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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘J Street’

J Street, Marginalized in D.C., Leeching into the Hillels

Friday, January 24th, 2014

The controversial organization J Street had its first annual conference in 2009.  The organization initially snagged a large number of members of congress to speak at the conference, and an even larger number to merely allow their names to be used as “co-sponsors” of its Gala. But when word got out that despite its self-description as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization, most pro-Israel folks – including the actual Israeli government – had quite the opposite view of the organization, many congressional members beat a hasty retreat.

J Street has had its public ups, and even more public downs, with Americans who believe themselves to be pro-Israel. There was the revelation that while J Street said the virulently anti-Israel George Soros was not a donor, in fact J Street’s tax records proved that not only he, but members of his family were bankrolling the organization. There was also the J Street claim that the vast majority of its donors were American Jews, when it was later revealed that there were quite a few non-Jewish donors, and actually the largest donor for at least one year was neither Jewish nor American.  The list goes on.

J Street has recently been reduced to publicly crowing not about how many members of congress were willing to speak at its conference, but instead how many were willing to take its money. Imagine that! your biggest achievement is that a politician was willing to take your money.

But as J Street was slowly eased out of its comfort zone in Washington, D.C., it proved itself to be very adaptable. It oozed out into the countryside, where it was harder to mobilize a critical mass of knowledgeable critics.  At least in part because of that diffusion, J Street found homes at the municipal level. The Big Tent approach of most mainstream Jewish Federations was a tremendous boon, even more so are the fecund, ultra-liberal, anti-authoritarian pastures known as university campuses.

While some Hillels were initially wary, others were welcoming.

One Hillel which initially responded to J Street’s approach very gingerly was the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, a Hillel whose campuses include not only the University of Pennsylvania, but also Temple University, Drexel University, Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College and Swarthmore College, as well as some smaller schools.

J Street approached HGP and asked to have the roll-out of its local J Streets hosted at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel, on Feb. 4, 2010. The roll-out was going to be webcast to 20 other cities across the country. The HGP leadership, anticipating the objection of at least some board members, extracted a firm commitment from J Street Chief Jeremy Ben-Ami. That commitment was an element of an agreement to rent the space to J Street as part of a business transaction. It was affirmatively not an ideological vote of confidence.

Not to worry, said J Street to the local Hillel leadership: “We promise not to mention that we’re using your facility, and to make clear in our written and oral statements that Hillel does not endorse us.”  That condition was agreed upon—it was “not just a promise, it was an agreement”—according to Rabbi Howard Alpert, the executive director of all the Philadelphia area Hillels.  On the strength of that essential agreement, Hillel went ahead and rented J Street its space.

And then? Within seconds of beginning his welcome to the live audience in Philadelphia and to all those listening and watching through the livestreaming, J Street’s Ben-Ami said exactly what he’d promised not to say—that he was speaking “here at Penn Hillel.” He failed to say a word about what he’d promised solemnly to make clear: that Hillel does not endorse J Street or its message.

Jewish Groups Remember Sharon as a Warrior and Peacemaker

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Jewish organizations in the United States and around the world remembered the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a military leader and a fighter for peace.

“His legacy is a more secure State of Israel, safe on its borders and resolved to put an end to the campaign of Palestinian terrorism once and for all,” Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Abraham Foxman, the national chair and the national director, respectively, of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “It is not only Israel, but the Jewish people, the U.S., and the international community who have lost a towering figure who offered hope to his people and the region.”

Sharon died Saturday at 85 after eight years in a coma following a massive stroke.

Josh Block, president of The Israel Project, called Sharon an “embodiment of the Jewish state and a heroic protector of her people who will be remembered not only for his strength, but for his courage in pursuit of peace. Sharon’s contributions to bolstering the U.S.-Israel relationship made both nations safer, and kindled the bonds of democracy, liberty, and shared values that we care so much about.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council in a statement called Sharon “a true defender of Israel.”

J Street, the left-wing pro-Israel advocacy organization, said in a statement that “Sharon deserves credit for the intellectual journey he took during his life and for having the courage to lead. His incapacitation, when at the height of his powers, leaves the challenge of making peace to be fulfilled by his successors, notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now was able to praise Sharon only after she accused him of as a man who “initiated war,” without explaining what war Israel ever initiated.

“Israelis today are saying farewell to a bold leader who toward the end of his political career was transformed from a staunch hawk who initiated war and provocative belligerent actions to a leader who recognized that Israel’s strategic interests lie in an agreement with the Palestinians,” she stated.

