By Larry Gordon –
Here in this part of New York, the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby known as J Street has something between very little and absolutely no impact. But that is not the way it is out there in Washington DC or, for that matter, in many Jewish communities around the United States.
J Street was founded by public-relations executive Jeremy Ben Ami in 2008 in what from here looks like close coordination with the Obama campaign and the president’s design to fundamentally transform this country and at the same time U.S. relations with countries around the world. A cornerstone of that dream—which for the most part has been a miserable failure—was the creation of a Palestinian state. Realists in Israel and on the ground here in the U.S. can well understand that the Israelis, no less than anyone else, want real peace with their neighbors. The reality, however, is that to this very day there is really no one reliable to create that peace with.
And that’s where J Street planned on coming into the picture. Their hope was and perhaps still very much is to whitewash the hostility and devious objectives of not just Israel’s critics but also her avowed enemies within the decision-making ranks of the Palestinian Authority.
And it is more than that, as brilliantly and eloquently explained in a new film being debuted this week, The J Street Challenge: The Seductive Allure of Peace in Our Time. The good news is that the film clearly depicts an intoxicated duplicity, perhaps even unintentional, that exists amongst J Street supporters and, most importantly, identifies their approach for what it is—a potential recipe for national suicide for Israel.
Since its founding in 2008, J Street has been pounding away side-by-side with the Obama administration trying to coax and maneuver Israel into dangerous concessions just so they can take credit for advancing or creating a peace that still seems to be somewhere between improbable and impossible.
From viewing an advance copy of the hour-long film, it becomes clear that the agenda of J Street is “peace” regardless of the cost or consequences. Sure, the type of peace being talked about today might make Israeli citizens vulnerable to greater and more frequent missile attacks. But the message is that we will deal with that eventuality if and when it occurs. For now, the exclusive focus is for Israel to do whatever it is that needs to be done so that everyone involved can say that peace has arrived.
It is indeed one thing for Barack Obama and John Kerry to want to score a foreign-affairs coup, but it is quite another for so many in Jewish communities in America and elsewhere to want this kind of an agreement to unfold.
The film is the result of two years of work by businessman and financial consultant Avi Goldwasser, who resides in Boston. I caught up with Mr. Goldwasser on Tuesday morning as he was about to board a flight from south Florida to Los Angeles. The writer and director of the film was in Miami Beach for the debut screening of the film in North Miami Beach on Monday night.
The J Street Challenge challenges the veracity and integrity of the organization, questions its motives and agenda, and expresses suspicion about the motives and interests of more than just a few of its major financial backers.
Mr. Goldwasser is the director of the award-winning film The Forgotten Refugees, which brings to the fore the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. That film was able to place the claims and grievances of Jews from Arab countries on the agenda of the current Israel–U.S.–Palestinian negotiations.
The debut of this film was held at a North Miami Beach theater at a private showing that featured an in-person presentation by internationally noted law professor Alan Dershowitz, a leading pro-Israel personality who is extremely critical of the intentions of the J Street crowd. The reason for the Miami Beach venue was to accommodate Professor Dershowitz, who recently retired from full-time teaching at Harvard and moved to Miami Beach.
In addition to Dershowitz, the film features comments by Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, Daniel Gordis, Noah Pollak, Andrea Levin, Ruth Wisse, and others. The objective of the production is to educate and advise members of the Jewish community to the double game J Street plays, with a special emphasis on why its message resonates so well at this time, coinciding with the Obama administration’s pressure on Israel to make concessions to force a peace deal.
Jeremy Ben Ami made aliyah a few years ago, ostensibly to work with Israeli leftists associated with the Geneva initiative in order to promote the idea of concessions to the Palestinians as the route that needs to be taken in order for there to be peace. When it comes to Palestinians according honor to terrorist murderers of Jews, using U.S. foreign-aid dollars to reward convicted murderers, and listening to the alleged peace partner Mahmoud Abbas saying that he will never recognize a Jewish state, it is a little difficult to look the other way. But that is exactly what J Street advocates: not paying attention to hostile rhetoric and trying to convince Jewish communities to take yet another chance despite threats of annihilation of Israel from every direction.
Most revealing are clips from J Street officials in the film who insist that the existence of the state of Israel is one of the greatest obstacles to peace in the Middle East. At one point, Daniel Levy, a J Street founder along with Mr. Ben Ami, says to an audience that if Israel’s existence is the cause of so much concern, threats, and consternation, “then maybe the idea of a state of Israel was not such a good idea.”
And this is where it seems the J Street philosophy meshes quite naturally with the current Obama administration approach to Mideast peace. The film, co-produced by Charles Jacobs, deals with vital subject matters that all who are concerned about Israel need to know.
And there are basically two troublesome things going on here. The first that in the J Street outlook there are no bad guys except Israel and the Jews. If rockets are fired, it is because Israel somehow provoked Hamas or Islamic Jihad. If there is a terror attack, it is because of settlement-building, and so on. J Street sees nothing being amiss with the incitement against Jews and Israel in the Palestinian media and in their schools.
And the other issue is the idea that being pro-peace and pro-Israel, as J Street, Obama, and Kerry claim, means being for a shrunken Israel which by virtue of its smaller size automatically becomes less of a target. If there were no Israel, there would be no target—which means, in a twisted way, peace in our time.
The producers of the film are on their way to L.A. and plan to bring this important film to New York this spring. It is a film that all who are genuinely interested in Israel’s safe and secure future should see.