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[This article was co-written by Abba A. Solomon and Norman Solomon.]

Since its founding six years ago, J Street has emerged as a major Jewish organization under the banner “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace.” By now J Street is able to be a partial counterweight to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The contrast between the two U.S. groups is sometimes stark. J Street applauds diplomacy with Iran, while AIPAC works to undermine it. J Street encourages U.S. support for “the peace process” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, while AIPAC opposes any meaningful Israeli concessions. In the pressure cooker of Washington politics, J Street’s emergence has been mostly positive. But what does its motto “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” really mean?

That question calls for grasping the context of Zionism among Jews in the United States -- aspects of history, largely obscured and left to archives, that can shed light on J Street’s current political role. Extolling President Obama’s policies while urging him to intensify efforts to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, the organization has staked out positions apt to sound humanistic and fresh. Yet J Street’s leaders are far from the first prominent American Jews who have struggled to square the circles of the moral contradictions of a “Jewish state” in Palestine.

Our research in the archives of the American Jewish Committee in New York City, Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere shows that J Street is adhering to -- and working to reinforce -- limits that major Jewish organizations adopted midway through the 20th century. Momentum for creation of the State of Israel required some hard choices for groups such as the influential AJC, which adjusted to the triumph of an ideology -- militant Jewish nationalism -- that it did not share. Such accommodation meant acceding to an outward consensus while suppressing debate on its implications within Jewish communities in the United States.

In 1945, AJC staff had discussed the probability of increased bloodshed in Palestine -- and a likelihood of “Judaism, as a whole, being held morally responsible for the fallacies of Zionism.” In exchange for AJC support in 1947 for UN partition of Palestine, the AJC extracted this promise from the Jewish Agency: “The so-called Jewish State is not to be called by that name but will bear some appropriate geographical designation. It will be Jewish only in the sense that the Jews will form a majority of the population.”

A January 1948 position paper in AJC records spoke of “extreme Zionists” then ascendant among Jews in Palestine and the United States: The paper warned that they served “no less monstrosity than the idol of the State as the complete master not only over its own immediate subjects but also over every living Jewish body and soul the world over, beyond any consideration of good or evil. This mentality and program is the diametrical opposite to that of the American Jewish Committee.” The confidential document warned of “moral and political repercussions which may deeply affect both the Jewish position outside Palestine, and the character of the Jewish state in Palestine.” Such worries became more furtive after Israel became a nation later in 1948.

Privately, some leaders held out hope that constraints on public debate could coexist with continuing debate inside Jewish institutions. In 1950 the president of the American Jewish Committee, Jacob Blaustein, wrote in a letter to the head of an anti-Zionist organization, the American Council for Judaism, that the silencing of public dissent would not preclude discussion within the Yiddish-language and Jewish press. In effect, Blaustein contended that vigorous dialogue could continue among Jews but should be inaudible to gentiles. However, the mask of American Jewry would soon become its face. Concerns about growing Jewish nationalism became marginal, then unmentionable.

The recent dispute in the Jewish student group Hillel -- whether its leadership can ban Hillel chapters on U.S. college campuses from hosting severe critics of Israeli policies -- emerged from a long history of pressure on American Jews to accept Zionism and a “Jewish state” as integral to Judaism. The Jewish students now pushing to widen the bounds of acceptable discourse are challenging powerful legacies of conformity.

During the 1950s and later decades, the solution for avoiding an ugly rift was a kind of preventive surgery. Universalist, prophetic Judaism became a phantom limb of American Jewry, after an amputation in service of the ideology of an ethnic state in the Middle East. Pressures for conformity became overwhelming among American Jews, whose success had been predicated on the American ideal of equal rights regardless of ethnic group origin.

Generally flourishing in a country founded on the separation of religion and state, American Zionists dedicated themselves to an Israeli state based on the prerogatives of Jews. That Mobius strip could only be navigated by twisting logic into special endless dispensations for Jewish people. Narratives of historic Jewish vulnerability and horrific realities of the Holocaust became all-purpose justifications.

-----     -----     -----     -----     -----

As decades passed after the June 1967 war, while the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza wore on, younger American Jews slowly became less inclined to automatically support Israeli policies. Now, 65 years after the founding of Israel, the historic realities of displacement -- traumatic for Palestinians while triumphant for many Jewish Israelis -- haunt the territorial present that J Street seeks to navigate.

The organization’s avowed goal is an equitable peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians. But J Street’s pragmatic, organization-building strength is tied into its real-world moral liability: continuing to accept extremely skewed power relations in Palestine. The J Street leadership withholds from the range of prospective solutions the alternative of truly ending the legally and militarily enforced Jewish leverage over Palestinians, replete with the advantages of dominance (in sharp contrast to the precept of abandoning white privilege that was a requirement in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa).

Every conceptual lane of J Street equates being “pro-Israel” with maintaining the doctrine of a state where Jews are more equal than others. Looking to the past, that approach requires treating the historic Zionist conquest as somewhere between necessary and immaculate. Looking at the present and the future, that approach sees forthright opposition to the preeminence of Jewish rights as extreme or otherwise beyond the pale. And not “pro-Israel.”

Like the Obama administration, J Street is steadfast in advocating a “two-state solution” while trying to thwart the right-wing forces led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A goal is to reduce his leverage by altering the political environment he encounters in the United States, where AIPAC -- riding high astride much of the U.S. Congress -- is aligned with the hard right of Israeli politics. In contrast, J Street is aligned with a fuzzy center that copes with cognitive dissonance by embracing humane rhetoric about Palestinians while upholding subjugation of Palestinians’ rights.