DeLee added, “As the sister organization of Israel’s peace movement, Peace Now, we can only hope that Sharon’s pledge would serve as inspiration for the current and future leaders of Israel.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said in a statement that Sharon “will be remembered as a true friend of The Jewish Agency, as a military man, a leader of Israel, a statesman, and a genuine partner of world Jewry.” He said Sharon “invested tremendous effort in strengthening Jewish identity, increasing aliyah (immigration to Israel), and combating anti-Semitism around the world.”

Sharon was a “fighter for his country in times of war and a fighter for peace,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, in a statement.

The Jewish Federations of North America in its statement from Chairman Michael Siegal and President Jerry Silverman said, “Ariel Sharon was a highly regarded military leader, but he was also a peacemaker. One of the country’s most daring and celebrated generals, he was also a man who was able to take bold steps in the hopes of achieving peace.”

Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

There have already been several reports of the ruckus that occurred during a talk entitled, “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?” which was held at the 92nd St Y in Manhattan Monday night, Dec. 16.

But no accounts thus far examine the role of the audience in inciting a panelist to get up and walk out of the event.

There were first hand accounts by John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and the panelist who walked out of the event, and another by Jane Eisner, the editor of the Daily Forward, who was the moderator of the event.

The other two panelists were Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, and David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee.

One account can be found on this website.  Haaretz and the New York Times weighed in with their own versions, based, loosely, on the earlier accounts.

The rabidly anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss headlined the story “Podhoretz leaves 92nd St Y stage after saying Swarthmore Hillel deserves to be ‘spat on.’”

Over on planet Mondoweiss, the editor was so eager to prove his true lefty street creds he expressed outrage that the event was held without a single Palestinian Arab on the panel. He mused: “I wonder what liberal Jewish forum would have staged a debate on Jim Crow back in the ’60s without black leaders…” Earth to Mondoweiss: the topic for the evening was “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?”

WHY AND WHEN DID PODHORETZ EXIT STAGE RIGHT

Podhoretz admits saying that the decision by the Swarthmore “Hillel” to vote itself out of Hillel so it could sponsor anti-Zionists was their right, just as it was his right to (rhetorically, he claims) “spit at” the Swarthmore (former) Hillel group. This was the topic of discussion by several commentators.

But that isn’t when Podhoretz left the stage.

According to the accounts of the two participants, Podhoretz became agitated during the discussion of the recent American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

What happened was that although all of the panelists said they disapproved of the ASA boycott, J Street’s Ben Ami then began recounting what he said were Israeli policies that led people to believe that a boycott of Israeli institutions was appropriate.

PODHORETZ DEFENDS ISRAEL, AUDIENCE EXPLODES, ‘ENRAGED’

“You’re blaming the victim!” Podhoretz exclaimed.

To which the 92nd Street Y audience erupted into loud booing.

According to the moderator, Eisner, who is much closer to Ben-Ami’s Israel viewpoint than the others – having served as a co-chair of her local New Israel Fund regional council – there was not just scattered booing. She wrote in her blog on the topic that when Podhoretz accused Ben-Ami of blaming the victim, some “members of the audience became enraged.”

The audience was so disruptive with what Podhoretz described as a “prolonged bout of booing,” that he turned to the audience and asked with what he thought was obvious irony, “why don’t you also hiss?”

Eisner did not understand that Podhoretz was being sarcastic.  She wrote that “mystifyingly, the Commentary editor encouraged them, challenging them to boo and hiss.”

The audience also did not understand, or was not embarrassed by Podhoretz’s sarcastic effort to remind them they were adults listening to a panel discussion, not bloodthirsty members of a bullfight audience, howling for blood. We know they didn’t understand because their response was to hiss, along with the booing.

That appears to really be what tipped the balance.

It was with the audience hissing and booing, that Eisner claims Podhoretz raised his voice and wagged a finger at Ben-Ami. Eisner wrote: “That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.”

Podhoretz Storms Off 92nd Street Y Stage in Spat with J Street

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

See Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel for a better informed version of this story.

Commentary editor John Podhoretz stormed off the New York’s 92nd Street Y Stage Monday night in the middle of spat with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami but denied reports that he said “students at Swarthmore College deserve to be spat upon.”

Jewish Daily Forward Jane Eisner, who moderated a panel discussion on the term “pro-Israel,” wrote in her account of the incident that Podhoretz “lost it when a member of the audience asked about the American Studies Association’s announcement Monday that it would boycott Israeli academic institutions over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.”

Ben-Ami agreed that the ASA vote was “hypocritical” but then launched into a tirade against Israeli government policies, which he said “make it difficult for some Americans to believe Israel really does want peace with the Palestinians.” Podhoretz angrily replied, Eisner tried to calm tempers, and he then stalked off stage.

