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Do We Need a Pro-Israel Lobby?

Six prominent thinkers and activists make their case—and their answers may surprise you

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How AIPAC Is Losing

Chuck Hagel will be secretary of Defense, and Iran will go nuclear. So much for an all-powerful Israel Lobby.

AIPAC’s Party Planners

Meet the two men responsible for the year’s biggest Jewish event: the pro-Israel lobby’s policy conference

It Sustains Jewish Peoplehood

By Martin Kramer

Back in 2006, in response to the “Israel Lobby” thesis of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, I wrote this: “Israel does not need the whole array of organizations that claim to work on its behalf. The rationale for keeping Israel strong is hardwired in the realities of the Middle East. The United States does not have an alternative ally of comparable power. And if the institutions of the lobby were to disappear tomorrow, it is quite likely that American and other Western support would continue unabated.”

Mearsheimer and Walt doubted that I believed this to be true: “If he is correct, then the people who bankroll AIPAC and The Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy and other like-minded organizations are wasting their money, and Kramer himself is wasting his time. Kramer claims that all this effort is unnecessary, but his own behavior suggests otherwise.”

I never responded: I didn’t want friends to think they were “wasting their money” by supporting organizations that do fulfill a role, but that role is vastly different from the one assigned to them by Mearsheimer and Walt. They believe the “lobby” is all that prevents Israel from being exposed as a liability. The opposite is true: The “lobby” is fueled by Israel’s value as a strategic asset in an unstable region. The professors confuse cause and effect.

But if Israel doesn’t depend on pro-Israel advocacy (from which I exclude the coolly analytical Washington Institute), what purpose do such organizations serve? They energize some substantial number of American Jews to stay affiliated with the Jewish people at a time when traditional forms of affiliation are waning. Israel’s batteries charge them. Businessmen and dentists come to Washington to advocate for Israel, and they feel like players on the world stage. Those who do are far more likely to visit Israel and embrace an Israeli cause. Younger ones might even make the decision made by myself (and many of my colleagues at Shalem College) to settle in Israel. Yes, I’m a classic Zionist, who believes that the ingathering of the Jews is their preferred destiny.

So, the measure of the “lobby” isn’t its ability to change U.S. policy on Iran or stop the nomination of Chuck Hagel. The State of Israel and its resilient people will decide how and when Iran will be stopped, and Hagel’s appointment won’t stand in their way. I measure pro-Israel advocacy by the degree to which it sustains Jewish peoplehood outside Israel and draws Jews into a deeper commitment to Israel than an annual visit to Capitol Hill.

And here is a revelation for Walt and Mearsheimer. I’m not so delusional as to believe that my writing and speaking on Israel’s behalf make a difference. If Israel is strong, the United States will value it. If it is weak, nothing anyone says will redeem it. So, why do we bother? It’s something the two “experts” can’t possibly fathom: Ahavat Yisrael, love for the people of Israel. And expressions of love are their own reward.

Martin Kramer is president of Shalem College in Jerusalem.

***

Medicine Against a Communicable Disease

By Steven J. Rosen

The pro-Israel lobby in the United States remains a vital line of defense against the systematic campaign under way to drive a wedge between the Jewish state and its principal allies. The campaign against Israel brings together a loose coalition of Palestinian support groups, left-wing European intellectuals, veterans of the shrunken Israeli peace movement, and others who just dislike Israel. The Israel they depict is a state led by drunks at the wheel, a serial violator of human rights and international law. Their Israel is the obstacle to peace in the Middle East, a strategic liability rather than an ally, an unjust and militaristic society, and a country filled with atavistic and dislikable people.

The real Israel is a tiny state facing the largest aggregation of offensive weaponry (combat aircraft, tanks, artillery, surface-to-surface missiles and rockets, and unconventional weapons) that has ever been arrayed against a single country. Yet, to the global militant left and its American acolytes, Israel is the villain du jour. Six million Jews, in a world of one and a half billion Muslims, 400 million Arabs, and the so-called “Non-Aligned Movement” (120 states all too aligned against Israel at the United Nations General Assembly), are the new imperial Goliath against which a new generation of the righteously indignant is rising.

Most insidious inside the United States is the energetic campaign mounted by Jewish critics of Israel to kosher the key themes of the global delegitimization campaign in order to mainstream them into the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Against all this, you ask, is a pro-Israel lobby needed? Is medicine needed against communicable disease?

Steven J. Rosen was AIPAC’s director of foreign-policy issues from 1982 until 2005. He is now the director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum.

***

AIPAC Fosters Islamophobia and Elevates Power Over Justice

By Rebecca Vilkomerson

My children are Israeli citizens. As I work every day to fulfill the mission of Jewish Voice for Peace—striving for equality, human rights, and freedom for all the people of Israel and Palestine—I often think of what I do in terms of my hope that Israel will someday be a place where I’d be happy for my children to live.

Unfortunately, I see the so-called pro-Israel lobby as trying its collective best to do just the opposite—condemning the people of Israel to endless military escalation, ugly ethno-nationalism, and constant warmongering, to say nothing of the system of permanent control, oppression, and dispossession it strives to maintain over the Palestinian people—all in the name of protecting Israel.

From the perspective of my Jewish values, too, I see the pro-Israel lobby doing much more harm than good. In all its component parts, it encourages Islamophobia, fundamentalist Christian apocalyptic anti-Semitism, and the elevation of power over justice. It does tremendous harm to the Jewish community in the United States when it equates criticism of a state’s actions to anti-Semitism, thus de-valuing actual anti-Semitism. And when the lobby pushes positions, as AIPAC is planning to do this week, such as exempting Israel from cuts while all kinds of crucial domestic programs are being downsized, it potentially harms all Americans.

The pro-Israel lobby can continue to pursue its dangerous agenda, but it cannot claim to do so in our names. That’s why I am so proud to be represented in these 100 ads that will appear in Metro stations all over Washington, D.C., as of this week. They read: “Jewish and Proud and AIPAC doesn’t speak for me.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson is the executive director of the Jewish Voice for Peace.

***

AIPAC’s Influence Waning? That’s Bunk.

By Lenny Ben-David

Since Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense, some—including Tablet columnist Lee Smith—have argued that failing to prevent Hagel’s appointment was a crushing defeat for the pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill.

That’s ridiculous.

I was in charge of public relations for AIPAC during another time when the organization was accused of such a failure. Ronald Reagan was in the White House and was poised to sell AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. AIPAC had a “4-D” strategy to “debate, delay, delink (from the sale of weapons to Israel) and, if all else failed, defeat.”

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fred capio says:

I am not sure if we need a pro-Israel-lobby (even though I tend to agree with Martin Kramer), but I am sure we DON’T need people like Vilkomerson and their subversive activities

The “the jewish voice for peace”, hamas, and hezbollah, all have the same goal. The just go about things differently

Tablet Magazine, if you insist on publishing articles by those who beg Christians to boycott Jews as do the JVP crew, please remove this son of an Auschwitz survivor and a former combat soldier in the IDF from your mailing list. I don’t want anything from these modern day KAPOS. You provide really good content, please don’t sully it with this trash.

gwhepner says:

JEWISH LOBBY

Those with horse-obsessive hobby

à propos the Jewish lobby,

and believe the Protocols

were by Elder Zion pols

conceived to give Jews world dominion

have a very warped opinion:

how I wish it had the power

claimed in insults that they shower.

What Jews say in self-defense

mainly causes great offense.

“Goyim try to get at us

saying we are editors

of the press, and wealthy bankers,

white slave traffickers with chancres,

killers of the Christ and wearers

of a badge of shame with terrors,

finding often in their bibles

proof for all these dreadful libels.”

À propos, the Jewish lobby

always makes great paper copy.

gwhepner@yahoo.com

All of you couldn’t be more wrong. Considering the the money and effort the far left and pro Muslim/Palestinian groups take, the more pro Israel groups the better. I don’t always agree with AIPAC but I do always support them. Also consider the almost knee jerk anti-Israel stand of the US State Department, and we NEED that help. Or would you prefer the lefty Soros backed J Street to be the NGO spokes group for Israel.

