Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has drawn some criticism from the left for avoiding the topic of Israel-Palestine. It’s actually a wise decision on her part. It was obvious during her campaign that she is not well-versed on the issue. N ew members of Congress ought to avoid this dangerous minefield of an issue unless they are very clear about what they want to say and how they want to say it.
But AOC may be learning. Earlier this week, she was asked if she favored reducing aid to Israel and she replied that it is “…certainly on the table. I think it’s something that can be discussed.”
Reducing aid to Israel is perhaps the highest voltage third rail in Beltway politics. But in a marker of how much things have changed in Washington—as well as how far they still have to go—the reactions to AOC’s statement have been far less animated than usual. The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) issued a condescending but relatively mild statement, telling AOC to consult with three mainstream Democratic leaders—all prominent Jewish members with strong pro-Israel records—on the “correct” U.S. policy. “US-Israel ties must supersede politics,” the statement concluded. Surprisingly, the JDCA did not condemn AOC’s statement, despite its tired implication that support for Israel must be unconditional, unquestioned, and independent of any considerations except what is best for Israel. Read more at LobeLog
From 2009-2011, Uzi Arad was national security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now he is contradicting his former boss by speaking publicly in support of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (the US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany).
“My position is in support of preserving the agreement and strengthening the agreement,” Arad said on Monday, in a conference call hosted by the dovish Jewish-American group J Street. Read more at LobeLog
Senator Bernie Sanders is no stranger to igniting fiery passions with his views and speeches. But he is better known for doing so on economic and even social issues than on foreign policy. At the annual conference of the dovish, pro-Israel lobbying group J Street, however, Sanders gave a speech that can and should become the impetus for a new policy discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During the race for the Democratic nomination last year, Sanders exploded myths by calling forcefully for Palestinian rights while also strongly affirming Israel’s right to exist and need for security. When, in the wake of those remarks, the editorial board of the New York Daily News asked him more detailed questions, it was clear that he had not given enough study, time, or thought to the matter.
That has changed, and Sanders’ rousing speech at the J Street conference on Monday demonstrated a different, more nuanced, but no less powerful stance. Sanders advocated strongly for an approach that treats Palestinian and Israeli needs for security, hope, and justice equally. Read more at LobeLog
Recently, the right wing Israeli group Im Tirtzu created a highly inflammatory video singling out leaders of four leading Israeli human rights groups as “plants” by foreign powers seeking to undermine the State of Israel and supporting terror attacks. The video has been widely condemned as incitement to violence against these individuals and their organizations. The Foundation for Middle East Peace quickly moved to support our Israeli colleagues, as did many other organizations.
Still from Im Tirtzu’s video showing mock “files” on Israeli human rights leaders
The groups – B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Hamoked, and the Public Committee Against Torture In Israel – are among the many peace and human rights NGOs that are increasingly targeted by hateful rhetoric and even by anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset, much of which has been spurred by Im Tirtzu and their allies in the Likud and Jewish Home parties, the two largest parties in Israel’s governing coalition.
Defenses of these human rights workers and condemnations of Im Tirtzu have come not only from the Israeli left and its supporters, but also from key officials in the Israeli government, military and intelligence communities. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog
Many of you might have heard about the incident where a meeting that had been set between Joint List Chair, MK Ayman Odeh and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPJ) fell through at the last minute. The issue was that Ayman was unaware, prior to his arrival, that the COPJ offices were in the same place as those of the Jewish Agency.
Not surprisingly, Ayman had a problem holding a meeting in the offices of the Jewish Agency, which has done so much to help in the dispossession of Palestinians over the years, and continues to do so to this day.
I’ll be writing more about this in the coming days. But for now, the full story of what happened here (and there is already a good deal of misinformation out there) was reported by Lisa Goldman at +972 Magazine. I have been able to corroborate Lisa’s story with people who were there. It differs in important ways from the story COPJ Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein put out almost immediately. Crucially, it also reflects the hubristic attitude of the so-called “mainstream Jewish community.”
Hoenlein says that Ayman’s problem was that the Jewish Agency is a “Zionist” organization. This is, of course, absurd. Ayman has been meeting with a variety of Jewish groups during his trip to the United States, and most of them are Zionist groups. Indeed, COPJ itself, far from encouraging the “open discussion” that Hoenlein claims, has barred J Street, a very distinctly Zionist group, form its table because, by COPJ’s standards, J Street is not “Zionist enough.” Yet Ayman was prepared to meet with COPJ.
As Josh Nathan Kazis wrote in The Forward, “The cancellation…highlighted the ideological distance between even the most moderate Israeli Arab politicians and the American Jewish mainstream.”
There are very legitimate arguments about different kinds of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanction (BDS). Indeed, I have made many
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of them myself. This is why I do not consider myself personally connected to the so-called “BDS Movement.” But since the late 1990s I have been advocating for public, economic pressures on Israel to change its policies, because without such pressure it has no reason to do so. Like any other country, Israel makes difficult policy shifts only when the cost of the current policy clearly and unarguably outweighs the risk of change.
For these reasons, among others, I have been a strong advocate, for most of this century, for what become known as “selective divestment,” although it can encompass other actions as well. Targeted actions, rather than sweeping calls to boycott anything and everything Israeli are, in my view, both more effective and more just. I had once hoped that this strategy would take broader hold, because I feared that otherwise, the entire notion of economic action would come to be identified with one segment of the pro-Palestinian/anti-occupation crowd—the more radical and anti-Zionist strain. While BDS is employed and supported by many anti-occupation activists, including not a few who consider themselves liberal or left-wing Zionists, my fear of how BDS would be identified has indeed come to pass. That sad event can be laid at the feet both of over-zealous BDS activists and at some ostensibly anti-occupation people and groups who really should know better. Continue reading
This article originally appeared at LobeLog.
On June 14, members of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) will gather in Detroit, Michigan for their biennial General Assembly meeting. A lot of eyes will be focused on this gathering, particularly those who have managed to maintain interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the wake of the collapse of the “peace process.”
The Presbyterians are going to revisit a vote on divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation that failed in 2012 by a mere two votes. Given that narrow margin of victory (the final tally was 333-331 with two abstentions), many believe it might just pass this time. As a result, pro-divestment groups have reinvigorated their efforts to support Presbyterian divestment, while opponents have redoubled their efforts to oppose the resolution. Continue reading