J Street too center of left

This guest post is by occasional Jewschool guest-poster Treyfe. Treyfe works with the pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group Jewish Voice for Peace. Given the controversial nature of BDS, now is a good time to quote the editorial policy, as displayed on the Masthead:

“The ideas, thoughts, and words published on Jewschool.com by Jewschool contributors and/or commenters are the opinions of those individuals only and do not represent the views or positions of Jewschool….”

My blogging career began at J Street a year and a half ago, so I am forever indebted to the organization, even if my first post criticized their dis-invitation of a trio of spoken word poets. This time around, there were no spoken word poets on the program. There were however, numerous Israeli activists whose work I draw inspiration from, and, most controversially Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson. She was present to tackle the hot-as-latke-oil topic of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. When J Street got predictable flak over this–to their credit–they did not un-invite. Their skins have presumably grown thicker after episodes like their own shul-banning and Hillel-banning. (Full disclosure: I do consultation work with Jewish Voice for Peace, edit their blog The Only Democracy?, and am a former board member.)

Below, video of JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson’s talk at J Street

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami did present a justification: he was bringing Vilkomerson there in order to discredit the BDS movement! And indeed the panel was stacked, with Ameinu’s Kenneth Bob, a Berkeley student named Simone Zimmerman, and champion of global capitalism Bernard Avishai–all opposed to BDS. Hopefully, Ben-Ami did not actually believe that the best way to discredit someone was to stack the deck against them. In any case, it did not succeed.
I was sent with a press pass to cover the conference. I missed the first night panel where director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center David Saperstein praised J Street for defeating divestment, even as he chided them for backing a UN Resolution that would have actually enforced US policy on settlements. Sounds like you could do pretty well doing the opposite of whatever Saperstein suggests. I also missed, but later watched on video the panel of Knesset members.  I did hear the female member of Knesset Orit Zuaretz introduced by how many children she had, but missed the question about BDS where the moderator responded “Oh, is this about delegitimization?” but the crowd hissed in disapproval at her for characterizing it that way.

At the New Israel Fund panel I attempted to ask Naomi Chazan (without drawing horns on her head)  if the same forces in Israel were demonizing BDS and NGO’s. Chazan ignored my question, and the moderator, taking them in bunches, did not prompt her.

At the optimistically titled “Revival of the Israeli left” panel, several other people posed BDS questions. However, the moderator (and excellent blogger) Didi Remez instead focused on “nonviolent direct action.” In the time since the last J Street conference this has actually become pretty noncontroversial. Remez promised us he would get to BDS, but in the end tapped his watch: “Oops, look at the time….” But don’t worry, there’s a panel for that!

The next day began with Dennis Ross droning on in the token “US Government Official, Special Platitude Agent” role. However, J Street had a trio of critical respondents including Daniel Levy. Levy stole the show by suggesting permanent residency rights for settlers and refugees alike, a federation alternative to the two state solution, Palestinian control over their borders (“I doubt Egypt would have signed a deal if we asked if we could police their border with the Sudan”) negotiations with Hamas, and refraining from emphasizing “Jewish and democratic” as it ignores Palestinian citizens of Israel. This was a stark rejoinder to Ross, who used the phrase “biological clock,” which managed to be both racist and make the Arab citizens of the region sound like thirtysomething women concerened about their fertility.

Finally, the BDS panel itself made news (and it did make allthe majorJewish presswriteups of the conference) for its civility. While Simone Zimmerman clearly hit an emotional chord with her claim that BDS divided her campus and made peace more difficult, Vilkomerson made a totally coherent case and refuted some misconceptions about BDS, while lamenting the limits of Jewish-only discussion of this issue.  She could not have been a better contrast to Kenneth Bob’s reluctance to inconvenicence settlers and Bernard Avishai’s hopes that investment bankers were going to solve the conflict. Vilkomerson also provided a good perspective on Zimmerman’s focus on the feelings solely of Jewish students at UC Berkeley as trumping all other concerns, including those of Palestinian-Americans on campus. The packed crowd of 300 angled around 3 sides of the room to ask questions.

This was the only moment of real discussion I saw at the conference. The moderator, Kathleen Peratis, handled the panel extremely well, taking one question at a time and trying to ensure that each panelist received questions. But people had more questions for Vilkomerson, and why not? She was the only one saying something they hadn’t heard. The room was divided, but interestingly so. It was the most interesting hour and a half of the conference. And outside of Mona Eltahawy’s truthtelling, it was the most honest and electric moment.

