Enablers Unite!

Yo, Yo! This post goes out to all my homies in da US of A!
But seriously now. I have something important I’d like to talk about with all my family, friends and acquaintances in the States. I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while, and decided to finally take a shot at it.
The thing that’s scary about this post, is that I’m worried people I know might take it the wrong way, as some sort of criticism. And that is not what this post is about – at all. Think of it more like a call to action.
It all started with the JStreet conference held recently in Washington. For those of you who don’t know what JStreet is, an easy and quick way to define the organization would be “the alternative to AIPAC”. Although JStreet and its founders would never say this, what they’ve done is form a left and a right in a lobbying niche that has been dominated for years by the right, by AIPAC. For those of you who don’t know what AIPAC is, well… isn’t Wikipedia just great?
j street
I don’t pay much attention to what JStreet founder, Jeremy Ben Ami says, when comparing his group to Kadima. It’s not even like comparing apples and oranges. More like apples and… air.
Now, some of you might not agree with the simple dichotomy I’ve done here, but I figure – what the heck. It’s my blog, right? I like to keep things nice and simple. So, once more, here’s my take on things: JStreet=left. AIPAC=right.
So, back to the convention. Probably the issue most discussed in the media coverage of the event was not the debates going on in the rooms and hallways, but unfortunately who came and who stayed away.
As the Times reported:
James-Jones101

James Jones - We'll keep comin'

The White House has made unmistakable gestures to lend support and legitimacy to J Street (the name is a play on the lobbyist corridor on K Street; Washington has no street named J). After including the group in a private meeting over the summer for major American Jewish organizations, it took the more notable and public step this week of sending Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, to deliver Tuesday’s keynote address at the J Street convention.

General Jones did not offer any new policy prescriptions but received prolonged standing applause when he told the crowd of more than 1,000, “You can be sure that this administration will be represented at all future J Street conferences.”

But among the missing at the conference was the Israeli ambassador, Michael B. Oren, who declined to

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Michael Oren - Concerned

attend, and more than a dozen of the 161 members of Congress who had agreed to be included on an honorary committee for the event. The Congressional members who reversed themselves asked that their names be withdrawn after some opponents of J Street asserted that supporting the group was not in Israel’s best interests.

Some Israeli officials have said privately that they do not want to offend AIPAC and its members who have loyally supported the Israeli government for years. Ambassador Oren said in an interview that he declined to attend because of concerns “about several of J Street’s policies that may impair Israeli interests.” He said that he was not ordered by the Israeli government to skip the conference but that the government shared those concerns.

OK. So, we have a fledgling organization, trying to muster up some strength in D.C. Why is this so important? And why should YOU, American Jews, care about this?
And here, again, is where it gets scary for me:
Have you, my Jewish American brethren, ever asked yourself how YOU are responsible for the situation in the Middle East?
Wait! Don’t shoot! I’m not blaming you. As an Israeli, I see myself as responsible for the failure to end the Occupation, and I would hope Palestinians are aware of their failures too.
But, unfortunately, you also have a part in this. Dr. Phil might call it “enabling”…
Yoel Marcus, the Haaretz pundit, brought up an interesting point not long ago in an op-ed:
“The politicians have been lucky over the generations that the United States supports Israel. During one of my visits to South Africa, a tough Afrikaner said to me that if they had had 5 million Afrikaners in America, they would never have given up South Africa. Maybe this is so and maybe not. But there is no doubt that the American Jews’ strength has caused even those presidents who have not especially loved Jews to support Israel, or will win their support for Israel in the future.”
That’s right. American Presidents have never really had the balls to stand up to the American Jews strength, epitomized in the most powerful lobby in Washington – AIPAC.
Now, I’m not here to say that everything AIPAC does is wrong. No, it’s been helping Israel for decades, and I hope it continues to. But it has been dominated by one voice only, and that voice has constantly been right-wing. And American Presidents have had a hard time going against that voice.
As Henry Siegman wrote in the Times:

Henry_Siegman“The Israeli reaction to serious peacemaking efforts is nothing less than pathological…

This pathology has been aided and abetted by American Jewish organizations whose agendas conform to the political and ideological views of Israel’s right wing. These organizations do not reflect the views of most American Jews who voted overwhelmingly — nearly 80 percent — for Mr. Obama in the presidential elections.

Only a U.S. president with the political courage to risk Israeli displeasure — and criticism from that part of the pro-Israel lobby in America which reflexively supports the policies of the Israeli government of the day, no matter how deeply they offend reason or morality — can cure this pathology.

If President Obama is serious about his promise to finally end Israel’s 40-year occupation, bring about a two-state solution, assure Israel’s long-range survival as a Jewish and democratic state, and protect vital U.S. national interests in the region, he will have to risk that displeasure. If he delivers on his promise, he will earn Israelis’ eternal gratitude.”

Siegman’ right. If 80% of Jews voted for Obama (maybe many of my readers, too), then you voted not only for change in America – you voted for change in foreign policy, and especially in the Middle East. What the American president needs is more backing in Congress to make a move. He needs Senators and Congressmen that have been voted in with help (money!) from JStreet. And if Jtreet can help get into Congress more reasonable voices, like Brian Baird, who seems to have an honest interest in ending the pain on both sides, wouldn’t you want to take part in that? Listen to this guy:

This guy isn’t some kind of left-wing fanatic peacenik gone crazy. He’s reasonable!
JStreet is just at getting off the ground. It’s got  a lot of problems, and maybe too many viewpoints. It’s still in the process of defining itself, and some say its chances of survival are slim. But that’s where you come in.
In an era where the Middle East is the cause for so much violence, where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected your lives in America in too many ways to be counted, supporting JStreet could prove to be just as influential for you as casting your ballot on Election Day.
America has shown Israel tough love in the past. When Bush Sr. made it clear that as long as Prime Minister Shamir was in office, Israel would not recieve the 10 billion loan guarantee for absorbing Soviet immigrants – Israelis got the message, and Rabin was elected.
I’m not asking much. Just go into their website, read a bit about them, and if you agree with what they have to say – you could help JStreet help Obama (or the next president) give some tough love to Israel.
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