(September 13, 2018 / JNS) Has the leading pro-Palestinian state Jewish advocacy group in the United States completely lost its way? It seems that the combination of activities and statements by both Israel’s government and the Trump administration towards the Palestinians has done just that. In a feverish 800-word email appeal for donations sent days before the Labor Day weekend, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, made some of the group’s wildest claims yet about both current events related to Israel, as well as the history of the conflict.
The email shows just how out of step with reality J Street is. What’s worse, J Street misinterprets and misrepresents Israeli public opinion, the views of the Israeli government and U.S. history.
Space does not allow for a complete review of all of the fabrications in Ben-Ami’s letter, but here are three of the clearest examples of J Street’s extremism. J Street, if you don’t know, is the controversial Washington, D.C., based Jewish pressure group that was created specifically, and almost exclusively, to lobby for an independent Palestinian state.
Ben-Ami seems to have missed the fact that for many years, Israeli Jews have sobered up and abandoned the idea that the formation of an independent Palestinian nation would be in the best interest of Israel. The Times of Israel website reported that 43 percent of Jewish Israelis are in favor of the so-called “two-state solution.” The same poll found that 39 percent of Israeli Jews would now approve of a peace settlement based on what has been discussed in past negotiations. (See the full news article about the poll here: https://www.timesofisrael.com/support-for-two-state-solution-at-lowest-in-nearly-20-years-poll/.) When Ben-Ami writes that “the Trump administration has adopted the agenda of Israel’s far right,” is he claiming that 57 percent of Israelis are now “far right”? And just what does he mean by the label? If Likud is “far right,” then how do you define political parties to its right?
Most remarkably, J Street and Ben-Ami have sided with haters of Israel in its opposition the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem. Ben-Ami writes, “Rejecting decades of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the administration unilaterally recognized the city as Israel’s capital while effectively ignoring any Palestinian claims to the city.” This is patently false. The Senate voting on June 5, 2017, unanimously passed a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem by a vote of 90-0. The resolution reaffirmed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, and called upon the president and all U.S. officials to abide by its legal requirements. Unanimously! Just what policy was Ben-Ami referring to? The U.S. Senate’s vote seems crystal-clear.
Moreover, it would not be wrong to say that even opponents of Israel have allowed the issue to fade away. Words by think-tank guru Herb London about the embassy move stated in a March 14, 2018 interview with Ami magazine are worth recalling: “The decision was really considered ho-hum in the Arab world, and the Egyptians and the Saudi Arabians made up their minds that they needed Israel more than they needed Israel more than they needed the embassy to stay put in Tel Aviv, or even the Palestinians. The Palestinian question has now been put on the back burner. While no one will admit it, it’s the truth.”
And this is a truth J Street can’t and won’t admit. J Street’s sole reason for existence is the creation of a Palestinian state, and it cannot allow this “backburner” placement and maintain its status as the leading voice on the Jewish left in the United States that it was during the Obama era. While J Street was created to lobby for a Palestinian state, for eight years it was Obama’s favorite “Jewish organization.” It became the tip of the spear in Obama’s campaign for the 2015 Iran deal, and his most effective weapon against AIPAC. Now it’s on the outside looking in, and it is clearly in free fall.
This desperation has caused Ben-Ami and J Street to appear to be peddling a conspiracy theory about what the president and his team are planning for Israel and the Palestinians. Ben-Ami writes that “[U.S. President Donald] Trump, [senior adviser Jared] Kushner and [U.S. Ambassador to Israel David] Friedman are preparing for the Middle East is not a peace plan. It’s a sham.”
Ben-Ami marks Kushner as a target in his letter three separate times. Ambassador Friedman is mentioned twice. Ben-Ami seems to have no interest in mentioning National Security Advisor John Bolton or U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Is it because neither Haley nor Bolton is Jewish? Or is it because Friedman and Kushner are Orthodox Jews, and Ben-Ami has an issue with Orthodoxy? Is this tied to the fact that the Orthodox are more against a Palestinian state than any other religious stream of American Jewry and do not support J Street in large numbers?
“By preparing to push a completely biased, unfair and unworkable proposal, they are trying to force the Palestinians to say “no” and setting them up to take the blame when this approach inevitably fails to lead towards peace or yield any benefit for Israel or the region,” writes Ben-Ami. How does Ben-Ami have any idea what the Trump proposal will look like? Are we expected to believe that J Street staffers have high-level, confidential sources in the Trump administration?
Nothing can explain the desperate tone of Ben-Ami’s letter, except that perhaps deep down, he knows he and J Street have not just lost a series of battles, but their war to create a Palestinian state.
Moshe Phillips is the national director of Herut North America’s U.S. section. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education. More information is available at: www.herutna.org.