A year and a half ago, I read Jonathan Raban’s account of a Sarah Palin rally in which he described it as like nothing so much as a family reunion, right down to the visual resemblance of the participants. I was reminded of his words at the first J Street conference in 2009, as countless speakers exulted in seeing other Jews exactly like them. Simone Zimmerman would have been an even bigger hit that year . But I heard much less of that sentiment this time around, because things had become more like, well, a real family. One pretty divided down the middle between people rising to applaud Eltahawy and those who thought she was condoning hate. And everyone was much less certain than they were in the triumphal wake of Obama’s election. At least now the doubt was authentic. What could be more Jewish?

So credit to J Street for growing up, for growing wider. However, maturity is not a substitute for an actual purpose, and the vast attention to BDS, the outright enthusiasm for alternatives, for new ideas, may swamp the organization itself, which seems still wedded to its 2008 talking points. I cannot think of a movement of self-proclaimed centrists ever transforming American politics.

53 Responses to “J Street too center of left”

  1. I’m as confused as ever regarding the role, mission and policy agenda of JStreet. There is a lobbying element, where JStreet conference attendees visit the Hill and make rounds to the offices of their respective State Congressional delegations, right?

    So, when AIPAC does it, they provide a folder with a variety of materials – from lengthy policy analyses by one of the DC think tanks, to actual structured talking points to keep those who are visiting legislators on message. Together, these documents flesh out a rather clear legislative and executive policy agenda – what the AIPAC community wants, and how it’s going to get it done.

    Is JStreet doing this, and if yes, could someone give us those bullet points. So far, there have been quite a few emotionally loaded, exuberant posts, but very little explanations of coherent policy.

    For example, is JStreet still lobbying Congress and the Obama Administration to negotiate a settlement freeze with Israel? Has this policy objective been dropped for the time being, in which case, what specific policy objectives have replaced it? Is JStreet lobbying for the annual aid budget to Israel, or for/against funding Lebanon’s military? Iran sanctions? What’s are JStreet’s policy objectives for the following year?

    I’m very confused about all these points, and every single Jewschool post related to the JStreet conference this year, so far, has not dealt with really any practical policy issues or legislative agendas. It’s nice that you’re all having a good time and all, but let’s get to the bread and butter, if we can.


    Victor · March 8th, 2011 at 4:41 pm
  2. @Victor, I didn’t attend the lobbying day, but I can tell you that JStreet’s lobbying agenda is the least interesting part of them to me. What exactly are they going to be lobbying for with this current Congress? What is Obama even doing that they could support? It is telling that there one recent stand of any consequence was the one David Saperstein pilloried them for.


    treyfe · March 8th, 2011 at 5:45 pm
  3. negotiations with Hamas

    Over what exactly?


    Jonathan1 · March 8th, 2011 at 5:59 pm
  4. treyfe,

    That’s kind of what lobbying is for. There’s an element of corralling votes, yes, and helping to craft the language of legislation, yes, but lobbying is also about framing an issue in a way that builds consensus. ATFP is very busy right now (doing things I both support and oppose) despite a hostile Congress.

    What I’m witnessing in trying to learn about JStreet’s policy agenda is not so much chaos, but lack of focus and drive. It’s like they burned out on the settlement issue, and are now just resigned to be a fan club for the like-minded. Which is fine. Hard core, bare knuckle, “Israel right or wrong” American pro-Israel activism was just fine before JStreet, and it will survive JStreet’s policy irrelevance. Somewhere deep inside, I don’t know, I was hoping for a rededication of responsible progressive Zionism. I still am. I want to want to give Ben Ami a chance to do what he said he would.

    I admit, my expectations were never high, but aside from the social networking, back-slapping component, I’m now confused what role the institution serves. I mean, in terms of being a serious player on the Hill, if it loses Ben Ami, that’s it, it’s over.


    Victor · March 9th, 2011 at 12:58 am
  5. I want to make sure people understand, because there’s been a lot of positive (and as I wrote earlier, exuberant) coverage of the JStreet conference: I’m not knocking JStreet. I’m commenting simply as someone who has engaged in pro-Israel policy advocacy at the legislative level, has organized delegations of students to attend AIPAC conferences, etc. Maybe someone (KFJ? RB?) can write a substantive post on the bread and butter policy issues, as I’m still and always eager to learn more.


