It’s disconcerting and sad to see American Jewish “progressives” frenziedly lobbying the American administration to pressure Israel for further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians.
To make matters worse, they understate – even obfuscate – their real game plan. They describe themselves as “pro-Israel,” “Zionist” and “moderate.” They lay claim to being the true custodians of peace, portraying other Jewish leaders and AIPAC as neoconservatives and extremists. While tempting to dismiss their behavior and Orwellian doublespeak as naive and inconsequential, recall that the sham Soviet peace fronts succeeded in duping many gullible well-meaning liberals into endorsing campaigns promoting totalitarianism.
It’s all the more bizarre because no one would suggest that the current Israeli government is “hawkish.” On the contrary, the Olmert government has lost the confidence of its people precisely because of unilateral concessions which undermine Israel’s security and embolden terrorists. His government is an amen chorus which capitulates to every demand imposed on it by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It has provided weapons to the Palestinians which will almost certainly once again be redirected against Israel; it has released and granted amnesty to terrorists; and despite bitter opposition from the IDF, it has closed checkpoints and acceded to demands compromising security which have already resulted in Israeli casualties.
Yet like a replay of the odious behavior of Haaretz editor David Landau, who told Rice that it would be his “wet dream” for the US “to rape Israel” for its own good, American “progressives” are urging their government to exert pressure on Israel for further unilateral concessions.
This is not a new phenomenon. For years the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) has been lobbying the White House to get tougher with Israel. They claim that in 1993, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin appreciated their support for his efforts to reach a peace settlement with Arafat. They fail to mention that in contrast to Olmert, Rabin did stand up to US pressure. Rabin would have exploded had he encountered Jewish organizations exploiting his name as a means to justify lobbying the US administration to exert pressure on Israel.
As far back as 2005, IPF president Seymour Reich boasted how his organization had successfully persuaded Rice to force Israel to make concessions on the Gaza border crossing – concession that have since resulted in the loss of Israeli lives.
More recently the IPF shamelessly lobbied the White House to press Israel to negotiate directly with Hamas. Reich wrote to Rice on March 21 that “no progress can be made if Hamas – the governing body in Gaza – is totally excluded from the process.” M.J. Rosenberg, IPF’s policy director, urged the U.S. to “be extending carrots and not just slapping them [Hamas] with sticks”.
The Progressive Jewish Alliance, another self-styled “pro-Israel” body, promotes exhibitions on US campuses of photo montages alleging the dehumanization of Palestinians by the Israeli army. They insist that their demonization of the IDF represent an expression of their love for Zion.
Now with great fanfare and endorsement by much of the US liberal media, we have a new “progressive” initiative: an amalgam of various far-left organizations and individuals spearheaded by “Americans for Peace Now” and “Brit Tzedek V’Shalom” to establish “J.Street,” a political action committee. Although proclaiming their intention to espouse “moderation” and bring “balance” into American Jewish leadership, their actual intent is to further US pressure on Israel and to undermine AIPAC, the highly effective pro-Israel lobby.
Such behavior is especially unconscionable since – aside from permits for extra housing to cope with natural growth in the densely Jewish populated settlement blocs implicitly endorsed by President Bush – the Olmert government has conceded to all US government demands. It has even discouraged AIPAC and American Jewish leaders from trying to neutralize State Department pressures on itself for fear of antagonizing the administration.
J Street also publicly opposes the use of force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities, which undermines Israel’s campaign to pressure Iran from going nuclear. In addition, J Street supports a swift withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, calls for direct dealings with Hamas and urges Jews to boycott Christian Zionists – Israel’s strongest allies. J Street intends to raise funds to provide $50,000 for selected Congressional candidates supporting these aims.
Aside from a number of respectable personalities under the illusion that they have associated themselves with a “moderate” body seeking to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, J Street is mainly supported by prominent far-left Americans and Israelis like Ron Pundak, architect of the Oslo Accord. One of its principal theorists is Daniel Levy, a former adviser to Yossi Beilin who trivializes Palestinian incitement to murder Israelis.
Former Jewish Agency chairman Avrum Burg, who has compared Israelis to Nazis and has urged the former to follow his lead and obtain European passports, is another notable J Street supporter. Burg’s ranting against his country is so vile that even most of his Israeli associates distanced themselves from him. Writing this week in Haaretz, Burg pushed the envelope further and provided a gift to anti-Semites everywhere by accusing AIPAC of imposing “dual loyalties” on American Jews and of “institutionalizing near-treason and turning it into an enormous octopus of a political mechanism with enormous dimensions and numerous victims.”
Another key Israeli supporter is David Kimche, a leading figure in Israel Policy Forum. Kimche was director general of the Foreign Ministry under Yitzhak Shamir, where I had regular dealings with him. In those days, not only was he a hawk, but he even had the reputation of savagely roasting any Jewish leader who dared question Israeli government policies. “We live and die by our decisions, while you sit and pontificate from your armchair,” he would say. Today he identifies with the extreme left. The Israel Council of Foreign Relations, which he heads, recently hosted a meeting in Jerusalem for ex-president Jimmy Carter, obliging the sponsor, the World Jewish Congress, to formally dissociate itself from the event.
The “progressives” will also try to capitalize on the fact that the Barack Obama campaign has embraced former ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer and appointed him Obama’s adviser on Middle East affairs. Kurtzer, a Jewish dove, previously urged the Administration to take a tougher line with Israel. In his just-released book – Negotiating Arab Israel Peace – Kurtzer refers to the withholding of loan guarantees from the Shamir government by the first President Bush as an example of how an American government can effectively bring Israel into line. He accused Dennis Ross – the Clinton-designated Middle East representative – of having been biased in favor of Israel. He even castigates the Clinton and Bush Administrations for not employing sufficient Arabists in the State Department.
The US is the only country capable of withstanding pressure from Arabs and their allies to isolate and delegitimize Israel. Thankfully, US public opinion and Congress has never been more favorably disposed towards Israel than today.
Yet over the past year, the Bush Administration has tilted from its former policy. Nor can we exclude the possibility of a future US administration distancing itself further from Israel.
It is therefore imperative that American Jewish leaders not underestimate the damage “progressive pro-Israel” groups can inflict, especially in light of the mainstream liberal media support J Street has enjoyed at its launch.
In the face of existential threats, Israel needs the support of America Jewry more than ever. While all are free to express their opinions, “peaceniks” who have the gall to call on the US to put the heat on Israel to act as they believe best, rather than what the citizens of that democracy have decided is, must be exposed as fringe groups outside the Jewish mainstream.
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