The Jerusalem Post reports today that JStreet, the only lobby dedicated to opposing and putting pressure on Israel, is claiming Hagel’s confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Defense a “victory.”
That’s funny, because JStreet is probably one of the Jewish organizations whose stance mattered least of all, and Hagel is a Secretary of Defense who’s approval was filibustered and who received the most nay votes in all of American history. If this is a show of JStreet power, then those of us who are actually pro-Israel have something to be thankful for.
And what was the battle that was won? JStreet lobbied for the President’s policy. Opposing the president in foreign policy is always an uphill battle. It doesn’t take an Israel lobby to get the president’s nomination through, especially when his party controls the Senate. (Though I admit, it’s useful to have Jews telling Americans to override their natural moral perspective on Israel-related issues).
But there is a victory in there somewhere – perhaps for clarity.
JStreet supported the president in his Israel policy, just as most of American Jewry has done since the days of FDR, when the American government did nothing to save millions of Jews, took part in an informal global conspiracy not to grant fleeing Jews refuge, and by acquiescing in British requests not to do anything which would force the British to let Jews into Palestine.
Jews like then ZOA president Stephen Wise did their best to defend Roosevelt against the “extremists.” Today those extremists include, ironically, the Zionist Organization of America, as well as the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel. Even more ironically, those whom the respectable Jews tried to silence were the Jabotinskyite Hillel Kook & Co., a group which included Irgun commander Yitzchak Ben Ami, the father of JStreet head Jeremy Ben Ami.
Take U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s support for Hagel. A word from Schumer, a senior Democratic senator, could have forced Obama to withdraw Hagel’s nomination. A word from AIPAC, which remained silent, could have forced Schumer to oppose the nomination or at least not publicly announce that all of his fears had been calmed in a short meeting with Hagel. AIPAC was silent because they need to work with the government – the classic Diaspora Jewish explanation for going along with anti-Zionist policies. Schumer put up no opposition – who knows why? Because he too wanted the President’s support for something? Because of party loyalty? Because he was duped with assurances that from now on Obama would leave Israel alone.
What should be clear now is that while JStreet may be a minor group, it is only doing what most American Jewish leaders already agree to, putting the president’s policy ahead of what common sense and Israel’s obvious interests dictate. American Jews support Democratic presidents. American Jews support Palestinian statehood. American Jews support all other sorts of Israeli concessions because they would rather have the moral high ground than the actual high ground. American Jews criticize Israel to show they are fair observers.
So congratulations, JStreet, you won before you even started! Perhaps you can save your breath, energy and George Soros’ and God knows who else’s money and go home.Daniel Tauber