    Victor · March 9th, 2011 at 1:22 am
  6. @Victor, I agree that is what lobbying is and why it is unlikely to have any tranformative effect on the conference. @Jonathan1, Daniel Levy’s most un-Jeremy Ben Amicable speech is online (if you can make it through Dennis Ross before him; can someone at Jewschool embed?) and what he says is though he shares the love for Abbas/Fayyad “Dream Team” as everyone was calling them, he would much prefer a deal with Hamas, since that’s kind of what diplomacy is.


    treyfe · March 9th, 2011 at 10:18 am
  7. and what he says is though he shares the love for Abbas/Fayyad “Dream Team” as everyone was calling them, he would much prefer a deal with Hamas, since that’s kind of what diplomacy is.

    That’s a great theory. (Except for the small, indisputable, fact that Hamas’s raison d’etre is to replace Israel/Palestine with a caliphate.)


    Jonathan1 · March 9th, 2011 at 1:57 pm
  8. @Jonathan1 Hm, I think that is like saying the Likud’s goal is a Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.


    treyfe · March 9th, 2011 at 2:23 pm
  9. Victor, J Street’s policies are visible on their web site under “Policy” here:

    Last week, we visited the Hill lobbying the US government to (a) not kill the entire foreign aid package and (b) continue the aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The latter being the only issue of real controversy, since many a Democratic legislator might allow it to get cut under the cover of a “compromise” with the Republicans who want the whole aid package cut.


    Kung Fu Jew · March 9th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
  10. jstreet.org/policy


    Kung Fu Jew · March 9th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
  11. Oy @kungfujew, I am glad I did not stay for lobby day! Let me just say that if JStreet doesn’t want people to join the BDS movement, then they should be lobbying against US Aid. Otherwise, what are the consequences to Israel’s government?


    treyfe · March 9th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
  12. And by the by, Treyf is misleadingly boosting his rosy view of JVP’s participation at J Street. The largest single applause during the BDS session was for Simone Zimmerman and her powerfully understated conclusion: “BDS raises the issues but destroys the constituency.” The applause for Rebecca were limited to the CodePink and JVP cluster in attendance. I am continually frustrated that JVP would like to claim that a robust pro-BDS group was in attendance at J Street. That is not the case if you discount the JVPers themselves who came.

    Though I count Treyf as a close friend, he knows that I view JVP as people centered on thumping their chests about justice and zero to little interest in effective change. In the Jewish community, they’ve driven the establishment wagons to circle tighter and made it more difficult for progressives like me to have my voice heard.


    Kung Fu Jew · March 9th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
  13. I count myself as a supporter of both J Street and JVP. But while J Streeters are mostly, ‘okay fine, whatever’ about JVP, JVP’ers are somewhat obsessed with J Street. Is J Street AIPAC lite? Is J Street focused on attacking the left? Hmm? Hmm?

    So stupid.

    Dear JVP: It’s fine. J Street is playing with the big boys in DC where you have zero impact. Get over it and stay focused on being the Jewish cover for the Palestinian solidarity movement. And if you ever aspire to be a player in the Jewish institutional arena, a big if, then you can ask J Street how its done.


    Jew Guevara · March 9th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
  14. Hm, I think that is like saying the Likud’s goal is a Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan

    This is the common arguments out there, amongst the make-a-deal with Hamas crowd:

    That many people in Israel aren’t in favor of two states proves that Hamas is indeed in favor of two states, or that Hamas’s raison d’etre is actually not to replace Israel/Palestine with a caliphate.

    The problem with that argument is that it ignores the indisputable face that Hamas’s raison d’etre is to replace Israel/Palestine with a caliphate.

    All of their leadership is very open about this. They never deny it. They are working toward it. Palestinian nationalist movements like Fatah fight Hamas in measure because of what Hamas hopes to accomplish. I’m sorry, it’s just indisputable.

    Frankly, I have no problem with the arguments that Tzahal is no less a terrorist group than is Hamas, or that the answer is one state, etc. But, just be honest. If you are in favor of two states then you have to admit that the world shouldn’t help Hamas, because Hamas is not a two-state movement; it’s just not.


