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Peace Process-niks

J Street, Beinart draw a crowd for ‘Day of Action’

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Peter Beinart addressing the crowd yesterday.(The author)

A good way to get Tablet Magazine to cover your event is to stage it 15 blocks from our office, in front of the New York Public Library’s main branch in midtown Manhattan, on a gorgeous summer day. Yet one young woman at the New York City iteration of J Street’s “Day of Action” yesterday would have come, it seemed, even if she had had to travel far in inclement conditions. “This is amazing!” she told a friend. “ A day. Of. Action,” she added, investing those stale words with their real meanings. Like ‘em or not, you have to be impressed with fervent J Street supporters, if only because they manage to get themselves excited about decidedly unexciting things: a negotiated two-state solution; a deliberate course through the middle; always being, as the organization’s founder and head famously put it, President Obama’s “blocking back.” It is much easier to be passionate about, say, the move for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations—but J Street would prefer there be negotiations right now. Likewise, and especially in the wake of last week’s horrific attacks in Israel, it is much easier to be passionate about just keeping the status quo and focusing on Israel’s security as it is—but J Street, while condemning such attacks unequivocally, would prefer a more equitable outcome. “I [Heart] Two States,” read one t-shirt. They are in love with the most moderate of solutions.

Gil Kulick, communications director for the local J Street chapter, told me that the group planned to walk across 42nd Street to Third Avenue, and thence to the offices of Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to deliver postcards signed by 3,000 New Yorkers. “We’re here to demonstrate that President Obama has a lot of support for his move to make a two-state solution,” he said (blocking back!). Kulick was middle-aged, as were most of the more than 100 attendees. “I’ve been doing this all my life,” he sighed, noting, among other stints, three years he worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. “I fear for the future of democracy in Israel if the occupation doesn’t come to an end. Occupation and democracy aren’t compatible in the long run.”

Kate Press, J Street’s New York City regional director, was first to the megaphone, calling for the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps—the formula long tacitly understood to be the way to two states, which Obama formally stated as the U.S. position in May, to much controversy. And then she introduced the keynote speaker: “He shares our sense of urgency that now is the time to achieve two states,” she proclaimed. “Many of you will know him from his seminal article.” I don’t know their exact ages, but Press and the speaker, Peter Beinart, may well have been the only two thirty-somethings in attendance. The rest were older, or young(er) adults.

Wearing a white oxford shirt and jeans, Beinart’s thin, hard-edged voice sounded through the megaphone not unlike Bobby Kennedy’s (through a megaphone). He spoke without notes, though he had some in his back pocket. He began by bringing up last week’s attacks: “We come here not because we take lightly the murder of Israeli Jews, our brothers and sisters in Israel. Quite the opposite.” He moved onto Tisha B’Av, the holiday commemorating the two destructions of the Temple, which this year was observed earlier this month. In the story of the Second Temple, he related, “The Romans are almost bit players.” It is the Jews who bring destruction upon themselves, he argued, and the lesson of the holiday is that “ethical collapse preceded physical collapse.” Hint, hint. To that effect, Beinart closed by politely suggesting that the “blocking back” needs to step into his own. “Barack Obama’s most important priority is his own re-election,” he argued. “Barack Obama will not have to be the one who has to tell his children that he stood by.” It is rather “Jewish honor,” Beinart insisted, that is at stake, and it is up to Jews, and nobody else, to uphold it—a classically Zionist formulation.

Not a half-hour had passed before the crowd was moving down 42nd Street. In the other direction, sad that prior obligation prevented him from joining them, went Peter Beinart.

“I give support to any organization that I feel is fighting for Israeli democracy,” he said, mentioning B’Tselem and the New Israel Fund, and noting that he has also spoken in front of the American Jewish Committee and AIPAC. Addressing groups with rigid agendas that he may not share in full is “something I’ve wrestled with,” he added.

Like J Street, Beinart would prefer that the two sides in the conflict be directly negotiating right now rather than preparing to face off in Turtle Bay. “Benjamin Netanyahu deserves the bulk of the blame,” he said, continuing: “Obama offered him a life-raft [with his May speech]—it was right before Obama went to Europe, you remember, so he could say, ‘Here, we’ve got something.’ And you know what Netanyahu did with it.”( Netanyahu responded in anger, rebuffing the president, although he has now moved toward quietly pledging to accept the ’67 borders as a negotiating premise.) “There was eagerness among a lot of people on the Palestinian side to get off this train,” Beinart added.

