Lies, Damn Lies, and J Street
A film is coming your way called The J Street Challenge. If you don't see it coming your way, say something to your pastor, rabbi, or librarian to insist that it be shown.
A production of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, with APT's Charles Jacobs as special consultant; produced, directed and written by Avi Goldwasser and Ilya Feoktistov, The J Street Challenge lines up a phalanx of illustrious academics and activists to expose the deception, the lies, and the anti-Israel animus behind J Street. But the film is not a snooze-parade of talking heads; ideas -- important ideas -- are supplemented with illustrations, maps, videos, and images both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
The film opens with shots of terrorism against Israel, and then, a veritable deus ex machina, breaking through the tumult, from on-high comes the voice of Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, crying, "We want this conflict to end!"
Well, that certainly gets your attention. Who doesn't want the conflict to end? But Ben-Ami knows the way. Ben-Ami and others, including George Soros, founded J Street in 2008, to (according to their website) "provide a home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who believe that a 'two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel's survival as the national home of the Jewish people and as a vibrant democracy.'"
"The majority of the people on all sides," he says in the film, "share a desire for a peaceful world for their kids and their grandchildren. They want to figure out how to compromise in order to live together in peace."
He's slick, no doubt about it; but can he really be preaching to the Jewish people about peace? Harvard professor Ruth Wisse retorts, "One of the most seductive messages to the Jewish people, for the last two centuries at least, has been the message of peace." And she puts "the conflict" in perspective:
There is no such thing as an Arab-Israeli conflict. There is an Arab war against Israel. There is an Arab war against the Jewish people's right to a state. It is the conflict of over twenty countries, with an enormity of land, more land than they know what to do with, that refuse to allow one people its sliver of land.
Ben-Ami, however, wants a slice of that sliver. A piece for a peace. "Israel's long-term security depends on fulfilling the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a two-state solution," he says. And further:
We believe that the Palestinians too must have a national home of their own, living side by side with Israel. This is in Israel's interest, in America's interest, and it is right and just.
In other words, says Daniel Gordis, vice-president of Shalem College, "J Street advocates a complete exit from the West Bank without alerting anyone to what the real dangers are." Or as Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens says,
The moment Israel withdrew from the [Gaza] Strip entirely, the rocket fire didn't abate; it expanded. The Palestinians didn't take the greenhouses so generously left by the Israeli settlers. They trashed them. The Gaza Strip did not become a showcase for Palestinian moderates to prove what they might do with a state -- turn Gaza into a little Hong Kong or Singapore, or Dubai even. They turned it into a giant terrorist entrepot.
And, he adds, "I'm not against a two-state solution, if the other state is Canada. Do we think Israel should be party to the birth of the 23rd Arab state, another Iran hard on its borders?"
The map created by J Street's two-state solution is displayed, ironically showing just how vulnerable Israel would be, reducing the country's narrowest width to nine miles, its population centers open to rockets, missiles, and worse. And even more scarily, it shows how insane it would be to surrender control of the Jordan Valley, creating essentially a land bridge from Baghdad to Tel Aviv. As Charles Jacobs comments, "This is a map that will enable the Arab world to see Israel's total vulnerability. No sane country would ever do this."
Just then, as if in confirmation, a video of a prominent Fatah member is interposed, in which he says, "What will be with Israel? Israel will come to an end."
When it comes to carving land out of Israel, Ben-Ami out-Obamas Obama. "It is up to us to get Israel back to the 1967 lines, and we must push our leaders to do what is right. We do support the president's vision for two states, but we do think he could be pushing harder. That's part of our call to action."
As Ruth Wisse says, "So we can't convince the Israeli electorate, but we can circumvent them to pressure the Israeli government from the United States?" Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, calls J Street's position "imperialistic": "They know they can't sell their ideas in Israel, so they sell them in Washington, pushing the government to pressure Israel." It is not as if they don't realize, according to Richard Landes, professor of history at Boston University, that "this pressure on Israel amounts to, literally, a genocidal threat."
