A Seriously Wrongheaded Letter from J Street

Sometimes written material that enters the public domain is so wrongheaded that it cries out for refutation.  Such is the case with a recent letter put out by J Street.

For the uninitiated: J Street is a non-profit U.S. organization, a political PAC, and a registered lobby.  Even while billing itself as "the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans," it anticipates that many will scoff at this self-identification.  And so it also explains on its website and elsewhere that "J Street is redefining what it means to be pro-Israel in America."

Indeed.  One begins to wonder how far it is possible for organizations to go in advocating positions detrimental to Israel and still refer to themselves as "pro-Israel."

The material in question here -- "A Call to Action in the New Year" -- addresses rabbis.  I became aware of it via the discussion group for Conservative rabbis.  Undoubtedly, it also went out on lists for Reform and Reconstruction rabbis, as well as in other venues accessed by rabbis.

The letter, which is couched in religious terms, advances a simple thesis: Israel is headed in the wrong direction and runs the risk of losing her identity as a democratic state embracing Jewish values.  It falls, then, to committed rabbis in the U.S. to save her from herself. 

And how will they do this?  By "moving forward and actively working for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." 

I refer to this letter as wrongheaded, but I would never claim that it's not clever.  What better way to attempt to advance that "two-state solution" within the American Jewish community than by having rabbis advocate it to their congregations?  And during the High Holidays yet, when vast numbers of Jews who do not come to services at other times of year will be in attendance.    

As J Street explains, this must be done "in the name of our grandparents, and for the sake of our grandchildren."  A compelling premise, is it not?

But what is immediately striking about this letter is the internal contradiction upon which it is predicated.  It advocates action to "sustain Israel as a Jewish democratic state," but it refuses to respect Israeli democracy.  The Israeli government is in power as a result of free elections, as befits a democracy.  Similarly, members of the Knesset (Parliament) are voted in by the electorate.  Decisions regarding policies that affect the wellbeing of the State fall legitimately within the jurisdiction of that elected government and legislature.   And yet J Street has no compunctions about advising American rabbis to do an end run around the Israeli government because the policies of that government do not comport with what J Street advocates.  The arrogance reflected here is breathtaking.   

Clearly, J Street is not ready to acknowledge that the "two-state solution" is dead.  Or, to put a fine point on it, J Street refuses to grasp the fact that this "solution" has never truly been viable.  It was merely a chimera -- an illusion that was for a time eagerly embraced by many, including good numbers of Israelis.

The bottom line here is that the Palestinian Arabs never truly intended to negotiate the existence of a democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel.  To this day:

  • The PLO Covenant calls for Israel's destruction.
  • The Palestinian Authority lauds terrorists and honors them as heroes.
  • The PA-produced textbooks teach that jihad is laudable and use maps on which there is no Israel.
  • When one studies the words of Palestinian Arab leaders carefully, it is obvious that they seek all of Jerusalem, not eastern Jerusalem.  In fact, they are scrupulously advancing the fiction that there is no Jewish link to Jerusalem.
  • The PA is in off-again, on-again negotiations to form a coalition with the terrorist organization Hamas.

There is no hint of democracy within the PA: Mahmoud Abbas's term as president ran out in January 2009, and yet new elections have not been held.  Civil rights are practically nonexistent, and a proposed constitution looked to sharia law for its legitimacy.  With all this, the PA is severely welfare-dependant, relying on international donations and lacking the solid fiscal foundation that would be required of a state.

So exactly what sort of Palestinian state is J Street prepared to endorse as part of the "solution"?

Apparently, for all the hype, it doesn't matter a whole lot.  Democratic or not democratic.  Fiscally independent or holding their collective hands out.  For J Street, the overriding concern is that there should not be -- shock and horrors! -- a one-state solution (annexation by Israel of Judea and Samaria). For then Israel would not be democratic any longer.  We know this, because J Street tells us so.  And J Street cares so deeply about Israel and Jewish values that it cannot sit still and let this happen.

The concern here, presumably, is that Arabs incorporated inside Israel would not have full rights.  And in this assumption, as well, J Street exhibits enormous audacity.  For there are a variety of formulations that might be brought into play. The Arabs might be provided with enclaves of autonomy.  They might ultimately be enfranchised in Jordan.  Or they might simply be given full Israeli citizenship.

How the situation would ultimately be resolved, should Israel fully control the land from the River to the Sea, is not yet known with certainty.  But there is something else that can be predicted with a great measure of certainty -- and with this we come to the crux of the matter:

If a Palestinian state were to be founded, it would become a terrorist state. 

As it is now, the PA, which is enormously weak, provides semi-covert support to terrorists.  What keeps the situation from being worse is the presence of the IDF in Palestinian areas, operating to arrest terrorists and uncover caches of weapons.  This is something I'm willing to bet most of the rabbis who receive the J Street material are unaware of.  Were Israel no longer able to do this, the situation would explode.  And it would not be long until Hamas or even more radical jihadist groups would hold sway. 

What is more, in making room for that Palestinian state, Israel would be required to pull back to borders that are not defensible.  In other words, Israel's continued existence would be at risk.  Rockets would fly at Israel's airport and main population centers.

Only someone living in an alternate universe could possibly be ignorant of the current turmoil and radicalization of the areas surrounding Israel.  Look at Gaza and the Sinai and Syria.  Now, especially, Israel must guard her security interests and stand strong. 

But hey!  J Street and, presumably, its rabbinic disciples are quite content to risk Israel's ability to protect herself -- just as long as Arabs are not enfolded into the Jewish state.

I would care not a whit if J Street chose to hold fast to a chimera.  Except for this.  What we have here is a position that it would be difficult to defend morally. 

Arlene Kushner is an author, investigative journalist, freelance writer and blogger, working in Jerusalem. Her writing can be found at www.arlenefromisrael.info.

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