J-Street bills itself as a dovish “alternative” to AIPAC to make Zionism acceptable to traditionally liberal American Jews and other “progressives” and to provide cover for US politicians accepting Lobby money who can claim they are now supporting this “moderate” organization. In fact, it’s just a game of good cop/bad cop.
We therefore encourage everyone to beware of J-Street, which may be more threatening to justice and human rights than AIPAC. They differ in style and method rather than objectives. J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami has said, “J Street is proud of AIPAC’s many accomplishments” and distinguished the two groups as having “different priorities rather than different views.” For example, the January 2012 issue of our local Jewish Federation Newsletter announced an upcoming event, “J-Street and AIPAC will present how each organization supports Israel. Come find out how both groups are walking different paths to the same goal." J Street Field Director Carinne Luck stated in a Jewish Review piece, "J Street is more often lobbying on the same side as AIPAC..."
Just as Democrats and Republicans are two branches of the American Empire Party, AIPAC and J-Street are two branches of the Zionist Supremacy Party. Jeremy Ben-Ami is the son of an Irgun terrorist leader of the 1948 Nakba with three generations deeply engaged in Israel and the Zionist project. They promote ”the two-state solution” which is a solution not to the Palestinians’ needs and rights but to Israel’s goals of (1) a Jewish-dominated state cleansed as much as possible of Arabs, and (2) escape from the moral and financial burden of the occupation that has relegated Israel to pariah status in the world outside the US.
The “two-state solution” supported by J-Street, using politically ambiguous language such as “healthy” and "two states living side by side" while evading the words "equality" and "justice" or compliance with international law, is a segregationist model. Significant differences between their vision and that of 1950 Mississippi white supremacists promoting segregation are difficult to detect.
The latest iteration of this, the Geneva Initiative, would create a demilitarized Palestinian Bantustan on less than 20% of historic Palestine that was 94% Arab-owned in 1948, without control of their own borders, airspace or water, to which the several million Palestinian refugees could “return” if they so desired. However, international law establishes the right of all refugees to return to their homes of origin, not some other mini-state or another “Arab” state. Demonstrating a typically racist worldview, all “Arabs” and “Arab states” are viewed as interchangeable. This “solution” would leave intact the apartheid system within Israel that discriminates against non-Jews in virtually every area of life and would provide a pseudo-state into which Israel’s unwanted 20% Palestinian minority could be “transferred,” thus completing the ethnic cleansing Ben-Ami’s father began.
This proposed model closely resembles South Africa’s creation of Bantustans into which their unwanted black populations could be herded to prevent a black majority and loss of their white privileges and control. It is a segregationist vision, pure and simple. Under a single democratic state with equality for all and return of the refugees in compliance with international law, Israel would soon lose its Jewish majority and would be forced to settle for a normal multi-ethnic country, a homeland not just for Jews but for the people whose homeland it has actually been for generations before Zionism intruded violently upon their lives, and for anyone else who wants to live there. But such real democracy is dreaded as an “existential threat.”
No democratic right Tom Jefferson held as “self-evident” is included or even mentioned in their two-state model - not equality between or within states, not justice for those they have murdered and dispossessed, not the real freedom of a politically and economically autonomous state. To avoid the topic of justice, they address only the post-1967 occupation, not the crimes of the original Nakba, and are busy inventing imaginary Arab crimes of which there is no evidence to balance the moral ledger and evade accountability. They would only allow a few Palestinians to return to their own homes and lands, selected by Israel on “humanitarian” criteria. (The burglar gets to decide how much of your stolen property he will return, dependent solely on his good will.) And this has all been negotiated with hand-picked quisling Palestinians. Hamas, the refugees, the foreign diaspora, and the 3rd-class Palestinian citizens of Israel were excluded. And the settlement would be final with no appeals permitted by these unrepresented populations (since all Palestinians are interchangeable whether or not they so agree).
Predictably, J-Street opposes a democratic, egalitarian solution (see interview below) and the appeal by Palestinian civil society for an extensive, international BDS movement to bring the same pressure to bear upon Israel that forced change in apartheid South Africa. The BDS movement includes boycott of products from settlements on Palestinian land, refusal to support Israel's pretensions of national normalcy by rejecting academic and cultural exchanges and a call for divestment from companies supporting the occupation.
Why is this necessary? Palestinians have long been practicing non-violent resistance on a nearly daily basis but cannot prevail alone against Israel’s overwhelming force protected by the influence of the Israel lobby on US foreign policy. BDS is a powerful non-violent resistance method available to the international community, needed to bypass US political obstruction and help Palestinians to correct the power imbalance. But J Street has no interest in Palestinian rights or wellbeing.
There are several good Jewish organizations addressing the problem, but J-Street is not among them. Both the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which has launched an International campaign against the Jewish National Fund which masquerades as an environmental charity while stealing Palestinian land, and Jewish Voice for Peace with their TIAA-CREF divestment campaign are noteworthy examples. Our local synagogue declines to include these Jewish organizations in their list of recommended web sites and organizational affiliations. Anti-Zionist Jews need not apply for inclusion there.
