Liberal Israel Lobby: Here, today!

J Street, the new lobby devoted to supporting Israel by supporting peace, goes public today. Here’s part of my column at The American Prospect:

Today’s public launch follows many months of organizing led by the new group’s executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, a media consultant and former Clinton administration staffer… Unlike existing Jewish peace groups, J Street is registered for tax purposes as a 501(c)(4) organization, meaning that it can operate fully as a lobby. A sister organization, J Street PAC, will endorse and raise money for candidates.

To win J Street PAC’s backing, Ben-Ami told me, a candidate’s position should be that “the single most important step to support Israeli security and U.S. interests is to reach a negotiated peace agreement, a two-state solution, between the Israelis and Palestinians. The group is looking for politicians who back policies of “engagement and diplomacy” in place of exclusive reliance on military options. Phrased less diplomatically, J Street seeks politicians who advocate a clear shift from the disastrous policies of the Bush years.

Read more here.

2 thoughts on “Liberal Israel Lobby: Here, today!”

  1. I don’t know exactly how this group is going to market itself (being for “Israel-Palestine Peace” sounds like being for motherhood and apple pie) but if they are going to go around claiming that “we, not AIPAC REALLY represent the Jews of America”, and that they take the line of Malley, Miller, Kurtzer and ther others that claim that peace can be achieved if only the US will lean hard enough on Israel, then this lobby is not going to go anywhere.
    It is important to remember an important fact. The large majority of American Jews simply don’t know what is going on in Israel. The majority of those who are deeply involved in such ways as visiting Israel frequently, contributing significant amounts of money, sending children to study in Israel and possibly making aliyah are right-wing and so this J-Street group is not going to speak for them. The majority which is not so involved mostly accepts the Israeli gov’ts position regarding security. Now groups like American Friends of Peace Now and the Israel Policy Forum will trot out polls showing that supposedly a majority of American Jews favor the creation of a “Palestinian State”. However, does this mean they favor leaning on Israel to make concessions damaging security interests in Israel and forcing Israel to expel hundreds of thousands of its citizens from Judea/Samaria and handing over Judaism’s holies places to hostile Palestinian forces? NOT NECESSARILY. They may support the creation of a Palestinian state as part of some sort of messianic, peaceful future, but in the messy present they may favor Israel standing firm and opposing any moves or pressure by the US which would harm Israeli security.
    Now suppose we have Congressman X who first hears J-Street saying that American Jews want pressure on Israel and far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians, then supposedly right-wing AIPAC (I really don’t know what their position is, but I am assuming that they generally oppose US pressure on Israel) shows up and then tell Congressman X that THEY represent the majority of American Jewry. This will confuse him, won’t it? But there are other considerations at work. The biggest on is that the large majority of the Amreican people support Israel and take a dim view of the Palestinians. Most Americans look at the Palestinians as supporters of terrorism and as having anti-American attitudes (e.g. films of Palestinians celebrating in the streets on 9/11). Most Americans view Israel as a natural ally of the US and the Palestinians as a more problematic group. Sure Congressman X wants to do what he can to help peace, but he most likely is going to view the Palestinians as the ones who need to do the most to show that they are ready for peace, like stopping support for terrorism and official state media incitement to violence, and that the American should lean on them hardest and not on Israel. In any event, the Arabs also have lobbiests working on their side, the Gulf Oil states have been pouring huge amounts of money into the American political system for years (e.g. the Saudis donating $20 Million to President Bush I’s presidential library, also giving millions to Jimmy Carter’s and Bill Clinton’s pet project, Saudi Prince Bandar giving a Jaguar automobile to then Secretary Of State Colin Powell’s wife as a “gift” and so on. Thus, there is no lack of people trying to help the Palestinian side and to pressure Israel. The fact that Congress has become so supportive is NOT due to some nefarious plot by “Likudnik neo-con right-wing AIPAC’ers” (as so many “progressive” Jewish bloggers claim) to control Congress, but because THIS IS WHERE THE VOTES ARE and this is the will of the American people.
    The US would be pro-Israel even if there wasn’t a single Jew living in the US. The American gov’t and Presidents were intervening to help Jews and were taking pro-Zionist positions already in the mid-1800’s (yes, the mid 19-th century) LONG before there were significant numbers of Jews in the US.

  2. Mr. Ben David : My totally verbal check-off poll of my Jewish friends,after my return from Israel,indicates that most of them have never been to Israel and don’t plan on going there.The group includes ,lawyers,doctors, and some college professors .this just”floored”me.

    Fortunately,most Americans don’t read about whats going on in Israel or care .They may have been excercised over “Bibi’s” statement about 9/11 .otherwise .I’m not I consider him to be a bright ,calculating politician, who makes provacative statements to keep the faithful in line. I think what he said may have been true in 2002,2003, and even 2004 ,not now. I equate “Bibi” to Rush Limbaugh,but certainly alot smarter.

    Obama,Clinton, and McCain have to repudiate Carter because they are running for office,Carter isn’t and doesn’t care what American Jews think about him. The polls say that most Americans are sick of the political “blah,blah, and the want election over,the Iraq mess taken care of, and “good times back again”,what wishful thinking.

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