The beat(ing) goes on: J Street, Goldstone and the faltering peace process
10/04/2010 - 10:45
James Besser

 As the J Street – George Soros controversy goes into it second full week, here's a quick update on a few of the threads entangling the pro-Israel, pro-peace process group.

1. The controversy is solidifying into familiar lines, with ardent supporters blaming the press for heaping fuel on a relatively minor matter – the failure of J Street's leaders to tell the truth about Soros contributions – and detractors piling on with real criticism and outright hyperbole.

Yes, as I've written, J Street's leaders were stupid. No, the group isn't anti-Israel, pro-Arab or a buzzing hive of self-haters, as so many emailers and callers insist.

But it strikes me that none of this is really meaningful. What matters is what happens on Capitol Hill. Will members of Congress who are sympathetic to J Street's positions and maybe even accepted money from its PAC be warier of being seen in public with the group, or even repudiate it?

Or will J Street's lobbyists be able to fix the trust problem their actions caused?

Here, the jury is still out. Trust can be restored, but it's a tough job; politicians get lied to every day, but they hate getting lied to in ways that make them politically vulnerable.

2. New charges about South African jurist Richard Goldstone, author of a report on the Gaza war widely regarded as biased against Israel and a reviled figure to the pro-Israel establishment, are hard to sort out. Did J Street materially contribute to Goldstone's Capitol Hill meetings? At this point it's not just clear.

And in the global scheme of things, I suspect it's actually not that important to J Street's recovery efforts.

Goldstone is anathema to the pro-Israel establishment, but I'm not sure anybody else cares very much, certainly not J Street's core supporters.

Here I get back to Point 1: what really matters here is the reaction on Capitol Hill. I doubt whether the Goldstone accusations will change many minds in that rarefied atmosphere. To many Capitol Hill centrists, I imagine he's still the “distinguished jurist who got it wrong on Israel and Gaza,” not the self-loathing, Israel-hating fanatic depicted by many on the right.

Indeed, the unrestrained rhetoric batting around the blogosphere about J Street and Goldstone could help reinforce the impression among lawmakers inclined to J Street's positions that most of the criticism is just the same-old same-old from the extreme right.

3. I wonder how the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will affect J Street as it struggles to recover from recent events.

J Street's  real pull on Capitol Hill – and in the Jewish community – depends on a sense that peace is possible and that a more active U.S. role is worth pursuing.

But the Obama administration did pursue negotiations, and almost as soon a they began they hit the usual brick wall.

The Jewish right is energized by what many see as a golden opportunity to put the final nail in the peace process coffin; the pro-Israel mainstream is energized by the feeling it needs to circle the wagons to protect Israel in the face of mounting worldwide criticism.

I wonder what's going to energize the left, including J Street's core constituency, if this latest peace process iteration crashes and burns even faster than its predecessors.

And I wonder what it means to J Street's efforts to recover its equilibrium that there doesn't seem to be much pro-peace process passion out there – passion that drives the movement it represents. I know a lot of lefties, and these days I hear a lot talk about the economy, about global warming, about a host of other issues, hardly any about Middle East peace.

That would be bad news for J Street and the rest of the pro-peace process left in the best of circumstances.

Which these are not.

