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Honest Abe

ADL head menschily criticizes Knesset’s J Street hearings

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Abraham Foxman.(JTA)

When assorted left-wing Jewish groups as well as J Street itself denounced a Knesset subcommittee’s plans to hold hearings into the American “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group, it barely registered, because, well, of course they did. But now here comes Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League to tell Israel’s parliament that, frankly, this is none of its business. “I would hope that the Israeli Knesset had better things to do than hold hearings on American Jewish organizations,” he said. “It’s inappropriate, it’s counterproductive—it’s beyond their purview and jurisdiction.”

Unlike the notorious Knesset probes into various left-wing groups accused of delegitimizing the IDF, which seek to uncover their sources of funding, the J Street investigation is about determining whether J Street really is pro-Israel. “If they don’t love and support Israel, then they should not present themselves as pro-Israel,” said one MK. That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

Foxman is an American Jew who cares about Israel, and so he recognizes this investigation for what it is: An attempt by the Jewish state to dictate the terms of debate for all Jews and strip the diaspora of any right to have a say—much like the push to give a small coterie of ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbis the power to define who is Jewish and who isn’t. Critics who see the ADL as too right-wing or too beholden to the Israeli government—and I’ve been one of them—may laugh at this notion, but I would bet that Foxman sees, correctly, that while today it is the Knesset investigating J Street, tomorrow it will be the Knesset investigating the ADL. He is acting, at least in part, out of self-interest. Concerned progressive Jews should be pleased nonetheless.

Knesset Hearings on J Street Up the Ante in Debate About ‘Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace’ Lobby [JTA]
Related: The Diaspora Need Not Apply [NYT]

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Judengasse NotJStreet says:

“That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
Let me get this straight. Marc Tracy and Abe Foxman are upset because the Israeli Knesset is investigating an American Jewish self-proclaimed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby group that functions primarily to urge the US government to apply unilateral pressure on Israel to act according to their (J Street’s and Obama’s) dictates.

Perhaps they consider the Knesset’s investigation to be meddling in affairs outside their purview? But J-Street and Obama are nevertheless fully justified in their pressure on Israel (which is far more insidious than an investigation)? Even if it were an attempt to “dictate the terms of debate” it would still be far less dangerous than pressure from self-styled “friends” of dubious intent on distant shores who face no personal consequences for the risks they advocate. J-Street’s conference, full of “BDS” advocates and maledictions against Israel just made news. Was there any “pro-Israel” sentiment presented there? One J-Street leader (Levy) just said “Maybe … Israel ain’t [sic] a good idea.” The Israeli Knesset has the same right to determine precisely what J-Street’s ideas and intentions are, wouldn’t you say?

sarah says:

Judengasse… So if the Knesset has the right to investigate J Street… wouldn’t that be a good idea for you too? Especially before you go around spreading lies about J Street. Max (above) wonderfully posted a link that refutes your entire claim.

Were you at the J street conference? Did you know the context of that quote? Or are just repeating what some neocon told you? Do you do your own investigating? I think you should. Because I know for a fact that no supporter of J Street advocates BDS. I know for a fact that J Streeters and the organization itself is immensely pro-Israel. J Street just believes in different tactics than yourself (and most Knesset members) that will bring safety and security to Israel. They see a different way of protecting and supporting the Jewish state.

As an American, is it not patriotic to question your government? Isn’t that what American democracy is based on? If that is true, then ponder this… If as a Jew, I have the right at ANY TIME to move to Israel and gain full rights, then that makes me a potential citizen. And as a young Jew, I have thought about planting my feet in Israel many times. Wouldn’t you say it would be patriotic of me, as a Jew, and a potential Israeli citizen, to have criticisms of a government that I feel represents me?

Do some reading. Do your own investigation.

Judengasse NotJStreet says:

I don’t subscribe to TNR anymore. It “ain’t” worth the money since Peretz left.

(TNR’s) Jonathan Chait’s article –concerning the quote from J-Street leader Daniel Levy– argues that Levy made a simple, logical conditonal statement (that meant Levy thought Israel WAS a good idea) when, in fact, Levy used more subtle language to obfuscate his premises and insinuate his intent to say that “Israel [really] ain’t a good idea.” Within J-Street, such a statement, like the late Tony Judt’s, would be completely welcome and acceptable. If Levy had intended Chait’s interpretation, it would probably not have been acceptable to his J-Street constituency.

Chait also stuck his discussion of William Kristol’s article in his Standard into the second part of that TNR article, using similar faulty logic to attack him as he used to defend Levy. All subsequent comments were then deflected toward insulting Kristol and the flaws in Chait’s defense of Levy were ignored.

Judengasse NotJStreet says:

You wrote “I know for a fact that no supporter of J Street advocates BDS. I know for a fact that J Streeters and the organization itself is immensely pro-Israel.” Can you identify any J-Street activities that come even close to corroborating these assertions?