    Jonathan1 · March 9th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
  15. @Jonathan1, I think saying your point “indisputable” is pretty much an open invitation for dispute. @Jew Guavara, I hardly think two blog posts out of my ouevre displays an obsession with JStreet, and I think the feelings you describe are actually fairliy mutual. Tell it to the media who mentioned us in all the JStreet stories. And I have no interest in “playing with the big boys” if that means having Obama veto your UN resolutions and lobbying for more US Aid. @Kungfujew, I did not know that! I think our past year, whatever you think of our aims, tactics, etc. has definitely been effective! I think the collapse of peace negotiations and election of Repubs have made it far more difficult. I did not recognize most of the people in audience as either JVP’ers or Codepinkers, I agree Simone was closer to the JStreet consensus but Rebecca had strong support. My point wasn’t “Rebecca was the most popular” but rather that people seemed most interested in her which I stand by.


    treyfe · March 9th, 2011 at 5:38 pm
  16. I think saying your point “indisputable” is pretty much an open invitation for dispute.

    Ok. Dispute it–make your case.


    Jonathan1 · March 9th, 2011 at 6:00 pm
  17. Treyfe says, “Sounds like you could do pretty well doing the opposite of whatever Saperstein suggests.”

    Pretty good to totally disqualify yourself with one sentence. Saperstein is the pre-eminent liberal Jewish voice in Washington, and if JVP grows 100-fold (God forbid), it will still not have the support or the respect or the effectiveness that Saperstein, and the Religious Action Center which he heads, exhibit daily.

    I rather imagine that Treyfe chose that pseudonym to be ironic, but I will accept it at its face value — unfit.


    Larry Kaufman · March 9th, 2011 at 6:24 pm
  18. @trayfe, yeah, I wasn’t trying to come down hard on you. Like I said, I support JVP AND J Street. And so do many others….
    @Jonathan, Hamas is not a strongly pro-Caliphate organization. Hamas, which is descended from the Muslim Brotherhood family of organizations, is not known for this.
    The whole ‘caliphate’ stuff is kind of marginal in the Muslim world. Yes, al-Qaida and other extremist group talk about it, but they are not popular or powerful in a meaningful way. All the caliphate talk you hear recently is a result of right wing echo chamber chatter that tries to interpret the Muslim world in a sensational way.
    It would be like finding out that some left wing Christian groups talk about ‘the Beloved Community’ and everyone reveres MLK, and then concluding that American Christians in general want everyone to live in Christian communes that do politics together.


    Jew Guevara · March 9th, 2011 at 8:30 pm
  19. @Jew Guevara, thanks for disputation! I would only add that Hamas is “strongly locally focused” in the words of Jon Stewart.
    @Larry, I could do without Saperstein’s brand of effectiveness, if that includes chiding JStreet for their standing up to Obama on the UN resolution and lauding them for being anti-divestment (as opposed to neutral.) Sad commentary on the “pre-eminent liberal voice in Washington,” which I don’t doubt.
    @KungfuJew, one last thing. I thought JStreet was pretty dependent on having a strong force to its left. That is what JBA said in the Atlantic before last conference, and I assume that’s why he invited Rebecca. Indeed students I talked to admitted they were having trouble organized because campus was apathetic, as opposed to polarized. Would Simone Zimmerman be so prominent without the Berkeley divestment effort, for instance?


    treyfe · March 9th, 2011 at 9:41 pm
  20. Sorry that should read “lauding JStreet for organizing against divestment efforts in Berkeley and with the Presbyterians.”


    treyfe · March 9th, 2011 at 10:12 pm
  21. @Treyfe — J Street’s left-wing would mean JVP’s right-wing. You know, those people who advocate a two-state solution.


    Kung Fu Jew · March 10th, 2011 at 12:36 pm
  22. @KFJ, yeah as I say there’s definitely overlap. But I meant outside of JStreet, having a fully developed spectrum of activity.


    treyfe · March 10th, 2011 at 3:14 pm
  23. JG writes:
    It would be like finding out that some left wing Christian groups talk about ‘the Beloved Community’ and everyone reveres MLK, and then concluding that American Christians in general want everyone to live in Christian communes that do politics together.

