‘J Street has to change or die': Divestment battle exposes tactical rift among liberal Zionists

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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A woman at the Presbyterian general assembly in Detroit urges the church to divest for Palestinian rights. (Photo: Christopher Hazou/IMEU)

A woman at the Presbyterian general assembly in Detroit urges the church to divest for Palestinian rights. (Photo: Christopher Hazou/IMEU)

Presbyterian Church divestment from three corporations linked to the Israeli military has highlighted a growing rift between two-state solution advocates who see divestment as a legitimate tool and J Street, the leading liberal Zionist group, which lobbied against the church measure.

“BDS is the only game in town – America has given up the ghost as far as trying to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians is concerned, so what does J Street have to sell anymore?…J Street’s going to have to change or die,” Larry Derfner, a liberal Zionist and writer for +972 Magazine, told me.

J Street is adamant on this score. When J Street’s Rachel Lerner went before the anti-divestment group Presbyterians for Middle East Peace on June 14th, she opposed the divestment measure that was to pass a week later at the Presbyterian Church’s general assembly, by linking it to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement:

“The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, because of its refusal to acknowledge that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a two-sided conflict, and its refusal to accept a Jewish and Palestinian homeland, actually undermines the peace it claims to seek.”

Lerner is J Street’s senior vice president for community relations, and her speech was a reflection of the main strategy that liberal Jews opposed to the divestment measure took before the vote: bet that the BDS movement is toxic enough that linking a divestment measure to it would spell defeat for the measure.

But one week later, after the dust had settled on the church’s affirmative decision to divest from three corporations who supply the Israeli military, J Street sang a different tune on the divestment measure and BDS.

“This vote is far from a victory for the Global BDS Movement,” J Street said in a statement on June 23. “Despite the Movement’s attempt to claim victory following the vote, the resolution passed is in fact an explicit repudiation of the BDS Movement, stating the Church is neither divesting from Israel nor aligning with or endorsing the Movement’s goals.” Nevertheless, the leading liberal Zionist group condemned the vote.

The conflicting responses to divestment–linking it to the larger BDS movement beforehand to try to defeat it, and then celebrating the resolution’s “repudiation” of BDS–highlights the quandary the group faces now. J Street opposes the occupation of the West Bank, but also strenuously opposes efforts like divestment that act on that belief.

And the church divestment resolution comes at a time of growing frustration among those who believe in a two-state solution.  Increasingly, those desperate to end the occupation are looking to the tactics BDS is pushing for salvation.  And those same people, J Street’s natural constituency, are starting to voice criticism of the group for its myopic focus on being accepted by the Jewish establishment and influencing Washington.

“J Street is at a crossroads. They can either come to the table with positive solutions, which I believe are BDS, or their relevance will go down,” Seth Morrison, the former chair of J Street’s Washington, D.C. chapter who is now a supporter of Jewish Voice for Peace, told me in an interview. “There are definitely people within J Street who feel that the organization is not using the political clout and the membership that it has put together to bring change.”

Morrison’s sentiment was echoed by Aaron Lerner, a former J Street U member who was supportive of Presbyterian divestment.  “I joined the organization because I believed that it offered a middle ground between the BDS movement and AIPAC, which is closely aligned with Israel’s right-wing government,” wrote Lerner in New Voices, a Jewish student publication.  “I believed I was pursuing the best option to realize peace. I no longer believe this to be the case. Therefore, I have decided to join those in the Jewish community who will take meaningful, concrete steps to achieve a just solution to the conflict.”

In addition, there are some signs that liberal Zionist groups other than J Street are warming up to divestment as a tactic to save the two-state solution.  Americans for Peace Now (APN), another prominent liberal Zionist group, released a statement after the Presbyterian Church’s move to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions that contrasted sharply with J Street’s.

Instead of condemning the vote, APN said that the vote “should serve as a resounding warning” that “increasingly large segments of American society…are losing patience with the nearly five decades-long occupation.”  APN, while also saying that the vote rejected the BDS movement, added that “we believe it is legitimate for activists to press companies to adopt practices that deny support to settlements and the occupation, including through targeted boycotts and divestment.”

APN was at pains to distance its words on the Presbyterian Church from the Palestinian-led BDS movement, which does not take a position on one-state or two-states but advocates for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

But the fact that APN came out largely in support of the church’s move was a victory for at least the logic of BDS–a logic that is being fueled by the failure of American efforts to broker the two-state solution.

After Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed effort to revive the two-state solution, Larry Derfner, who identifies as a liberal Zionist, penned a +972 Magazine column that attracted widespread attention because of his prescription for what do about the occupation: BDS.

In a conversation conducted over Facebook chat, former Jerusalem Post columnist Derfner told me that more liberal Zionists will hop on the BDS bandwagon in the near future–with the caveat that Palestinian violence would dampen liberal support for boycotts or divestment.