At J Street’s 2011 conference, Rabbi David Saperstein congratulated the organization: “When the Jewish community needed someone to speak for them at the Presbyterian Convention against the divestment resolution, the community turned to J Street, who had the pro-peace credibility to stunt the efforts of the anti-Israeli forces, and they were compellingly effective. They did so at Berkeley on the bus ad fights, debating Jewish Voice for Peace.” Saperstein -- a Reform Judaism leader described by Newsweek as the USA’s most influential rabbi -- lauded J Street for its special function among “the strongly pro-Israel peace groups that have the credibility to stand before strongly dovish non-Jewish groups and guide them away from delegitimization efforts.”

Such praise for being a bulwark against “delegitimization” is a high compliment for J Street. And it is surely gratifying for its founder and president, Jeremy Ben-Ami. When he reaffirms “our commitment to and support for the people and the state of Israel,” he frames it in these terms: “We believe that the Jewish people -- like all other people in the world -- have the right to a national home of their own, and we celebrate its rebirth after thousands of years.” His official J Street bio says that “Ben-Ami’s family connection to Israel goes back 130 years to the first aliyah when his great-grandparents were among the first settlers in Petah Tikva [near present-day Tel Aviv]. His grandparents were one of the founding families of Tel Aviv, and his father was an activist and leader in the Irgun, working for Israel’s independence and on the rescue of European Jews before and during World War II.” Readers are left to ponder the reference to leadership of the ultranationalist Irgun, given its undisputed terrorist violence.

Whatever its differences with the Likudnik stances of AIPAC and Netanyahu, J Street joins in decrying the danger of the “delegitimization” of Israel -- a word often deployed against questioning of Jewish privileges in Palestine maintained by armed force. In sync with U.S. foreign policy, J Street is enmeshed in assuming the validity of prerogatives that are embedded in Netanyahu’s demand for unequivocal support of Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people.” In the process, the secular USA massively supports a government that is using weapons of war emblazoned with symbols of the Jewish religion, while the U.S. Congress continues to designate Israel as a “strategic ally.” An AIPAC official was famously quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg as boasting, “You see this napkin? In 24 hours, we could have the signatures of 70 senators on this napkin.”

J Street is aligned with more “moderate” personalities in Israeli politics, but what is considered moderate Zionism in Israel may not match sensibilities outside Israel. On a J Street-sponsored U.S. speaking tour, Knesset member Adi Koll said she is pleased that Palestinian refugees from 1948 are dying off, which she portrayed as good for peace: “This is what we have been waiting for, for more and more of them to die,” to finalize the War of Independence expulsion of Palestinians. J Street’s Ben-Ami has warned of “the ‘one state nightmare’ -- a minority of Jewish Israelis in a state with a majority of non-Jewish residents.” For J Street, an embrace of perpetual Jewish dominance as imperative seems to be a litmus test before any criticism of the occupation is to be deemed legitimate.

A human rights lawyer active with Jewish Voice for Peace, David L. Mandel, sees a double standard at work. “Too many progressives on everything else still are not progressive about Israel and Palestine,” he told us. “And J Street, by making it easier for them to appear to be critical, in fact serves as a roadblock on the path to a consistent, human rights and international law-based position.”

Covering J Street’s annual conference in September 2013, editor Philip Weiss pointed out: “J Street still can claim to be a liberal Zionist organization that wants to pressure Israel to leave the settlements. But more than that it wants access to the Israeli establishment, and it is not going to alienate that establishment by advocating any measure that will isolate Israel or put real pressure on it.”

-----     -----     -----     -----     -----

While evocations of the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel may sound uplifting, J Street ultimately lets the Israeli government off the hook by declaring that relationship sacrosanct, no matter what. The organization insists that political candidates funded by J StreetPAC “must demonstrate that they support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, active U.S. leadership to help end the conflict, the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, continued aid to the Palestinian Authority and opposition to the Boycott/Divestment/Sanction movement.”

The sanctity of the proviso about “the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel” became evident to one of us (Norman Solomon) while running for Congress in 2012 in California. After notification that J Street had decided to confer “On the Street” status on Solomon and another Democratic candidate in the primary race, the group’s leadership suddenly withdrew the stamp of approval -- after discovering a Solomon op-ed piece written in July 2006 that criticized Washington’s support for the Israeli bombing of Lebanon then underway. In a specially convened conference call, J Street’s top leaders told the candidate that one statement in the op-ed was especially egregious: “The United States and Israel. Right now, it’s the most dangerous alliance in the world.”

In December 2013, while visiting Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed that “the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable.” He added that -- despite occasional “tactical” differences -- “we do not have a difference about the fundamental strategy that we both seek with respect to the security of Israel and the long-term peace of this region.”

Two days later, on Dec. 7 at a Saban Center gathering in Washington, Kerry joined with President Obama in paying tribute to the idea of a nation for Jews. Obama endorsed the goal of protecting “Israel as a Jewish state.” (He sat for an interview with billionaire Zionist Haim Saban, who joked: “Very obedient president I have here today!”) For his part, Kerry addressed Israeli ethnic anxiety by urging that Israel heed U.S. advice for withdrawal from some territory, to defuse what he called the “demographic time bomb” -- non-Jewish births -- threatening the existence of a “Jewish and democratic” state.