    Hamas on gays:

    www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article575744.ece

    Christians in Gaza:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWprs_t3rV0

    Hamas on women’s head coverings:

    www.haaretz.com/news/hamas-set-to-compel-gaza-women-to-wear-head-covering-1.280748

    Hamas on sharia:

    www.haaretz.com/news/hamas-official-group-will-make-islamic-law-a-source-for-legislation-1.178690

    Honor killings under Hamas:

    articles.cnn.com/2009-07-30/world/mideast.honor.killings_1_honor-killings-gaza-human-rights?_s=PM:WORLD

    Hamas’s Morality Police:

    www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/07/08/world/main5144414.shtml

    Hamas on a deal with Israel:

    www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=186752

    Hamas on honoring a deal that Abbas might make–read the Hamas man’s words for what they are–an agreement would go against Hamas’s principles, but Hamas would honor such an agreement if if passed a referendum:
    www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/01/us-palestinians-israel-hamas-idUSTRE6B02ND20101201

    (Of course, Hamas would do everything in its power to block such an agreement from ever happening.)

    After Oslo, Hamas waited for the right moment, and then unleashed a bombing campaign to undermine Oslo.

    Fifteen years ago, at Purim time, Shimon Peres was up 20 points in the polls, until 4 bombings.

    In 2007, Hamas took control of Gaza from Fatah, by throwing people of off balconies, shooting Fatah supporters in the leg, etc.

    What is the counter evidence that Hamas is not what it actually is, other than JG writing that, All the caliphate talk you hear recently is a result of right wing echo chamber chatter that tries to interpret the Muslim world in a sensational way.” ?

    What is the counter evidence that–despite all of its actions and words for two decades– Hamas would actually work toward 2 states because to say otherwise is

    Hm, I think that is like saying the Likud’s goal is a Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. ?

    I’ll stipulate that I am part of the right-wing echo chamber; but can you two at least provide something of substance?


    Jonathan1 · March 10th, 2011 at 3:23 pm
  24. One of the editors should copy and paste that fantastic collection of Hamas videos into a new post, for educational Jewschool posterity.


    Victor · March 10th, 2011 at 7:54 pm
  25. *Hamas videos links


    Victor · March 10th, 2011 at 7:55 pm
  26. @Jonathan1: I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that Hamas is run by religious fundamentalists. However, the claims that you’re making with regards to the restoration of the “Caliphate” are much broader than that, and are not supported by any of the links that you have posted here. All that these links point to is the fact that Hamas’ political views are strongly influenced by religious fundamentalism of a very dangerous sort, which is very different from the statement that Hamas wishes to restore some kind of religious government that has sovereignty over the entire Middle East. As other posters here have mentioned, the Caliphate is a problem that currently exists only in the imaginations of American conservatives, and has little or nothing to do with the actual aims of Hamas, Hezbollah, the ruling clique of Iran, or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, all of which, while certainly religious in nature (again, I don’t think anyone here is disputing that), are local nationalist movements.


    NB · March 11th, 2011 at 11:42 am
  27. Let’s face it. If we’re not going to kill them then we will deal with them, sooner or later, no matter how heinous they and their ideologies are. And when we do deal with them, plenty of very smart people will find ways of justifying doing so, including by whitewashing or “reinterpreting” inconvenient facts. Which is why we need to kill whoever needs killing and get on with talking to the rest.


    Victor · March 11th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
  28. A: We should talk to Hamas
    B: Hamas are evil muslim fundies
    A: So? We should talk to Hamas, ‘the evil muslim fundies’
    B: But they want a Caliphate!
    A: no they don’t
    B: aha, so you support the evil muslim fundies!
    A: *face-palm*
    B: look at you avoiding the real issues!
    A: all I said was they don’t want a Caliphate
    B: but you admit they are evil muslim fundies, and still want to appease them? Fool!
    A: *face-palm*. I never said that.
    B: close enough, my naive self-hating Jewish friend…. Off to write for FrontPage.com now. See ya! “Jewschool: We Love Hamas!”


    Jew Guevara · March 11th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
  29. JG, for the win.


    Kung Fu Jew · March 11th, 2011 at 5:14 pm
  30. @NB. Maybe there is some confusion about the Caliphate versus a society governed by strict Islamic fundamentalism, an Islamic government unable to compromise on Muslim land. If so, I stand corrected, but I’m not sure if it makes a difference regarding this particular issue.

    @JG and KFJ

    Ironically, nobody above said that Hamas is evil, or that JG wants to “appease” them. Please show where anybody above said these things.