It was after the Arabs lost the Six-Day War in 1967 that they began to shift their focus to an ideological war, cloaked in Marxist language about colonial rule. They also began to talk about a Palestinian identity. The conflict has now narrowed down to vilification of Israel's "occupation," adopted by the universities, the media -- in short, the Left. It is a mainstay of J Street's raison d'être. Again, Ruth Wisse:
Since that so-called "occupation" was the consequence of the war against Israel, it cannot retroactively have become its cause. So anyone who claims the "occupation" of those territories is the reason for Arab aggression against Israel is simply inverting historical reality.
Ben-Ami's repertoire is stocked with rusty clichés:
We raise our children to not treat other people the way we want not to be treated ourselves, but we make a real mistake if we tell those children to check their Jewish values at the door of Zionism.
To which Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz replies:
The greatest Jewish value of all is pikuach nefesh, the saving of lives, and that includes the protection of the 6 million Jews who now make their home in the Jewish state. Anything that undercuts Israel's ability to defend itself against nuclear or terrorist attack is inconsistent with Jewish values.
But J Street knows only the one-sided blame game. Indeed, when J Street took its message to college campuses to establish J Street U, it found itself faced with students who were embarrassed about being Jewish, so instead of "Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace" they made it easier by simply dropping the part about Israel. What college student is not ardent about peace? As Ben-Ami speaks from aloft, "We believe that it is our role to repair the world. We must rouse our neighbors from indifference." Note that Israel is not even mentioned.
As Noah Pollak comments, "It is about a sort of tikkun olam, a confusion of religion and politics. The idea to keep in mind is that for them Judaism is liberalism and liberalism is Judaism." Richard Landes calls it "moral narcissism," an "overwhelming concern for being a nice person and really not caring about the consequences. In this way, you can completely identify with the people who hate you and consider you their mortal enemy."
Perhaps the most impressive response comes from young Samantha Mandeles, a campus coordinator for CAMERA. Responding to another stale canard from Peter Beinart, she says,
That's the good Jew, the Jew that helps everyone else, who puts others before themselves, who cares more about strangers than they do about family. If a Jewish student feels that repairing the world and being a universalist and progressive is equivalent to being Jewish, then they can forget being proudly Jewish and Zionist. They don't want to believe that other people have other world views….because their world views are all about pluralism, this utopia where everybody is the same, where there isn't anything to have a conflict about.
"J Street and J Street U," she continues, "insist on being considered part of the big tent of Jewish organizations that care about Israel. But they insist that these events are invalid if they don't criticize Israel, advocate BDS [boycott, divest, and sanction] and Israeli apartheid."
There is a hair-raising section in the film devoted to some of J Street U's scurrilous activities on various American campuses, including calls for subverting Birthright Israel, calling for Birthright to place more importance on the Palestinian narrative, and promoting trips for Jewish students to the grave of Yassir Arafat in Ramallah.
As the film shows, J Street has no qualms about its followers, who, says Ben-Ami proudly, include 600 rabbis. Some of his flacks, like Medea Benjamin and Naomi Chazan and other nasties, are shown in full cry here. J Street continues to back politicians, like Rep. John Dingell, who have shown themselves to be consistently anti-Israel. [See the J Street website for the entire list] In 2013, J Street enthusiastically supported the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.
Ben-Ami's donors include, in addition to George Soros (a fact that Ben-Ami hid for years) a number of pro-Palestine figures; Genevieve Lynch, who is an official of the National Iranian-American Council, sits on the J Street finance board. According to Lenny Ben-David, a former deputy chief of the Israeli embassy in Washington, fifty per cent of J Street's budget comes from outside the United States, a fact Ben-Ami also lied about.
There is much, much more in this well-made, provocative film -- provocative enough that Jeremy Ben-Ami, ordinarily an unseemly publicity hound, declined to be interviewed. Don't miss it.