Mon 12 Jan 2009 19:32
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By John Perazzo
As Israel launched its recent military offensive to stamp out Gaza-based Palestinian terrorism, Jewish groups across the world rallied to the Jewish state’s side. But one Jewish group refused to stand with Israel as it retaliated against Hamas.
“Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong,” announced the leadership of J Street, the Washington, DC-based Jewish organization that styles itself as the “political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.” “While there is nothing ‘right’ in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is [also] nothing ‘right’ in [Israel] punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them,” J Street declared.
It may seem odd that a self-described “pro-Israel” group would fail to draw a distinction between Israel’s defensive tactics and the Palestinian terrorism that made them necessary. But J Street, which left-wing financier George Soros helped to create, is not your typical lobbying group. Founded in April 2008, J Street consists of both an advocacy group that seeks to influence public opinion and foreign policy, and a political action committee (PAC) that donates money to various causes. J Street claims that its Internet website already has registered some 100,000 subscribers to receive its periodic email alerts and communiqués.
The “J” in J Street’s name connotes, in part, the organization’s predominantly Jewish character. The name is significant also because no J Street exists among Washington’s alphabetically named streets. If it did exist, it would run parallel to K Street, which is famous for the lobbyists and advocacy groups that base their activities there.
J Street was founded “to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israel conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.” Key to this, says J Street, will be “a new direction for American policy in the Middle East,” a direction that recognizes “the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own” —where Palestine and Israel live “side-by-side in peace and security.” Toward this end, J Street supports “diplomatic solutions over military ones,” “multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution,” and “dialogue over confrontation.” Israel’s partner in such a dialog would necessarily be the terrorist organization Hamas, which holds the reins of political power in the Palestinian territories and denies Israel’s right to exist.
Absent from J Street’s high-minded ideals is any mention of the sixth sentence of Hamas’ 1988 Founding Charter, a document whose genocidal objectives the terror group has never disavowed: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” Hamas has made it very clear that it has no interest in the type of diplomacy and peaceful coexistence which J Street contends are well within reach for Israel and the Palestinians. J Street’s failure to understand this suggests, first, that is not in fact “pro-Israel,” and second, that it is uninterested in understanding the unsavory realities of the Palestinian position.
For instance, J Street urges Israel and the U.S. to pursue “the active diplomatic resolution of existing conflicts” by “engaging with problematic leaders and states,” “deploying a full diplomatic tool-box,” and launching “a diplomatic surge in the region.” Such efforts, says J Street, will likely help to “marginalize” Muslim extremists and terrorists. Evidently, J Street does not consider Hamas to be an extremist or terrorist organization. Moreover, such sentiments stand in stark contrast to Article 11 of the Hamas Founding Charter, which reads: “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [religious endowment] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be … given up.” In other words, Hamas maintains that there is no room anywhere in the Middle East for a Jewish state of any size.
J Street traces the Mideast conflict chiefly to the notion that “Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories have, for over forty years, been an obstacle to peace.” Those settlements, adds J Street, have “undermine[d] peace prospects by making Palestinians doubt Israeli motives and commitment.” Why the presence of Jews in Arab lands constitutes an obstacle to peace, while more than a million Arabs live comfortably in Israel, J Street doesn’t explain. Notably, J Street is silent on whether the Hamas Charter’s Article 13—which amounts to an unambiguous declaration of war against the Jews—might similarly serve to undermine prospects for peace. Says that Article: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”
Vis à vis the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, J Street concedes that of course “Israel has the right and obligation to defend its citizens from short and long-term threats, such as [the Hamas] rocket attacks—including taking military action designed to address the specific threat.” But in the next breath, the organization warns that Israel’s choice to “escalat[e] the conflict” inevitably “will prove counter-productive and only deepen the cycle of violence in the region”; “will deepen animosity between the Palestinian and Israeli people”; and “will ignite further anger across the Middle East.” Meanwhile, J Street offers no explanation as to how a more tepid Israeli response to the Hamas attacks could possibly mollify a foe that states, early in its Charter: “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious … [and] should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realized.”
“[I]n the end,” J Street assures us, “the only way to truly halt rocket fire into southern Israel is a diplomatic solution.” As proof of that premise, J Street cheerfully reports that “[t]hroughout the 6-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that began on June 19, 2008, there was not a single Israeli casualty.” Moreover, J Street scolds Israel for having squandered the opportunity it allegedly had, during the “months of calm under the June ceasefire,” to lay some diplomatic groundwork that might have served to “deepen the ceasefire” by making it “more robust.”
Presumably we are to conclude that because none of the more-than-200 rockets and mortars that Hamas fighters lobbed indiscriminately into southern Israel during the “ceasefire” managed to kill anyone, no lasting harm was done to Israel or its citizens. Claiming that Israel should simply pursue “a more robust ceasefire the next time around,” J Street cautions that “prolonging the fighting [now] is likely to make that goal less, not more, attainable.” J Street does not even factor into this equation the more-than-5,000 rockets and mortar shells—some of which killed civilians—that Hamas and its comrades had launched into Israel with impunity during the two-and-a-half years preceding the June “ceasefire”; i.e., after Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza.