Also unattended was the happy hour, planned for 3:30 at a local watering hole, because, as Press put it, “being pro-Israel and pro-peace makes you pretty thirsty.” Sure, but it must be difficult to quench that thirst knowing that the others sides have the more fun toasts. Can you raise a glass and say, “two states!”?

Related: The New Israel Lobby [NYT Magazine]
Earlier: Beinart Speaks to Tablet

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Despite the Palestinian leadership talking among themselves of steps to destroy Israel, whether by a one, two or many step process, Beinart and J St. criticize Israel and praise some unknown Palestinians who would “get off the train.”

The Palestinians refuse to negotiate – period. That is the basic fact that J St and all of its supporters fail to acknowledge or give much weight.

J street supporters claim to be pro-Israel but act in ways to destroy Israel. This is the sad fact.

When more Israelis die as a result of Palestininan terrorism and bombing, (hopefully there will not be a major war) we will all know that Beinart and J St. are part of those responsible, even though they will probably avoid taking responsibility.

Jason M says:

Eli: How do you imagine peace when you believe each and every Palestinian supports terrorism/war against Israel? Do you honestly believe there are NO supporters of the peace process on the Palestinian side?

The settlers are slowly paving the path for Israel’s destruction. As Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece in Bloomberg a couple of months ago made clear, the settlers have spread over so much Palestinian territory that the Palestinians don’t have to argue for their own state anymore. They just have to ask to be fully-enfranchised Israeli citizens. That will sound the death knell of Israel.

No question where the author’s sympathies lie regarding J Street, is there? As much as you and the organization consider J Street the moderates, they are decidedly on the left wing of American Zionism.

Jason,

I do not believe that all Palestinians support terrorism/war. But sadly polls show that those who support a full peace with Israel are a minority of the Palestinian population.

I do believe that Abbas and his political allies have refused and continue to refuse to negotiate, especially about the hard issues such as Israel as a Jewish State and giving up on the Right of Return, much less acknowledging the Jewish nature of most (notice I do not say all) of Jerusalem. Abbas continues to try to deny Jewish history, as do many others in the Palestinian leadership and power structure. Of course, there is nothing to say about Hamas, who even deny the existence of a Jewish state right now, much less in the past.

Yes, settlers are continuing to expand (in part because there are no negotiations) – but that can be dealt with when a final agreement is made, just as they were removed from Gaza (and look what that unilateral Israeli action has resulted in).

Blaming the settlers is exactly what the J Street crowd do, refusing to see that there have not been (before and after the 1967 war, up to the Camp David talks with President Clinton, Arafat and Barak) and continues to not be Palestinian leaders who are willing and able to go all the way and make peace with Israel.

If there were Palestinian leaders who would negotiate a full and comprehensive peace agreement with Israel today, there would be peace today!

Marc R says:

Not to vindicate the settlers, but they actually haven’t expanded the land that they have occupied in quite a long time. The only way they are expanding is by having more children and building homes on land in current settlements.

Blaming settlers for “expanding” in this way is about as fair as blaming the Palestinians for “expanding” the number of “refugees” in the same way.

Another miss by Tracy and J Street. If the Palestinians wanted a two-state solution, there would already be one. If you don’t believe that, remember the two peace offers the Palestinians walked away from. For a good analysis of the last, by Olmert, go to the Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East web site. This is a Protestant group and it lives up to its name, and it’s certainly better than J Street. Read the analysis, based on the leaked Palestinians negotiating documents, and it’s clear the Palestinians were never negotiating in good faith.

Also, Netanyahu has said he supports two states for two peoples. For whatever reason, people (and by people I mean the media and certain experts) don’t believe him. Maybe they are right, but since the Palestinians won’t negotiate, how can anybody really know. The Palestinians on the other hand say the Jews aren’t a people and that Jews have no historic connection to Israel.

Finally, we should remember Netanyahu suspended settlement construction, but the Palestinians wouldn’t negotiate. He also just offered the ’49 armistice lines as the basis for negotiations if the Palestinians recognized Israel as the Jewish state. http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=232185

I assume that since there are no negotiations, the Palestinians rejected that offer too. But who knows, since people like Tracy and J Street pretend it didn’t happen. Lets all be honest and admit the Palestinians don’t want a peace that leaves Israel in existence and develop a strategy based on that reality.