The Commentary editor wrote following the incident that he had a “bad night,” and he clarified his remark on spitting. Referring to the Hillel group at Swarthmore College, he wrote, “What I said was that if you advocate anti-Zionism, you are calling for the destruction of the homeland of my family. You are free to do so, and I am free to revile you and spit upon you.”

“This bit of hysterical rhetoric was not my finest verbal improvisation,” Podhoretz added, but he emphasized that he did not say anyone should be spat on. “Given that an organization cannot be spat upon, the flourish here, though admittedly stupid and in bad taste, was clearly and entirely rhetorical. Aside from that, I wouldn’t change a word of what I said, though.”

Netanyahu Apoplectic about Iran Sanctions Deal, J Street Euphoric (VIDEO)

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Israel is reeling from the one-two punch delivered by the United States over the past few days.

First was Kerry’s verbal abuse and threats towards Israel should the Jewish state not accede to the suicidal deal with the Palestinian Arabs being rammed down Israel’s throat by the American handmaiden. And second, news of the “deal” that the U.S. is plowing towards in which Iran gets to have its nuclear cake and be relieved of those pesky “biting” sanctions also.

Naturally, long-time cheerleader for the Palestinian Arabs – J Street – is raising its pom-poms, urging on the Iran no-sanctions deal.  They are also doing clean-up duty, trying to get those stragglers in the U.S. senate who are signaling resistance to shredding the sanctions before the Iranian nuclear threat is diminished, let alone gone.

Within hours of Netanyahu’s crystal clear speech that the deal between Iran and the west is a “bad deal, a very, very bad deal,” see the video, below, J Street sent out the message through thousands of emails, and on its website, urging Americans to tell their senators to “take a time out from moving ahead with new sanctions.”

And J Street’s phraseology is precious.  It seeks to position itself as closer to the true north of American Jewry, and points to “organizations that claim to represent the American Jewish community” as the outliers. J Street calls those organizations “hawks” who are undermining the president’s reasoned and thus far successful approach to dealing with Iran.

And in J Street’s email message, though not on its website, J Street represents itself and its ally, this administration, as the cautionary party, the one whose strategy will prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons, while those who disagree with the approach are increasing the chances of Iran going nuclear. J Street’s email message:

A nuclear-armed Iran would be a critical threat to the US, Israel, and global security.

That’s why we welcome reports of recent days’ progress in Geneva toward an agreement with Iran to begin freezing and rolling back its program.

And it’s also why reports that some in the Senate are considering moving a new round of sanctions legislation seems ill-timed and unhelpful.

What?

It is bad enough when J Street shamelessly and relentlessly push the Palestinian Arab propaganda line which claims Jews living and breathing beyond an arbitrary armistice line is the primary cause of unrest in the Middle East.

But when J Street throws its sheltering arms around the mullahs in Iran and tries to help browbeat members of the U.S. senate into easing Iran’s slide into the nuclear weapons club – a club whose doors should and must be shut to any nation that threatens to “exterminate” or “wipe off the face of the Earth” another nation, especially Israel – it makes it impossible to do anything but grimace at their tag line: “pro-Israel, pro-peace.”

White House Asks Pro-Israel Groups to Tone Down Iran Sanctions Talk

Friday, November 1st, 2013

The U.S. government is asking pro-Israel activists to reduce their public support for more sanctions on Iran just prior to another round of discussions on the issue between Iranian and world leaders. White House officials met with Jewish organizations including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, a pro-Israel official who attended the briefing said that the Obama administration does not “want the new [sanctions] to come out now.”

Additionally, the lobby group J Street said Tuesday that “moving forward with new sanctions now could severely undermine prospects for a diplomatic solution.” The statement “could have been written by the White House itself,” a source familiar with the meeting told the Washington Free Beacon .

Democrats in Congress have also drafted a bill designed to establish a panel to “review, assess, and make recommendations” regarding the prospect of increasing sanctions on Iran.

The Never-Ending Struggle for Jerusalem

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat may or may not be re-elected for a second term this coming Tuesday. But even his opponents had much to learn from a talk he delivered in one of his campaign stops this week, in which he briefly recounted aspects of the glorious history of Yerushalayim, the holy city.

His talk must be understood, however, in the light of the alarming tone taken by a senior Israeli government figure, considered to be close to – i.e., a mouthpiece for – Prime Minister Netanyahu. Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, speaking about the ongoing, very secret negotiations between top Israeli and PA negotiators, has a solution for Jerusalem that he would actually welcome and that the PA can also accept.

Hanegbi does not expect a breakthrough in the talks: “I don’t see the Palestinians adopting the red-line principles that the prime minister has set any time soon,” he said. “These principles include “no division of Jerusalem,” he reassured, as well as continued Israeli presence/control in the Jordan Valley and retention of settlement blocs – “the extent of which will be the subject of a major argument.”

