Ackerman vs. J Street and the U.N. settlements flap
01/25/2011 - 20:18
James Besser

 What ticked off Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) so much about J Street's position on a pending UN resolution slamming Israel's settlements policies that he decided to break ties with the pro-peace process group?

According to sources in the group, J Street “reluctantly” called on the Obama administration not to veto a pending UN resolution labeling Israel's settlements in both the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem “illegal” and condemning activities “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the territory.”

That's a first for the group, and it touched on one of the givens of pro-Israel activism – that all UN action on the issue is hopelessly biased and should be rejected by Washington, which partially explains the lawmaker's angry reaction. Administrations since Carter have termed settlement activity illegitimate.  But illegal? A red flag.

What Ackerman said in a statement today:

"After learning of J Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective U.N. Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and -- critically -- would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated," Ackerman said in his statement. "The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the U.N. Security Council is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out. America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J Street ain’t it."

I'm also guessing that Ackerman, under persistent fire for accepting the group's endorsement,  may have been looking for an opportunity to break with J Street. As JTA's Ron Kampeas pointed out, he's Jewish, he's a New Yorker - and "his pro-Israel record is considered second to none."

That made him a great catch for J Street - and made knocking him off the J Street reservation a priority for opponents.

The last thing Ackerman wants is a strong challenge from the Jewish right in the next election – which could happen, given how J Street has become such a lightning rod in Jewish politics.

J Street responded by saying it “deeply regrets and objects to Rep. Gary Ackerman’s statement today. It reflects a misunderstanding of J Street’s position and of the UN Resolution in question.”

Kampeas has the full exchange between J Street and Ackerman on his blog.

As a J Street official explained to me earlier today, the group does not favor UN criticism of Israel and it doesn't endorse the resolution. But Israel's refusal to extend its settlement freeze and the failure of Obama administration efforts to restart the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian talks made it inevitable the Palestinians would see UN redress.

J Street does “not 'support' UN condemnation of Israel or endorse this resolution,” according to the group's statement in response to Ackerman. “ We have urged the United States to consider withholding its veto from a resolution criticizing Israeli settlement activity – a resolution that closely tracks the policy of the United States under the last eight administrations.”

But that's a mighty fine needle to thread in an environment in which bringing the UN into the debate is like waving a giant red cape in front of pro-Israel forces.

What will be interesting – and critical for J Street – is whether other endorsees will follow his lead. I suspect there won't be any other major defections.

But today's controversy certainly won't help J Street accomplish one of its primary missions on Capitol Hill – encouraging shy lawmakers who may support J Street's view of the region but fear the might of the pro-Israel lobby to speak out more forcefully.

And it won't instill confidence in their promise to provide a measure of political protection for those lawmakers from the inevitable attacks their J Street connection will trigger.

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Kudos to Ackerman for taking this brave action. As for the leaked ‘documents’, showing Israel’ intransient--that is twisted logic. The absurdity is that the Palestinian leadership can only act ‘pragmatically’ and offer ‘concessions’ so long as their own public remains unaware of it. Wickileaks didn’t surprise many of us here in Israel. Neither do these ‘Palestinian Papers’. These ‘leaks’ validate Israeli accusations of the “double speak” Arab leaders use--where in their Arabic press to their public, they present a hard line vilifying Israel yet secretly & privately speak otherwise. US & other Western countries went along with this cover up to protect these ‘moderate ‘ leaders from their own radicalized publics....Journalists who pointed out this ‘double speak’, were ostracized. These documents show some Palestinian pragmatism –BUT at the same time they are highly damaging to their leadership and impossible to implement. That is the problem in a nutshell.
Given the past week’s revelations that Israel rebuffed Palestinian offers to cede to Israel all but one of its settlements, including those around east Jerusalem, I find laughable Ackerman’s statement “It is not Israel that is refusing to enter final status negotiations.” And Ackerman’s praise of Israel for removing roadblocks and a settlement freeze is akin to praising an abusive husband who hasn’t beaten his wife for the past few months. Those settlements are illegal in the first place, as is Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank. J-Street is quite right to condemn Israel, and so should America and the United Nations.
Even that reliable lefty, Congressman Gary Ackerman had to admit that J-Street is nothing but a bunch of self-hating Judenrat Jews who never miss an opportunity to stab Israel in the back.
It's clear that this person has no interest in expanding respectful dialog insisting on calling names and speaking of J Street supporters without firsthand knowledge. Israel has some simple choices. It can either absorb the West Bank and become either a non-Democratic Jewish state or a non-Jewish Democratic state, or it can help create a demilitarized Palestinian State with clear borders and security needs for Israel to remain a Jewish AND Democratic state. The latter is the J Street position. Save the self-hating Jews for Finklestein and the BDSers.
They don't endorse the resoloution but they don't want the United States to veto it. therefore insuring its passge. You have to admire their ability to spout that one with a straight face. BTW I can name plenty of congressman that are better on Israel then Ackerman