While voices like Derfner are making waves in the Jewish community, the debate between J Street and other liberal Zionists over BDS isn’t something that Palestinian human rights activists like Omar Barghouti are paying close attention to.

“Palestinian human rights activists are generally not over-concerned with what spokespeople for the soft Zionist camp in the US or elsewhere think or believe,” Barghouti, the co-founder of the BDS movement, said in an e-mail.  “They are increasingly becoming irrelevant. So-called ‘liberal’ Zionists know as well as we do that the BDS movement, which is led by Palestinians, asserts basic Palestinian rights and gives voice to Palestinian aspirations, has effectively stripped them of their ‘gatekeeper’ status.”

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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65 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    June 27, 2014, 12:03 pm

    sweet report alex

  2. piotr
    June 27, 2014, 12:16 pm

    I think that a good explanation why J Street has a quandary is in well explain here link to youtube.com
    They wish for several things, peace, happiness, power etc. but what are their true priorities?

  3. seafoid
    June 27, 2014, 12:25 pm

    J Street is only of relevance if liberal Zionism can hold the line on apartheid and keep the lid on young middle America so that J Street can appear as Pepsi to AIPAC’s Coke.

    It has the same problem as the Reform crowd. You know, it’s great to be not Orthodox and to be groovy and sensitive but the torture and the nihilism really don’t match that shirt.

    • Citizen
      June 27, 2014, 8:34 pm

      That reform rabbi who railed against the Presby vote shows the biggest group of religious Jews in the US, the reform Jews, a sector of heirs of Enlightenment liberalism initiated in France and carried over to the US by the founding fathers, are nobody to ape for progressive purposes in this day and age. They are actually regressive. Guess they forgot Hegel’s dialectic.

      • Hostage
        June 28, 2014, 8:47 am

        That reform rabbi who railed against the Presby vote shows the biggest group of religious Jews in the US, the reform Jews, a sector of heirs of Enlightenment liberalism initiated in France

        Fair enough, but the Grand Sanhedrin represented the orthodoxy of its day and age. Modern Orthodox Judaism sprang into existence as a reaction to the mainstream Jewish Haskalah.

        The Edinburgh Review observed that the Actes du Grand Sanhédrin (Paris, 1807), were formally sanctioned, legalised and promulgated, on behalf of the Jews of France, Italy, Holland, and South Germany, by the great Sanhedrin summoned by Napoleon in 1806:

        “This authoritative body renounced Jewish nationality in unambiguous terms. It declared the Jews to be ‘ neither a nation within a nation, nor cosmopolitan ‘; it affirmed that they were an integral part of the nations among whom they lived, and it claimed for them the same rights, and acknowledged the same duties, as their fellow-citizens, from whom they differed only in religion.

        — The Edinburgh Review, Volume 225, A. and C. Black, 1917, page 306 link to books.google.com

      • hophmi
        June 28, 2014, 9:55 pm

        I don’t think there are many Reform Jews who would consider themselves religious.

        I wouldn’t exactly call Reform Judaism an heir of French liberalism either. Modern Orthodoxy is a reaction to the Haskalah, and also an heir of it in the sense that it recognizes the importance of secular learning as well as Judaic

        Life has changed since 1806, and the promises of the French Revolution were not delivered upon for most Jews, who found that in reality, they had to shed their identities to assimilate into European society. See the movie Sunshine to get an idea of what this meant.

        As the article in the Edinburgh Review says, after the Congress of Vienna more or less put the brakes on the French Revolution, Jews submerged their own campaign for emancipation into the national campaigns of the countries in which they lived. So how did that turn out? In the end, many of their French countrymen turned on them and helped send them to concentration camps.

      • Hostage
        June 28, 2014, 10:40 pm

        I don’t think there are many Reform Jews who would consider themselves religious.

        A recent survey shows 51% of Jews in Israel believe non-Orthodox movements should be given equal status in matters of religious conversion and marriage. So, I suppose most Jews don’t put much stock in your definition of “religious”.

        Life has changed since 1806, and the promises of the French Revolution were not delivered upon for most Jews who found that in reality, they had to shed their identities to assimilate into European society. . . . Jews submerged their own campaign for emancipation into the national campaigns of the countries in which they lived. So how did that turn out?

        The “lachrymose view of Jewish history as a vale of tears, a succession of persecutions, humiliation and violence” is unhistorical. Since you asked, it has turned out pretty well. The French had a Jewish Prime Minister before Israel had one and France has had five prime ministers of Jewish descent.

        FYI, a poll carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute in cooperation with the Government Press Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism and KKL-JNF revealed that sixty-percent of Israeli Jews believe that the Jewish people in Israel are a nation separate from the Jews abroad, like yourself. So, nothing has changed on that score, since the days of the Grand Sanhedrin.

