J Street is having trouble keeping its story straight when it comes to responding to Palestinian Arab terrorism. I guess when you don’t have a moral compass it’s hard to know which way to go.
This sordid chapter in J Street history began in November, when J Street suddenly changed the way it referred to Hamas. Until then, J Street’s press releases explicitly described Hamas as a terrorist organization. In fact, last year it specifically praised the European Union for putting Hamas on its official list of terrorist groups. But in a November 12 news release, J Street suddenly dropped the t-word. It repeatedly called Hamas merely a “militant group” and described its members are “fighters,” not terrorists.
I have no doubt the change was deliberate. J Street’s leaders are veteran public relations professionals, and they carefully choose every word that goes into every press release. The gentler, kinder label for Hamas had a specific political purpose. The J Streeters want Israel to make concession to Hamas, and they know that whitewashing Hamas’s terrorist image is necessary to advance that goal.
Then last week, Palestinian Arab terrorists shot a pregnant Jewish woman, Mrs. Shira Ish-Ran, murdering her prematurely-born baby. J Street’s press release was revealing – painfully so. It was half the length of other recent J Street news releases; for some reason, J Street didn’t have a lot to say about the subject. But what it did say was appalling. There was not a single acknowledgment that Palestinians were the ones who did it. According to J Street, there was a “terror attack” carried out by “perpetrators.”
The press release, dated December 10, said the attack “should be condemned by all responsible parties.” But it did not say specifically that the Palestinian Authority should do so. J Street finds it excruciatingly difficult to criticize the PA, because its goal is to create a PA-led state in Israel’s back yard.
That press release concluded with a grotesque bit of moral equivalency. “Acts of terror and brutality only lead to more suffering and violence for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” J Street declared.
But in the days to follow, two things happened. There were more Palestinian shootings, stabbings and bombings; and at the same time, J Street’s whitewashing of Hamas was exposed.
So the J Streeters went back to their typewriters and shifted gears once again. Its December 13 press release acknowledged that the attacks were “terror attacks by Palestinian extremists.” For some reason, they couldn’t bring themselves to use the term “Palestinian terrorists.”
J Street also reversed its position on Hamas again. The December 13 statement called Hamas a “terrorist organization.” Welcome to the 21st Century, J Streeters. And the press release directly called on the Palestinian Authority to condemn the attacks – obviously in response to criticism of J Street for not doing so in its previous statement.
But then the J Street leadership retreated to its familiar, time-worn position of moral equivalency – or perhaps it should be called immoral equivalency. “This violence ultimately only leads to greater suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the December 13 statement declared.
J Street has long been afflicted with a severe case of what I call “Both-sides-itis.” According to this warped version of reality, both sides must be guilty. Both sides must be to blame. Both sides are “suffering.” J Street’s leaders are incapable of telling good from evil, victim from aggressor. Because if they admit that the PA is the aggressor, then the goal of a PA state will be endangered.
I’m glad that J Street has once again changed its position and now admits that Hamas is a terrorist group, even if it had to be dragged kicking and screaming (by the uncomfortable spotlight of public embarrassment) to acknowledge that obvious reality.
The problem is that when you can’t tell right from wrong, it’s only a matter of time before you mix them up again. That would be tolerable if Israel were just an intellectual playground or a debating society. But it’s not. Israel is an actual country whose citizens are in danger every day, a country which would be in mortal danger if J Street is ever able to accomplish its goals.