Comments

The old Washington DC line "It's not the crime, but the coverup" still holds. It held for Nixon, it held for Clinton, it's likely to hold for J-Street as well. The organization's credibility with Jews is becoming Swiss-cheese like in its strength. We were told, "Trust us, we have Israel's best interests at heart". "We're part of the wider Jewish community. We're people who want to see a strong Israel at peace with its neighbors". Then, we find out that their supporters are George "I want nothing to do with Jews or Israel" Soros, and some mysterious benefactor in Hong Kong. Now we find out that they're guiding Goldstone around the Capital to peddle his 'Israel as war-criminal' report for the UNHRC!?! This is community??? This is pro-Israel?!? Given what we now know, the question becomes, what else is buried under the floorboards. Are the rumors of Saudi money true? Is this a group backed by the Arabs as a means of attacking Israel? Personally, going forward, I won't trust them as far as I can throw them. I can't. Too many lies. It has become just another alphabet soup organization out to get the Jews.
So J-Street "isn't anti-Israel, pro-Arab or a buzzing hive of self-haters"? One of J-Street founders, Daniel Levy, stated that "Israel’s creation was a “an act that was wrong.”". [http://www.mererhetoric.com/2010/10/05/j-street-co-founder-daniel-levy-israel%e2%80%99s-creation-an-act-that-was-wrong/] Is that not an anti-Israeli position?
Besser - you have got to be kidding. Even the Obama administration fought to suppress the blood libel Goldstone report at the UN. In your own stupid way, you make the point made by J Street's detractors. If, as you admit, "Goldstone is anathema to the pro-Israel establishment, but I'm not sure anybody else cares very much, certainly not J Street's core supporters" then it is J Street's core supporters, and thus J Street, who see nothing objectionable in Goldstone's slander, because they share his views. You admit as much - J Street's core supporters are not part of the pro-Israel establishment. J Street is doing everything to hide this reality, because friends of Israel (which J Street would have the unwary believe include the J Street false flag operation) find the Goldstone report, and those who promote it to be repulsive at best.
The true scandal of J-Street is its anti-democratic, imperialist attempt to encourage foreign intervention in Israel's democracy. Had J-Street any morals or democratic values, it would be lobbying the Israeli Knesset and electorate, not the US Congress. The sooner J-Street collapses, the better off Israel will be.
From my perch: it's being blown out of proportion by the same people who have always seen J Street as an anti-ISrael Fifth Column and, as another commenter said, "vampires." It's a real issue for some political figures who went out on a limb with an upstart organization seeking to be an effective lobby - a process that requires trust. Generally, I don't see the mainstream Jewish press blowing it out of proportion, or the major news outlets.
Mr. Besser , I ask you the following question. How is the media not heaping fuel on a relatively minor matter ? J Street Fib-Gate 2010 is being blown out of proportion by the same people who ardently defended AIPAC during the so called "spy scandal" by calling that story a veiled attempt by some in the bush admin to weaken the Israel US relationship. Indeed Lenny Ben-David the person who began the J Street Soros controversy could be found framing that scandal just that way in the media. I assume he means by the Pro Israel Bush administration which is laughable. Soros Fib-Gate pales in comparison but the right wing Pro Israel, Pro-Settlement forces decided to research this story so they could use it to destroy J Street a pro Israel, pro peace organization. Indeed they are the same people who put in countless hours of research to get this story rolling in the first place. It's being pushed out of proportion for ideological reasons and some in the media have even framed this as devastating. It seems the Pro Israel media has fallen for a trap set by a loud minority within the pro Israel ranks. This tells moderate members of J Street that your voice will be defended only if your voice speaks in line with their ring wing ideology. These people will attack J Street and any in the pro Israel community who defends them. They believe their voice is the only correct and the only allowed one. Their intention is to destroy any prospect for peace.
Yes, Capital hill is important. That Obama allowed the tail to wag the dog (allowed Netanyahu to thumb his nose at him, the U.S. and any peace process) is extremely upsetting. As an active Jew I am deeply sorrowed. Jstreet seems to have done an excellent job lobbying and an excellent job opening up space for a more realistic dialogue about Israel/Palestine. But the non-extension of the settlement 'moratorium' was very disheartening. If real progress isn't made soon on two states, it will end up being one state. Time to finish reading Abunimah's "one Country."
Mr. Besser assures us J Street is not "anti-Israel, pro-Arab or a buzzing hive of self-haters, as so many emailers and callers insist." However Mr. Besser than says J Street helped a man " widely regarded as biased against Israel and a reviled figure to the pro-Israel establishment" Uhhm am I missing something here? J Street is Israel's worst enemy in the US.
Is there any chance in the world that Jewish Week could get an objective reporter to cover this story...Oh wait, Except for Stewart Ain, Jewish Week doesn't have an objective reporter.
Totally disingenous...Soros funds a whole network of Anti-Israeli org..from J Street to Democracy Now..to Jews for Racial Justice..to Link Cable T.V...these form a consistent self-referential voice among themselves..and represent no-one but Soros, themselves and his money and the stray liberal jew caught in their net

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