        When asked to choose what defines the primary connection between Jews in Israel and Jews in the Diaspora, only 13 percent said nationality. A plurality of respondents selected Jewish culture and tradition (40%). link to ynetnews.com

      • Mooser
        June 29, 2014, 2:06 pm

        “I don’t think there are many Reform Jews who would consider themselves religious. “

        Maybe, but there’s probably an even bigger group of Reformed Jews who would say “Who the hell is this officious schmuck to speak for me and my religious feelings?”

        If God hisself has told you, Hophmi, which particular practices, practised in which particular way, is the Official Jewish Way, please, tell the rest of us, You have no right to keep it to yourself.

        Oh, whoops, I forgot, Hophmi is a Zionist. Zionists, as near as I can figure, believe there are (thanks to the rest of the world coddling us) way too many Jews, and we need to raise the standards and cut out a lot of dead wood, you know? We’ve got to make it more exclusive more up-scale.
        So Reform Jews, take a tip frtom Hophmi, ‘get glat and be hot, hot, hot!’

      • Mooser
        June 29, 2014, 2:15 pm

        “I don’t think there are many Reform Jews who would consider themselves religious. “

        Oh, good freakin’ job, Hophmi. That’s it, let those Presbyterians know how divided and splintered and decentralized the Jewish religion is! Oh, I can hear it now, at the after-church brunch: “You mean the Jewish religion is divided into three contentious groups, who won’t recognize each other, and has no central administration or process? And I was worried about voting for Divestment?”

      • Mooser
        June 29, 2014, 2:18 pm

        “See the movie Sunshine to get an idea of what this meant.”

        ROTFLMSJAO!!! Damn, if only I’d seen the proper movies I’d be a better Jew!

  4. seafoid
    June 27, 2014, 12:48 pm

    ‘J Street has to change or die’

    Reminds me of a great song by Johnny Cash

    link to youtube.com

    And he said: “Son, this world is rough
    And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
    And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along.
    So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
    I knew you’d have to get tough or die
    And it’s the name that helped to make you strong

    • Mooser
      June 29, 2014, 2:21 pm

      Ah yes, one of my favorite (after “Delia”, of course) Johnny Cash songs “A Man Named Jew”!!

  5. unverified__5ilf90kd
    June 27, 2014, 1:51 pm

    I see JStreet as a Trojan Horse. They were moved into the Jewish tent for a purpose. Their goal is to corral and contain the liberal Zionists and make sure that the liberals do not get in the way of AIPAC. The proof of this is that JStreet is still opposed to BDS and has had no effect on Israel’s pathology. JStreet has had no success and that was the goal. JStreet has done nothing to disprove my hypothesis that it is a Trojan Horse designed to anesthetize and neutralize the liberal Zionists.

    • Ellen
      June 27, 2014, 3:32 pm

      It has been said before: J Street is AIPAC light. Same package inside, but a new wrapping.

      Like Zionism and “liberal Zionism.” What is the difference? It is still Zionism.

      The expression Liberal Zionist is like “liberal ethno nationalist.” It is still exclusionary and nationalist. The “liberal” label means nothing.

      J Street is for nothing. Means nothing. They can either merge with AIPAC or become relevant, or fade away like so many other PACs.

      • Citizen
        June 27, 2014, 8:36 pm

        J Street is not Human Street.

      • thetruthhurts
        June 28, 2014, 11:53 am

        you should’ve said “same old ingredients inside just a different package”
        the package contains the ingredients.

      • Mooser
        June 29, 2014, 2:21 pm

        He could have left the “Trojans” out of it.

    • Shingo
      June 27, 2014, 11:16 pm

      The proof of this is that JStreet is still opposed to BDS and has had no effect on Israel’s pathology.

      Very true. They want everything to remain status quo. Keep the aid flowing, keep the special relationship, keep Israel’s military superiority, no punitive measures whatsoever.

      • James Canning
        June 28, 2014, 6:42 pm

        And keep growing illegal colonies of Jews in the West Bank, no matter how much damage this does to national security interests of the American people.

  6. James Canning
    June 27, 2014, 2:25 pm

    I think some supporters of BDS are fully prepared to accept Israel within its pre-1967 borders.

    • Speedy
      June 27, 2014, 11:26 pm

      Silly. If that is true, then those supporters are not aware of the. BDS mission

      • Hostage
        June 28, 2014, 9:08 am

        Silly. If that is true, then those supporters are not aware of the. BDS mission

        Israel has spent 40 years ignoring the law and UN resolutions regarding its obligation to leave the demography of the occupied territory, including Jerusalem, well enough alone. So don’t act like a jerk and deliver lectures to us about sinister missions. BDS simply aims to facilitate the exercise of the refugees right of return to the extent provided by the applicable international law.

        FYI, in light of the recent ECHR decision to award Cyprus compensation for the Turkish invasion and occupation, the BDS call to action should probably be updated a bit to reflect international practice.

      • James Canning
        June 28, 2014, 6:38 pm

        Wrong, Speedy. Logic argues in favour of measuresa against Israel, to get its attention. Fir purposes of ending the occupation, rather than terminating the State of Israel.

