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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

J-Street: Myths about Myths about being pro-Israel

In 5 Myths on Who's Really 'Pro-Israel' , J-Street's Ben-Ami makes a case for a dovish "pro-Israel" stand, citing "myths" about being pro-Israel. Not everything he writes is wrong, but he creates a few myths of his own:
Hamas won the most recent Palestinian national elections in a landslide. Do we seriously think that it can be erased from the political landscape simply by assassinations and sanctions?
Hamas did not win in a landslide, since they did not win the popular vote. Hamas is in power in Gaza by virtue of a coup. No, we do not seriously think Hamas can be erased just by assassinations and sanctions. Like Nazism, elimination of Hamasism requires more decisive action. But it is a myth to think we can "negotiate" "peace" with Hamas, just as it was a myth to think one could negotiate peace with Hitler.
Some more myths about being pro-Israel:
Myth: Just because Jews do something, it is pro-Israel
Ben-Ami tells us that not all Jews choose political candidates because those candidates are pro-Israel:

This urban legend has somehow become a tenet of American Politics 101, which is why politicians work so hard to earn the pro-Israel label in the first place. But it's a self-serving fable, cultivated by a tiny minority of politically conservative American Jews who actually are single-issue voters. Most Jewish voters make their political choices the way other Americans do: based on their views on the full spectrum of domestic and foreign policy issues.

The logic escapes me. What are you trying to tell us? If most American Jews are not pro-Israel, does that legitimize their stands as being "pro-Israel" just because they are Jews? Is J-Street a "Jewish" lobby or an Israel lobby? Those are two different things.  If Ben-Ami is pro-Israel, then why is he insisting on telling US politicians that they don't have to worry about the Jewish vote on Israel, since Jews "make their choices the way other Americans do?" The observation is true in part. One job of a group that is "pro-Israel" is precisely to marshall Jewish support for Israel, which is not automatic. Apparently, Ben-Ami disqualified himself and J-Street from that role, as he insisting on telling American politicians that Jews don't support Israel, a stand that he thinks is somehow pro-Israel.
Myth:  Negotiating ("Engaging") with terrorists and genocidal despots can bring peace.
Ben-Ami insists on negotiations with Hamas and Iran:
 Precisely because Hamas and Iran represent the most worrisome strategic challenges to Israel, responsible friends of Israel who'd like to see it live in security for its next 60 years should be engaging with them to search for alternatives to war
He needs to study the case of Chamberlain and Hitler.
Myth: A pro-Israel group can focus exclusively on pressuring Israel to make concessions.
A group that has no support program for Isaeli policies, and focuses only on persuading the US government to pressure Israel into making concessions  cannot be considered a pro-Israel lobby for obvious reasons.
Myth: Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah are good for Israel.
Hardly. Must we cozy up to a corrupt group of people who insist, in Arabic, that their ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel? Abbas may be a negotiating partner or a peace partner and a lesser evil than Hamas, but we should not have illusions about Abbas and Fatah. Our relations with Fatah and Abbas should be correct. We don't need to be punishing Palestinians, but we need to defend ourselves and we don't need to be helping them undermine Israeli positions.
Myth: Undermining Abbas by negotiating with Hamas can advance peace
J-Street wants to negotiate with Hamas while at the same time supporting a peace process. J-Street should remember that Abbas and Fatah are the only peace partners for all their faults. Negotiating with Hamas and legitimizing Hamas will ruin the standing of Fatah and is suicide for the peace process. If you make a deal with Hamas, Abbas goes away and you have no partner.
Myth: The United States had a leading role in peace diplomacy in the Middle East
Ben-Ami tells us:
The best gift that Israel's friends here could give this gallant, embattled democracy on its milestone birthday would be returning the United States to its leading role in active diplomacy to end the conflicts in the Middle East -- and help a secure, thriving Israel find a permanent, accepted home among the community of nations.
The US has no leading role to return to. The Israeli-Egyptian peace was the product of an initiative by Anwar Sadat and Israeli reciprocation. After the Israelis and Egyptians prepared the ground, the Americans were brought in and were somewhat reluctant. The peace with Jordan was a Jordanian and Israeli initiative. The United States was asked to give pro-forma blessing and money, and to get a photo-op. The negotiations with Palestinians that led to the Oslo DOP were an Israeli and Palestinian initiative. America has played a role, but never a leading role. It could never accomplish anything that the sides did not already want. When the Oslo process fell apart and the Palestinians began attacking Israel, America demonstrated that it is worthless as a guarantor of peace because it did not do anything to stop the terror. Worse, it prevented Israel from doing anything. If America wants to have a "leading role" in peace, it has to be ready to demonstrate that it will stand behind the solutions it has brokered. In this respect, America has a "perfect" record and so does the UN - they have always imposed solutions, and then Israel paid the price for the "solutions." This has been true since the partition plan and the internationalization of Jerusalem, right up to and including the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and participation of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. Both of the last were done at the behest of the Americans (Israel wanted to remove only some of the settlements) and resulted in the mess that exists today. Practically speaking, there can be no peace as long as Hamas rules Gaza. Is J-Street going to get the US to root out Hamas?  
Myth: All Zionists who oppose J-Street and negotiations with Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah are neocon troglodytes who think John Hagee is wonderful
Ben Ami wrote:
Are Israel and American Jewry really so desperate that we must cozy up to people whose messianic dreams entail having us all killed or converted to Christianity? Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, and his ilk believe that Israel dare not cede any territory in the quest for peace, claiming that the Bible promised all of the holy land to the Jews.
A minor point - Hagee does not, as a matter of fact, believe in conversion of the Jews, so Ben-Ami created another myth right there. Don't confuse him with the facts. Not everyone agrees with Hagee's presence at an AIPAC meeting, which was not appropriate, but Hagee is not Ahmadinejad or Hamas. Are Jewish progressives really so desperate that we must cozy up to Hamas? Or are Zionists so secure that they can reject the hand of friendship from anyone? If mighty America can accept reactionary Saudi Arabia as an ally, how can the tiny Zionist movement reject the friendship of John Hagee and Christian Zionists? Are they really worse than Salafi Muslim fanatics? We do not have to agree with everything Hagee says about Catholics, territories and theology, but we can politely accept his support and work with him on the issues that are important to us. Can we say the same about Hamas or Iran?
Ami Isseroff

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