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.