Although “militant Islam” is common coin in U.S. discourse about the Middle East, militant Jewish nationalism lacks a place in the conversation. This absence occurs despite -- and perhaps because of -- the fact that militant Jewish nationalism is such a powerful ideology in the United States, especially in Congress. Yet recent erosion of the taboo has caused some alarm. In May 2011 the Reut Institute, well-connected to the Israeli establishment, held a joint conference with the American Jewish Committee and met with smaller organizations to formalize a policy of  “establishing red-lines with regards to the discourse about Israel between legitimate criticism and acts of delegitimization.”

In its own way, J Street has laid down red-line markers along the left perimeter of American Zionism. For instance, some of the most telling moments of J Street’s existence came during the November 2012 Gaza crisis. As the conflict escalated, Israel threatened a ground invasion. J Street urged Israeli restraint but did not oppose the ongoing intense bombardment of Gaza. Instead, echoing President Obama, the organization endorsed Israel's “right and obligation to defend itself against rocket fire and against those who refuse to recognize its right to exist and inexcusably use terror and violence to achieve their ends.”

J Street’s statement, titled “Enough of Silence,” eerily mirrored the brutal asymmetry of the warfare then raging -- and, for that matter, the asymmetry of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While far more Palestinians than Israelis were dying (87 Palestinian and four Israeli noncombatants lost their lives, according to a report from the human-rights group B’Tselem), J Street condemned the killing by Palestinians but merely questioned the ultimate efficacy of the killing by Israelis. While J Street was appropriately repulsed by the bloodshed, it could not plead for reversal of the underlying, continuing injustice beyond its advocacy of a two-state solution. During the years ahead, J Street is likely to be instrumental in establishing and reinforcing such red lines.

A rare instance when J Street has not endorsed President Obama’s approach in the Middle East came in September 2013, when the administration pressed for U.S. missile strikes on Syria following claims that the Bashar al-Assad regime had used chemical weapons. J Street remained officially silent on the issue; Jeremy Ben-Ami reportedly pushed for endorsement of an attack, but many others in the organization were opposed. The Forward newspaper quoted a J Street activist: “Jeremy is a pragmatist. He wants to keep us as progressive as possible without going too far from the mainstream.”

-----     -----     -----     -----     -----

J Street is striving to support Israel differently than AIPAC: by fostering the more peaceful, humane streams of Zionism. But among new generations of U.S. Jews, the Zionist rationales for Israel as a whole are losing ground. In a 2013 Pew Research Center study, 93 percent of American Jews state they are proud of being part of the Jewish people -- but only 43 percent say that “caring about” the State of Israel is essential to being a Jew, and the figure drops to 32 percent of respondents under 30 years old.

The Jewish establishment has always represented those Jews choosing to affiliate with institutionalized Judaism. More and more, this leaves out large numbers who don’t believe that blood-and-soil Jewish nationalism should crowd out their Jewish and universalist values. As the Pew survey shows, American Jews are less sympathetic than American Jewish organizations to enforcing Jewish political nationalism with armed force.

Last summer, Ben-Ami told the New Republic: “We are advocating for a balance between the security needs of Israel and the human rights of the Palestinians. It is by definition a moderate, centrist place.” Ben-Ami highlighted his strategy for practicality: “We have the ear of the White House; we have the ear of a very large segment of Congress at this point; we have very good relations with top communal leadership in the Jewish community. If you want to have a voice in those corridors of power, then get involved with J Street.”

We recently submitted three questions to Ben-Ami. Asked about the historic concerns that a “democratic Jewish state” would be self-contradictory, he replied: “J Street believes it is possible to reconcile the essence of Zionism, that Israel must be the national homeland of the Jewish people, and the key principles of its democracy, namely, that the state must provide justice and equal rights for all its citizens. In the long run, Israel can only manage the tension between these two principles if there is a homeland for the Palestinian people alongside Israel.”

Asked whether relations with non-Jewish Palestinians would be better now if Jewish leaders who favored creation of a non-ethnically-based state had prevailed, Ben-Ami did not respond directly. Instead, he affirmed support for a two-state solution and commented: “History has sadly and repeatedly proven the necessity of a nation-state for the Jewish people. J Street today is focused on building support in the American Jewish community for the creation of a nation-state for the Palestinian people alongside Israel -- precisely because it is so necessary if Israel is to continue to be the national home of the Jewish people.”

The shortest -- and perhaps the most significant -- reply came when we asked: “Do you believe it is fair to say that the Israeli government has engaged in ethnic cleansing?”

Ben-Ami responded with one word. “No.”

“They have destroyed and are destroying ... and do not know it and do not want to know it,” James Baldwin wrote several decades ago. “But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.” Those who have seen to the devastation of “others” -- and have even celebrated overall results of the process -- cannot begin to atone or make amends without some genuine remorse. With a pose of innocence, in the absence of remorse, the foundation of J Street’s position is denial of the ethnic cleansing that necessarily enabled Israel to become what it is now, officially calling itself a “Jewish and democratic state.”

Population transfer of Arabs was part of the planning of Zionist leadership, and it was implemented. Benny Morris, the pioneering Israeli historian of the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Israel, said: “Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.”

In a talk five decades ago at Hillel House at the University of Chicago, philosopher Leo Strauss mentioned that Leon Pinsker’s Zionist manifesto “Autoemancipation,” published in 1882, quotes the classic Hillel statement “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if not now, when?” -- but leaves out the middle of the sequence, “If I am only for myself, what am I?”

“The omission of these words,” Strauss said, “is the definition of pureblooded political Zionism.”