  7. Hostage
    June 27, 2014, 4:16 pm

    Breaking News a poll carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute in cooperation with the Government Press Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism and KKL-JNF revealed that sixty-percent of Israeli Jews believe that the Jewish people in Israel are a nation separate from the Jews abroad. When asked to choose what defines the primary connection between Jews in Israel and Jews in the Diaspora, only 13 percent said nationality.

    I wonder when they will announce that Zionist nationalism is officially kaput? link to ynetnews.com

    • Citizen
      June 27, 2014, 8:39 pm

      Didn’t the Israel high court declare Israeli nationalism is kaput? How does that fit in?

      • Hostage
        June 28, 2014, 8:36 am

        Didn’t the Israel high court declare Israeli nationalism is kaput? How does that fit in?

        In the Kaadan case they told JNF to get bent, but the AG struck a deal to reimburse JNF with state land elsewhere anytime an “Arab” won a tender. The Knesset quickly adopted a law that sanctioned community admissions committees that circumvented the Supreme Court decision, because there’s no Constitution. The Knesset is also trying to adopt the “Basic Law: The National Home” which will legally entrench Israeli Jewish nationalism as fundamental law.

      • Citizen
        June 28, 2014, 8:42 am

        Separate and unequal, that’s the legal matrix impact of Israel’s rule of law.

  8. just
    June 27, 2014, 4:19 pm

    ““These warnings don’t surprise us,” Faaborg-Andersen told journalists at a Geneva Initiative event on Friday. “The states [of the EU] are losing patience when it comes to continued construction in the settlements, and if the trend continues, more countries will join these warnings against businesses operating over the Green Line,” he warned.

    An Israeli diplomatic official shrugged off the warnings Friday, calling them “a political statement disguised as a legal one, and as such one that merely reiterates old and well-known European positions,” according to the Hebrew-language NRG news site.

    The “vague wording of the statements points to the weak legal foundations of the warning,” the official said.”

    link to timesofisrael.com

    Shrug away! tick tock.

    • crone
      June 28, 2014, 1:54 am

      France has warned its citizens against taking part in any economic activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying this may entail legal risks because the Jewish settlements are illegal under international law.

      The warning is part of a joint act drafted by the five largest EU countries: Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain, Haaretz cited a French diplomat as saying.

      Italy and Spain are expected to issue similar warnings over the next few days, while the UK and Germany did so a few months ago.

      The move comes after the failure of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and also following massive protests against the construction of settlements across the EU.

      The notice by the French Foreign Ministry advises against investing, purchasing land, or engaging in economic activity in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights. It was published as part of recommendations for French people traveling to Israel.

      More at link
      link to liveleak.com

      • RoHa
        June 28, 2014, 5:52 am

        “the five largest EU countries”

        Bunch of anti-Semites, of course.

      • Hostage
        June 28, 2014, 11:21 am

        The whole thing dates back to a recommendation from the UNHRC Fact Finding Mission report on the impact of illegal Israeli settlements. There have been several UN reports now that warn businesses and individuals about possible civil and criminal liability for anyone getting involved in settlement-related activities, including economic and financial activities, the provision of services in settlements and the purchasing of property.
        link to mondoweiss.net

        There may be an article here in a few days about these and other recent developments.

  9. jd65
    June 27, 2014, 4:36 pm

    Ah, J Street. I’m something of a broken record on this subject. I don’t buy the term “liberal Zionist.” And I don’t buy J Street. The article I wanted to have published here a couple years back made my thoughts clear on it, but that didn’t work out. I’ve made two videos (over a year ago) on this topic: one short, one long. The long one is the better one and it’s also about Dror Moreh’s film The Gatekeepers. Movies such as The Gatekeepers and organizations like J Street are of a piece.

    I’m under no illusions that folks here will be too interested in these, but if anyone actually watches the entire longer piece, I’d be interested in any thoughts. J Street is not an organization that is attractive to anyone who believes in universal equal rights:

    • seafoid
      June 28, 2014, 7:10 am

      I’ll have a look at the second video over the weekend- have to find 40 quiet minutes… the first one is a good taster

      • jd65
        June 28, 2014, 11:00 am

        Thanks seafoid. I wish it was shorter, but it is what it is and I hope you get through it (I’d suggest headphones for helping you find ‘quiet’). It’s basically clips of the J Street sponsored speaker at a showing of The Gatekeepers and my responses cut into them. There a few other supportive clips added as well (Chomsky, Amira Hass, Beit-Hallahmi…). What does the “J” stand for in J Street, anyway? So many options…

  10. DICKERSON3870
    June 27, 2014, 7:25 pm

    RE: “Presbyterian Church divestment from three corporations linked to the Israeli military has highlighted a growing rift between two-state solution advocates who see divestment as a legitimate tool and J Street, the leading liberal Zionist group, which lobbied against the church measure. . .” ~ Kane

    MY COMMENT: Dare I suggest that in having opposed the Presbyterian Church divestment from three corporations linked to the Israeli military the establishment (i.e., the officials, not necessarily members like myself) of J street might be to some degree “two-state fakers”*?
    DO I HEAR A DARE?
    DO I HEAR A DOUBLE DARE?
    Oh, dear me, I suppose that in asking the purportedly rhetorical question above, as a practical matter I just did suggest that the establishment (i.e., the officials, not necessarily members like myself) of J street might be to some degree “two-state fakers”*. How dreadful, but at least I admit to using hypothetical questions to call people/groups names in a backhanded way, unlike some propagandists I know of!