And nowhere in its discussion of the Israel-Palestinian conflict does J Street mention the Koranic passage, cited reverently in Article 7 of the Hamas Charter, which proclaims: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jew, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
In J Street’s view, there is a moral equivalence between the Palestinians, who are abiding by the Koranic injunction to slay their infidel enemies until the latter are utterly vanquished, and the Israelis, whose great desire for peaceful coexistence caused them to absorb the aforementioned 5,000 rocket attacks without retaliating.
J Street also cautions against Israeli efforts to topple Hamas, on grounds that the latter “has been the government, law and order, and service provider since it won the [Palestinian] elections in January 2006 and especially since June 2007 when it took complete control.” Instead, J Street seeks to persuade U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to work with [their] allies and the international community to immediately re-establish a ceasefire.” Indeed, J Street celebrates the recent election of Obama as a sign that Americans are prepared to choose “hope” while eschewing “the politics of fear when it comes to Israel and the Middle East.”
The “politics of fear,” by J Street’s reckoning, is a phrase that properly describes the tactics of anyone audacious enough to draw attention to militant Islam’s expansionist, imperialistic motives. Preferring instead to portray Islam as a peaceful faith that unfortunately has been hijacked by a small handful of “extremists,” J Street has condemned the DVD Obsession—which factually describes fundamentalist Muslims’ worldwide animus toward religious pluralism and their quest to subjugate the practitioners of other faiths—as a “well-funded” production that “attempts to stoke the Jewish community’s worst fears.”
In the past election cycle, J Street’s PAC officially endorsed 41 congressional candidates, 39 of whom were Democrats. All told, the PAC distributed $578,812 to their campaigns. Among the more notable candidates to win J Street’s support were several members of the Democratic Party’s socialist wing, the Progressive Caucus. Those members included Representatives Keith Ellison, Bob Filner, Michael Capuano, Barney Frank, Maurice Hinchey, Charles Rangel, Jan Schakowsky, Hilda Solis, Steve Cohen, George Miller, and Robert Wexler.
J Street proudly declares that it works “united with other organizations in the pro-Israel, pro-peace community.” These groups include Americans for Peace Now, which alleges that Israeli provocations are responsible for the conflict with Palestinians; Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, a human rights group that is highly critical of Israel and has collaborated with George Soros’ Open Society Institute to promote “Breaking the Silence”—a speaking tour of former Israeli soldiers critical of the way Israel treats the Palestinians; the Israel Policy Forum, which encourages ever-more-numerous Israeli concessions to Palestinian militants as the steppingstones needed to pave the path toward peace; and B’Tselem, which believes that Israel badly mistreats the Palestinian people.
George Soros supported J Street’s creation and was formally associated with the organization for a brief time after its inception. Like J Street, Soros places the lion’s share of the blame for the Arab-Israeli crisis on Israel. He contends, for instance, that Israel’s “refusal to recognize a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas … precludes any progress toward a peace settlement.” He impugns Israel for having “caused great economic hardship [for Palestinians] and undermined the ability of [their] government to function.” He laments that Israel’s intransigence could lead that nation to miss out” on the prospect of a two-state solution that would include “acceptance of Israel’s existence by Hamas.” And he bemoans that “[t]he current policy of not seeking a political solution but pursuing military escalation—not just an eye for an eye but roughly speaking ten Palestinian lives for every Israeli one—has reached a particularly dangerous point.”
Soon after J Street was launched, Soros stepped away from the group, at least publically, apparently fearing that his controversial reputation might scare off other potential supporters. But even in his behind-the-scenes role with J Street, Soros remains a powerful influence on the organization. Indeed, J Street’s Advisory Council includes a number of individuals with very close ties to the billionaire. Among them are Gail Furman and Deborah Sagner, who also serve on the board of Democracy Alliance, an enormously influential Soros-funded coalition that supports leftist groups and political candidates; Sheldon Drobny, who co-founded the Soros-funded Air America Radio; Maria Echaveste, a Senior Fellow at the Soros-funded Center for American Progress, a Board of Directors member of the Soros-funded People for the American Way, and a Board of Advisors member of the Soros-funded American Constitution Society; Eli Pariser, Executive Director of the Soros-funded, Democrat Party-promoting MoveOn.org; and Robert Malley, a Director of the Soros-funded International Crisis Group, on whose Board and Executive Committee Soros himself sits.
J Street also identifies Avram Burg as one of its leading supporters. Burg says that “Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they [suicide bombers] come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism.” He also likens modern-day Israel to Nazi Germany.
In the final analysis, J Street’s leaders and friends are uniformly predisposed to blame Israeli policies for the Mideast conflict while turning a blind eye to the Palestinians’ faithful adherence to the Islamic mandate for permanent jihad. Hamas co-founder and foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar puts it this way: “I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it.” “Even if the U.S. gave us all its money in return for recognizing Israel and giving up one inch of Palestine,” he adds, “we would never do so even if this costs us our lives.”
In the face of such unyielding militancy, J Street insists that Israel must treat Hamas as a serious negotiating partner rather than as a terrorist group avowedly bent on its destruction. There are a number of ways to describe this position, which urges Israel to accept surrender by another name. One thing it cannot be called, however, is “pro-Israel.”