There is a simple but uncomfortable fact that almost nobody talks about. Neither the critics of the “Israel-Lobby” nor their adversaries: The most effective “Israel-Lobby” is not Jewish at all. It’s christian evangelical, it’s mainstream European islamophobic, it’s about all kind of interests. It’s all but a Jewish conspiracy. They love Israel for reasons we – as Jews – should be afraid of. They dream of Israel as an instrument of power in the middle East, as a bullwark of Europe, as a lot of things that make life in Israel a mess, for both: Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. As long AIPAC and other play their game, I simply don’t see them doing us any good. Too bad that for some of us Israel as a “Jewish state” still seems to be a surrogate for a weak Jewish identity. Too bad for them. Too bad for us.
People in Israel will have a chance to live in a real state with a real civil society (and not in a fantasy about identity) only after this game will be over. The awful question is, when there will be an alternative to that. But the two “state solution”, instead of being a “road map” to peace, turned into an excuse not to make progress on the grounds. And that is: as long there is only one state between the Jordan and the sea there is much work to do to make it a better place, for ALL its citizens, and for all, who live under its control. Instead of talking about civil rights we are talking about ethnic seperation, instead of creating an Israeli citizenship, we are talking about “Jewish identity”, instead of talking about democracy, we invest in demography.

George; Please reconsider. We cannot only read what we agree with. “Tablet” often takes stands I disagree with. That doesn’t mean I don’t learn from it. We often learn more from those we disagree with than listening to the choir.

@George: with all due respect I believe you desecrate the memory of the six million by slurring a fellow Jew with hateful epithets such as this. You are certainly entitled to disagree with her point of view but by labeling her a “Kapo” you’re simply spreading poison – and as Jews we know all too well where poisonous rhetoric can lead. Rebecca Vilkomerson wrote a reasoned piece out of genuine conscience. By contrast, you are simply disseminating hate speech. Shame on you.

sidney51 says:

For Mr. Pollak– survey after survey reveals that the vast majority of American Jews are unlike you and your colleagues at the “Emergency” Committee. They put America first. That is why despite
more than four years of attacks against Barack Obama vis-a-vis his
position on Israel, despite the most venomous, dishonest campaign
ever against a candidate for the presidency by you neo-cons, despite accusations of his being anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist
and/or pro-Arab, despite endless reminders of his middle name,
despite the most flagrant, chutzpahdik
effort ever by an Israeli prime minister, indeed by ANY foreign
national, to insert him/herself into an American election by openly
campaigning for a candidate and, yes, despite a slowly recovering
economy, President Obama still received 70% of the Jewish vote in
2012. As it should have been.

DSarna says:

So long as Rebecca Vilkomerson and Alan Elsner write as they do, and Jewish Community-funded organizations like Tablet print what they write, the need for a strong Pro- Israel lobby is self-evident.
Next question.

Wendy says:

At last, a thoughtful and thought-provoking diversity of opinion about the Israel lobby. This Israeli citizen gives a hearty “kol hakavod” to Tablet; unfortunately, something as instructive and necessary as presenting diverse viewpoints about Israel take a lot of courage these days. It’s the height of arrogance to think that there is only one way to love and support Israel — unquestioning acceptance of the AIPAC line — and that anyone who thinks differently is “subversive.”

“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.”
(Proverbs 18:13)

Brant, I include you in the ranks of the “so-called fellow Jews” who support our enemies. Any Jew who supports Christians boycotting Jews, and in fact leads those despicable campaigns against us deserves our contempt.

Ethan, I disagreed with those who loaded my late Mother onto a cattle car from Hungary and transported her to Auschwitz, where they exterminated her extended family. I suppose I should see their point of view as well. I guess i could learn from them that if we Jews just behaved, why, there would be peace and love all around. JVP are enemies of the Jewish people, that’s my “reasoned” view.

Jacob Arnon says:

Here is a very important news story which Tablet missed.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/turkish-fm-refuses-to-shake-baraks-hand/

“Turkish FM refuses to shake Barak’s hand”
Muslim countries are going back to their older way of treating non Muslim people as pariahs. It’s Barak today but when they think they can get away with it, it will be Barack tomorrow.

To Noah Pollak, re “If the pro-Israel lobby is to thrive as a bipartisan political force”: Why should the so-called “pro-Israel” lobby be a “bipartisan” force? The pro-Israel lobby should support whomever supports their cause. Reminds me of an old Margaret Thatcher quote, ie, “Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.” So the question is what’s the “pro-Israel” lobby’s goal? To support Israel or to support “bipartisanship”? This wishy-washy kind of thinking ends up with 80% of American Jews voting for a presidential candidate who is not only bad for America’s national security, but worse on Israel’s security. So instead of asking if we need a pro-Israel lobby, maybe the first question should be: What does being “pro-Israel” mean?

sidney51 says:

Hilarious, tired canard…”a presidential candidate who is not only bad for America’s national security..” Gee, who got Obama? Who took us out of the mini-Vietnam of Iraq that was begun on utter and probably impeachable dishonesty? Who has ensured that there have been no terrorist attacks on American soil? (When DID 9/11 take place?) Who has taken out most of the leadership of Al Qaeda and destroyed its infrastructure? Who has made the United States far safer than it was when he took office? When the facts aren’t on their side, the right simply makes up their own. Ho hum.

Anita Silvert says:

Actually, I would prefer this, or at least to get the voice heard at the table. I used to support AIPAC until someone came along that spoke for me more accurately. I don’t consider “lefty” an insult, though I gather you meant it as such.

Anita Silvert says:

Thank you Wendy, well said.

Who got bin Laden? US Navy Seals with almost 10 years of planning by intel community. Who took us out of Iraq? The status of forces agreement signed between Iraqi govt & GW Bush. When did 9/11 take place? A few months after GW Bush came into office. Guess when the planning was done? Who has taken out most of the leadership of Al Qaeda and destroyed its infrastructure? No one. Al Qaeda has metastasized and established new safe havens throughout Yemen, Somalia, Mali, etc. So before dismissing & labeling, learn the facts. Ho hum.

herbcaen says:

We need a pro-Israel lobby in the US to protect American interests against Iran firsters, which includes a significant part of the Democratic base, J Street, Jewish voices for Death and other 5th columnists, some of whom have contributed to this column. Iran firsters offer a package-open borders because the US is an illegitimate entity based on conquest of Mexico, government by the UN so Syria and Iran can decide whether we should have oil pipelines, global warming policies that only affect the US but allow China and India to pollute to their hearts content. In other words, the forces that believe that America is an exceptional country that has much to contribute need all the allies we can get to combat the axis of Hollywood-media-CAIR-Iran bloc who want to pull our country down. AIPAC not only promotes Israel, but America too, against our enlarging 5th column at home

ajweberman says:

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote that the Holocaust number of 6 million was inaccurate. The more America declines as world power under Obama the more Israel needs its support and lobbyist are the way things work on Capitol Hill. The muzzies have CAIR we have AIPAC. What’s with Tablet anyway. I thought it was co-founded by Ron Rosenbaum who has been pro-Israel all his life?

herbcaen says:

Hugo Chavez would have won 65% of the US Jewish vote had he run as a Democrat-thus 70% is not a great accomplishment

sidney51 says:

More, tired B.S. “….A few months after GW Bush came into office…” NINE MONTHS! Gestation period- for a human and a tragedy. The mistakes of the Bush-Cheney administration are common knowledge to people with any degree of intelligence and integrity. America is MUCH safer than it was when President Obama first took office. And, Baruch Hashem, we will have FOUR MORE YEARS of him (most likely followed by eight years of Hillary Clinton). Get used to it. As for you, you bore me to tears. Pesach Kasher v’Sameach. L’hitraote.

Binyamin says:

Citation please for the Mearsheimer/Walt allegation.

By the way Brant, your fellow JVPers slur Jews on a daily basis. According to them, we are fascist baby-killers running an apartheid state.

Royq says:

AIPAC may not speak for me personally given discrepancies between its agenda and my opinions, but plastering metro kiosks with posters advertising that message strikes me as a painful and degrading exercise in self-abasement. It evinces a cowering impulse to distance oneself from an embarrassing albeit distant family member, as though we were obliged to give non-Jews an accounting of ourselves as an ethnic group because we are indeed a single entity responsible for the opinions of others of our faith.

It also affirms the belief that Jews are indeed to blame for the rash of ills that Vilkomerson cites in her piece, from Islamophobia to social injustice. Nothing about global warming? Vilkomerson really does ascribe the same super-human powers to AIPAC that Henry Ford did to the international Jewish banking elite.

Finally, I go to the page to which she has linked and see that she likens AIPAC to the NRA. I would call that remark incendiary if it weren’t so crudely, stupidly and tastelessly offered in the wake of the mass shootings that have raised the NRA’s profile in the national media recently, and so revealing of its author’s intention to elevate emotional appeals over reasoned argument.

