Op-Ed: The New Imposters: J Street
Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Throughout Jewish history the embattled people of Israel have developed conditions and neuroses very similar to
They have eschewed uniqueness and national identity.
victims of abuse. At times, they have begun to blame themselves for the hatred that they have experienced hurled against them. At other times, they have begun to assume that if they would adopt more universal ideals and become more connected to the greater whole they would cease to be persecuted. As a result of such a desire they have eschewed uniqueness and national identity for the safe anonymity of "sameness".
There is nothing inherently wrong in looking for commonality and initiating bridge building. In fact, the building of bridges of understanding between peoples is one of the critical goals of mankind's destiny and purpose. Yet, the collapse of identity and the slipping into the morass of blandness and anonymity has become a disaster, and an ever-present danger for the Jewish people.
There is an even darker side to the phenomenon. Throughout history, some of the greatest enemies of the Jewish people have been Jews who so wanted to identify with the world that the result was a deep hatred within themselves for Judaism and Jewish destiny. Some of the greatest persecutors of the Jewish people have been people of Jewish descent.
The road into such lethal and dangerous thinking can even begin with well-meaning and pure thinking. It usually begins with the desire to ensure that the Jewish people remain within the constraints of safe political correctness. Such groups in the past have taken it upon themselves, in the name of the Jewish people, to represent views and opinions that were in line with the interests of the ruling monarchy, even if they were antithetical to the needs of their people. These Jewish individuals, called shtadlanim or "court Jews", acted seemingly on behalf of the Jewish people, but were truly more interested in enhancing their positions of power and wealth within the political hierarchy of their day.
It is usually easy to spot them. They use Jewish concepts and ideals liberally, while showing no connection to any of these ideals in their private lives. The will usually speak on behalf of the Jewish people as a group and yet as individuals have very little to do with their local Jewish community. They will declare ideas and beliefs that will endear them to their politically correct environment, but will deny the unique character and survival needs of their own people.
In our days, they will demand full rights for all Arabs living inside Israel, while denying them for Jews living in areas of Biblical and historic import. They exhibit great concern for Arab pain and suffering, while barely offering lip service for Jewish pain. They will advocate Israeli territorial concessions, regardless of the security dangers such withdrawals have produced in the past. They will argue that any serious criticism of the preaching and teaching of hatred towards the Jews of Israel and the world in Arab schools and mosques is somehow disloyal to American interests. For them, support for Israel's security needs is viewed as tantamount to a betrayal of American concerns.
According to many, the J Street Political Action Committee, founded in 2008, seems to be walking this very dangerous and self-destructive path.
During the Gaza War, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz wrote that while the "left-wing Meretz party on Thursday issued a rare call for military action against Hamas in order to bring an end to cross-border attacks on Israel by Gaza militants," J Street called for superpower intervention to restrain Israel.
Reform Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the URJ, whose own views mirror the views of the Israeli Left, complained that the J Street lobby "could find no moral difference between the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militants... and the long-delayed response of Israel, which finally lost patience and responded to the pleas of its battered citizens in the south."
J Street hit again this week. President Barack Obama - who truly believes that the magic of the spoken word can assuage any wound and cross over any chasm of disagreement - invited Jewish leaders for a talk. The president invited over 16 leaders, but excluded the strongly pro-Israel National Council of Young Israel and the Zionist Organization of America.
After the meeting, Obama's greatest admirers, the J Street lobby, declared:
"J Street commends President Barack Obama on restating today his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his serious intent to pursue a viable and sustainable resolution to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict.... President Obama should know that the majority of American Jews support the direction he outlined and his commitment to actively pursue peace and security."
Is J Street truly speaking for the majority of American Jewry?
Is J Street truly speaking for the majority of American Jewry?
In a Newsweek article (May 27, 2008) highlighting the newly formed group, columnist Dan Ephron asked the lobbyists the following question:
Ephron: You're suggesting actually withholding aid?
J Street: No, I'm not saying that. I want to be really clear. I'm saying that when the US president closes the door with the Israeli prime minister, the US president has a lot more chips to play than any other person who closes that door. ...And it's time for the president to know that there's a group of people here who recognize that that is not only in Israel's best interests, it's in the US's best interests. We've got to step up and start to make this a more serious, meaningful policy.
Ephron: But my question is: Might J Street find itself in a situation where it would be lobbying on an issue that would be counter to what the Israeli government is doing?
J Street: Oh, absolutely. We have absolutely no problem taking a position that says the actions and policies of the Israeli government are counterproductive and not in the best interests, in our opinion, of either Israel or the United States....
Ephron: You'll have to face, I imagine, Israelis who will say, 'Wait a second, you don't live here, you don't send your children to the military here, you don't pay taxes. What right do you have to dictate or even to influence the debate?'
J Street: I think that's extremely fair [to argue]. But I think as long as the situation in Israel and Palestine is directly related to recruitment by extremist forces, by al-Qaeda, of the terrorists who then come here, I think it is an issue that has ramifications here.
Is J Street speaking out of concern for the destiny and security of the Jewish people, or are they suffering from the pain and wounds of exile? Are they concerned for the constituency that they claim to represent, or are they more interested in being accepted by the rulers of our time?
Either way, they can quickly become a very dangerous pawn in the war against the people of Israel.