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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Sunday, December 25.
1) 3 notes about J-Street

Nearly two years ago, Jeremy Ben Ami, in an op-ed for the International Herald Tribune, Tel Aviv Then and Now - wrote:
Jewish Americans — who remain deeply loyal to Israel and staunch defenders of its right to exist — now face conflicting winds blowing on two continents. An overwhelming majority share the politics and worldview of President Barack Obama and have rejected the Bush-Cheney neoconservatism that framed Middle East conflict in simplistic black and white. They recognize, as the new president said in Ankara this week, that security requires peace and that peace begins by “learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes to see through their eyes.”
Last week the Forward reported, J Street Accepted in Some, Not All, Cities:
It’s impossible to predict how the discourse on J Street will shake out, but one thing is certain: The battle over J Street’s acceptance is taking place at the most granular level of the Jewish community.
On November 16, Berkeley’s umbrella group for Jewish student life decided by a one-vote margin to bar the university’s chapter of J Street U from joining as a member organization. (The final tally was 10–9, with two members abstaining from the vote.) This was the first time a Jewish student group barred J Street U outright. But the organization has had a mixed reception when it has attempted to make inroads at other universities.
In February 2010, the University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel faced criticism when it hosted Ben-Ami for the national launch of J Street Local, the organization’s grassroots initiative. But rather than cancel the J Street event, Hillel hosted a lecture on another floor by an affiliate of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the establishment pro-Israel lobby whose stated position is never to criticize Israel’s government.
If J-Street truly represented a majority of American Jews, its acceptance wouldn't require these debates. Ben Ami's false claim about whom is group represents was one of his selling points. The resistance to J-Street - in Berkeley of all places - is evidence that his claim was hollow.

Congress has just restored funding to the Palestinian Authority, a move that was approved by Ambassador Michael Oren. J-Street is very happy:
“J Street welcomes Ambassador Michael Oren’s statement yesterday supporting the removal of the Congressional hold on $192 million in US aid to the Palestinian Authority appropriated in last year’s budget. We hope that the Member or Members of Congress behind the hold heed the Israeli Ambassador’s words.
Continuing to withhold these funds undercuts the PA’s efforts to build the institutions of statehood. Creating a functional, secure and thriving Palestinian society is essential to advancing the goal of a peaceful two-state resolution to the conflict. Israel’s ability to thrive as a secure, democratic and Jewish homeland is hurt when American politicians look to score political points by advocating policies many in Israel’s own security establishment consider counterproductive.
It is important to note that Israel still considers a formal unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas to be grounds for ending all aid to the PA. No word if the ongoing reconciliation talks constitute "build[ing] the institutions of statehood," that J-Street lauds.

Last week Jeremy Ben Ami wrote an op-ed, What 'pro-Israel' should mean. The Washington Post has now published two excellent responses, There’s no reason to redefine ‘pro-Israel’. Eric Rozenman of CAMERA wrote:
Instead, Mr. Ben-Ami tilted at “pro-Israel hawks,” among whom he included “most Republican [presidential] candidates” for their allegedly “unqualified support for Israeli government policy,” and at their “echo chamber” of pro-Israel activists. These characters would make a scary bedtime story for anyone who’s forgotten that the Israeli government continues to invite Palestinian leaders to resume unconditional negotiations. This tale must frighten anyone who doesn’t know that the PA seeks a unilateral U.N. statehood declaration precisely to avoid the compromises with Israel implicit in U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement and the 2003 international “road map.”
Melvin Farber wrote:
I have a simple definition to offer: To be “pro-Israel” is to respect Israel, its elected leaders and its policies. Israelis are not to be treated as pawns, with their fates dictated by foreigners. There are risks in whatever course Israel chooses. But since Israelis are the ones who would suffer any consequences, they, and they alone, have the right to chart that course, just as we Americans get to choose our destiny.
Jeremy Ben Ami and J-Street understand that Americans (and American Jews specifically) are pro-Israel. So they call themselves pro-Israel. But when it comes to the policies they actually advocate, most people wouldn't call those policies pro-Israel. This is why Ben Ami and J-Street have a hard time producing the majority of American Jews they claim to represent.

2) She coulda had a scoop

Last week Isabel Kershner of the New York Times reported on Palestinian Media Watch. The impetus for the news report was the publication of PMW's new book, Deception: Betraying the Peace Process. The article was disappointing for instead of focusing on the very real problem of incitement, the scope of the reporting seemed to diminish the importance of the issue.

Included in the book was a report that a Palestinian family magazine, funded by UNESCO, quoted a girl who expressed her admiration of Hitler because he killed Jews. This especially egregious example of incitement apparently wasn't fit to print in the New York Times. However subsequently, the Simon Wiesenthal Center highlighted the outrage and challenged UNESCO to stop funding the magazine. Eventually UNESCO determined that this was too much, even for them, and pulled the funding for the magazine.

Had Kershner been interested in highlighting the real problem instead of reducing it to a matter of perception she may well have reported the Hitler story several days ahead of its making the news.

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