Vilkomerson’s piece is interesting insofar as it represents the photo-negative of the staunchest pro-Israeli types in AIPAC’s ranks.

Oh my “subversive.” I guess we’ve just gone back to the McCarthy era.

How civil of you to charge Brant Rosen with “supporting our enemies.” Ad hominem attacks are so persuasive.

We live in a democracy in which citizenship is not based on ethnicity. It is only the case that the posters “affirm the belief that Jews are responsible for the rash of iills that Vilkomerson cites in her piece…” IF and only IF one sees AIPAC as representative of Jews. It’s not. It’s representative of particular Israeli government policies, and anyone who equates Israeli policies and Jews is feeding the anti-Semitic “logic” that says all Jews are the same, think alike, etc. It’s that image or better hallucination that has done more harm to Jews historically than any disagreement over AIPAC.

ajweberman says:

There is no search inside the book but I believe it was Ha’artz. He endorsed the work of a Holocaust denier.

Walt (not Mearsheimer) endorsed the book by the charlatan and Holocaust denier Atzmon, IMO not having read it, and with no specific knowledge of its content. Mearsheimer refused to disassociate himself from this. I have no knowledge of Walt belittling the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

ajweberman says:

wrong it was him – Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it incredibly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.’

hekesq says:

HA ha ha. Your funny. What comedy club are you playing? Better watch out. The men in the while coats are coming to get you.

Fonape says:

Two speakers at today’s AIPAC Conference provided ample justification for the critical need to have pro-Israel institutions working to educate both our representatives and senators in Congress as well as policymakers and their staff throughout the federal government.
Vice President Joe Biden clearly identified the pernicious campaign to delegitimize Israel as a paramount threat when he stated, “Let me tell you what worries me the most today, what worries me more than any time in the 40 years I’ve been engaged, any different than any time in my career. And that is the wholesale seemingly coordinated effort to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state.”
Coupled with the Vice President’s clear warning of the growing threat of delegitimizing Israel is, as AIPAC President Michael Kassen pointed out, the significant turnover in members of Congress. He stated in his remarks, “In the last three elections, more than 40 percent of the members of the House and Senate either retired or were defeated. We welcomed more than 210 new members of Congress in just the last two elections alone.”

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. Thank you for removing all doubt.

Stanley_Heller says:

Before you start calling people KAPOS find out about the deals the Zionists were making with Hitler and Mussolini during the ’30′s. Find out why in 1933 when there was a chance an anti-Nazi boycott could have defeated Hitler, the Zionists destroyed it. Read Black’s “The Transfer Agreement”.

e chandler says:

Israel did announce segregated buses last weekend…

e chandler says:

You can try to paint organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace otherwise, but the overwhelming number of Jewish Americans agree that the nonviolent actions JVP supports and engages in are not only in Israel’s best interest- but that of Jews worldwide. My family lives in Israel, and I know that they will live in peace and security when their “democracy” provides justice, security, equality and self-determiniation for all the people whose lives the Israeli government controls.

We hear constantly about how AIPAC is “right-wing,” “pro-settlement,” excludes
differing views, intolerant of dissent, etc. etc. Yet, the speaker that to date has received the most press has been a soon-to-be former Defense Minister who, about 12 years ago, offered Arafat the most far-reaching concessions then imaginable and who advocated in his AIPAC speech unilateral withdrawal so as to accomplish a two-state solution. Not exactly the right-wing, strident anti-peace AIPAC that we often hear about from J Street, JVP, and the likes of Walt and Mersheimer.

CygnusA81 says:

Really, all I saw today, in the DC metro stations were anti-AIPAC posters. And what makes the whole episode sick is that 99.99% of the ridership probably had no idea that AIPAC is holding their conference this week. So these Jews for HAMAS types have to take their argument to the METRO. Tasteless and disgusting in my opinion.

AIPAC has not lost its powerful influence on White House. Just that the Oval Office does not wish to appear to be too cordial to the lobbyists. Israel still needs AIPAC. (ttm1943)

CygnusA81 says:

Yes we do live in democracy. Funny though, people who complain about AIPAC, never complain about the Congressional Caucus on Turkey. Funny how that works out.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_Caucus_on_Turkey_and_Turkish_Americans

CygnusA81 says:

Rebecca Vilkomerson

This is the problem with people like you. Your posters state, ‘Everybody, look at us! We are the ‘good’ Jews. Not these AIPAC Jews, they are bad people.’

Its amazing, you can’t make your argument to your fellow coreligionist community; so you take your case to the Gentle population.

So pleased to see Rebecca Vilkomerson’s thoughtful piece included here. AIPAC does not speak for all Jews.

planckbrandt says:

Who is this “we” ? as in “do we need?”. The oil industry and all its owner backers need it. They need BP “assets” back in Iran soon. They need Central Asia back soon. They have to use Israel as a cover story for their military occupation of the region. That is how history books get written. It won’t be written as a conflict over oil by a few powerful owners. It will be written as a war between Jews and Muslims. Like the wars between Valois and Bourbon, or Orange and Hapsburg, or Tudor and Hapsburg were between Catholics and Protestants. Yessir!

They also cannot have a democracy surrounding Suez Canal. Lord Balfour and the Lords knew what they were doing when they setup this resettlement game after they took down Ottoman with Laurence of Arabia et al. They knew how important Basra oil was to the City of London for the next century of shareholdings. And, the Suez Canal to the whole game.

Isrealis told me in the 1980s that American money was causing all kinds of problems for their country. Too bad we Americans as yet have no way to stop the prerogatives of oligarchs toying with lives of vassals on the earth, ourselves included. They know how to play with emotions above all. And, to use lots of hapless pawns.

Maybe one day we will learn to see through all these games for oil and bank shareholders.

Rachela says:

I’m glad the morons at JVP decided to spend their year’s budget (or maybe the next ten years’ budget) on those metro ads that no one looks at. While, you know, half of Congress is at AIPAC celebrating Israel.

Gerson Robboy says:

Rebecca Vilkomerson is right on. AIPAC doesn’t speak for me either

Habibul Alam says:

It is doing more damage to the cause of Israel. Since Israel’s birth the establishment’s policy was to befriend Arab Rulers, Dictators, Kings, etc not the people of the neighboring countries. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring and gradual empowerment of the Arabs its time Israeli establishment review their policy(ies).

Royq says:

Thanks. Vilkomerson’s reference to her children being citizens of Israel and her disapproval of their choice is probably an indication that her distress is born of something other than a purely rational application of her principles to a political analysis of the Middle East. It hardly needs to be said that in a tiny portion of the globe where, to take but one example, the citizens of a neighboring Arab country are being slaughtered by the tens of thousands, the continued obsession with demonizing israel is affront to the true struggle for human rights. International political will is a scarce resource, most needed for the most urgent crises, but Vilkomerson would have it serve her own, deeply warped agenda.

Rebecca Vilkomerson tells the truth about what is happening in Israel today. Discrimination against Palestinians, escalating settlement-building and imprisonment of non-violent human rights advocates only makes life in Israel more precarious. An Israeli friend fears that the whole world will soon hate Israel – and her safety is threatened. Thank you Rebecca for your courage to speak the truth, even though it is extremely unpopular.

How long will this debate remain stuck in this seemingly bottomless rut? The left argues that being pro-Israel must never mean being pro-racism, pro-oppression, and pro-dehumanization. The right counters that Palestinians are inherently murderous and need to be oppressed and governed by apartheid. Sadly, it seems that neither the truth nor the overwhelming weight of public opinion can convince the right that they are wrong. Their position is so far on the wrong side of history it seems to come from another century. Even leaving issues of justice aside (so that we can speak their language), it is absurd to believe that Israel can secure the best life for its people by turning its neighbors’ land into a vast prison camp and attempting to drain just enough life from their society to keep it barely alive but unable to thrive. This cannot possibly work, and it turns the Israeli people into a society of prison camp wardens. Does the right really not see the horrible, impossible irony of this? Thankfully, the Jewish community is distancing itself more and more from these views–but one would not know it by reading American news media and following American politics. Thanks groups like AIPAC–funded by those whose financial interests are served by turmoil and violence in the Middle East, and by those who are driven by motives of revenge and dreams of regional cleansing rather than peace–the right has been able to keep this debate in a stalemate long, long past the time to move it squarely in the direction of peace, reconciliation and engagement. Rebecca Vilkomerson and Alan Elsner deserve praise for taking the side of truth and standing up to AIPAC.

