One of the most fascinating traits of the Jews as a people is their resilience. They have been persecuted, ostracized, and exterminated for centuries by various religions, countries and political forces. Yet not only have they survived all that, they have even thrived and prospered. But that’s just half of the story.
What makes their success even more fascinating is that, while going through all of those calamities, they have been divided into numerous groups, sects and ideologies, which often are totally incompatible with each other. Even today, after their state was restored after the worst catastrophe in their existence, there are groups (like Neturei Karta) that want Israel shut down.
Last night we were reminded of those divisions by a documentary, titled The J Street Challenge presented in Toronto by the Speakers Action Group (and co-sponsored by several groups, including the Canada-Israel Friendship Association). Its topic was J Street, a relatively new Jewish lobbying group, whose declared goal is to bring peace and prosperity in the Middle East.
I should say in advance that if their political recipes are followed, there would be neither peace nor prosperity and Israel most likely could cease to exist. Well, they look nothing like the crummy rabbis from Neturei Karta, with their “Palestinian” flags and crude slogans.
The J Street leaders wear expensive suits and express themselves with charm and eloquence. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder of the organization, owns a successful PR company and skillfully uses his expertise to spread the word about his group.
The movie consisted of clips with statements and interviews of J Street’s activists. It also included interviews with critics like Allan Dershowitz, Caroline Glick and other scholars and commentators, with historical footage in between to make points about the history of Israel.
On the surface, J Street is a wonderful organization – they wholeheartedly want peace in the Middle East and support the two-state solution. However, their methods are another illustration of the divisions within the Jewry that I mentioned before.
Their methods show the rift between the Jews from the diaspora and those who live in Israel. Displaying stunning ignorance (or maybe willful blindness), this group of American Jews is willing to dictate how Israel should behave and run its affairs.
For example, they want Israel to accept a peace “solution” which will reduce its territory to the 1967 armistice lines. The fact that those new borders will be indefensible (as common sense and many experts say) is completely ignored by J Street.
They don’t bother with security, because they believe in the good will of the “Palestinians”. As soon as Israel leaves the “occupied territories,” the new Arab government is going to establish an eternal peace. At this point we saw the historical footage that rebukes that delusion – from the massacres of Jews in the Mandate for Palestine in the 1920-1940, through the War of Independence and the consequent Arab terrorism, to the Oslo disaster and the Gaza withdrawal fiasco. The majority of the PLO leadership still thinks that the fight against Israel must continue no matter how much land they get.
All J Street activists look like knowledgeable and educated people, so there is no chance whatsoever that they are not aware of the Arab hostility. Maybe there are other sinister reasons for ignoring history that are well worth exploring.
In J Street’s view, Israel and its government are fully responsible for the conflict in the area. One of the critics in the movie noted that such a view expresses the narcissism of the organization – it exaggerates the role of the Jews in the Middle East quarrels and makes the J Street activists feel like powerful movers and shakers, who can fix the mess.
Like every elitist group, which has a secret recipe for the “common good,” J Street is puzzled that most Jews don’t accept their solutions. They are not accepted for the simple reason that their proposals are not based on reality. Instead of adapting to reality, J Street looks for ways to bypass the stubborn Israelis, who don’t know what is “good” for them.
J Street lobbied Obama to pressure the Israeli government into signing a peace agreement at any cost. They supported the appointment of Chuck Hagel, a person with anti-Israeli views, as a Secretary of Defense. They also opposed the sanctions against Iran.
J Street tries to take control over the anti-Israeli “grass root” movements, like BDS and the Israeli Apartheid Week, which try to bully Israel into submission through academic and industrial boycotts.
It gets worse than that – we saw a clip with the co-founder of the organization Daniel Levy, who flatly denied the right of Israel to exist. He said that since everybody in the Middle East dislikes Israel and the country must survive through fighting, the existence of Israel is not a good idea. That is not the only controversial statement by that person – he has said similar things that J Street has tried to cover up.
