The Israel Project vs. J Street: from pro-Israel to pro-Netanyahu

Posted: October 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments »

In the current political context, groups like “The Israel Project” and “Stand with US” represent more than anything the interest of extreme rightwing Israeli politicians

I have first heard of The Israel Project (TIP) when I traveled to Denver in 2008 to cover the Democratic National Convention for Maariv. TIP had a press conference with pollsters Frank Lunz and Stan Greenberg. Lunz is the guy who is teaching speakers for Israel to call the Palestinians “Arabs” because it makes Americans think of oil and money rather than refugees. Greenberg is the endangered specie of our time: a pro-Israeli liberal.

The spirits at Denver – and later, at the GOP convention at Saint Paul, were a similar event was held – were high. American support for Israel was at an all-time record, and the buffet was excellent.

The halt of peace negotiations, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza or the rapid expansion of the settlements didn’t seem like a problem. If these issues bothered anyone (They probably didn’t make Stan Greenberg happy), it was for what was labeled as the “challenges” that they might present for those repeating Israeli talking points abroad.

It’s easy to forget how many things have changed in the last two years. Now, Jennifer Mizrahi, Founder and President of TIP, has some concerns. Still, it’s not the expansion of settlements or the future of Israeli democracy that worries her. Her problem is J Street, which seems to deceive the Jewish-American public into thinking that opposing settlements is desirable.

This is what Mizrahi writes about the left-wing Jewish advocacy group on TIP Blog:

The real problem with J Street… is not that it misled people by hiding the fact that it received contributions from people whose support of Israel is suspect. Rather, it is that J Street uses a false premise to take time and resources from thousands of people – including American leaders — whose concern for Israel is unquestioned.

You get that? J street is dangerous because it makes pro-Israelis waste time and money on ridiculous ideas, such as actively engaging with the Israeli government over its control over the life of 2.5 Palestinians in the West Bank.

The same can’t be said about The Israel Project. TIP never wasted their time on such original thoughts, or any new idea regarding the Palestinian problem for that matter. They simply follow orders from Jerusalem, regardless of the identity of the person seating in the PM office.

No Israeli official is too hawkish for TIP. Mizrachi describes PM Netanyahu and his government – the one with Eli Yishai and Avigdor Lieberman as his senior coalition partners – as one that is willing to make “painful sacrifices” for peace. Both those ministers deny it, but let’s not get too obsessed with such details.

“20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs who have full rights,” she writes, while at the same week Israeli Foreign Minister is calling in the UN General Assembly for “population exchange”.

“Why is it so hard for some Arabs and Iran to accept that Israel should be the national and democratic homeland of the Jewish people,” adds Mizrahi, while Deputy PM Moshe Yaalon is declaring that there is not even a chance of a peace deal, and claims that all seven top cabinets ministers agree with him on this one.

TIP and similar pro-Israeli groups argue that Israelis want peace and quote polls showing that the Jewish public opposes the settlements and supports a Palestinian state, but at the same time, they go against the will of those very same Israelis and fight for settlements expansion. In short, they are not interested in Israel (and surly not in the Palestinians) but in the desires of the current political leadership in Israel, and especially those of PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Recently, Netanyahu found himself facing some decisions that might force him to replace his coalition partners, so he can carry on the talks with Mahmoud Abbas. But TIP doesn’t want Netanyahu to be cornered. They want Abbas to face the pressure. So they attack J Street for not taking its talking points from the Israeli PM office.

I wonder where Jennifer Mizrahi is drawing her moral and political lines, if she has such. What kind of Israeli act or which politician she wouldn’t support? Twenty Five years ago, would she have explained why the Sabrah and Shatila massacre was OK? Will she be speaking for PM Lieberman in a decade?

Right now we have a very extreme Israeli leadership and a very moderate Palestinian one – to the point where most Palestinians don’t think Abbas and Fayad represent them. Jerusalem is currently insisting on its right to built settlements – something the entire world opposes, and even considerable numbers of Israelis. And we have a Foreign Minister who is our proud version of the neo-Fascists in Europe. Yet TIP and other Jewish lobbying groups are doing all they can to lead the Jewish community – one of the most liberal groups in the US – into supporting them.

And they say J Street is the one deceiving people.


