and your supporters! *croc tear*”

      • American
        December 23, 2011, 10:56 am

        Let us put it to you ‘simply’ Richard.

        The reason we keep grinding on even the liberal zionist is because they have to be forced to own up to the ‘original sin’. That being, they did not have a right to uproot other people and take or force them off their land.
        Only when they admit to that and give up their belief in ‘exceptions’ for the Jews can they see clearly what has to be done and what justice would be.

        Absolute justice would be voiding the UN 181 that created Israel to begin with. What the world and Palestine would probably accept as justice today is for Israel to go back to the original 1948 UN territory and boundaries, make reparations to the Palestines and get down on it’s knees and apologize in the most humble way possible.

        You will learn that you are not exceptions in this world, you will learn that humility and fair dealing are the keys to survival and respect for everyone or you will not last.

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