As we conclude the somber observance of Tish B’Av, the time when so many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people are recalled, it is perhaps not irrelevant that U.S. secretary of state John Kerry has returned to the Middle East.
Official reports claim Kerry has no plans to visit Israel, but, as Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu reported in The Jewish Press, Kerry met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas while in Jordan. It turns out he is also meeting with various Arab leaders who, according to al Jazeera, Kerry believes “are essential to his push to get Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks.” That’s right. Arab leaders to push – who? Who else, but Israel, to restart the “peace talks.”
Yes, although the entire Middle East is in turmoil, Egypt has just gone through a second revolution, nearly a100,000 have died in Syria’s ongoing civil war, one into which Lebanon is increasingly being drawn, Turkey is nearing the boiling point, Iraq continues to unravel and Iran is approaching nuclear weapons capability, leave it to a group of professional Jewish professionals to sashay into D.C. and tell the relevant congressional committees that now is the time for Kerry to kickstart the Arab-Israeli “peace talks.” And that’s what happened, just before Kerry left for the Middle East.
The Jewish group making the possibly worst-timed suggestion ever is the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).
According to its website, the JCPA has a tripartite mission: first, “to safeguard the rights of Jews here and around the world”; second, “to dedicate ourselves to the safety and security of the state of Israel”; and third, “to protect, preserve and promote a just American society, one that is democratic and pluralistic, one that furthers harmonious interreligious, inter ethnic [sic] interracial and other intergroup relations.”
From their mission, you might think that the safety and security of Jews and the Jewish state would be the primary focus of JCPA’s activities. But you might be wrong, as a quick look at their website makes clear. The JCPA’s focus is on liberal domestic issues. Israel and Judaism play a minor role.
JCPA CLAIMS TO REPRESENT THE ORGANIZED JEWISH COMMUNITY
Nonetheless, the JCPA can prioritize as it wishes and make whatever suggestions it wants to members of congress. But when the JCPA leaps over its goal to be something and starts proclaiming it is something, that is when people begin to bristle.
That’s news to a whole lot of American Jews who shared their response with The Jewish Press.
Because when the JCPA decided to meet with the House and the Senate foreign relations committees, asserting that the American Jewish community wants Kerry to focus on restarting the peace talks, that claim may have been heard as if it had far more weight than warranted.
Let’s put aside for the moment that when the JCPA went to congress to make its claims, it was double-dating with the American Task Force on Palestine. That’s something they do a lot. Again, whatever JCPA does is its own business.
But The Jewish Press asked a broad geographical cross-section of American Jews who are knowledgeable about the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, whether, as the JCPA asserts, it is the “representative voice of the organized Jewish community,” and if it spoke representing them when it went to congress urging the restart of the “peace talks” at this time.
In a word, no.
People in California, Chicago, Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York were asked to comment. Rabbis, architects, businesspeople, financial wizards, intelligence analysts, and Jewish communal leaders were asked to comment. They all said no, the JCPA does not represent them.
“They don’t represent me,” said Jeff Ballabon, the president of a New York consulting firm and the founder of the Coordinating Council on Jerusalem, a consortium of two dozen national pro-Israel groups.
“Israel has stated very clearly: there are to be no preconditions for starting the peace talks, so I have to wonder, why are these groups putting pressure on Israel? I don’t see how any American Jew who cares about Israel’s safety and security would be pushing this now,” Ballabon said.
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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