Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Summing up days 1 and 2 of the J Street conference

Ron Radosh is one of several conservatives I follow who is attending the J Street confab as media. Here's part of his summary of day 1.
After softening up the audience with constant praise of their group, Saperstein suddenly turned and presented a tactical criticism that did not go over well with the surprised audience. How, he asked, should we apply our values? How do we decide when to make tactical decisions that do not have great support in America’s Jewish community? “When,” he asked, “do we push the envelope?” Saperstein then let the audience know he was referring to the organization’s recent decision to favor the recent UN resolution condemning Israel, which the Obama administration vetoed in the United Nations.

J Street, he told the delegates, was a group of the center-left that embodied people on various parts of that spectrum. They could not win their fight, he suggested, unless they kept the center and got more, not less, support from it. By not supporting the U.S. veto, he told them, they became “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Many centrists who had supported them have broken ranks and dropped out of J Street. “We,” he said, “made them move away from us.” J Street therefore pushed the mainstream of the Jewish community away from them, rather than towards them. This meant that when they said the right things, they would have little impact, since the Jewish community would not trust them.

Saying that he understood that J Street’s leaders made a tough call, Saperstein argued that if they had supported the veto, they would have been in a position to wage a successful call for a new movement in America to oppose Israel’s settlements. Now they were undercutting their own program to help the Obama administration advance the peace process.

Saperstein, in other words, was saying that J Street should have tactically not taken the position they believed in, simply because they lost potential allies in doing so. He said they needed to wage an effort to fight the Tea Party and those who wanted to end U.S. foreign aid and especially aid to Israel. Claiming that he was concerned with those who wanted to delegitimize the Jewish state, he said they needed a broad tent that would give credibility to their effort to be both pro-peace and pro-Israel. They had to oppose those who sought to support the BDS campaign — boycott, divestment and sanctions — favored by many of the far left in America.

The pro-Israel forces, he concluded, needed their vision of a pro-peace position. This is not, he said, “a time for retreat, since our vision will prevail.” That vision, he ended, stood for “dignity, social justice, and peace.”


When the young man who introduced Peter Beinart spoke, he said Beinart inspired him, because while he loves Israel, he did not love its actions during the war in Gaza. Current policies of the Israeli government, Beinart said, were a moral failure and harmed Israel and put the country at risk. One had to wonder, what policies of Israel’s enemies, if any, does he think had the same effect? Does he really believe that a change to the “peace” policies he espouses would end Arab intransigence? Israel had to create a vibrant, democratic Israel — not the kind of Israel now led by the reactionary Netanyahu government. Then and only then could the true holy mission of the Jewish people be realized, he said.

The crowd seemed to love it. As for myself, I wondered how this arrogant, so-called pundit had the nerve to tell the Jewish Israelis what was in their interest, and to tell them that he knew more than those who elected the center-right government what was in their own best interest. Beinart had not one word to say about the actual threats facing Israel from the new Middle East being created as we speak, from Iran, and from the very real threats to Israel from radical Islam.

The latter is hardly a surprise, since J Street’s own statement of principles says it opposes “efforts to demean and fan fears of Islam or of Muslims.” In their eyes, evidently, any criticism or mention of radical Islam is verboten, since it reflects the kind of understanding liberals and the left can never comprehend.
And here are some highlights of day 2.
The Palestinian Authority, Serry said, was developing solid reforms, and they had to be met by similar actions by Israel, especially that of rolling back Israel’s settlements. Palestinian statehood, Serry argued, was not sustainable unless Israel gave up Palestinian land it held in its own hands. Hebron, he said as an example, needed more land to expand and to create viable living arrangements for its Palestinian population. In making their demands known, he told the audience, Palestinians had to make a “root-and-branch” commitment to non-violence. And supporters of the Palestinians’ goals, a group he clearly thought included J Street, had to urge that Israel end its blockade of Gaza. Israel, he said, could not punish Palestinian children because of its own dispute with Hamas.

There must be, he ended, no expansion by Israel of existing settlements.

Next to speak was Ron Pundak, who began by saying that he might be a minority of one in Israel, but he would nevertheless present his ideas, however little they might be representative of the organization to which he was now speaking.

In Israel, Pundak complained, no discussion of what was really necessary was taking place. The “right-wing government,” as he called Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu’s administration, was “obsessed with the past, and saw any criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Israel.” Bibi, he went on, “has nothing to say and uses hard words,” but the substance of what he says is virtually nothing.

Today’s Israeli regime, Pundak said, was jeopardizing the Zionist dream he and others grew up with. If Israel did not pursue a real and honest peace — which he evidently thought it was not doing — later on there would no Israeli prime minister around to accept a genuine offer of peace when it might be made. To great applause, Pundak said the millions of Palestinians living in the area had to be citizens of their own state, a policy he argued the majorities of Israelis favor. But without real leadership, he warned, there could never be such an outcome.

Turning to the vital issue of Iran, Pundak actually argued that Iran was being used as a pretext by those who did not want a Palestinian state to stop trying to attain peace. The Iranians were indeed trying to gain a nuclear capability, Pundak said, but they were not intent on annihilating Israel. Clearly, the words of Ahmadinejad meant nothing to him, nor did the worries of prominent Israelis like the historian Benny Morris. “Israel,” Pundak said, “can live with a nuclear Iran and it must not base its policies on a worst-case scenario.” Thus, it should not be looking for new enemies as an excuse not to make peace. In Pundak’s vision, clearly, Israel had no real enemies, and it was only the Netanyahu government who pronounced that they did. For example, he said that the Israeli government was now “creating Turkey as a future new enemy,” ignoring the growing Islamic orientation and new alliances of the Erdogan government. Such an Israeli government, Pundak said, could not reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians. It was the responsibility of Americans, therefore, to push the Obama administration to favor this course.
Pundak is one of the people who ought to burn in hell for resurrecting the PLO at a time when it was dead. Pundak was one of Shimon Peres' poodles who went to negotiate with the PLO in secret in Oslo in 1993 at a time when it was illegal for Israelis to meet with PLO representatives.

I'm not posting Radosh's summary of Mona Eltahaway's speech, because I already posted video of the entire speech.

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 9:30 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

J-Street is showing its true colors.

An organization that has a lot of anti-Israel speakers is neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace.

That says it all.


Post a Comment

<< Home