The full integrity of Rabbi Hillel’s complete statement -- urging Jews not to be “only for myself” -- is explicit in the avowed mission of J Street. But there is unintended symbolism in the organization’s name, which partly serves as an inside Washington joke. The absence of an actual J Street between I and K Streets is, so to speak, a fact on the ground. And sadly, the group’s political vision of “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” is as much a phantom as the nonexistent lettered street between I and K in the Nation’s Capital; unless “peace” is to be understood along the lines of the observation by Carl von Clausewitz that “a conqueror is always a lover of peace.”


Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein's Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.’” Norman Solomon is the founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, cofounder of and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

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Comment Preferences

  •  Please edit this diary (4+ / 0-)

    to remove the reference to Mondoweiss. References to Mondoweiss on this blog are prohibited because of the vile Jew-hatred that is too often found there.

    Failure to remove the reference will result in HR of your tip jar and notification of dkos administrators.

    Thanks in advance for taking care of this.

    •  it's an absurd (8+ / 0-)

      unjust prohibition.

      Without getting into Mondoweis's alleged "Jew hatred," this place bans Mondoweiss while Pat Buchanan's The American Conservative is considered kosher. Ridiculous.

    •  I have seen you in several diaries regarding (4+ / 0-)

      Israel.  Do you always troll?  You spammed two diaries of one particular author with the same nonsense post decrying BDS.  Now you are here dictating who people can and can't speak about?  Even if they are acknowledged resources for discussion on the topic.  

      You talk about how "hateful" the source is.  I bet he is much less hateful then the people he documents and which you support with your nonsense posts.

      •  Yes, he trolls (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Koopatroopa, Jay C

        consider this comment of his:

        As Naomi Klein says, it's not a dogma, it's a tactic, a tactic that's making a lot of headway, and if you doubt this, consider the hysterical reaction from Zionists. Sorta cute to see defenders of apartheid, Israeli style, still kicking around on Daily Kos.
        Sounds like he would be happy to see every Jew who is not an anti-Zionist driven from DKos and is proud of his part in driving a lot of progressive Jews off of here.
        •  I was speaking of livosh1 (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          corvo, Retroactive Genius

          Who has spammed two diaries with the same baby nonsense level post decrying nonviolent actions against the apartheid state of Israel as "seeking the elimination of Israel".  I have witnessed the same copy pasted post twice in consecutive diaries by David Harris-Gershon.  Now livosh1 has posted another troll level comment trying to silence legitimate voices and resources because they show the true nature and level of racism in the apartheid state of Israel.

          I don't post much on dailykos unless something really irks me.  This, whoever, does.  I don't know of any "progressive jews" who have been driven away by criticism of Israel.  Nor have I ever read about david mizner being "proud" nor "happy" in driving "progressive jews" off of here.  You better provide proof of his gloating and deeds or I will contact an administrator for your slander.

    •  Looks like the thought police (0+ / 0-)

      is in full swing.

  •  HR'd for citing a hate site. Remove every (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Koopatroopa, Mets102, livosh1

    reference to Mondoweiss and its virulent anti-Semitism and I will remove my HR.

    With the Decision Points Theater, the George W. Bush Presidential Library becomes the very first Presidential Library to feature a Fiction Section.

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 10:28:51 AM PST

    •  Mondoweiss anti-semitic? (4+ / 0-)

      From what I've read of their stuff, they are ant-fascist.

      "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

      by Crider on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 11:38:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Can you be anti-fascist and pro-Hitler? (0+ / 0-)

        I realize a web site shouldn't be held responsible for all of its authors, but someone who writes

        [Neville Chamberlain] could regulate Hitler's designs by giving the war guarantee to Poland. To repeat – it was not the appeasement, but the internationalist hubris and bellicosity – of Chamberlain which started World War II.
        is something of a red flag.

        This isn't new; Albert Lilienthal, a prominent anti-Zionist Jew of the previous generation, ended up publishing with the Liberty Lobby, an indisputably anti-Semitic Jewish-conspiracy group. I've heard a defense of necessity, that especially after the Six Day War no one else would look at his stuff, but whatever, as the kids say.

      •  Previous Mondoweiss DKos diary (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        maggid, Koopatroopa, Mets102, livosh1

        in which Mondoweiss is quoted at length supplying a platform for flat-out Holocaust denial. I'm a little bewildered why someone would do that who was not anti-Semitic, but maybe they do it for the controversy, and to upset Jews who aren't paying enough attention to their commentary on Israel and Palestine. But you don't have to publish anti-Zionist in that sort of venue; heck, you can publish it right here.

    •  What are you talking about? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo, Retroactive Genius

      It shows that people who say "criticizing Israel isn't anti-Semitic" yet when actual critics of Israel host resources on how the Apartheid state of Israel is a serial human rights abuser using activists and Palestinian voices, those people show themselves off as wholesale liars.  

      So what are you talking about?

      •  Criticizing Israel isn't necessarily (4+ / 0-)

        antisemitic. But it can be. And although I haven't checked recently, I know that,in the past, mondoweiss has crossed--some would say erased--the line between severe criticism of Israeli politics and antisemitism.

        BTW, referring to "the Apartheid state of Israel" is not exactly engaging in civil or accurate discourse.

        Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

        by another American on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:54:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is accurate. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          What is inaccurate is your smears on an organizations that provide the most resources on the topic as well as a voice for those who are oppressed.  These are the same types of smears against electronicintifida.  Baseless racist smears that don't attack the evidence that these resources provide about the brutal occupation and the undeniable racism against Africans and Palestinians in the apartheid state of Israel.  They just attack those that provide the evidence so to shut them up.  