“Sarah,” I won’t call you a liar, although you seem to throw around accusations at others of ignorance about the “facts” very freely. I’ll assume you really believe what you wrote. It is a characteristic of some groups that they and they alone share some “esoteric” knowledge that sets them apart, but those who are concerned about Israel’s welfare have indeed undergone an education watching and investigating the activities of J-Street. Believe me, this is not the first time I’ve heard of J-Street.

I read a great many reports of the events of the recent conference. They couldn’t all be biased against J-Street. I believe it was in the Jewish Week’s coverage that I read that opinion at the conference was seriously skewed toward the left with little representation of the center (much less the right) opinions regarding US policy toward Israel. There was a mention in that article that, while J. Ben-Ami’s “official” stance was to be against BDS, there was much “pro-BDS” sentiment there. While the national organization may avoid associations with BDS (and JVP) as carefully as they avoided revealing, last year, that George Soros was a source of their funding, these restraints may not be as binding on the local J-Street groups, including university groups (such as at Brandeis).

Finally, Sarah, I am an American Jew and I don’t vote on Israeli government actions whether I approve of them or not. I’ll respect (but still not agree with) your right to dictate to Israel what’s “good” for it and what it ought to do only when your own life is on the line as a resident there.

I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re trying to say, guy, but I’m feeling pretty confident that you don’t understand syllogisms. The link I posted stands on its own, readers can decide whether a straightforward understanding or your bizarre, convoluted version is more credible.

Judengasse NotJStreet says:

Max, The words of Daniel Levy or of any other J-Street leader are not, you should excuse the expression, gospel, and do not warrant such extensive analysis. What he said was:
“If we’re all wrong, if we’re all wrong and a collective Jewish presence in the Middle East can only survive by the sword, it cannot be accepted, it’s not about what we do. Sound familiar? They hate us for what we are, not what we do. If that’s true, then Israel really ain’t a very good idea.”

Chait called that a syllogism, but it is hardly a clear, straightforward one, if it is one at all. Chait said that the premises were false, so, therefore, Levy did not intend to conclude that Israel wasn’t a “good idea.” (Never mind that Israel has already been a reality and a “good idea” for some time halfway across the globe from where Levy was just then considering it as an idea.)

Does he really believe they hate us [only] “for what we do” not “what we are”? In fact, the Palestinian incitements that led to the brutal murders just this past weekend in Itamar (of human beings dehumanized as “settlers” by the folks of J-Street) do show that they “hate us for what we are,” so, in a syllogism, his conclusion would be warranted. Israel’s existence “ain’t” a good idea, according to Levy, because Palestinian implacable hostility to Israel makes defense by force necessary.

However, I listened carefully and also heard the “dog whistle” being transmitted primarily to the J-Street members that, despite the public hudna-like statements that J-Street is “pro-Israel,” if Israel must defend itself against its enemies in order to continue to exist, it “ain’t” such a good idea. (And, shucks, that “ain’t” was a great folksy “Barry Obama” way to say that Israel should not have been created.) Chait’s convoluted analysis of Levy’s “logic” aside –where logic was not really intended — it’s pretty clear that Levy was NOT making a statement affirming the right of Israel to defend itself or even to exist

Jerusalem has dictated the terms of debate about Israel for millennia. ““R. Zera said…now that we are well acquainted with the fixing of the new moon, why do we observe two days? — Because they sent [word] from there [Palestine]: Give heed to the customs of your ancestors which have come down to you; for it might happen that the government might issue a decree and it will cause confusion [in ritual].
(B. Talmud Beitza 4b).
As Koehellet said, “Nothing is new under the sun.”

Judah Ari Gross says:


Norman C. says:

If J-Street were simply “pro peace” the Knesset would certainly not hold hearings about Jeremy Ben-Ami’s plaything.
But when J-Street simulates to be “pro Israel” and misleads
not just American Jews, but the American public opinion,
the Knesset has not just the right, but the duty to clear
the air, whatever Abe Foxman thinks.

Michael says:

Foxman’s wrong. The Knesset has the right to determine whether they believe J street is pro-Israel but they have no right to censure what they say. There determination may affect how congress views J streets ideas as well as discourage the uninformed from joining a group that falsely bills itself as pro-Israel.

AllenR says:

Mark Twain said these words in his recently revealed autobiograpy. It would be good if we all took them to heart on behalf of any Democracy:

“if there was any valuable difference
between being an American and
a monarchist it lay in the theory that
the American could decide for himself
what is patriotic and what isn’t;
whereas the king could dictate the
monarchist’s patriotism for him—a
decision which was final and must be
accepted by the victim;”


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Honest Abe

ADL head menschily criticizes Knesset’s J Street hearings

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