As Eli points out, polls show this is clearly the case. Poll numbers can change over time, but we need a strategy to make them change. Pretending the Palestinians want what we want won’t do that.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

The problem with J Street, and Peter “Finkler” Beinart in particular is that they blindly accept the Palestinian narrative while assiduously ignoring Israel’s past several generous offers to settle the conflict (the most recent by Olmert to abu Mazen / Mahmoud Abbas) but all offers were simply turned down or ignored.

J Street’s (and most of the left as well) central dogma is that the Palestinians want peace but its only Israeli intransigence and niggardliness that prevents peace from breaking out throughout the middle east. Thus the cognitive dissonance between the reality of Palestinian intransigence (now there is a rare word pairing)and their rigidly held dogma blinds them to Israel’s difficult situation. In particular they refuse to recognize that the Pals track record of peaceably living next to Israel in the absence of the IDF is miserable. The Js ignore the role of the official P.A. media and the openly stated goals of al Fatah (the main organization within the PLO), the PLO, Hamas, and the P.A. itself.

The settlements consume only about ~5-7% of the land in Judea & Samaria and a majority (although probably not an overwhelming majority) of Israelis would be willing to give them up in exchange for a realistic & security peace agreement. However the same Israelis are skeptical about whether such an agreement could be realistic and secure, at least in the foreseeable future, given the experience of the Oslo Accords War, the withdrawal from southern Lebanon, and most of all the now Judenrein Gaza Strip. The jerks at J refuse to accept or even understand Israel’s conundrum.

Although left-wing dogma including that of Tablet defines the settlements as ipso facto illegal, that is far from clear and indeed strong arguments can be made for their legality. Alan Dershowitz bases on UNSCR 242. A longer and more detailed analysis of their legal status can be found here: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-illegal-settlements-myth/.

hg
J’lem / Efrata

Yisrael says:

So in Marc’s world, by abandoning bipartisanship, adopting political “progressivism”, endorsing Democrats over Republicans 60-1, aligning yourself with a President over a policy, alienating all but the left 10% in Congress, and earning the disapproval of the vast (over 95%) majority of the democratic country you profess to love because from your condo in NYC you claim to know their security needs better than they do, equals a “deliberate course through the middle”!

Oh, and EVERY MAJOR JEWISH ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD wants a negotiated solution!! But apparently the irony is lost on Marc that J Street’s endorsed approach (while questioning the sincerity for peace of those who disagree) has for the first time in decades resulted in ZERO negotiations. Honestly, reading this post was like stepping into an alternate universe where the last 2.5 years of failed attempts to encourage negotiations hasn’t actually happened. Thankfully, the Jewish community has mostly ignored their approach because we’re smart enough to recognize that not all sides are to blame when one party has begged for negotiations without preconditions (and taken “unprecedented steps” of their own, per Hillary) and the other has used every excuse in the book to create new preconditions to be met for their participation.

“ A day. Of. Action,” she added, investing those stale words with their real meanings.”

Oh Seriously? Including “of”? She invested the word “of” with its “real meaning”? And while we`re on the subject of real meanings, just what is the “real meaning” of the word “day”? I`m racking my brain, but all I`m coming up with is the old, the “stale” meaning.

You`ll note that I have the good taste not to question whether standing around watching the same old sewing circle of lefty gasbags actually constitutes “action”.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

A shorter (and freely accessible) version of the article I linked-to above on the legal status of the “settlements” by the same author (David Phillips) can also be found here:
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/12/29/david-m-phillips-the-myth-of-israel-s-illegal-settlements.aspx I believe Jason(?) Rostow has also published a defense of the “settlement’s” status within the past year or so.

Also the idea of a 1:1 land swap was accepted only by Olmert and proposed by him to abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) who considered it unworthy of a counter offer. One of the few US journalists who has had his moment of epiphany and position reversal on the I-P conflict, is the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl who is not suspected of Likudnik (p’tooi, p’tooi) leanings. It was Diehl who interviewed abu Mazen early in 2009 and heard abu Mazen state that Olmert’s generous offer was to far from the Pal position for the Pals to even consider a counter offer. Go the WashPost web site and dig up Diehl’s columns on the I-P conflict starting in 2009 and see it for yourself.