          When a video is posted on mondoweise showing yet another act of racist violence perpetrated by a racist Israeli on a Palestinian, do you just chalk that up to mondoweise being "anti-Semitic"?  When a Palestinian writes an article and it is published on mondoweise, do you huff and puff and scream "how dare they"?  Because, right here, that's what you are doing.

          •  What are the implications of Holocaust denial? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I didn't pay much attention to Mondoweiss until Googling for this thread. I don't see anything weird in their attitude towards Israel—not, perhaps, to my taste, but something you can find on many pro-Palestinian forums. But I see something very weird in their attitude towards European Jews and European History. Would you care to comment on that? Is this a way of making sure no one mistakes them for J Street? A marker for anti-Semites that they are welcome to contribute? A necessity for people to notice them?

            I very much doubt if the founders of Mondoweiss deny the Holocaust themselves—so what are they doing?

            •  Did you read the diary about J Street at all? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Just Bob

              They are like liberal Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia.  Saying they "support" women's rights and other progressive issues.  Yet when pressure mounts they will defend the regime to the end even if they need to lie and smear others.

              I read the diary which was a smear job against mondoweisse.  There was no holocaust denial to be read.  Just some innuendo.  Giving an interview to a controversial figure from Israel is different then saying you adhere to them.  It's the same as calling John Stewart a Hitler lover because he had Pat Buchanan on his show or saying he loves torture because he had John Yoo.  

              What you are doing by implying (in a cowardly manner) is that the people who use mondoweisse are deniers of the holocaust.  What nonsense!  Now do you think that resources that provide Palestinians with a voice should be silenced?  Yes or no?  Because that is what you are doing by implying such a bullshit accusation to blacklist an entire site.

              •  I don't run Daily Kos, but if I did (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                another American, maggid

                I wouldn't care if people linked to Mondoweiss, or if there is such a thing. I can, however, understand why the people who really do run Daily Kos don't want it, because they want to make it difficult to lump Kos and Hamas together.

                If I were running a site that called for fairly radical solutions to the Middle East, e.g., a One-State solution dominated by Hamas with or without Fatah, I'd probably go out of my way to avoid connections with old-fashioned anti-Semitic insanity. Jon Stewart doesn't have to do that, because no one will lump Stewart in with Pat Buchanan or John Woo. Likewise, The New Republic can link to Mondoweiss, if they want, or Hamas, because no one is ever going to conflate their policies.

                I am not implying anything. I am stating that Mondoweiss seems quite chummy with Holocaust deniers (asking Why would the Germans have forced Jews to march west back into the Reich is not innuendo, it is an argument against the Holocaust's existence from personal incredulity that is easily answered by the Nazi's desire to eliminate evidence) and with a regular contributor whose views on the origin of WW2 are nuts, and you are not denying that.

                What tends to bother many people (myself included) is that, to use the South African example, they really like Zimbabwe, even now. Because Mugabe has impoverished and immiserated most of the inhabitants, but wow he really stuck it to the White Man. To me, what you are saying about J Street is that they are too chicken to go the full Zimbabwe on Israeli society, to which I say, Good.

          •  You seem very angry. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            You are angry at injustices perpetrated in Israel against Arabs, Africans and other minorities.  I understand that.  It makes me mad too.

            There are other ongoing injustices in the world, violence being committed by one group against another.  People are dying because of their race, their ethnicity, their culture, and their religion.  I will not waste space here enumerating any of these injustices.  I trust you read the news.

            So, Anastasia, please take a deep breath and ask yourself, do any of these injustices kindle as much rage in you as those carried out by Israeli Jews?

            Please feel free to share. Does anything else make you this mad? Why or why not?

            Now, I'm going offer below a common genre of response by many when asked this question.

            Oh so here we go again with this tired old excuse of there are injustices everywhere and we must not single out Israel.  I am soo sick of Zionist apologists dodging the question.
            Now, if you are tempted to respond in this vein, then you clearly did not take a deep breath and you did not ask yourself this question in all sincerity.
            •  Can I take a try? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Unlike a lot of those other countries, Israel purports to be a member of the "Western" nations. This has certain advantages for Israel, in our (i.e., American) willingness for easy travel to and fro, favorable trade treaties, foreign aid, even favorable treatment of charitable contributions on American 1040s.

              Now, on one hand, Western nations have the world's most dismal record on this subject, since they ran the Middle Passage slave trade, and the Holocaust, and the Thirty Years War, and genocidal colonialism. The Congo was even worse off one century ago, when it was King Leopold's personal property. On the other hand, over the last 60 years this group has raised the standards to be an enlightened nation by a lot. Israel's behavior in respect of the Territories doesn't meet these standards, as I suspect almost every reader of Daily Kos agrees. Indeed, I think that a lot of anger about Israel is not anti-Semitic in origin, but that a plurality of Israelis plus their form of government are descended from the European tradition, and by reverting to colonial exploitation they're letting down the team. After all, there were worse nations than South Africa, e.g. Khmer Rouge Cambodia, but the same dynamic was in play.

              None of this excuses publishing Jewish Holocaust-deniers who are probably avenging something that went wrong with their potty training, but I think it not only excuses but justifies special focus.

              •  Israeli demography (4+ / 0-)

                You wrote:

                a plurality of Israelis . . . are descended from the European tradition
                According to the Statistical Abstract of Israel, as reproduced in Wikipedia, an absolute majority of Israeli Jews are of Mizrachi, not of European origin. (The notes suggest qualifications on the way the data are grouped that seem to cancel themselves out.)

                As food for thought, you may want to consider David Hirsch's explanation:

                Why is the idea of boycott against Israel so attractive in our world?