From the horse’s mouth: J-Street’s agenda is clearly exposed in a CNN interview clip on the J-Street website, where their executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami states:
“...I think the sense of urgency has never been greater to address the single greatest threat that Israel faces to its future as a Jewish and democratic state which is the demographic reality that within a matter of years there will be more non-Jews than Jews between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean and at that point Israel really can no longer remain both Jewish and democratic; therefore to avoid that we have to find some way to get to a two-state solution and do it as quickly as possible.”
What should be our reaction if white supremacists in power said this about people of color? Should we patiently await an evolution of moral consciousness or should we challenge segregation through civic action and enforcement of constitutional law? We ended Jim Crow with the latter.
Below are two excerpts from a 2010 Atlantic Monthly interview with Jeremy Ben-Ami. (JG is the interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg, and JB is Jeremy Be-Ami.)
JG: Are you a Zionist?
JB: I am a Zionist personally. I am deeply committed to a Jewish home, to a democratic home, to a Jewish Israel. I'm deeply committed to that and you know my family background.
JG: Ben-Ami is a Jewish name, I think.
JB: Exactly. My great-grandparents were in the First Aliyah, my grandparents founded Tel Aviv, my father was in the Irgun. I've lived in Israel myself. I have 500 cousins there. I'm deeply committed to the safety, the sanctity and the security of a Jewish home in the state of Israel.
JG: Is J Street a Zionist organization?
JB: Well, we are unabashedly for a Jewish home in the land of Israel, that there should be a Jewish home that is a democracy, that has a Jewish character and a Jewish flavor and where the law of return is a fact -- I know you're having a disagreement with Bernie (Avishai) right now. I don't even know what he said about the right of return.
JG: That he wants it repealed.
JB: Well I don't agree with that, I certainly don't agree with that. I think that the notion is that there should be a homeland that is a Jewish homeland. That is the founding principle of J Street. The question is, how do we preserve it? That's where we seem to be getting attacked. Our view is that in order to preserve this, there just simply has to be an independent state for the Palestinians next door, and that's where they will live. And we live in Israel and we live there and there's always going to be a minority in Israel that is not Jewish and we need to treat them like equal citizens and value their participation in our democracy, but it is a Jewish home. This is the Jewish homeland. ...
JB: J Street officially will not use the term "One-State Solution." That is an oxymoron because it is a one-state nightmare. That is the thing we are most opposed to -- moving in a one-state direction.
JG: A nightmare for practical reasons or a nightmare for moral reasons?
JB: A nightmare for the Jewish people. There would be no more Israel. One state is not a solution, one state is a dissolution.
JG: The thing I'm worried about with the conference is that I think most of your supporters are well-meaning, left-of-center Jews who love Israel and are tortured by the various dilemmas, who do stay awake at night worrying about this. But there are others who are glomming on to you guys as a cover, just using you to advance another agenda entirely.
JB: I hope that we have a very strong left flank that attacks us, that Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups that are consistently upset with us for backing Howard Berman's sanctions plan and for refusing to embrace the Goldstone report and for standing up for the right of Israel to defend itself or for its military aid -- I hope we get attacked from the left because I would characterize J Street as the mainstream of the American Jewish community.
JG: You believe that you're at the center of American Jewish thought?
JB: I believe that we are at the center. The Marty Peretzes and the Michael Goldfarbs and the Lenny Ben-Davids are on the right, to the far right, and there are people to our left, and we are in the middle trying to put forward a thoughtful, moderate, mainstream point of view about how to save Israel as a Jewish home.
Let's bridle this horse: Despite Ben-Ami’s stated wish for legal equality with non-Jews, that is certainly far from the case now. To maintain Jewish supremacy in Israel, non-Jews are subjected to legal discrimination in virtually every area of life, including segregated schools, severe limitations in property ownership, marriage restrictions, and lack of access to basic public services. This is increasingly threatened by growing international awareness and condemnation. “Progressive” Zionists’ (e.g., J Street, Tikkun,) are desperately pushing for a rapid “two-state” segregationist solution, coming not from belief in the sanctity of equality or justice, but quite the opposite - from fear of having to live on an equal basis as a minority with non-Jews (as Jews do in the US, quite comfortably, with less than 2% of the population).
A veteran of struggles with another apartheid system, Nelson Mandela refused to compromise when it came to human rights, steadfastly resisting the segregated Bantustan system. He recognized the clear parallel between his struggle and that of the Palestinians, stating, “...our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
This goes back to the beginning. Before deciding whether the U.S. should recognize Israel, President Truman feared that Zionist aspirations would lead to an ethnocratic or theocratic state. Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann wrote Truman a series of letters including one of seven pages, single-spaced, reassuring him that Zionists intended a thoroughly secular state similar to ours and the British. Truman confirmed that understanding in his May 14, 1948 recognition of the provisional government not of “the Jewish state” (the suggested Israeli wording he crossed out) but “the State of Israel.”