“you can’t make your argument to your fellow coreligionist community; so you take your case to the Gentle population.”

why should rebecca be addressing her ‘coreligious community’ instead of her fellow americans. this is not solely a ‘jewish issue’, this is our foreign policy. it’s an an american problem. she’s talking to all of us, like leaders do. get over yourself and join the country, we can fix this.

LtcHoward says:

Can a non-Jew join this argument

If anyone doubted that peace now & J St were prolonging the
agony of the Palestinians and of the Israelis with their deluded hypocrisy,
their pronouncements should clear up any doubts

As long as the Palestinians maintain the Arab League
position: no negotiations; no recognition; no peace; demand that any area they takeover should be Jew-free. ; maintain that even if they get a State, the residents the camps on the West Bank, in Jordan, Syria, etc. would not be citizens this new state but would have the right of unlimited return to the state of Israel; and that all of Israel is unredeemed Islamic territory, THERE
WILL NEVER BE PEACE

LtcHoward says:

READ THE GOD DAMNED DETAILS

LtcHoward says:

Having served as an advisor to the militaries of Jordan, Egypt in Saudi Arabia and having worked with the Palestinian Authority and its predecessor I can tell you the following.

15% want you dead, not as Israelis but as Jews anywhere in the world. The other 85% will stand by and let it happen. Power grows out of the gun. The most radical moslems rule because the most radical are willing to exercise the most extreme measures.

Most Christians, like me, I’m not trying to convert Jews. Nor do we see the reestablishment and the destruction of Israel as a precursor to the coming of our Savior.

Many of my close friends are devoties of the Rev. Hagee. He is often misquoted in the media, especially in some of the Jewish publications. But he and his church are true friends and supporters. I wish I could say that about my former associate Tom Friedman who hasn’t changed one iota from his radical “liberal” progressive Jewish agenda that he embraced at Brandeis University as an undergraduate member of a forerunner of J St.

LtcHoward says:

WATCH VIKOMERSON’S BED MATES IN ACTION:

In a video posted by CODEPINK a woman (identified here as Jodie Evans, who is described on CODEPINK’s website as the co-founder and co-director of the organization) with a loudspeaker leads a chorus of chants: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a chant that in its very essence means the destruction of Israel in its entirety.

Here’s the video of the protest organized by CODEPINK in which participants shout for the destruction of Israel ( at 14.00):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_54h4nBOzw&feature=player_embedded

Right Stanley, Of course, not only are we Israelis/Zionists Nazis as espoused by the JVP/Mondoweiss/Silverstein crowd, but we collaborated with the Nazis way back when. So JVP and Brant Rosen, being more moral Jews than all of us combined need to collaborate with Christians against us because they just love us too much.

I see that with each one of these KAPOS. “Oh, my Jewish values are so strong, I need to punish those evil Jews called Israelis who refuse to be ghetto Jews and fight back.” I have much more contempt for Brant Rosen than Islamic Jihad and Nasralllah.

Oh, the majority of Jews support JVP? Can you prove that ridiculous assertion? Actually, Israelis want peace and they also want to be protected from the lunatic mullahs and their proxies.

I know, maybe we should appoint Rebecca to run Israel, the hell with the voters and their “democratically” elected government. Of course, she knows better than us. She demonizes us and spearheads boycott programs against us because she loves us. How foolish we have been.

Alice Rothchild says:

I fully support Rebecca Vilkomerson’s analysis that AIPAC is dangerous for the US as well as for Israel. The political stands that AIPAC takes and the political allies that AIPAC makes only undermine any possibility for a sustainable and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians and only serves to alienate the US Jewish community.

Rick H says:

aipac simple has to much power. they intimidate politicians to vote out of fear not good policy. Aipac does not speak to american values, jewish values or for me

Habbgun says:

We need an intellectually honest Jewish community and the dishonesty comes from the J Street types. The Left is the most anti-Israel portion of the American electorate at this time (at least the most numerically significant and the most politically powerful portion) and yet the Jewish Left has never honestly examined there own priniciples. Let us remember that the Palestinians only became recognized as a group after the Jerusalem Mufti agreed that the Germans were the master race in order to create an alliance to kill Jews (whenever we wonder why Leftists don’t seem to care about when Arabs other than Palestinians suffer this is the reason).
Let us also remember the death camps of the Left that have occured through Fascism (a Leftist philosophy) and Communism. Until Leftist Jews make an honest intellectual effort to defend their viewpoints (which are indeed questionable) than we should not be listening to them nor allowing them to pretend to talk in our behalf.

Carolyn says:

How refreshing to see a voice like Rebecca Vilkomerson’s in Tablet! I’m disappointed to see that name-calling and slurs dominate the comments section here, instead of thoughtful responses to the viewpoints presented. AIPAC may not represent the Jewish values that are important to me, but Rebecca Vilkomerson and JVP do.

Sorry for my confusion. Indeed, Mearsheimer wrote that he had written the blurb, but this article appeared in Walt’s column, hence my mistake.

http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/09/25/mearsheimer_responds_to_goldbergs_latest_smear

ajweberman says:

two clever Jew haters but not clever enough

CygnusA81 says:

Why? I’ve seen the posters. They are disgusting. They imply that AIPAC works against American interests. They imply that AIPAC works for a foreign country. They imply that Jews who support AIPAC look disloyal the United States of America.

Anyway do you really know their motives? JVP is as Orwellian as you can get. They aren’t for a real peace agreement. These people are about themselves. They are political narcissists. They don’t actually care about Israel’s security needs. They believe in moral relativism. They don’t see a difference between the IDF and HAMAS. They are for a force agreement between the two parties. How will that bring a lasting peace? Oh that’s right it wont.

Here’s an analogy for you. I’m assuming you aren’t a Reagan fan. So lets take his trickle down-economics theory and replace it with a peace agreement. Reagan stated that if the top creates wealth, then wealth will trickle down to the masses. Now I’m sure you don’t believe that right?

But that’s what JVP wants. They want a forced agreement even though one side aka the Palestinian populace has no intention in keeping the peace even if Israel went back to the armistice lines. The only way there will be peace if the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and stop trying to murder Jews.

aardvark says:

Politics in principle should not be its own justification, and political battles should require grounding in real issues that are honestly portrayed by citing true and full facts. AIPAC is an explicitly political entity, and just as it is in most countries a crime to attempt to buy a vote in an election it also needs to be recognised that to attempt to buy a vote of an elected representative must thence be a higher order of that kind of crime. So, AIPAC spans two issues. One is USA domestic politics, in which it undoubtedly has influence, and the question is whether it is right for democracy that such influence can be obtained through the distribution of money, either directly to campaigns or indirectly to parallel campaigns (e.g. Citizens United decision) for or against a delegate based on her/his record or prospect of cooperation (or venality). The other issue AIPAC sits on is the Middle East. The real issue in the Middle East, in Israel (and indeed in one often-cited justification for Israel), and in Palestine is simple: human rights. The UN’s universal declaration of human rights (UDHR) is binding on all UN members, and it is about time it was enforced by the suspension of privileges for ANY party that violated the commitment to abide by the UDHR. Once we agree on that principle, then it becomes an issue of facts. Remarking that there is plenty of dirt to go around does not excuse anybody, it indicts everybody. Human rights, civility are really subsets of logic, reason, applied to the human context. They deserve at least that much respect.