                We live at a time when the positive creative movements for a better world are largely defeated and have been replaced, for the moment, by movements for resistance and opposition.

                Supporting the boycott of Israel offers the opportunity to appear radical without having to do anything.

                Part of the radical cachet originates from demonstrating the “courage” to stand up against Jewish (or Zionist) power – real, imagined or constructed.

                The boycott doesn’t help change the situation in Palestine or in Israel but it does address the personal needs of boycotters to avoid feelings of complicity.  For some Europeans and Americans, Israel is ‘us’ but not quite ‘us’.  People think of it as “white” or “western”, they point to the support it receives from the US and Europe; yet it can be disavowed, our own “western” failings can be put onto its shoulders.

                If the boycott was really about “western” influence and abuses, why would we not call upon our own institutions in America and in Europe to be boycotted?

                The boycotters are good at framing the boycott issue as defining who is good and who is bad.  Supporters of the boycott are constructed as  “pro Palestine” and opponents of the boycott as “pro Israel” – then to many people it is obvious which side one must be on, to stand with the oppressed nation not the oppressor nation, against (US) imperialism not for (US) imperialism.

                Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

                by another American on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:14:26 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Not seeing that in the original (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  maggid, Jay C

                  I may be misreading the table, but it seems to me still European dominated, especially since classification is only through the father which omits Mizrachi father and Ashkenazi mother.

                  I only partially agree with what you quote about BDS. I think that these boycotts against individual Israelis (e.g., professors) are stupid, and I did not support them against South Africans, and I agree they are a very cheap way for Western radicals to pretend they are participating in the struggle. I don't support boycott and divestment yet against Israeli companies, and I am not sure how you would handle feasibly multinationals like Intel (huge development presence) and Amdocs (Israeli HQ). But I can see the Likud drifting into the type of disaster, with a more permanent establishment of an apartheid state or ethnic cleansing, where some more drastic disapprobation would become necessary.

                  •  If you had said (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    that most Americans imagine the origins of most Israeli Jews to be more or less like the origins American Jews, namely, from Europe, then I would have agreed with you.

                    I'm not sure, however, how important that "ethnic" identification is with the disproportionate attention given Israel. On what Hirsch refers to as the "resistance" left, I suspect it has more to do with Israel's identification with the United Sates, seen as the seat of global imperialism. Those who "resist" the United States tend to get a pass, whether in Zimbabwe or Syria; those linked to the United States get condemned. But these are merely impressions.

                    Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

                    by another American on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:41:31 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks for the lack of flying spittle. (0+ / 0-)

                Good answer, Andrew.  Some thoughts:

                1.  How is Israel a Western country any more?  All the sabras (native born Israeli Jews), and immigrants from the Middle East, Russia, and Ethiopia do not come from the cultural West and have little relationship with it. Israel is a country in the Middle East.

                2.  The West has, in the past 60 years, been very good at espousing enlightened ideals, but not very good at living up to them.  What of Europe's treatment of the Roma and creation of a hereditary underclass of foreign workers from North Africa and the Middle East?  What of our institutes of racism and our wars of adventure in Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere?

                3. A lot of the anger about Israel is anti-semitic in origin.  Have you read The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism on the Left, by Michael Lerner?  It's a great read.

                4.  Some of the criticism of Israel means different things depending on who is saying it. There is some criticism African-Americans can give each other that will sound racist coming from a white person.  African-Americans allow each other to use the N-word, but not whites.  Some of the same dynamic applies here between Jews and non-Jews when it comes to criticizing Israel.

                •  Taken in turn (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Jay C
                  1. I don't agree that Israelis have little relationship to the cultural West. Don't look at ephemera like popular music or food (Israel's fusion contribution to world cuisine: chicken schnitzel with hummus in a pita). There is a large middle class that is wired and English-literate. (As far as I know, this distinguishes Israel from the prosperous Asian countries—certainly from Japan.) Sexual morés for a majority are Western, with acceptance of gays and nonmarital sex (yes, a significant majority thinks otherwise). The structure of government? Patterned on England with a more powerful and separate Supreme Court. Civil law? A hodgepodge, but mostly English. Foreign trade? Overwhelmingly with the EU and the West. Incidentally, Russia is not from the political West, but it is from the cultural West. All those young Israeli classical violinists playing Tchaikovsky?
                  2. I don’t think any institution lives up to its ideals, but I think you will find that people who criticize Israel were pretty likely to oppose the Iraq War and, if old enough, Vietnam. Notice how the more prosperous countries of the West are pushing for better treatment of Roma?
                  3. I flipped the bozo bit on Michael Lerner years ago. Somehow even when I agreed with him, I didn't want to read him. Leaving that aside, I agree that there is anger about Israel that is anti-Semitic, and I don’t care that much. I think it leads to a lack of self-examination and a certain moral laxity to take refuge in the bigotry of your opponents, and eventually, even to welcome it. A lot of people didn't like Marion Barry because they were racists. A lot of people like Marion Barry because a lot of racists don't like him. I don't like him, and I am sorry I voted for him in his first campaign.
                  4. Well, that's true. But then, the proprietors of Mondoweiss, and the authors of this article, are Jews.
                  •  Thank you. Taken in turn. (0+ / 0-)

                    1.  If, by some miracle of history, the Arab world had accepted Israel some decades ago and trade, travel, and diplomatic relations were normalized, would Israel be more Arab oriented?  Hard to do trade with countries that won't. The younger secular populations in many ME countries are quite similar to their Israeli counterparts in many of these ways (sexual mores, digital literacy, English)

                    2.  No institution lives up to its ideals.  True that.  Do we have less tolerance for Israel failing to live up to its ideals than Western countries?

