J Street, a recently formed Jewish lobby that describes itself as "pro-peace" and "pro-Israel,'' finally has shown its true colors in an escalating row with Israel's Embassy in Washington and with its ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.
Before Barack Obama entered the White House, J Street took strong issue with Israel's counter-terrorism offensive against Hamas in Gaza last winter, demanding an immediate cease fire before Israeli forces could stem an eight-year barrage of thousands of rockets aimed by Palestinian terrorist at civilian targets in southern Israel.
Then, after January 20, J Street trumpeted its all-out support for the president's ill-advised pressure on Israel to institute a complete construction freeze in Jewish neighborhoods in the eastern part of Jerusalem and in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In taking this position, J Street not only broke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also with the policies of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert. Both already had put in place a complete halt to new settlements in the West Bank and a ban on expanding their boundaries. But each insisted that Jews could live anywhere in Jerusalem, Israel's unified capital, and noted that many Arabs also have moved into Jewish neighborhoods.
These and other J street positions prompted an Israeli Embassy spokesman to express "concerns over certain policies (of J Street) that could impair Israel's interests."
It was the mildest possible reproach, but it prompted J Street's executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, to fire off a blistering reply in an open letter to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. Here are the salient passages of that letter:
"We too have our own serious concerns over the policies of the present Israeli government and its impact not just on Israel's interests but on our interests as Americans and as American Jews. As Jews who care about Israel, we fear that, on Israel's present path, we will see our shared dream of a Jewish, democratic home in the state of Israel slip through our fingers.
"As Americans, we worry about the impact of Israeli policies on vital U.S. interests in the Middle East and around the world.
"Finally, as American Jews, we worry that the health and vitality of our community will be deeply affected by what happens in the region, how the world perceives Israel and by how our community here at home deals with increasingly complex conversations around Israel."
One doesn't have to read between the lines to get the purport of J Steet's message. It's nothing less than an attempt to revive the old canard that Israel stands athwart U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond.
As the far-left voice of J Street, Ben-Ami takes dead aim at Netanyahu's government, even though its diplomatic and security agenda does not differ materially from that of the previous centrist-led Kadima government of Ehud Olmert.
Never mind also that Netanyahu's stance with regard to the Palestinians is widely embraced across Israel's entire political spectrum -- from Labor on the left to Likud on the right.
Ben-Ami is so intent on driving a sharp wedge between Israeli and U.S. interests that he totally ignores multi-layered security ties that bind Washington and Jerusalem -- from missile defense to intelligence sharing to thwarting terrorist threats from Hezb'allah and Hamas.
This close cooperation is rooted in consistently strong support of Israel by America's electorate. In August, a Gallup poll showed sympathy for Israel at 58 percent, while sympathy for the Palestinians was in the single digits at 8 percent. In the same month, a Rasmussen poll found that 70 percent of Americans view Israel as a reliable ally (not the liability painted by Ben-Ami). No other country in the Middle East got that high a number.
Not content to peddle a fictional incompatibility between U.S. and Israeli interests, Ben-Ami then goes on to depict Israel as a threat to "the health and vitality" of the U.S. Jewish community. This is nothing but another attempt to revive baseless fears that, if Israel exercises its right to self-defense, American Jews will be at risk. Ben-Ami can conjure up such a Halloween scenario only because he is far less interested in Israel's security than in "how the world perceives Israel."
Finally, take a look at Ben-Ami's doomsday scenario for Israel. On its present path, he warns, the "dream of a Jewish democratic home in the state of Israel" will be gone. The fact, of course, is that if Israel were to deviate from its current path and shape its security according to J Street and world opinion, Israel definitely would be a goner.
Also telling is Ben-Ami's refusal to describe Israel as a Jewish state. In his words, he envisages it instead as a "Jewish, democratic home in the state of Israel."
J Street's agenda thus is to turn Israel into a state in which Jews might find a home -- leaving plenty of room for a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and a bi-national state that dare not identify itself as Jewish.
How far left is J Street? President Obama has no trouble describing Israel as Jewish state. J Street does.
That's J Street's real meaning of "pro-Israel" when you strip away its phony label. Jewish sovereignty sticks in its craw.