12 Comments on “The Israel Project vs. J Street: from pro-Israel to pro-Netanyahu”

  1. 1 maayan said at 1:48 pm on October 5th, 2010:

    There wouldn’t be a need for a Stand With Us if there wasn’t so much anti-Israel propaganda, often extreme and vile, being used to attack Israel. Look at your own blog for a minute and think of the picture of Israel it presents. I simply do not see anywhere near the level of problems you describe. Every incident is magnified by you and people like you into some massive evil characteristic relating to Israel. It’s ridiculous, but it’s having a severe anti-Israel and anti-Jewish effect around the world when multiplied by hundreds and thousands of activists like you. You support the anti-Israel forces that have come to infect the discourse about Israel in the media and in many universities. Of course you need a Stand With Us. Somebody needs to counter the incessant attacks, many of which are construed with lies and misdirection.

  2. 2 noam said at 3:03 pm on October 5th, 2010:

    Maayan:

    “taking things out of proportions” is a very broad accusation, and a one that is hard to answer. what would be the right proportion do address the occupation or human rights issues within a blog? should I add posts about how wonderful the IDF is? should I praise Netanyahu every now and then?

    practically speaking, I wonder what you expect me to do – unless you are simply saying that Israelis should not say things that might be used to criticize their country. this is a view I don’t share.

  3. 3 maayan said at 12:49 am on October 6th, 2010:

    Nobody asks you to stop criticizing. There are problems in every society and every country and Israel is no different. However, where are your positive articles about Israel? No, not about Netanyahu, but for example the other day I pointed out to you and you completely ignored that an Israeli-Arab village’s school achieved the second highest grade average in Israel. Somewhere in the midst of all of your attacks on Israel, there has to be room for balance. Otherwise, you are being dishonest. I don’t mean that you lie. I simply mean that an overview of your blog – just like reading Ha’aretz every day – presents Israel as a monstrous entity that does nothing but trample human rights, seeks war, avoids peace, and segregates its population. Is this true? Of course not. But in the world you create on your blog, this is Israel. There is lots that is positive about the country and even its interaction with Israel’s Arabs and even with the Palestinians. It wouldn’t kill you to include that type of news and it would make your voice a much more reasonable one.

  4. 4 rick said at 4:09 pm on October 6th, 2010:

    Maayan, isn´t it this, what blogs are doing on every topic in the world? sharing their views, stories, perspectives and fears…

    there are other blogs on israel, like
    http://israelity.com http://www.telaviv-fever.com or http://www.israelimom.org

    posting about other sides of israel. noam choosed his focus. i dont think its propaganda to attack israel.

  5. 5 maayan said at 3:42 am on October 7th, 2010:

    It seems that way to me. I read nothing but negativity, much of it arguable, by the way, on here.

    It’s Noam’s outlook. But is he not living in the same place where I am? Am I completely blind or is he seeing only the particulars that suit his views?

    The other day Noam published an interview in Ha’aretz with the former marine who was on the flotilla. It was a breeze for the marine. No tough questions or filtering of any sort of the ex-marine’s propaganda. And make no mistake, it was propaganda. In this post he brings up Sabra and Shatila. Sabra and Shatila?!

  6. 6 noam said at 9:39 pm on October 7th, 2010:

    Maayan: I really struggle to understand what is it that you expect me to do. Do I ask pro-Israeli bloggers for “balance”? do I expect a rightwing guys to be lefty twice a week? I also have a blog about running (in Hebrew). do I need to balance it with soccer?

    I write my opinions – both in Hebrew and in English. I try hard to be accurate and stick to the truth and to journalistic ethics and norms, that’s all. from the start I decided to dedicate this blog to the Palestinian issue, to the peace process and to matters of civil rights in the Israeli society. I don’t hide these choices and I am not ashamed in them. I have other interests in life, but most of the time, this blog is not where I deal with them.

    I stick to stories that I find meaningful, important and interesting. the choices reflects my view of politics and my priorities. someone else will have a different “editorial line”. It’s only natural.

    Just as you are entitled to have your opinion, I am entitled to mine. let’s argue about facts and their meanings, not about someone’s right to express their thoughts.

    noam

  7. 7 maayan said at 10:29 pm on October 7th, 2010:

    Do what you like, Noam. Nowhere did I suggest that you don’t have the right to be extremely critical of Israel. Nowhere did I write that you can’t have a one-sided blog. I am suggesting that the one-sided nature of your blog undermines any sense that you’re being fair or objective. You’re a pro-Palestinian activist and I know when I come to this blog that I’m going to find attacks on Israel and justification of Palestinian positions.

