Is it really possible to get all of the most important information about the no-longer upstart, but still disingenuous J Street into a one hour film, one that provides sufficient background information for the uninitiated to be able to grasp just what could be wrong with the organization that promotes itself as “pro-peace, pro-Israel”? It is. The Boston-based Americans for Peace and Tolerance have done it.
Here’s how they did it with the film “The J Street Challenge.”
They used a secret weapon: truth.
In this hour long exposé, executive producer, director and writer Avi Goldwasser and his colleagues lined up everything J Street says, who runs it, who funds it, and reveals the organization to be nearly the inverse of what it claims to be. The film is worth it just to see acting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas say the exact opposite of what Jeremy Ben-Ami describes him as saying. Or to have another leader of the Fatah Central Committee refute entirely what J Street fellow traveler Naomi Chazan claims the Fatah leadership says. Or any of at least another half dozen blatant misrepresentations made by J Street to sell its version of reality.
But the most significant achievement of the film is that it explains what J Street, at its core, is trying to do. As Ben-Ami himself explains in one chilling segment, J Street is about redefining the meaning of pro-Israel.
Rather than accepting that the definition of being pro-Israel should be “unquestioning support for the government of Israel,”(can you hear the sneer come through as you read this? It comes through in the movie), here, in Ben-Ami’s own words, is the J Street re-definition of being “pro-Israel”:
We define it as the active, urgent action to facilitate the Two State Solution.
“Pro-Israel,” in J Street-speak, means pro-Two State Solution. And that’s all it means. To be perfectly blunt: for J Street, “pro-Israel” simply means “Palestine Now.”
That 3 seconds of the movie makes it well worth your time to find out where the movie is playing and then going to watch it. And bring with you every parent, grandparent and college and high school student you know. Because they all need to see this film.
Once it becomes clear that for J Street, the definition of “pro-Israel” is forcing Israel to adopt the J Street goal – which may have absolutely nothing to do with what is best for Israel, for the United States, for the Middle East, or for anyone other than J Street – you will be far better prepared to respond to the smoke and mirrors that are being used in an attempt to “redefine” pro-Israel as demanding the creation of a Palestinian State. Right Now. Without any other objective.
Avi Goldwasser, the producer of “The J Street Challenge,” told The Jewish Press that the movie was made “in response to what we perceived as a one-sided discussion, dominated by J Street spokespersons, about the relationship between the American Jewish community and Israel.”
In the half dozen years of its existence, J Street has used its millions of dollars (some coming from non-Jews, from non-Americans, and even from some Israel haters!) in financial resources, public relations and marketing know-how in an attempt to re-orient the way American Jews think and talk about Israel and the conflict in the Middle East.
“We wanted to provide the community with the most articulate scholars, writers and activists about the subject,” Goldwasser explained.
Once it becomes clear that the J Street definition of being pro-Israel is only about promoting the single product they are selling, you are already in a much better position to deal with the promoters.
But the film also does several other very important things.
It educates the audience about the J Street methods. A very cursory explanation, and it really is done well in the movie, is that J Street has a single product to sell. Its product is what it calls the “Two State Solution.” And because the word “solution” is part of it, you have the added benefit of having “the answer” and the answer, as far as the J Street media campaign, is “peace.” What could be easier to sell? Especially to a war-weary people?
J Street sells that product just as any good marketer would sell any product. First, you give it the veneer of desirability, and then you promote everyone connected to that product as consequently being desirable. And anyone who is peddling something else, even reality, is just wrong. Because, you see, their product is peace, so if you criticize J Street, you must be anti-peace.
It sounds so simplistic. The marketing is close to brilliant.
The “J Street Challenge” does, as Goldwasser promised, bring together a number of extremely articulate, knowledgeable scholars, activists and journalists, who help unwind the magical marketing mystery of J Street.
The other gift the movie delivers is a helpful understanding of how it is that J Street’s message and methods have found such a willing audience. The scholars include Ruth Wisse, of Harvard University, and Richard Landes, an historian at Boston University, Rabbi Daniel Gordis – a brilliant writer – and several others who help to explain why American Jews are so susceptible to the dulcet tones of the J Street message.
Watch Landes, in particular, explain the propensity towards moral narcissism, the addict’s need to feel as though he is morally good, which is far greater than the need to actually do something that is morally good, or to deal with hard facts rather than squishy ideology.
As several in the movie point out, including Noah Pollak, Landes, Wisse and Caroline Glick, if American Jews are told that what is preventing peace is their own people, then they can fix it. This is like the child of abusive parents who blames himself for the problem. In this way, the child can control the abuse.
Jews desperately want to believe that they cause the attacks on the Jewish State – because then, to get real peace, all they have to do is pressure their own government into making sure the Israeli government does the right thing.
“The J Street Challenge” was shown for the first time – in a sold out show – in Miami on Monday evening, Feb. 17. Afterwards, Dr. Charles Jacobs, a consultant on the film and the head of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, spoke with The Jewish Press.
“I was happy to see so much interest and also the enthusiastic response. The discussion afterward was exactly what we hoped for, vital, public discussions on fundamental, controversial topics which need a public airing. As we saw on Monday, there is a desperate need for this opportunity.”
The movie is a must see. Every Jewish community, every shul, every JCC, Federation, JCC and college campus should show it.
J Street responded to the film in a terse statement on its website. J Street claimed the film contains “numerous inaccuracies, distortions and outright lies.” But none are identified or refuted, not one.
They don’t want to waste their energy responding? Fair enough. But the J Street statement also claims that they “are also eager to advocate for our positions in public forums. We have engaged in many debates in the past, including with some of our critics who were interviewed in this film, and stand ready to do so again in the future.”
Excellent. Show the film at J Street meetings, and especially at the J Street U groups on college campuses. Let’s see how willing J Street is to address reality, rather than just engage in ad campaigns and media manipulation.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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