    * SEE – “Flotilla 3.0: Redeeming Obama’s Palestine Speech with Gaza’s Ark”, By Robert Naiman, truth-out.org, 3/25/13

    [EXCERPTS] There’s a half-empty way and a half-full way of looking at President Barack Obama’s Jerusalem speech about the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
    The half-empty way of looking at it is: This was Obama’s white flag of surrender.
    To everyone around the world who for decades has been assuming that at the end of the day, the president of the United States would lead the way to resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Obama was saying: Don’t look at me. Just because the United States is the principal military, diplomatic and economic protector of the Israeli government, doesn’t mean that I, as the president of the United States, will do anything about the military occupation of millions of Palestinian human beings. Bibi doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state; Bibi’s government doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state; AIPAC doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state; and Congress – which defers to AIPAC – doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state. Of course, many of them mouth the words – not Bibi’s government, they don’t even do that – but those who mouth the words oppose any practical measure that would help bring an independent Palestinian state into existence. They’re “two state fakers.” Settlement freeze? Impossible. UN membership for Palestine? Can’t be done. No, according to the two state fakers, the only option on the menu in the restaurant for the Palestinians is to return to negotiations without a settlement freeze, negotiations that for 20 years have brought more land confiscation, more settlements, more restrictions on Palestinian movement and commerce, more oppression. And so, Obama was saying, my hands are tied. Don’t look at me.
    The half-full way of looking at it is this: It was a great speech. If you “price in,” as the markets say, acceptance that the US government isn’t going to lead on this, it was a great motivational speech. President Obama made a very compelling case that someone else should do something [and now J Street has made it clear that it's probably not going to be them ~ JLD]. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to truth-out.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      June 27, 2014, 7:56 pm

      P.S. RE: “[A] t least I admit to using hypothetical questions to call people/groups names in a backhanded way, unlike some propagandists I know of!” ~ me (above)

      TO BE MORE SPECIFIC: A certain propagandist for Israel cowardly used a purportedly hypothetical question to smear European supporters of BDS as “so many . . . grandchildren of Nazis and Nazi collaborators who brought us the Holocaust once again declaring war on the Jews”. I guess even he knew that it was such a heinously ludicrous smear job that he could not “man up” and make the allegation directly in the form of a declarative statement, and therefore used the more mealymouthed, less direct means of effectuating the smear by seeming to merely pose a purportedly hypothetical question.

    • Citizen
      June 27, 2014, 8:45 pm

      @ Dickerson
      Yeah. Or, as Obama has said in the past about various controversial issues, “If you want me to do something about it, I have to hear from you. I need (financial) support before I can act.” Obviously, he’s talking about financial and main media and think tank support. Mondoweiss, for example, doesn’t count. It’s simple. Nobody has a hold on US foreign policy like the pro-Israel lobby, and it’s been this way since Truman cashed in his chips to the Zionists who funded his whistle stop campaign.

  11. richb
    June 27, 2014, 7:36 pm

    The wholesale freakout of Jewish groups like J street will produce an even bigger and more profound reaction from us next time. If we say everything J street wants but have a very limited and targeted action with OUR money and this causes phony charges of anti-Semitism then people will say why even bother to compromise and go for broke.

    The next GA in two years will be reconsidering the two state “solution”. Groups like IPMN will participate in the report for our commissioners. J Street and Reform Jews could participate but everything indicates they will shun us and thus their point of view won’t be incorporated. Divestment was a last resort for a very simple reason when you break relationships then you lose any influence. Only when MRTI threw up their hands and said the 3 corporations were intransigent did we divest. What J Street and Reform Jews did was incorporate this strategy as a first resort. The political stupidity is simply put, staggering.

    • Citizen
      June 27, 2014, 8:46 pm

      @ richb
      Please elaborate.

    • Speedy
      June 27, 2014, 10:01 pm

      Bring it on

      • Betsy
        June 28, 2014, 1:50 pm

        @Speedy — could you elaborate on what you mean with “bring it on”? do you see this as some kind of cowboy Western?

        The PC(USA) has been approaching this as the opposite of cowboy duels — our goal has been to work towards & in, interfaith solidarity & dialogue about profound moral challenges (for our nation & the world) — that are preventing equality under the law for all humans, and encouraging lawlessness & military spending & nationalist jingoism. Core to our faith is the imperative to be peacemakers. So a ‘bring it on’ mindset is part of what we’re obligated to critique.