    This is why groups like Stand With Us, with all their flaws, are necessary.

  8. 8 noam said at 6:30 pm on October 11th, 2010:

    Maayan: I think opposing the occupation and writing about civil rights also makes me pro-Israeli, but you can think what you like.

    In the deep sense of the political game, I think Stand with Us or TIP cause more damage than good even from a centrist Israeli perspective, because they enable Israeli leaders to avoid the inevitable choices regarding the future of this land.

  9. 9 maayan said at 1:46 pm on October 12th, 2010:

    This is the heart of our disagreement. Israeli leaders have come to terms with the hard choices. No, not Lieberman, but Barak, Olmert have, and now it seems even Netanyahu has. They have offered the land, they have offered reparations, they have offered to divide Jerusalem or have its heart become an international protectorate, they have accepted a nominal return of original refugees. We are talking about two of the last 4 PMs, and the current one has hinted strongly that he is on the same page as those two.

    What have the Palestinians offered? They don’t accept that Israel is the state of the Jewish nation, they don’t agree to divide the most important part of Jerusalem, they don’t agree to give up on the idea of having all Palestinians move into Israel, they don’t agree to receiving 100% of Gaza and 96% of the WB with a trade of about 4% of the West Bank for land inside Israel, and they refuse to even negotiate (the “freeze” is an excuse, there was a freeze for months and they didn’t move).

    You are claiming pressure should be placed on Israel, not the Palestinians. Where is the logic?

    Tell me, do Israelis enjoy sending their sons off to the army? Or would they prefer not to send them? Of course they don’t want to send them. Do Israelis agree with a 2-state solution as prescribed by their PMs? Yes, poll after poll shows this. And unlike the Palestinians, the Israelis mean two states for two nations. Do Israelis appreciate the cold peace they have with Jordan and Egypt or do they dream of an open peace with warm relations? Of course they want a warm peace.

    These are fundamental issues which you must know inside out. Yet you believe the pressure has to come down on Israel, not the side that rejects peace and the state of the Jewish people.

    Your logic fails on many levels, not the least of which is the practical one. Israel cannot become a single state for two people because this damages the right of the Jewish people to self determination. Israel cannot cede more land than 100% of Gaza and 96-97%% of the WB (and 3%-4% inside Israel). Israel can’t offer more than joint sovereignty or an international protectorate over the Holy Basin. The Jewish people can’t give up the Western Wall. Israel can’t open its main population centers to attacks like the ones from Gaza. The country would be shut down.

    What more can Israel give than they have offered?

    Please don’t answer that Netanyahu isn’t offering what Olmert offered because that’s not the point of my comment. The point of my comment is that the problem isn’t Stand with Us, the problem is those who weaken Israel and strengthen the Palestinians who then refuse to come to negotiate in good faith. Why not apply pressure on the refusing side instead of the side that has offered peace?

    You are pro-Israeli? Don’t you understand the occupation will stop the day a peace deal is signed and for that to happen you need the Palestinians to give up on their vision of a state that never existed, one called Palestine, that stretches from the Sea to the River?

  10. 10 noam said at 3:25 pm on October 12th, 2010:

    Maayan: you are right, this is the heart of the matter. not exactly regarding this post, but the base of our own disagreement.

    before I get to the diplomatic game, I must tell you that from a simple moral point of view, I think the occupation is wrong, and the discrimination of the Arab minority is also wrong, and even if there could be worse things on this planet, or if israel had good reasons to act the way it did towards the Palestinians (I am not so sure on this one), these are the issues that should concern us as Israelis every day. I think we should ask ourselves – regardless of what the other side does – whether we are doing what we can to end this situation. so this is why I write about those matters.

    I believe that pressure on Israel is the way to move the process ahead. I am not “anti-Israeli”. It’s an absurd accusation. I am Israeli, all my family and friends are, and even now, when I’m away for a couple of months, I miss it very much.

    here is a short explanation why I think the international pressure on Israel is both justified and necessary:
    http://www.promisedlandblog.com/?p=2487

    there is much more to this matter, but I think this post analyze the way I read the diplomatic game, which is very different from yours.