                    3.  Yeah, Lerner can be abrasive both in person and in print, but dammit he's usually right and says things few others say.  He should have a translator with him at all times to translate him into words that don't set the teeth on edge.

                    4.  There is a line between fair debate within a community and outright self-hatred due to potty-training trauma or the like.

                    •  OK… (0+ / 0-)
                      1. Israel's economic connection to the West isn't going anywhere, because it will be generations before the Arab countries, even if they liberalize politically and culturally, have the economic structure to matter. There might be some changes around the edges; maybe Israeli students would pay more attention in Arabic class. I don't disagree that the young secular population in Arab countries converges with secular Israelis culturally, but this represents a much, much smaller slice of the Arab society than the Israeli.
                      2. Put that way, I think Israel's policy in the West Bank may be the most egregious act going on in a "Western" country as a fully-authorized program of the national government. Colonialist, globally destabilizing, messianic, and hypocritical. Sorry, but local abuse of Roma just doesn't match. The Iraq War was worse, but, then, there was ferocious opposition.
                      3. What bothered me most about Lerner was self-righteousness and ego, everything he thinks, he thinks is true.
                      4. Sure. Holocaust Denial is absurd for everyone including Jews. But I don't have a problem with believing Jews should make a special attempt to disassociate themselves from Israeli policy, especially when "mainstream" Jewish organizations are on board with it.
                •  OH MY GOD (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  4.  Some of the criticism of Israel means different things depending on who is saying it. There is some criticism African-Americans can give each other that will sound racist coming from a white person.  African-Americans allow each other to use the N-word, but not whites.  Some of the same dynamic applies here between Jews and non-Jews when it comes to criticizing Israel.
                  You just said that non-jews criticizing Israel is equivalent to white people calling blacks the "N-word".  Oh Jesus Christ!  You are disqualified from talking about Israel just from this.  

                  Oh my GOD!  Who do you think you are?  The thing you just said is so outside the realm of common sanity that you must be trolling this diary.  

                  Anyways, I'm out because I just can't argue with you and your comrades "arguments" in which you infer that people are anti-Semitic hitler lovers.  I've had enough baby nonsense for the day.  

                  •  Why all the dudgeon? (0+ / 0-)

                    I think the point—which I agree with—is that Jews have more freedom in criticizing Israel, and they should use it. Although some try, it is a lot harder to accuse Jews, especially ones who have some connection either to Israel or organized Judaism, as anti-Semites, at least until they descend into Holocaust-denying schizophrenia. Indeed, one of the more bizarre aspects of the Aipac line is that it tries to brand as beyond the pale views held by at least the left-most quarter of Israeli Jews.

          •  Is your claim of "[b]aseless racist smears" (4+ / 0-)

            an (unfounded) accusation against me? If not, please identify the person or organization you are accusing (J Street?!), together with verifiable evidence supporting your charge. Otherwise, reasonable people will conclude that you are the one making baseless smears.

            Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

            by another American on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 01:49:50 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  If by "apartheid" we understand essentially (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Koopatroopa, maggid, Jay C

            the system that prevailed in the Republic of South Africa before Mandela, whence the name "apartheid," then it very much is not accurate to describe the situation within the State of Israel as apartheid. I won't insult you by going on and on about the status of Arab as an official language, Arab voting rights, membership in the Knesset (parliament), the Supreme Court, etc.

            Nor does the fact that, like the United States and every other country of which I'm aware, Israel is an imperfect society make it an apartheid state. Calling it such reflects ignorance, bad faith, or both, unless, of course, you're using the term so loosely that it applies to any country not entirely free from racism.

            On the other hand, if you're characterizing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank--fortunately, still outside the State of Israel--then you're wrong, but for a different reason. The systemic discrimination that exists in the West Bank is a function of competing national claims. Palestinians and their interests are subordinated in the West Bank because Israeli settlers and their backers in the Israeli government want the land, not because Palestinians are regarded as racially inferior. The result is bad enough without tendentiously dragging in a word that seeks to cut discussion short, branding anyone who disputes you as racist.

            Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

            by another American on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:00:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Here you go (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:


              A South African (people who can tell what is and isn't Apartheid) study which states that Israel is an Apartheid state.  Please stop with the nonsense.  No one really believes you.  People are sick and tired of playing these stupid games with apologists of one of the most openly racist countries in modern time.

              •  The Territories are an apartheid state (0+ / 0-)

                or near enough. Israelis aren't interested in the "petty apartheid" of separate toilets, but the colonial exploitation and parallel political systems are in place.

                Israel proper is not an apartheid state. You may note that your link refers to the Territories.

                •  one risks being branded an anti-Semite (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Andrew Lazarus

                  for saying that the conditions in the WB resemble Apartheid.

                  Ask Jimmy Carter.

                  Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

                  by corvo on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:01:40 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Speak for yourself, Anastasia. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                maggid, Koopatroopa

                You've linked to a 10MB download with some 302 pages. What about it persuaded you?

                Also, did you note that, at least according to the abstract, it is "A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law." In other words, even if their argument turns out to be correct, it doesn't support your claim against Israel within the State of Israel. (And since you referenced the treatment of African refugees--whether economic or political--it's clear you were making a claim about Israel as such, not just about the Occupied Territories.)