Many activities of J Street have been shrouded in secrecy, especially their financial affairs (although they have lobbied to strip other Jewish organizations from their charitable status). From a list of their donors, released by IRS, it becomes clear that a substantial portion of their financing comes from Muslim donors from the Middle East. You can even spot the dirty hands of George Soros, who gave them about $250,000. About a third of their budget came from a mysterious Filipino woman, who owns a race track in Hong Kong. With donors like these it is not difficult to understand who benefits from J Space’s activities.
After the movie, the organizers assembled a discussion panel with John Thompson, expert on terrorism and organized crime, Judith Cohen, Professor of ethnomusicology at York University, and Irving Weisdorf, from the pro-Israel organization Truth Must Be Told. They took many questions from the audience.
John Thompson analyzed the J Street phenomenon from historical point of view. Although such groups ignore and deny history, they often are reincarnations of older movements. In this case, J Street is similar to the peace movements of the 1970-80’s. Many of those groups blamed the West for all ills of the world and never criticized the Soviet Union. Later it turned out that they were financed by the Soviet Union. J Street’s reluctance to criticize Iran or the Arabs for the problems in the Middle East speaks for itself.
He also noted that such organizations are vulnerable to the changing political situation – if PLO unites with Hamas it will be difficult for J Street to maintain the same narrative. The problem with the members of such groups is that they are not rational – just like Eric Hoffer’s True Believers, they are completely consumed by their ideas. Even if they are debated and defeated, they have something like a reboot button, which is going to bring them back to their initial delusional state.
The real fun began when two fans of J Street (probably linked to its Canadian version – J Space) tried to argue that most of the documentary was false and the organizers didn’t let the other side make their point. The audience urged them to state exactly what was wrong, but for some reason they couldn’t quote anything specific.
The J Space warriors continued to fight the Zionists after the event. The conflict escalated with both sides yelling at each other. It wasn’t surprising – the arguments the two guys used could probably impress the gullible idiots at York University, but the movie audience, consisting of people who have lived in Israel or are relatives of Holocaust survivors, could hardly fall for that tripe.
For example, one of the J Spacers attacked the Israelis as a nation, saying that they are hateful and their children are taught to hate. It was a ridiculous statement when you consider the hateful anti-Semitic education, which is essential in the Arab schools. Very few Israelis are good people and one of them is Miko Peled. Glorifying that useful Jewish idiot and a major star of the Palliwood movie industry, who made a comfortable living bashing and betraying his country, was beyond outrageous.
No amount of logical arguments was able to penetrate the wooden heads of the activists (just like John Thompson stated). One of them had a few typed sheets of paper, from which he was picking his points. He read a quote by somebody, who said that the occupation of the West Bank by Israel was as brutal as the German occupation of Europe in World War II. At this point somebody asked him whether he was Jewish and he replied that he was a proud Jew. Unbelievable!
Everybody gave up on him when he said that everybody in Israel, who is not a Jew, has no rights whatsoever.
That brings us back to the starting point – like any previous case of internal division, this one would be probably overcome, if the Jews want Israel to survive. The problem is that confronting such views takes time and efforts, which could be used in more constructive way. What’s even worse is the fact that the fight falls on the shoulders of organizations, which, though dedicated, operate on shoestring budgets and don’t have the reach of the multi-million mainstream Jewish groups. Sure, the Speakers Action Group and Rabbi Jarrod Grover managed to attract plenty of people – the large hall of the Beth Tikvah Synagogue was packed. But that’s not enough, if we need to make a difference (and the large organizations remain silent in the name of a misguided unity).
At last year’s conference of J Street’s Canadian version – J Space – JDL-Canada was the only organization that attempted to spread the truth and even picketed the event.
Despite that, even the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto and CIJA were tricked into supporting a gathering whose participants (Peter Beinart was among them) didn’t have the best interests of Israel in their minds.
This is not the way to help Israel.
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