  11. 11 maayan said at 4:19 pm on October 12th, 2010:

    You took the Palestinians and Arabs out of your analysis entirely. How can you do that? Sharon, the man who gave the settlements their biggest push, was the man who built the fence. He created a de facto border after a lifetime of opposing one. He did it knowing that he would lose his right wing base. So what, he moved to the center-right. He did what he did because he CARED about Israel as a Jewish state and the demographic issues that were brought to him scared him. He didn’t relinquish power, he found another voting base. He didn’t do it because of pressure or boycotts or criticism from the Left, he did it because it was critical to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish state from his point of view.

    Cynical as we can be about any other of the key leaders of Israel today, other than Lieberman, it is safe to say that Israel’s long term survival stands deep in their hearts and plays a role in their decisions.

    Think about Olmert for a minute. A Likud prince! He offered to give the Holy Basin to the international community! He gave the Palestinians east Jerusalem! He was willing to take in some refugees! And most important, he ran his election on a platform of evacuating Judea and Samaria AFTER the Gaza evacuation.

    Your analysis simply fails.

    A correct analysis would appreciate what we both know is correct: the majority of Israel’s political leadership is Zionist and deeply believes in the idea of Jewish self-determination in the Land of Israel. This isn’t religious at all, as you know, it is a belief that is based on the history and civilization of the Jewish people and especially the history of the past century both in Israel/Palestine, in Europe and in the Arab states both in the wars and in the departure of Jewish refugees.

    Israel’s leadership has shown time and again a willingness to compromise in order to find solutions. It’s not just Ben Gurion accepting Peel or 181, I’m talking about Begin!! I’m talking about Sharon accepting the Road Map. I’m talking about Netanyahu accepting a 2-state solution.

    Your analysis doesn’t take into account the most important thing: the political and career considerations are not as important to these leaders as the future of Israel as a Jewish state. Period. Netanyahu lost a brother, for god’s sake, and you think he doesn’t dream of being the man who gives Israel a lasting peace? He has thrown out enough hints that it’s obvious why the Palestinians don’t want to come to the table. Barak fought as a soldier for decades, widely respected. He offered to divide Jerusalem. Ben Ami offered to divide the Western Wall’s sovereignty under Barak. Olmert offered to share the Holy Basin and Jerusalem. Sharon was willing to set a negotiating line in the sand only 8% deep into the WB.

    There may have been American pressure regarding elements of these activities, but the bottom line is they came out of deep Israeli fear that if the future isn’t secured now, then Israel will face severe wars and possible destruction. The boycotts, the attacks on Israel’s qualities as a state, the European pressure, etc. is not what is going to change the leadership’s mind. Tangible threats to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state are enough to drive the leaders and in fact have always been the key determinant in how these leaders act.

    Finally, I want to say that I think the occupation is BAD, but it isn’t wrong. It wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t necessary. Leaving Gaza encouraged more violence as did leaving Lebanon. Discrimination against Israeli Arabs is bad and wrong, but again, there are many factors that have to be taken into account…and some of them are very positive. The average Israeli Arab male, for example, has a higher life expectancy than the average American male.

  12. 12 maayan said at 1:53 am on October 13th, 2010:

    Take a look at this story and tell me who needs to have their arm twisted. The Palestinians have been stalling since Netanyahu entered office and now they claim (surprise, surprise!!) that the possibility of a two state solution is kaput.

    Are you surprised?

    Am I surprised?

    Is anybody other than the less knowledgeable people who read the Leftists surprised that the Palestinians are calling it quits? They’ve been offered a state with Jerusalem as its capital and their holy places under either their sovereignty or international sovereignty. They’ve been offered reparations and land that was promised to the Jews by the League of Nations. They’ve been offered true peace and a chance for freedom from Israel.

    And now, they claim the two state solution is over.

    This is over-confidence which has been provided to them by people like you, Noam. Instead of pressuring them, you believe you need to pressure Israel and so do your many compatriots on the Left. You have been so successful that the name “Israel” brings the most evil ideas into the heads of many people all over the world who are not involved in this conflict at all. Your success has damaged Israel and has only made peace disappear into the distance. And we were so close!

    http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=191160