                Regarding the Occupied Territories, I've only been able to scan portions of the document, and those only briefly. It's apparent, however, that key to the author's argument is a rejection of the fact that the discrimination and abuse of the law of belligerent occupation that goes on results from discrimination in favor of Israeli citizens (the settlers) and against non-citizens (the Palestinians). The authors seem to think that defending this distinction equates to excusing or letting Israel off the hook for the way the occupation has been conducted. But this is simply wrong. Peace Now, J Street, and many other organizations and individuals, both within Israel and the American Jewish community, at one and the same time severely condemn the occupation and work for its end while also rejecting your apartheid claim. Since this can be done and is done, there's no basis for saying that rejecting the citizenship/non-citizenship distinction is necessary if we're to have a basis for condemning the occupation.

                Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

                by another American on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:32:02 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  (wipes spittle off face) (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
          •  Are the Solomons Palestinian? I didn't know. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Koopatroopa, maggid

            Anastiasia Castro wrote:

            When a Palestinian writes an article and it is published on mondoweise, do you huff and puff and scream "how dare they"?  Because, right here, that's what you are doing.
            Nor have I said of the Solomons, "how dare they?" Rather, I've responded critically, but also substantively, to their diary. Interestingly, they haven't bothered to respond. Not to me, nor to anyone else.

            Personally, I don't think much of hit and run diaries.

            Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

            by another American on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:04:19 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I'd be more interested in how (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Retroactive Genius, Just Bob

      the Weiss quote is somehow less than representative of reality.  Perhaps you could elucidate.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:37:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)

      The diarist has not deleted the prohibited reference to this hate site, as requested.

  •  Norman and Abba Solomon's Blind Alleys (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jay C, Koopatroopa, maggid, Mets102

    The Solomons' diary is too long for even this lengthy comment to discuss comprehensively. Accordingly, it should not be inferred that I agree with points in their diary that I do not discuss.

    First, the Solomons' treatment of the James Baldwin quotation, which thanks to Google I was able to check, calls into question their reliability in characterizing (alleged) documents that I'm unable to check. (I discuss another example, regarding national Hillel, below.)

    Speaking about J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami and Israel, the Solomons open a paragraph by writing:

    “They have destroyed and are destroying ... and do not know it and do not want to know it,” James Baldwin wrote several decades ago.
    The uninformed reader might think that Baldwin's "they" is Israel. It's not. They is Americans and the United States. Here's what Baldwin actually wrote, with everything the Solomons cut italicized and the references to Americans and the United States bolded.
    I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it and I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.
    Second, the Solomons' fundamental problem with J Street turns out to be the Solomons' hostility to the idea of the Jewish people having a national home, namely, Israel, even if it were to live in peace and harmony alongside a Palestinian national home. Perhaps, this is because the Solomons deny the existence of a Jewish people: they contrast "the separation of religion and state" in American with (what they call) "an Israeli state based on the prerogatives of Jews." Perhaps, alternatively, they view the Jewish people as somehow undeserving of a national home, even after the destruction of European Jewry and the expulsions and depredations against Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries.

    In any case, the 1947 United Nations partition resolution called for the creation of both a Jewish state and an Arab state. In calling for a peace settlement based on the principle of two states for two peoples, the liberal, progressive, and social democratically inclined--who I imagine make up the greater part of J Street's membership--seek both an Israel that will be the state of the Jewish people, who make up the great majority of Israel's population, and all its citizens and a Palestine that will be the state of the Palestinian people and its citizens. Pace the Solomons, there is no moral contradiction inherent in supporting such a peace settlement.

    Third, another area where the Solomons' misleading characterization of verifiable documents calls their reliability into question concerns Hillel. The Solomons write of:

    The recent dispute in the Jewish student group Hillel -- whether its leadership can ban Hillel chapters on U.S. college campuses from hosting severe critics of Israeli policies ...
    But that's not what the dispute has been about. Indeed, the Hillel Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities specifically include the following:
    Political Pluralism

    Hillel welcomes a diversity of student perspectives on Israel and strives to create an inclusive, pluralistic community where students can discuss matters of interest and/or concern about Israel and the Jewish people in a civil manner. We encourage students’ inquiry as they explore their relationship with Israel. We object to labeling, excluding or harassing any students for their beliefs and expressions thereof. As an indispensible partner to the university, Hillel seeks to facilitate civil discourse about Israel in a safe and supportive college environment that is fertile for dialogue and learning.

    Recently, for example, Harvard Hillel hosted a dinner for Avraham Burg, a severe critic of Israeli policies, before he appeared at a meeting elsewhere on campus in which Hillel did not participate. Hillel did not participate in that meeting because it was co-sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, which campaigns for Harvard and the U.S. to divest from and to boycott and sanction Israel.

    This brings us to Hillel's actual red-lines:

    Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice:

    Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders;

    Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel;

    Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel;

    Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.

    One need not agree fully with Hillel's standards to recognize that they are a far cry from refusing to host--in the Solomons' words--"severe critics of Israeli policies."

    Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

    by another American on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 11:18:49 AM PST

  •  Norman and Abba, (3+ / 0-)

    will you please come out and say explicitly what your vision of a just Israel is, and what course this just Israel would take, given the world realities and the realities of the countries of the Middle East at this moment?

    Spell it out for us, please.  If Israel were suddenly, tomorrow, to become the place you want it to be, what do you imagine would happen?  How would Israel's neighbors react?  How would the non-Jewish population of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza react?  What would happen to Israel's Jewish population?

    Please proceed.  If you found the time to write this lengthy piece, surely you can formulate a comprehensive answer on How Israel Should Be.

    One small request: please make your scenario believable in the context of the world and Middle East we have right now.

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