LightMirror says:

Not surprisingly, Martin Kramer and Steven J. Rosen have tried to turn facts upside down. It should be noted that former top AIPAC lobbyist Steven Rosen was fired in 2005 after he and his AIPAC colleague Keith Weissman were wiretapped by the FBI passing what they thought was classified information to a Washington Post reporter and were indicted by the Department of Justice under the Espionage Act. Rosen has since turned on his former AIPAC friends by filing a $20 million defamation lawsuit against them.
Kramer claims that “The ‘lobby’ is fueled by Israel’s value as a strategic asset in an unstable region.” In fact, from both a legal and practical standpoint, Israel is not an ally of the US. There is no alliance or treaty or any kind between the two nations. The Memorandum of Understanding of Strategic Cooperation that Reagan signed with Israel in 1983 is not a treaty and has no force in international law. It merely binds the US administration that signs it.
Israel lacks the land or population to support a role as a strategic ally. Even though it is the military superpower of the Middle East, Israel’s record of hostility and violence toward its neighbors and the occupied Palestinian population makes it a serious burden to US national security.
The costs of this burden go beyond the more than $123 billion from the US treasury in subsidizing Israel since 1949, and the moral price the American people pay as the result of our collusion in Israel’s repression of human rights. Other costs are from direct, deliberate acts by Israeli authorities, including the killing and harassment of US military personnel (US Marine peacekeepers in Lebanon, 1983-1984), an extensive campaign of espionage against the US, the theft and transfer of US military technology and hardware to countries hostile to the US, the penetration and corruption of government agencies, and intimidating political pressure and manipulation that warps the US democratic process.
For example, an exemption that became known as the “AIPAC loophole” was slipped into the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. This loophole allows AIPAC to form a charitable foundation that can continue to fund carefully-orchestrated junkets (all-expenses-paid trips) to Israel for 80 or more members of Congress each year for the purpose of indoctrinating them on Israel’s side of the continuing Middle East conflict and war. One of the important reforms of McCain-Feingold was to eliminate the junkets provided by special interest groups that were designed to influence members of Congress with free travel and perks.
Instead of Israel being a “strategic asset,” because of their close association with Israel, Americans have been tagged as targets by Israel’s enemies. American diplomats, educators and other professionals from Italy to Lebanon to Sudan to Algeria have been taken hostage or killed, and American travelers and citizens here at home have been placed in peril, killed or wounded in acts of terror.
Scholar Cheryl A. Rubenberg notes: “In the US-Israeli relationship the United States has provided absolute support, but Israel has repeatedly engaged in actions that have contravened American interests — often significantly harming them.” [Rubenberg, "Israel and the American National Interest," p. 330-31]
As for Steven Rosen’s claim that “The real Israel is a tiny state facing the largest aggregation of offensive weaponry…that has ever been arrayed against a single country,” the facts belie that pervasive claim. Even during Israel’s war of independence, trained Jewish forces outnumbered the total forces committed to battle by five Arab countries on May 15, 1948, and continued to do so throughout the war. On May 18, US army intelligence estimated the forces as 40,000 Jewish troops and 50,000 militia against 20,000 Arab troops and 13,000 guerrillas. [Green, "Taking Sides," p. 71]
Israel had such an advantage in both troops and weapons that there was never any serious doubt among observers that Israel would win the war. US Secretary of State George Marshall notified US embassies the day before the war began that the Arab armies were weak and would be no match for Israel. His major worry expressed via telegram was that “if Jews follow counsel of their extremists who favor contemptuous policy toward Arabs, any Jewish State to be set up will be able to survive only with continuous assistance from Abroad.” [Secret telegram "INFOTEL from Secretary of State," 14 May 1948, cited in Green, "Taking Sides," p. 70-71]
Today, “tiny” Israel is ranked as the most militarized, weaponized nation on earth and the world’s number six military superpower. ["Jane's Intelligence Review"] Israel is capable of converting Iran and all of its neighbors and enemies, individually or collectively, into irradiated burned-out cinders of rubble, sand and dust in a matter of minutes. It is thoroughly appropriate that the American people take a critical look at the US-Israel relationship, at the pressing need for Middle East peace, and at the dynamics of AIPAC and the powerful pro-Israel lobby in shaping US policy. A direct billboard campaign of 100 ads is the least we can do toward that end.
JVP member

Binyamin says:

Atzmon is not a Holocaust denier. From his book, “The Wondering Who”:

As much as I was a sceptic youngster, I was also horrified by the Holocaust. In the 1970s Holocaust survivors were part of our social landscape. They were our neighbours, we met them in our family gatherings, in the classroom, in politics, in the corner shop. The dark numbers tattooed on their white arms never faded away. It always had a chilling effect. . . . It was actually the internalization of the meaning of the Holocaust that transformed me into a strong opponent of Israel and Jewish-ness. It is the Holocaust that eventually made me a devoted supporter of Palestinian rights, resistance and the Palestinian right of return” (pp. 185-186).

Of course, neither Walt and Mearsheimer are anti-semites either, and the slander is characteristic of how the pro-Israel lobby deals with critics.

What is so threatening about Atzmon is that he states the truth: the Holocaust has been misused to justify the subjugation and dispossession of the Palestinians. In that regard, he is no different the Peter Novick, Avram Burg and Norman Finklestein.

Binyamin says:

Mr. Weberman: Please return to picking through Bob Dylan’s garbage, rather than heaping garbage on two honorable Americans.

Habbgun says:

Maybe you haven’t noticed but Europe is a failed continent. Two World Wars, a few genocides and it has left the world with the fallout from its imperialist ambitions. Rather than making up enemies lets look at the realities of the world.

Habbgun says:

Yeah….but I’m share you can’t wait to shut down alternative energy sources for so-called environmental reasons…..leftist are always just a bundle of easy causes

Andrew Miller says:

Kudos to Vilkomerson and Elsner, who alone have the courage to mention one incredibly destructive effect of AIPAC and like-minded groups: Because of their influence, the United States prevents the world from taking action against Israel’s brutal colonization of the West Bank and its oppression of the Palestinians who live there. And of the two, only Vilkomerson has the candor to call AIPAC out on its promotion of bigotry (such as its alliance with fundamentalist anti-Semites like John Hagee).

AIPAC is not pro-Israel. It is pro-right-wing, pro-colonization, pro-war, anti-moderation, and anti-peace.

CygnusA81 says:

Funny, who wants to bet that JVP spammed their listsev stating that they need their 100 followers to post on Tablet to explain how awesome they are?

I’m guessing a 100% chance.

Carolyn, first if you read and follow JVP, they demonize Israelis and their supporters all day every day. However, that is not my issue. When however, they take ACTION against us like Boycott campaigns and encouraging Christian anti-semitism against us, all bets are off. We are actually too kind to her, they should be boycotted, just like they do to us. To me JVP Is no different than the Nazis who stood outside Jrwish shops with signs that read “Don’t buy from Jews” Actually, they are worse.

Gerson Robboy says:

Depends on how you look at it. One person’s destruction of the state of Israel in its entirety is another person’s secular state in which everyone has equal rights, not only Jews.

LtcHoward says:

Jordan Jew- free; the West Bank Jew-free; Gaza Jew-free; East Jerusalem Jew-free; from the river to the sea Jew-free. Egypt very few Jews and they are vanishing. Christians are vanishing. Name a Muslim dominated area where Christians are thriving or at least holding their own. “The streets will flow red ankle-deep with Jewish blood”. Yes,Gerson it really depends on how you look at it. (by the way as a non-Jew Christians and Muslims in Israel have more rights than anywhere else in the Middle East.)

ajweberman says:

shut up muzzie devil worshiping scum

LtcHoward says:

@MILLER:VIKOMERSON…‘Palestinian Only’ Buses in Israel: The Big Lies are Back Lori Lowenthal Marcus March 5th, 2013

The headlines roll out, the journalistic warfare continues, and the Jewish State once more is cast in the starring role of “evil, Apartheid empire.” This time the story is that Israel is forcing the Arab Palestinians to ride separate buses from the ones Jewish Israelis ride.

The reality is exactly the opposite – there are no “Palestinian only” buses. Instead, with its new bus routes, Israel is reducing crowded buses, attempting to relieve ethnic tensions and security concerns, and is assisting Arab Palestinians enter Green Line Israel to work. But we’ll get to the facts – which exonerate Israel from “Apartheid” charges – in a minute. For right now you can rest assured that despite efforts to cast the Arab Palestinians in the role of Rosa Parks, a closer fit would be to cast the purveyors of this latest attack as peddlers of the Big Lie.

First, the hysteria:

One headline, from the magazine formerly known as Newsweek, and now known as – more accurately – the Daily Beast, “West Bank Buses Only the Latest in Israel’s Segregated Public Transport,” and one from the uber-leftist+972, “Israel’ new ‘Palestinian only’ segregated bus line,” and even the Israeli news media outlet YNet fans the flames: “Ministry launches ‘Palestinians only’ buses.”

The claims are exactly as you would expect them, and made by those whom you would suspect. For example, Jessica Montell is the director of the anti-Israel, pro-Arab B’tselem Rights group. “Creating separate bus lines for Israeli Jews and Palestinians is a revolting plan,” Montell told Army Radio. “This is simply racism.”

And the far-leftist political Meretz party chairwoman Zahava Gal-On reamed Transportation Minister Israel Katz, demanding that he “immediately cancel the segregated lines in the West Bank. Separate bus lines for Palestinians prove that occupation and democracy cannot coexist,” she said.

What are the facts?