It would behoove Tablet to actually give article real estate to some writers, specifically some who are not imprisoned by the Central Dogma of the left, who could FAIRLY and articulately review Israel’s position on the legality of the settlements as well as on Palestinian intransigence in response to several Israeli peace offers. That would include Israel’s bitter experience with “peacemakers” like Arafat and abu Mazen, as well as what happens when Israel pulls out of Palestinian areas.

hg

Jerusalem / Efrata

Lynne T says:

I’m wondering if I have a reading comprehension problem or if some of the commenters above do? I take Marc Tracy’s account to be a report on the rather lame goings-on and not an endorsement of J Street’s position.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

MT has made clear in the past that he is an enthusiastic supporter of J Street and is religiously uncritical of the organization, it’s claims, polling methodology, and positions. Otherwise he is absolutely neutral and objective.

hg

shmuel cohen says:

Heshy,

What would it look like for your posts to be even more smug and self-assured? Maybe you could lecture the rest of us about the way things are– ex cathedra, definitively, without any question or complexity. Oh wait, you already do that. Thanks so much.

shmuel cohen says:

Peter “Finkler” Beinart? Seriously? The guy sends his kids to day school, davens in an Othodox schul. Don’t agree with him– fin, but why the need to hurl schmutz?

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

Because Beinart exemplifies the “Finkler” syndrome and has made a career (literally) of hurling schmutz at Israel, the overwhelming majority of which is unwarranted. And given his religious affiliation which you invoke, he should know better.

hg

shmuel cohen says:

The guy passionately insists, publicly and often, that he wants a 2-state solution, and unapologetically calls himself a Zionist. And to say that he’d made a career of hurling schmutz at Israel is just wrong and mean-spirited. He had quite a career beforehand (you may recall he edited TNR) and was famous and successful long before that NYRB essay. Again, you can disagree. But maybe hold the invective and learn a thing or two about how other people can disagree with you without thereby rendering themselves self-hating (or whatever other term of opprobrium you choose to throw around).

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

re: Beinart as a Finkler — I strongly suggest you read Jeff Goldberg’s 3-part interview of Beinart (published on Goldberg’s blog on The Atlantic’s web site). And Goldberg, who also is not suspected of Likud (p’tooi, p’tooi, p’tooi) sympathies or leanings (Gd forbid), did not exactly ask him the hardest questions. Beinard emerges as a vain, dogmatic, ignorant fool about Israel who seeks his validation among the anti-Israel “progressives”. For a good example of his vanity, see here:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/press-man-pundit-declined/

hg

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

Beinart’s reaction to Goldstone’s retraction was not relief, or joy at Israel’s vindication, but throwing a tantrum at Goldstone for having the audacity to pull the wind our of his (Beinart’s) sails and then arguing why Goldstone was all wrong about his retraction. Even Jeff Goldberg noted the unreasonableness of Beinart’s position.

To the extent that Beinart is a Zionist it’s only as a conditional Zionist, i.e., Israel has the legitimacy to exist only if it adopts his positions. He cannot understand why Israelis don’t listen to Gideon Levy and Amira Hess (read the Goldberg interview).

I often disagree with Jeff Goldberg but I respect him and his intellectual honesty. He is also a true Zionist, not a conditional one. Beinart is an ignorant narcissist who picks his positions by holding a wet finger up in the air.

hg

lwineman says:

no better example of what a sham and how out of touch beinart is

after writing that a liberal israeli govt (“more in touch with jewish values”) would energize young american jews he has absolutely no response to the outpouring of the israeli citizanry led by its young people in a quest for more social justice

..but in the midst of indiscriminate shelling of israel from gaza (including after the “cease fire”) began with an incredibly restrained israeli response. Beinart finds time to hit the streets with a rally about Israeli policy being the major obstacle to peace

Manhattan in late August ?? was he short on cocktail party invites East Hampton and Martha’s Vineyard ? or maybe he has a parlor meeting set for the weekend there to promote saving israel

lwineman says:

beinarts a true”activist”

and a legend in his own mind

last summer while in israel i spoke to a number of israelis he met with during his whirlwind tour. They were shocked by his lack of knowledge about israel….as was reflected in his haaretz interview during the visit

Talia says:

As one of the not-so-few 20-somethings who actually attended yesterday’s J Street Day of Action, I can say this forthrightly: We were rallying, along with other J Street supporters across the country, for a two-state solution, and for strong U.S.-diplomatic leadership in achieve one. This is something that a majority of American Jews supports, and it’s something that many, many Israelis are calling for. I’m proud to have joined in and given my support to J Street’s message yesterday.

shmuel cohen says:

Your link to that Commentary piece is sad indeed. That is a pathetic piece of leshon hara (presuming it’s even true) that tells us nothing at all of substance about Beinart. Even if he’s vain, so what? You mean that there are no extreme right-wingers who are vain and self-promoting? (You don’t think Abe Foxman and Malcolm Hoenlein have ridden their own political persuasion to fame, grandeur, and greater wealth than Beinart? Well then you’re far more naive than you realize.) That piece reflects the sheer reflexive cruelty of the Commentary crowd. When you read these people, you can only conclude: Eich Naflu Giborim? This was once a magazine of ideas, now it’s just scraping-at-the-bottom-of-the-barrel invective.

shmuel cohen says:

And when you write “Ptooi, Ptooi, Ptooi” after the word Likud over and over again, do you think you’re being clever? It wasn’t actually all that clever the first time; it’s pretty old by now. And if Beinart is dogmatic, what does that mean for you and people like you? It’s not like you’re exactly changing your mind in response to other people. Has anyone outside of a right-leaning worldview said anything recently that made you re-think anything? I’m not blaming you for that, just pointing out that dogmatism is a cheap and easy epithet to hurl around.

More: it’s ironic to call Beinart dogmatic when what Commentary finds utterly unforgivable about him is that he had the temerity to… actually change his mind when he realized that his earlier ideas about Iraq were not just wrong-headed but actually destructive. It’s like they (and since you link to the post so approvingly, presumably you too) disdain people who are not so ideologically pure that they bury their head in the sand. Beinart has committed an unpardonable crime: he came to regret his support of a disastrous war in Iraq, mismanaged at every turn by a reckless administration. Ah, the treason of it all.

32 year old J-street activist says:

As a 30 something J-street activist, who attended the day of action, I can say I was excited about showing the Senators that there is support in NYC for strong american leadership and I being young myself, I thought the crowd was great because it was intergenerational!!

From this 20-something who attended the J Street NYC rally:

I think we should limit the number of comments from one person. What persuasion Heshy can’t seem to accomplish by useful information, he’s trying to accomplish by sheer volume. I just skim his contributions, there’s nothing new to be gained by reading the same ol’ settler yawping.

Marc R says:

Good point, Kung Fu Jew. Let’s limit his freedom of speech.

as Americans, with our huge land mass from east coast to west coast, and our forever friends Canada and Mexico, as well as friendly countries in much of Central and South America, we are unable to understand the immediate threat to adequate living space that this two state ‘solution’ will have on Israel, and Jews in particular. It is obvious that the original ideology of Israel as a refuge for Jews from hostile lands has been seriously challenged in this generation, especially among comfortable American Jews. While a little less than 2/3 of all Jews still reside outside the land of Israel, there are no guarantees that global Jews will continue to be welcomed by their host countries, something that former generations understood and keenly felt. Shaving her tiny land area to share with others, and these arab ‘palestinian’ enemies in particular, will only serve to endanger not only Jews residing in Israel but the millions slated to come should additional global holocausts and threats rise against us in the future.

l wineman says:

j street activists, as a committed left of center person who divides his time between israel and the US and can tell you that if anyone in Israel actually hears of your incredible bad timing and tone deafedness it will eliminate whatever credibility you might have. While you were preoccupied with your demonstration here’s what israelis are reading in their newspaper (haaretz)
“A renewed barrage of rockets hit Israel’s south on Wednesday evening. Five grad rockets fell in open areas, one near Ofakim, one south of Ashkelon and three in Be’er Sheva. Rockets also fell in the Eshkol Regional Council. A toddler was lightly injured after a rocket hit a private car in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. ”

could you at least tell me there was a word of condemnation of the rocket attacks on the south from Mr Beinart and his acolytes in Manhattan ? a word of recognition that the current govt (believe me i am no fan) has been incredibly restrained in its response ? A word of demands for “strong palestinian leadership” to stop these attacks.

here’s an idea for you activists. The arab jewish bicultural school in hajar in beersheva is desperately seeking funds to pay for a bomb shelter so it’s DAYCARE kids arent at risk for their lives from the shelling. http://www.hajar.org.il maybe j street can make a grant and spend a little less on washington lobbying

r ravida says:

Tisha B’Av, the holiday commemorating the two destructions of the Temple, which this year was observed earlier this month. In the story of the Second Temple, he related, “The Romans are almost bit players.” It is the Jews who bring destruction upon themselves, he argued,

words of comfort for the people of israel’s south sleeping in bomb shelters tonight

Karen says:

l wineman: Thanks so much for telling us about Hajar: I just made a donation and I’ll spread the word. Very sad that this is even necessary.

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