        Or am I misunderstanding what you mean? are you making a threat?

  12. DICKERSON3870
    June 27, 2014, 7:54 pm

    Ooops! Wrong place.

  13. doug
    June 27, 2014, 8:11 pm

    I don’t see J-Street as nefarious so much as a last ditch effort to save the proverbial two state solution. They were, of course, used.

    So now the question is:
    Is it Zionism uber alles or can the principles of equality and fairness override tribal impulses? I’m not holding my breath.

    • Shingo
      June 27, 2014, 11:36 pm

      The latter of course. Peter Beinart said that American Jews will be forced to chose between their liberal values and tribalism, and most will chose tribalism

  14. Shingo
    June 27, 2014, 11:12 pm

    So-called ‘liberal’ Zionists know as well as we do that the BDS movement, which is led by Palestinians, asserts basic Palestinian rights and gives voice to Palestinian aspirations, has effectively stripped them of their ‘gatekeeper’ status.”

    That goes for Chomsky and Finkelstein too, which probably explains their inflammatory rhetoric

    • Hostage
      June 28, 2014, 9:18 am

      So-called ‘liberal’ Zionists know as well as we do that the BDS movement, which is led by Palestinians, asserts basic Palestinian rights and gives voice to Palestinian aspirations, has effectively stripped them of their ‘gatekeeper’ status.”

      That goes for Chomsky and Finkelstein too, which probably explains their inflammatory rhetoric

      Pointing out that some of the leaders of the movement aren’t really Palestinian or members of Palestinian civil society, or expressing the opinion that there is no realistic possibility the right of return will be implemented may be inflammatory. But it isn’t gate keeping or liberal Zionism for that matter. Those are ad hominem fallacies.

      • W.Jones
        June 28, 2014, 10:17 pm

        “some of the leaders of the movement aren’t really Palestinian”.

        That is a rather strange statement. Ali A and Barghouti both are of Palestinian ethnicity. A key reason why they don’t live in Palestine is because their country was conquered and their families became refugees, unallowed to return.

        Asserting that Ali A is not Palestinian is like asserting that Armenian-Americans who try to bring recognition to the Turkish expulsions and genocide are not “Armenian”. The western half of Armenian was severely genocided and many of its survivors fled to America and other countries.

        Second of all, I question whether Chomsky is acting as a gatekeeper when he accuses the BDS movement of “pure antisemitism” on the basis that everywhere else is “100 times worse”. The problem is that, as we saw with Gary Oldman recently, the issue of anti-semitism acts as a political “wall” on what gets said. In contrast, when JVP says that BDS is not antisemitic, it is letting it through the “gate”. Basically, BDS is not “pure antisemitism”, because it is in fact motivated by human rights concerns, not racism.

      • Hostage
        June 29, 2014, 11:53 am

        Ali A and Barghouti both are of Palestinian ethnicity.

        Chomsky didn’t complain that they weren’t members of an ethnic group. He said they weren’t members of “Palestinian civil society”, don’t live there, have no problem with going to Tel Aviv university, and don’t necessarily speak for those people that do live in the occupied territories. He noted that the PA has had great difficulty enforcing its own legally mandated boycott of goods from Israeli settlements. There was an article here just the other day which indicated there was no way to motivate the inhabitants of Ramallah with talk about BDS. Why is it okay for that person to say it, but not Chomsky?

        Rather than argue about red herrings, why don’t you have the decency to answer Chomsky’s actual points? What’s with all this tap dancing? I don’t agree with him on many things, but I’m not trying to make shit up or hold McCarthy hearings to excommunicate him. Can you show me a Palestinian publication from the territories that condemns Chomsky, or is this a foreign affliction?

      • W.Jones
        June 29, 2014, 2:26 pm

        “Chomsky didn’t complain that they weren’t members of an ethnic group.”
        No, but you just claimed that they are “not really Palestinian”.

        He said they weren’t members of “Palestinian civil society”, don’t live there, have no problem with going to Tel Aviv university

        The main point is that Frank Barat and JVP both said that the BDS petition represents Palestinian Civil Society. Chomsky denied that BDS represents their wishes. Even those BDS leaders who are in the Diaspora are part of Palestinian civil Society, since half of the world’s Palestinian community is a Diaspora one and the other half is under occupation.

        There was an article here just the other day which indicated there was no way to motivate the inhabitants of Ramallah with talk about BDS. Why is it okay for that person to say it, but not Chomsky?

        It’s OK for Chomsky to say that it is very hard to motivate the inhabitants of Ramallah, but if he is actually sympathetic to them, then he should explain in a sympathetic way why this is the case: they have been thoroughly conquered, are under occupation, and their strongest activists like Marwan are in jail.

        Rather than argue about red herrings, why don’t you have the decency to answer Chomsky’s actual points?