HISTORICAL FACTS

First of all, all Israeli citizens are permitted to ride all Israeli transportation vehicles, whether they are Arab, Finnish or Lithuanian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist.

Second, any non-citizen of Israel, just as is the case with every other country in the world, has to show identification when entering Israel’s official borders – it is true for American citizens entering Canada and Mexico, just as it is the case for citizens of the Palestinian Authority who wish to enter Israel.

Third, Israeli citizens who live in Judea and Samaria pay taxes, a portion of which subsidize the transportation infrastructure and vehicles, whereas Arabs who live in the PA towns do not. In fact, taxes paid by Arabs in Israel are turned over to the PA to support their infrastructure, which includes – or should – transportation services for their residents.

One consequence of the preceding points is that the Israeli bus lines travel from and to all areas in which tax-paying Israeli citizens live – from Jerusalem to Shilo, from Tel Aviv to Efrat, and so forth. The Israeli bus companies do not stop at, for example, the Arab town of Ramallah, just as they do not stop at non-authorized Jewish towns such as Givat Har-el.

WHAT IS NEW?

The bare fact: the Israeli government added two bus lines (so far, there was overcrowding on Monday, March 4, the first day the service was instituted, and the Transportation Ministry said more buses will likely be added) that will serve Arab Palestinian towns with transportation into central Israel. The Israeli bus lines previously did not stop in towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Despite the efforts of BDS advocates, there are tens of thousands of Arab Palestinians who work in different parts of Israel. Arab Palestinians with work permits would previously have to travel first to a place where the Israeli buses stop, or would be dependent on the much higher-priced Arab buses to get into central Israel.

So why the hysteria? Because some see this as an evil plot to segregate Jews and Arabs. But non-citizens are not entitled to use Israeli public transportation into central Israel without showing border identification, and prior to the provision of these new bus lines, Arab Palestinians were dependent on transportation services by “pirate” (Arab, by the way) companies which charged the Arabs far more than the Israeli lines do.

The new bus lines are not, as the misleading headlines suggest, only for Arab Palestinians, the restriction they have is that they only stop at Arab towns in the territories, where – few would disagree – Jews with or without special identification would not dare go for fear – a legitimate one – of physical violence. The fact remains that any Israeli citizens, Jewish, Christian or Zoroastrians, who live in the “Jewish” towns, were able to and did use the pre-existing bus lines.

Now that we have some actual facts in front of us, let’s go back to the issue of borders. The primary responsibility of any sovereign nation is the protection of its citizens. Israel, you may have noticed, has been under relentless attack from its Arab neighbors since it was re-born in 1948.

And let’s add into the mix the fact that one of the most “effective” forms of terrorism during the uprisings was the use of suicide bombers on Israeli buses. Hundreds of Israelis were killed and thousands were injured in a few dozen different bus bombings, all of which were perpetrated by Israel-hating Arabs from Israel’s neighborhood. And those were just the attacks that took place on buses or in bus stations. Those numbers don’t include the many times that number of Israelis murdered or wounded by terrorists who infiltrated Israel via its buses for the exclusive purpose of murdering or assisting in the murder of Jews.

Yisrael Medad, a citizen of Shilo and occasional spokesperson for the Yesha communities, told The Jewish Pressthat the issue is purely this: for someone with a blue identification card (i.e. a citizen of Israel), there is no problem. And there are plenty of non-Jewish citizens of Israel – at least 20 percent, in fact.

Anyone with an orange identification card (i.e. not a citizen of Israel), however, must go through security procedures in order to get on to a bus going into the sovereign state of Israel. Whether that happens when everyone is boarding the bus, or it happens when the bus arrives at a checkpoint, it must happen for security reasons and if an orange card holder – whether from Tahiti or Tulkarem – does not have the requisite evidence, they can’t get on the bus. This is the case with any entry into Israel: Ben Gurion if by air, or border crossings if by road.

Medad also pointed out there have been repeated efforts by agitators to paint Israel as an Apartheid state with an Apartheid transportation system – none of which has been based on reality. Not so long ago a stunt was attempted by what some clever public relations specialists dubbed the “freedom riders.”

“WEST BANK” “FREEDOM RIDERS”

On November 15, 2011, six Arab Palestinians boarded a bus at the psagot junction in Shomron (“West Bank”) amid great media fanfare. They called themselves the “West Bank Freedom Riders.” The media gullibly latched on to the label, and watched, flashed their cameras and gleefully scribbled their stories of racial segregation. When the six refused to show their identification documents at the Chizma checkpoint entrance to Jerusalem, they finally were forcibly removed and temporarily detained.

But here’s the rub: the real freedom riders, the people who actually risked life and limb – and sometimes lost both – to help overcome Jim Crow racism in Mississippi and Alabama and places like that were seeking equal rights for American citizens, not trying to extend privileges reserved for citizens – ones who present no security risk – to non-citizens.

What’s more, as Medad pointed out to The Jewish Press, the six Arabs were not denied the opportunity to ride the bus, they were simply not allowed past a checkpoint into Jerusalem because they refused to show identification. Anyone refusing to show identification would have been treated the same way.

One of the many ironies in this latest attack on Israel’s morality is that the efforts, like mushrooms in the dark, have grown and mutated. For a long time there was a repeated insistence that there are “Jews Only” roads in Israel. Amira Hass, of the hard left Haaretz, was one of the primary dispensers of that tall tale. Of course there are no “Jews only” roads in Israel, just as there are no Jews only buses or even ‘Palestinian only’ buses in Israel. But if you tell a big lie often enough, well, Goebbels was the master and look where that took us.

OFFICIAL STATEMENTS

“The ministry has not issued any instruction or prohibition that prevents Palestinian workers from traveling on public transport in Israel nor in Judea and Samaria,” said Avner Ovadia, spokesman for the Israeli Transport Ministry. She also said, mostly to deaf ears, that ministry officials are “not authorized to prevent any passenger from using public transport services.”

The bus company, Afikim, issued its own statement: “This plan aims to ease travel for Palestinian passengers and offer a solution that counters pirate bus companies that charge exorbitant prices.”

But for some people, and lots of journalists, no good motives can be imputed to Israelis.

There has been pushback to the explanation that the new bus lines were instituted in order to relieve crowding and to protect Arab Palestinians from exorbitant prices. Mairav Zonszein of +972 wrote, “That may be so, but in order to solve the problem of overcrowding, why not simply add more bus lines for everyone? Why the need to specify who they are for?”

The answer is that only Arabs live in the towns where these new lines will stop. And yes, security is an issue. A legitimate issue for a legitimate government.

On the other hand, there are Arabs-only buses throughout the Middle East, where no Jews are allowed. They’re in Middle Eastern locales like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and even in most parts of the PA-controlled territories. But that’s not a story likely to gain any traction in the media, even for those who apparently yearn to write a story of Apartheid in the Middle East.

LtcHoward says:

‘Palestinian Only’ Buses in Israel: The Big Lies are Back
Lori Lowenthal Marcus March 5th, 2013

The headlines roll out, the journalistic warfare continues, and the Jewish State once more is cast in the starring role of “evil, Apartheid empire.” This time the story is that Israel is forcing the Arab Palestinians to ride separate buses from the ones Jewish Israelis ride.

The reality is exactly the opposite – there are no “Palestinian only” buses. Instead, with its new bus routes, Israel is reducing crowded buses, attempting to relieve ethnic tensions and security concerns, and is assisting Arab Palestinians enter Green Line Israel to work. But we’ll get to the facts – which exonerate Israel from “Apartheid” charges – in a minute. For right now you can rest assured that despite efforts to cast the Arab Palestinians in the role of Rosa Parks, a closer fit would be to cast the purveyors of this latest attack as peddlers of the Big Lie.

First, the hysteria:

One headline, from the magazine formerly known as Newsweek, and now known as – more accurately – the Daily Beast, “West Bank Buses Only the Latest in Israel’s Segregated Public Transport,” and one from the uber-leftist+972, “Israel’ new ‘Palestinian only’ segregated bus line,” and even the Israeli news media outlet YNet fans the flames: “Ministry launches ‘Palestinians only’ buses.”

The claims are exactly as you would expect them, and made by those whom you would suspect. For example, Jessica Montell is the director of the anti-Israel, pro-Arab B’tselem Rights group. “Creating separate bus lines for Israeli Jews and Palestinians is a revolting plan,” Montell told Army Radio. “This is simply racism.”