What exactly does he mean when he says “no division of Jerusalem?” Speaking at the recent J Street national conference in Washington, Hanegbi said, “I think we will be able to give a good answer, a win-win answer, to almost every issue, including the Jerusalem issue.” Jerusalem wouldn’t actually be “divided,” he explained, but there would rather “be some creative idea that will allow them to have their own sovereignty in their neighborhoods and to declare whatever they want to declare about it, and we will have sovereignty over other parts.”

“We will never agree to the division of Jerusalem,” he said later, “but rather to creative solutions that will allow the city’s hundreds of thousands of Arabs, whom no one wants to become Israeli citizens, to become part of the Palestinian entity.”

If this is what a senior government figure feels is an acceptable approach to Yerushalayim – i.e., giving up, in one form or another, on large portions of Arab-populated territory in and surrounding the holy Jewish capital – then supporters of a united, Jewish Jerusalem have reason for concern.

One thing on which Prime Minister Netanyahu truly does insist is, of course, PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. He has repeatedly explained that the reason this is so critical is so that the PA will be able to demand neither its own national rights in Israeli territory, nor the return of Arab refugees into Israel – so as not to threaten the country’s Jewish majority.

No Arab National Rights

Keep in mind that the San Remo Resolutions, unanimously confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, made sure to grant the Arabs of the Holy Land individual civil and religious rights – but specifically not those of a national political nature. Calling for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” it emphasized that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

The League of Nations itself resolved to recognize “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and… the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” No such recognition of Arab rights in Palestine was granted.

Back to Mayor Barkat. He alluded to King David, who turned the city into the spiritual center it was destined to be ever since the Torah alluded to it as the “place that I [God] will choose.” King David also made it the political capital of the Jewish Nation, while his son King Shlomo built the Holy Temple there. The structure was so impressive that it totally bowled over the visiting Queen of Sheba (Kings I 10:5). No wonder even the Arabs call the city “Al-Quds,” short for “Bait al Makdis,” or Beit HaMikdash.

No mention of Jerusalem’s history is complete without mention of the Second Temple; the Talmud states that whoever did not see it (at least in its later stages), “never saw a beautiful building in his life.” After it, too, was destroyed, the loving bonds between the Jewish people and their holy capital were detached – physically. All that was left was prayer, and throughout the coming centuries, the Jewish People prayed thrice every day for the return to Yerushalayim.

In 1948, it almost happened. The Jewish people returned from the four corners of the earth after nearly 1,900 years in exile, and re-established their long-destroyed national home. Yet, amazingly, one thing was still missing: The holy city of Jerusalem. True, the younger suburbs, known today as western Jerusalem, were in Israeli hands – but the site of the Temples and the original City of David were taken over by Jordan.

As anyone who has ever heard the song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav knows, this state of detachment between the Jewish nation and its City of Joy did not last forever: After 19 years, Israel liberated it and restored it to its People.

Let’s recall how this came about. Israel had been facing existential threats from its Arab neighbors for a number of months. “Israel’s existence has continued too long,” Cairo Radio broadcast in mid-May. “The battle has come in which we shall destroy Israel.” A few days later, Syria’s president announced, “We want a full scale, popular war of liberation… to destroy the Zionist enemy.” Iraq’s president, too, said, “Our goal is clear: to wipe Israel off the map.”

The liberation of Jerusalem was therefore not on anyone’s mind at that time (except perhaps for Rav Tzvi Yehua Kook, who, just three weeks before the Six-Day War, cried out prophetically against the absence of Judea and Samaria from Israel’s borders). Instead the concern was whether Israel would soon be annihilated, Heaven forbid.

Israel’s leaders informed Jordan’s King Hussein that if he refrained from attacking Israel, Israel would not attack him. But he ignored the warnings and on the very first day of the war launched multiple attacks on Israel. His forces shelled Tel Aviv suburbs, the Ramat David airfield, Netanya and Kfar Saba – and especially western Jerusalem, hit by thousands of mortar shells. It is not often remembered that 20 Israelis died in these attacks, 1,000 were wounded, and 900 buildings were damaged.

All this happened before Israel took any military action against Jordan and its hold on Jerusalem or the west bank of the Jordan River. Only on the third day of the war was the command given to liberate Jerusalem, and the Jewish nation was reunited once again with its beloved holy city. Because Jordan attacked without provocation, Israel’s response was an act of self-defense, and its new borders were the result of Jordanian aggression.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/keeping-jerusalem/the-never-ending-struggle-for-jerusalem/2013/10/17/

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