        I would love to!
        Chomsky Point #1: “It’s 100 times worse any place else”.
        No, It’s not 100 times worse in the Scandinavian countries and many other places, because they are not living under a brutal, permanent occupation and Apartheid system.

        Chomsky Point #2: BDS is “pure antisemitism”.
        No, BDS is motivated by human rights concerns.

        Chomsky Point #3: The BDS petition sounds like a demand for Israel’s destruction.
        No, the refugees could return to their homes and borders could be redrawn accordingly to provide for the two state solution.

        Chomsky Point #4: BDS is hypocritical because it does not target the US.
        No, because among other reasons, it is far more practical to use BDS on a smaller, abusive country like South Africa than on a huge superpower.

        Chomsky Point #5: The BDS Petition does not represent Palestinian Civil Society.
        No, it does represent them, as JVP says. Many civil rights organizations in Palestine have also endorsed BDS, like Kairos Palestine and Sabeel.

  15. Pixel
    June 28, 2014, 12:09 am

    “In a conversation conducted over Facebook chat, former Jerusalem Post columnist Derfner told me that more liberal Zionists will hop on the BDS bandwagon in the near future–with the caveat that Palestinian violence would dampen liberal support for boycotts or divestment.”

    hmmm…

    On second thought, “-with the caveat that Israeli violence, which will be attributed to Palestinians, would dampen liberal support for boycotts or divestment.”

    • chocopie
      June 28, 2014, 2:03 am

      That was my reaction too! They will support BDS as long as the Palestinians endure Zionist violence and don’t ever hit back. The Zionist violence never ever stops, it’s just always there, like the air we breathe, and not even acknowledged.

  16. richb
    June 28, 2014, 3:35 pm

    link to pcusa.org

    I feel for our moderator and stated clerk. First they sent out an open letter and now this, wrongly assuming that this will allow us to go forward. If liberal Zionists were smart they would declare victory and move on. Past behavior indicates that this won’t happen.

  17. yonah fredman
    June 28, 2014, 7:42 pm

    Larry Derfner is a brave man. But J Street is not going to disappear overnight, nor is it going to change into Derfner’s image. J Street was designed specifically to give support to the Obama administration, that if push ever came to shove, J Street would offer Obama cover in the Jewish community to push for his peace plan. But Netanyahu was stronger than Obama, or shall we say that the need for campaign funds was stronger than Obama and Obama withdrew from his original intentions to make a peace by pressuring Israel. Round two was Kerry seeking a way to make peace by pressuring Israel. Now that has failed also. Organizations do not have the flexibility that Derfner as an individual has. J Street was created to be a support for a presidential effort and not a chorus in support of BDS with limited goals. That’s not what it was created for.

    In fact J street has a limited lifespan to react to the change implied by the failure of Kerry. I would give it four years. Meaning, a presidential election and finding whether it has the ear of the president and if it does then it can seek to play a similar role with the next president or if it does not have the ear of the next president then it will have to reformulate itself. But an organization that was formed to play a role in the nexus between Congress, the president and the Jewish community, right now trying to shore up its street creds with the Jewish community and its crisis though already apparent will not become critical until its relation to the next president is established and then it will have to redefine itself if the next president is closer to the status quo than Obama was at the time that he entered the presidency. Yes, those who believe in BDS as the only way that Israel is going to change, certainly have the right to accuse J street of being Aipac Lite, but in fact organizations cannot turn on a dime and I give J street another 4 years.

    • James Canning
      June 28, 2014, 7:44 pm

      Obama failed to back Hillary Clinton when she tried to stop the growth of the illegal colonies of Jews in the West Bank. Dennis Ross apparently played a key role in this great blunder.

  18. CitizenC
    June 28, 2014, 9:36 pm

    This is somewhat off-thread, the source for Chomsky’s statement that BDS cannot be imposed on Israel because Israeli Jews would disapprove. I am unable to enter it on the item about 3 critical responses to Mondo’s account of the Presbyterian divestment vote, where it arose.

    The statement was made in a well-known interview given to Christopher Lee in Safundi, 10 yrs ago. Jeff Blankfort cited it in an informative piece on Chomsky written shortly afterward. Jeff discusses Chomsky on BDS and much more in this longish article, which appeared in Left Curve.

    I have no interest in an extended exchange (or any exchange) on this, but Mondovians should know what Chomsky said.

    link to leftcurve.org

    • Shingo
      June 29, 2014, 3:20 am

      Chomsky’s statement that BDS cannot be imposed on Israel because Israeli Jews would disapprove

      Quite extraordinary in light of his suggestion that a more appropriate boycott would be of the US arms industry. According to his logic, that wpukdn’t work anyway because the arms industry would disapprove.

      • Hostage
        June 29, 2014, 1:43 pm

        Quite extraordinary in light of his suggestion that a more appropriate boycott would be of the US arms industry.