And the far-leftist political Meretz party chairwoman Zahava Gal-On reamed Transportation Minister Israel Katz, demanding that he “immediately cancel the segregated lines in the West Bank. Separate bus lines for Palestinians prove that occupation and democracy cannot coexist,” she said.

What are the facts?

HISTORICAL FACTS

First of all, all Israeli citizens are permitted to ride all Israeli transportation vehicles, whether they are Arab, Finnish or Lithuanian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist.

Second, any non-citizen of Israel, just as is the case with every other country in the world, has to show identification when entering Israel’s official borders – it is true for American citizens entering Canada and Mexico, just as it is the case for citizens of the Palestinian Authority who wish to enter Israel.

Third, Israeli citizens who live in Judea and Samaria pay taxes, a portion of which subsidize the transportation infrastructure and vehicles, whereas Arabs who live in the PA towns do not. In fact, taxes paid by Arabs in Israel are turned over to the PA to support their infrastructure, which includes – or should – transportation services for their residents.

One consequence of the preceding points is that the Israeli bus lines travel from and to all areas in which tax-paying Israeli citizens live – from Jerusalem to Shilo, from Tel Aviv to Efrat, and so forth. The Israeli bus companies do not stop at, for example, the Arab town of Ramallah, just as they do not stop at non-authorized Jewish towns such as Givat Har-el.

WHAT IS NEW?

The bare fact: the Israeli government added two bus lines (so far, there was overcrowding on Monday, March 4, the first day the service was instituted, and the Transportation Ministry said more buses will likely be added) that will serve Arab Palestinian towns with transportation into central Israel. The Israeli bus lines previously did not stop in towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Despite the efforts of BDS advocates, there are tens of thousands of Arab Palestinians who work in different parts of Israel. Arab Palestinians with work permits would previously have to travel first to a place where the Israeli buses stop, or would be dependent on the much higher-priced Arab buses to get into central Israel.

So why the hysteria? Because some see this as an evil plot to segregate Jews and Arabs. But non-citizens are not entitled to use Israeli public transportation into central Israel without showing border identification, and prior to the provision of these new bus lines, Arab Palestinians were dependent on transportation services by “pirate” (Arab, by the way) companies which charged the Arabs far more than the Israeli lines do.

The new bus lines are not, as the misleading headlines suggest, only for Arab Palestinians, the restriction they have is that they only stop at Arab towns in the territories, where – few would disagree – Jews with or without special identification would not dare go for fear – a legitimate one – of physical violence. The fact remains that any Israeli citizens, Jewish, Christian or Zoroastrians, who live in the “Jewish” towns, were able to and did use the pre-existing bus lines.

Now that we have some actual facts in front of us, let’s go back to the issue of borders. The primary responsibility of any sovereign nation is the protection of its citizens. Israel, you may have noticed, has been under relentless attack from its Arab neighbors since it was re-born in 1948.

And let’s add into the mix the fact that one of the most “effective” forms of terrorism during the uprisings was the use of suicide bombers on Israeli buses. Hundreds of Israelis were killed and thousands were injured in a few dozen different bus bombings, all of which were perpetrated by Israel-hating Arabs from Israel’s neighborhood. And those were just the attacks that took place on buses or in bus stations. Those numbers don’t include the many times that number of Israelis murdered or wounded by terrorists who infiltrated Israel via its buses for the exclusive purpose of murdering or assisting in the murder of Jews.

Yisrael Medad, a citizen of Shilo and occasional spokesperson for the Yesha communities, told The Jewish Pressthat the issue is purely this: for someone with a blue identification card (i.e. a citizen of Israel), there is no problem. And there are plenty of non-Jewish citizens of Israel – at least 20 percent, in fact.

Anyone with an orange identification card (i.e. not a citizen of Israel), however, must go through security procedures in order to get on to a bus going into the sovereign state of Israel. Whether that happens when everyone is boarding the bus, or it happens when the bus arrives at a checkpoint, it must happen for security reasons and if an orange card holder – whether from Tahiti or Tulkarem – does not have the requisite evidence, they can’t get on the bus. This is the case with any entry into Israel: Ben Gurion if by air, or border crossings if by road.

Medad also pointed out there have been repeated efforts by agitators to paint Israel as an Apartheid state with an Apartheid transportation system – none of which has been based on reality. Not so long ago a stunt was attempted by what some clever public relations specialists dubbed the “freedom riders.”

“WEST BANK” “FREEDOM RIDERS”

On November 15, 2011, six Arab Palestinians boarded a bus at the psagot junction in Shomron (“West Bank”) amid great media fanfare. They called themselves the “West Bank Freedom Riders.” The media gullibly latched on to the label, and watched, flashed their cameras and gleefully scribbled their stories of racial segregation. When the six refused to show their identification documents at the Chizma checkpoint entrance to Jerusalem, they finally were forcibly removed and temporarily detained.

But here’s the rub: the real freedom riders, the people who actually risked life and limb – and sometimes lost both – to help overcome Jim Crow racism in Mississippi and Alabama and places like that were seeking equal rights for American citizens, not trying to extend privileges reserved for citizens – ones who present no security risk – to non-citizens.

What’s more, as Medad pointed out to The Jewish Press, the six Arabs were not denied the opportunity to ride the bus, they were simply not allowed past a checkpoint into Jerusalem because they refused to show identification. Anyone refusing to show identification would have been treated the same way.

One of the many ironies in this latest attack on Israel’s morality is that the efforts, like mushrooms in the dark, have grown and mutated. For a long time there was a repeated insistence that there are “Jews Only” roads in Israel. Amira Hass, of the hard left Haaretz, was one of the primary dispensers of that tall tale. Of course there are no “Jews only” roads in Israel, just as there are no Jews only buses or even ‘Palestinian only’ buses in Israel. But if you tell a big lie often enough, well, Goebbels was the master and look where that took us.

OFFICIAL STATEMENTS

“The ministry has not issued any instruction or prohibition that prevents Palestinian workers from traveling on public transport in Israel nor in Judea and Samaria,” said Avner Ovadia, spokesman for the Israeli Transport Ministry. She also said, mostly to deaf ears, that ministry officials are “not authorized to prevent any passenger from using public transport services.”

The bus company, Afikim, issued its own statement: “This plan aims to ease travel for Palestinian passengers and offer a solution that counters pirate bus companies that charge exorbitant prices.”

But for some people, and lots of journalists, no good motives can be imputed to Israelis.

There has been pushback to the explanation that the new bus lines were instituted in order to relieve crowding and to protect Arab Palestinians from exorbitant prices. Mairav Zonszein of +972 wrote, “That may be so, but in order to solve the problem of overcrowding, why not simply add more bus lines for everyone? Why the need to specify who they are for?”

The answer is that only Arabs live in the towns where these new lines will stop. And yes, security is an issue. A legitimate issue for a legitimate government.

On the other hand, there are Arabs-only buses throughout the Middle East, where no Jews are allowed. They’re in Middle Eastern locales like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and even in most parts of the PA-controlled territories. But that’s not a story likely to gain any traction in the media, even for those who apparently yearn to write a story of Apartheid in the Middle East.

LtcHoward says:

missile attacks from Gaza. Terrorist attacks from Sinai. Terrorist attacks and missiles from Lebanon. then read the gobbledygook posted above and ask: “is he sane?

aardvark says:

So, are you saying (a) that you do not believe in human rights, or (b) that you do not believe they are rights for everybody? Once we know where you stand on that principle, then we could talk about facts. And gobbledygook too, if you like. But why not try being respectful?

Binyamin says:

As a general rule, the length of a legal brief is inversely proportional to the force of its argument.

Lbnaz says:

Poor, poor “Binyamin” Someone unfortunately posted to YouTube an hour-long panel discussion, in six segments, in which Atzmon tries to promulgate his Holocaust denial on a public access television site in Colorado, and is stopped in his tracks by another panelist who sees right through it and rakes Atzmon repeatedly over the coals, rendering your claim that Atzmon isn’t a Holocaust Denier, ergo neo-Nazi entirely fatuous.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWDz5xw8PKU

Atzmon does so poorly that the Atzmon acolyte Anthony Lawson won’t allow comments to appear on the YouTube site, directing people instead to Atzmon’s own site — where of course no comments are allowed to be posted.

Binyamin says:

The TV show you cite contains six parts posted on Youtube.

Part 2, at 1:13– Atzmon (in the context of whether the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust is relevant): “My concern is not how many Jews died. If its 2.5 million its quite enough.”

