J Street Looking Less And Less Like A Potential Game-Changer

This article originally appeared on LobeLog

Four years ago, there was some hope in Washington that J Street, the self-proclaimed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” Jewish lobbying group, could someday provide a

J Street President, Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the crowd at J Street's third conference

counterweight to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

No one expected J Street to seriously challenge AIPAC after just four years. But the organization’s track record to date gives some cause for concern with regard to the direction its heading in.

J Street has had some controversial missteps in its time. For example, its waffling on the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-09, and its dissembling response when it was revealed that left-wing magnate George Soros had been one of its key initial funders.

This time their investment in Peter Beinart presented a hurdle for them. Beinart published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for what he regrettably termed “Zionist BDS,” which is simply a new name for a policy long advocated by left-wing groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and more center-left groups likeAmericans for Peace Now. It basically advocates for the boycott of settlement products, services and venues.

Just a few days before Beinart appeared as one of the key figures at their conference, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami gave an interview to Iran/Israel hawk Jeffrey Goldberg where he strongly criticized Beinart’s stance. The result, which became apparent when the issue came up during one of the plenaries, was to split the conference audience over the issue. Continue reading

Pro-Peace Jewish Lobby Stresses Return to Stalled Talks

My report for Inter Press Service on the J Street conference is up and running. This one reports on some highlights of the conference. I hope to write more about it in the next few days, giving more of an analysis of the conference.

After Pro-Israel Conference, Gaps Remain Between Netanyahu and Obama

My wrap-up of reporting on the AIPAC conference and implications for war with Iran. Again, I ask, is this really something Mighty AIPAC needed to be afraid of? Oringinally appeared at Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Mar 7, 2012 (IPS) – More than 10,000 U.S. citizens descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday under the direction of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading voice of the powerful Israel lobby here, to urge their congressional representatives to take a more

Mitt Romney addressed AIPAC's policy conference via satellite feed

aggressive stance towards Iran.

Their swarming of Congressional offices marked the final act of their annual three-day conference, which this year featured speeches by President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, three of the four leading Republican contenders for the White House this fall, and the top leaders of both parties in Congress.

The dominant theme of the conference was Iran’s presumed effort to develop nuclear weapons and what to do about it. The tone was heavily tilted toward actual or an increased threat of military action. This stands in stark contrast to Tuesday’s announcement that the U.S., United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany had agreed to resume talks with Iran in hopes of reaching a diplomatic resolution on the Iranian nuclear programme.

President Obama’s speech, at the conference’s opening plenary and ahead of his meeting with Netanyahu the following day, reaffirmed his administration’s policy of applying “crippling” economic sanctions on Iran and leaving the military option as a last resort.

For his part, Netanyahu, who has recently been increasingly vocal about the need for stronger action regarding Iran, tried to strike a balance between avoiding a confrontational tone with Obama similar to the one he took during his controversial trip to Washington for last year’s AIPAC conference, and holding fast to his position that sanctions and diplomacy are not succeeding in their aim to deter Iran from its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

One key area of disagreement between Netanyahu and Obama is where the critical “red line” would be drawn with Iran. Would it be at the point where Iran was about to actually acquire a nuclear weapon, or merely at it gaining the technical capability to do so, a point many analysts believe Iran has already reached.  Continue reading

Radio Show on Iran

As I mentioned last week, I was on a radio show today on the subject of Iran, Israel and the US. Also on the show was the extremely informative Professor Ervand Abrahamian of Baruch College. It’s well worth listening to, and you can do so at this link.

The Withering Away of the State(s)

In my latest piece for Souciant, I get a chance to really develop the view that the two-state solution has been killed, and what frustrated two-staters like myself, and maybe many of you, need to do to develop a new vision of a workable solution that addresses Palestinian freedom as well as the national and individual rights of all Israelis and Palestinians.

For Yom Kippur, Jewish Federation Tries To Muzzle Muzzlewatch

The Jewish Federation has been running a poll to recognize “Jewish heroes.” My friend and colleague, Cecilie Surasky, had been doing rather well in the voting. And then, suddenly, she was simply deleted.

Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace and Editor of Muzzlewatch

She disappeared without a word, without notice and without explanation. The deletion came the day after San Francisco’s major Jewish weekly, J, published an article remarking on Cecilie’s being in the running and in the top 10 in polling in her category. And then, in classic Orwellian fashion, Cecilie became an unperson in the poll.

Obviously as a former JVP staffer I’m outraged. But one can’t help laughing at the stupidity of the Fed here. I mean, on Yom Kippur eve, no less, they give the absolute definitive example of muzzling to none other than the founder and driving force behind Muzzlewatch, the blog which describes its purpose as “Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.”

And they wonder why they’re losing the new generation of Jews?

On one level, it was of some interest that the Fed allowed Cecilie into the competition in the first place. But when she was demonstrating that she has significant support within the Jewish community, and was acknowledged in that by a mainstream Jewish newspaper, well, that just carries open debate and exchange of opinions too far for the Fed. Continue reading

American Liebermans

In my latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I look at the phenomenon of Americans being “more Israeli than Israelis.” Actually, I contend it’s gone from being more Likud than the Israeli right to being more devoted to Israel than to the US for many.