        Quite extraordinary since CitizenC made-up the part about “Israeli Jews”, who aren’t actually mentioned in that passage from the interview. You overlook the parts of Chomsky’s reply to Barat where he says: Yes, those [the tactics and aims of the 2005 BDS call to action] are all the right things to do, but why don’t you boycott the US, . . . & etc.? When Chomsky advocates cutting off the billions in foreign assistance, weapons, and tax-deductible donations it’s not an empty gesture or something the international community hasn’t called for in UN resolutions adopted under the auspices of “Uniting for Peace”. The foundation is there in international law, so I wonder about the people who criticize the proposition in apparent bad faith.

    • Hostage
      June 29, 2014, 12:49 pm

      I have no interest in an extended exchange (or any exchange) on this, but Mondovians should know what Chomsky said.

      It doesn’t take one, because he was talking about a grassroots call from the Palestinian victims in Israel, and never said that sanctions couldn’t be applied if the Zionists disapproved. He compared it to the situation in South Africa, where the victims themselves had called for sanctions, knowing that they would suffer from them along with everyone else. Chomsky never suggested that the officials of the South African apartheid regime had to approve of the sanctions or ever called for them.

      FYI, there wasn’t even a Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) until 2007 or a call to action in 2004 when the interview took place. The portion of the interview you are talking about was prefaced by Chomsky remarking that Israel didn’t have to hide what it was doing, because there are no sanctions (the interviewer never discussed BDS or a boycott, just “sanctions”). Chomsky said that it was premature to adopt sanctions against Israel, until such time as the people of Israel called for it themselves, as they had in South Africa, because sanctions hurt everyone in the targeted country. He said that when there was support like that for BDS, international corporations and other governments would get behind it. FYI, we’ve long since crossed that threshold. The government of Israel made it a civil offense to call for a boycott, because a sufficient number of Palestinian Israeli parties, organizations, academics, and individuals working together with like minded non-Palestinian Israeli academics, organizations and individuals have subsequently endorsed or called for sanctions. Chomsky also said that sanctions should be applied to the US, because without its support, it would be over.

      It’s not very difficult to provide a link, Chomsky hosts the interview on his own website. link to chomsky.info

      • W.Jones
        June 29, 2014, 2:45 pm

        In the interview Citizen C linked to, Chomsky says about sanctions: Sanctions hurt the population. You don’t impose them unless the population is asking for them. So the first point in the case of Israel is that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.

        Why was it “obvious” that the population of the Israeli State was not asking for sanctions? Because Palestinians only make up 20% of the population. Since the remainder of the Israeli population are overwhelmingly Israeli nationalists, Chomsky demands that the nationalists demand the BDS campaign before he will accept it.

        If Palestinians were rioting, as you said, over Ali A’s father making peace between the Israeli State and Jordan, it is hard to think that they would not be in favor of BDS.

  19. notatall
    June 29, 2014, 3:43 am

    Chomsky’s view of BDS reminds me of a talk Finkelstein gave in Boston where he argued that it was a mistake to ask of someone more than he can give, and gave as an example his own willingness to give up his shirt to the homeless sleeping out-of-doors in the cold, but added that if anyone asked him to give up a spare room in his apartment he wasn’t ready, and so it would be a mistake to ask him. Evidently he identifies with those who have warm clothes and homes rather than those who lack them, just as Chomsky identifies with the zionists (in spite of his disagreements with them) rather than with their victims. It obviously never occurred to either of them that the movement is not about asking but about taking.

    • Shingo
      June 29, 2014, 3:53 am

      Chomsky’s view of BDS reminds me of a talk Finkelstein gave in Boston

      That’s goes without saying. Finkelstein is a protege of Chomsky, so when it comes to Israel, he will parrot pretty much anything Chomsky says. Think of Fink as a Chomsky mini-me.

    • Hostage
      June 29, 2014, 1:05 pm

      Evidently he identifies with those who have warm clothes and homes rather than those who lack them, just as Chomsky identifies with the zionists (in spite of his disagreements with them) rather than with their victims.

      A lot of people get angry at Chomsky or Finkelstein for describing the international consensus, as if they created it. Finkelstein was employing an analogy to explain that there is no international support for the right of return or resettlement. That ought to be obvious after 60 years. Rather than wait for monkeys to reproduce the works of Shakespeare or for the Israelis and Palestinians to stop killing people every day, he suggested that a consensus exists to end the armed conflict today and that tying a solution to that problem to the right of return amounted to fringe thinking, because that will only result in a prolongation of the status quo and solve neither problem. Even if you disagree, it’s still a fact that the international community is fed-up with the settlements and is adopting measures to sanction them, but it is completely silent about the issue of the refugees.

  20. weindeb
    June 29, 2014, 8:21 am

    I think from its inception J Street was at best a namby-pamby, gutless answer to AIPAC and such, and, as I tend to believe, was more likely a means devised to reduce the impact of truly progressive Jewish critics of Israel. With this latest manifestation, I hardly see any reason whatsoever of giving J Street the time of day or night.

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