Part 4, at 8:05 — Atzmon (replying to the point that U.S. Dep. Sec. of Defense (during the Iraq war) Paul Wolfowitz had family members who perished in the Holocaust): “It wasn’t the Iraqis that killed his ancestors.”

Part 6, at 3:40 — {Your coal-raking panelist}: “There are many historians who have documented what we know about the Holocaust. So it seems to me difficult to throw all that out the window.”

Atzmon: “Why would you think I want to throw that out the window.”

Lbnaz says:

Part 1, at 6:39 the neo Nazi Atzmon referring to Holocaust Denial says: “I believe that once we stop thinking of history in terms of revisionism (i.e. Holocaust Revisionism), if we are not allowed to look into the past and to reshape it, we eventually lose the prospect of a future. We lose hope.”

Now be a good little Atzmonite neo-Nazi and go lick Ernst Zundel’s boot, “Binyamin”

JWeiner says:

Israel’s loss of legitimacy is the bitter fruit of its persistence in such long-standing policies as routinely demolishing and expropriating Palestinians’ homes and land; denying many Palestinians access to water, electricity and paved roads; uprooting Palestinians’ olive orchards or denying them access to their land; building the planned 430-mile-long “separation wall” deep inside the West Bank, expropriating 8.5% of West Bank territory; imprisoning and traumatizing children; routinely keeping people waiting in lines for hours or days at checkpoints; emptying West Bank aquifers for settlers’ swimming pools and factories while punishing Palestinians for collecting rainwater; and continuing a Kafkaesque military administrative system of discriminatory “justice” applied only to Palestinians.
Israel says it won’t negotiate with Hamas unless Hamas recognizes Israel as a Jewish State.
But the real question Israel faces is how and whether _Jews_ can recognize it as a Jewish state! Israel’s contempt for human rights and for international law – indeed, even for Jewish law – explain why “defending Israel” means, to more and more of us, standing up against its continual violations of its own professed values and its trampling of what we were taught is the central tenet of Jewish Torah, ethics and tradition: “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.”

zlop says:

Most Politicians are pro-Israel compromised, however, the military knows;
“Israel DID 9/11 (Israeli Mossad) Dr. Alan Sabrosky”

Of course we need AIPAC. If for no other reason than to keep the Soros backed J Street from being “thee” Israeli Lobby. The fact that this AIPAC has never been the Goliath the anti’s claim does not obviate the need. With all of the anti-Israel/Zionist organizations we NEED a strong voice in support. I don’t always agree with AIPAC. Yet they are a strong pro Zionist voice fighting against the growing tide of anti-Zionist and anti-semitic hate.

I guess a non-Jew just did. Thanks for your support.

Yes Anita, I do.

George; I never underplay the Shoah. But I do not always equate those I disagree with to those that wish us, as Jews dead. If we can no longer debate, then bloodshed is the next step. It’s a step I would rather avoid. But George, I am not a peace at any price type.

Stanley; There is an entire industry publishing these anti-Zionist works of fiction. I’ve read several of them. They’re right up there with “Protocols”. Everything is the fauldt of those nefarious Jews. Wake Up!

See George, we do agree on most thing. Nice resonse.

Jenny says:

Sources: Where do you get the idea that “the overwhelming number of Jewish Americans agree that nonvilolent actions are in our, Israel’s and world Jewry’s interests”? Other than to underscore your personal viewpoint.

Jenny says:

This from an Israeli – If Israel set up one single bus system or bus and tram system, then the Arabs would complain that the livelihood of Arab minibus and jitney owners is being taken away. [And why should Arabs have to ride on buses owned by Jews or with Jewish drivers, since the country belongs to the Arabs] .So we have a duplication of routes. The buses come south to the Center City down Nablus Road [Derekh Sh'khem] or come north to the Center City from Bethlehem on Hebron Road [Derekh Hebron]. Whether southbound or northbound, the Arab buses travel over the same routes as the Israeli buses[and north of the city, on the same roads as the tram, which does have its own right of way].
Of course Arab can and do ride on the Jewish-owned buses and trams.

Loren Paeglis says:

Islamic terror groups cause Islamic phobias, not Israeli lobbyists. Speeches made by Islamic leaders of killing all the Jews and Christians and lobbying rockets and stones towards Israel and minorities in their own countries cause distrust of Islamic leaders
.

neils60 says:

Sid, Be sure to tell all of this to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, he’ll likely get a real kick out of your statements, too.

Many years ago, a visiting Israeli general told a friend of mine in Los Angeles that American Jews were so bloodthirsty, they were ready to fight to the last Israeli.

As for the Lobby, as the late writer, Richard Ben Cramer, said when asked what would happen to it if Israel made peace with all its neighbors and there was no justification for the US maintaining it as an armed Sparta in the Middle East, “it would disappear.”

The sad reality is that the major organizations of the Jewish establishment, and not just AIPAC, work to make sure that Israel maintains a constant state of belligerency towards its Muslim neighbors, portraying them to their donors as the aggressors while Congress guarantees that Israel will continue to hold a qualitative military edge over all its adversaries, real or imagined, combined. Without being able to spread fear of the next holocaust, these organizations would be out of business.

It should be remembered that on the eve of the 1967 war, Israel’s economy was stagnant and more Jews were leaving Israel than making aliyah. Israel was the last choice of American Jews taking vacations abroad and the Jewish Agency was in a crisis mode. The Six-Day war changed all of that and successive Israeli governments have apparently not forgotten the lesson.

I have known quite a number of Holocaust survivors over the year, not sons and daughters of same, and all of them, all of them, demonstrated more humanity in their little toe than you, George Naftali Muenz who more than qualifies for what Shau Leibowitz described as a Judeo-Nazi.

Brant Rosen is a member of JVP’s Rabbinical board. The same JVP that is led by Rebecca Vilkomerson, who said that JVP is part of the global BDS movement. The goal of BDS is quite openly stated– the elimination of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. QED.

note that at AIPAC, I heard both Michael Oren and Ehud Barak support the two state solution in front of an audience of over 10,000. So much for “right wing pro settlement”…..

Fed_Up18 says:

Sorry to hear that: I don’t consider J Street so much “Left” as “Stupid.” *I’m* a Leftist: they do not represent me.

I support AIPAC but I think the entire premise of a “two-state solution” is ludicrous at best and dangerous at worst. The Arabs never wanted two states; they want one state called “Palestine” and NO ISRAEL AT ALL!! Take a look at their maps and check in with Palestinian Media Watch to verify what the Arabs want.

People like Vilkolmerson make me sick! Their pro-Arab/anti-Israel beliefs don’t take into account that the Arabs in Israel enjoy better living conditions as well as more legal rights than those Arabs living anywhere else in the Middle East. JVP also ignores the fact that it is the terrorist actions of the Arabs that is the major cause of the lack of peace, not Israel’s building apartments in Judea and Samaria! Israel has NEVER had a “peace partner” and the PA has broken every one of the peace conditions that it had agreed to. The PA has not changed from the terrorist group PLO and their goal of destroying Israel is still in their charter! Not having a stable, peaceful Arab to negotiate with is why there is no peace in Israel not any of the “poor Palestinian” made-up injustices!

Dear Press:

As an active member of AIPAC, I can ensure you that AIPAC has achieved great success this past month and continues to grow strong by advocating, through bipartisanship, to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of Israel and the United States.  This includes building strong commercial and military ties between the two closest allies.

In the past month alone, AIPAC members wrote to members and representatives of Congress and the Senate, in thanking them for their support on the following issues, that AIPAC lobbied for:

(1) Preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. In the Senate, members have passed a resolution (S. Res. 65) declaring that the United States will stand by Israel should it feel compelled to take military action in its own defense against Iran. In the House, members have passed the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act (H.R. 850), which authorizes the president to impose sanctions on any entity that maintains significant commercial ties to Iran.
AIPAC members urged their House and Senate members to support both measures in order to send a strong message that the United States will act to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

(2) Strengthening the U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation by officially designating Israel as a “major strategic partner.” Such a designation will help the two nations maximize the benefits of their alliance, which includes both commercial and military ties.

(3) Supporting the full $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel that the U.S. committed to for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 and beyond, as well as the $211 million in additional funding for the Iron Dome.

These are huge successes in which AIPAC was a part of, thus, continuing to enact public policy that strengthens the vital U.S.-Israel relationship.

On a side note, it is greatly appreciated to read about different opinions on AIPAC; it will allow the organization to grow stronger.

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Do We Need a Pro-Israel Lobby?

Six prominent thinkers and activists make their case—and their answers may surprise you