    I’m simply again stating the indisputable fact that Hamas, by its very nature, cannot make a two-state agreement with Israel. Therefore, it is not in Israel’s interests to assist Hamas; it’s in Israel’s interest to try to strengthen Fatah, to show the Palestinians that there is a benefit to compromise and non-violence and there is a cost to violence and rejectionism.

    (I realize this doesn’t fit into the sexy argument that most of us are mindless zombies, caught in the right-wing echo chamber, and only that a few brave souls here can see the truth.)

    As usual, nobody is actually providing anything remotely substantial to show how Hamas would ever agree to a 2-state-treaty, but that’s not surprising.

    Instead, you’ll resort to every smokescreen in the book, as usual.


    Jonathan1 · March 12th, 2011 at 4:48 pm
  31. B: Hamas are evil muslim fundies

    B: aha, so you support the evil muslim fundies

    B: but you admit they are evil muslim fundies, and still want to appease them? Fool!

    B: close enough, my naive self-hating Jewish friend…. Off to write for FrontPage.com now. See ya! “Jewschool: We Love Hamas!”

    @JG:

    I’m serious. I really think you should point to where I wrote things like this in the stream above. Seriously, show me where I made these sorts of claims. Where did I write that you are an “appeaser”, where did I call Hamas “evil”–which I would never claim because I realize that one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

    I really want you to show me, because believe it or not I don’t appreciate having my somewhat cogent arguments reduced to you telling me that I’m calling people self-hating Jews here. (And then having Mr. Progressive himself, KFJ, applaud you.)


    Jonathan1 · March 12th, 2011 at 5:13 pm
  32. I’ll take the bait – I know this stuff!
    First, there is a huge difference between the movement to re-establish a Caliphate and the movement to prioritize orthodox Islam in a particular – or every – nation state with a Muslim majority. The whole Caliphate movement is a nationalist, backward looking empire-centric take on the causes – and solutions to the decline of the Muslim world vis-a-vis the West. At the time the Caliphate was formally abolished (post WWI) many Arabs were pretty pleased, as they no longer owed fealty to Turkish overlords. Anyway, it’s kind of a marginal cause in the Arab and Muslim world. The Caliphate these folks want to restore isn’t some Arab only, Middle East centered one, they envision a holy Muslim empire of a kind that never really existed after the first four successors to the Prophet Mohammad.

    whew.

    Second point: Hamas religious and political fundamentalism is much like fundamentalism anywhere – highly sensitive and responsive to social, economic, political and cultural changes in the environment. The relationship between Muslim orthodoxy and secular authorities is all over the map, in terms of time and geography.
    Taking modern day Palestinians as a case in point, note that the amount of power Hamas has ever had is largely a response to confidence in secular and nationalist versions. Hamas, must like the Muslim Brotherhood, has been able to carve out a niche as a reactive movement that thrives on the failures of those who hold power, without having to exercise power themselves.
    In countries where MB types are allowed to participate in the political process with safety and security, they tend to moderate. This is what happened to the current rulers of Turkey. That said, even in regimes where the MB remains severely oppressed, the ‘mood’ of this movement has changed. The emergence of more radical, violent and disastrous alternatives, from the Algerian armed groups to al-Quada, has strengthened the hands of those in favor of political participation.
    Hamas IS a fundamentalist Muslim organization. But it has a base that exerts power. That base does not want to disintegrate the nation, or engage in endless civil war, or alienate potential future supporters that might grant it a governing majority in free elections.
    And so, Hamas is on record promising to support any deal approved by the Palestinian people via referendum. Leaving aside the practicality of this approach, it speaks to a desire to have an impact. Rather than imposing a ‘view’ by force on Palestinians (and Israelis) they are suggesting that a solution must rest upon the consent of those impacted by it. In that sense, Hamas has moved in a strongly liberal direction that emphasizes democracy, elections, human rights and the rule of law. (I would still vote against them were I Palestinian – I like the Palestinian People’s Party myself….)
    Yes, they still support terrorism (though engage in it far less than in the past) and shame on the them. But the Israelis support terrorism as well, and do it far more effectively, so there’s no moral high ground to be had.


    Jew Guevara · March 13th, 2011 at 12:20 am
  33. @JG

    (1) You’ve addressed the Caliphate issue. As I noted, I misunderstood the Caliphate issue, and I stand corrected. We can all agree that Hamas simply IS a fundamentalist Muslim organization that works to establish a society dominated by strict Islamic law, a Muslim government that would never agree to give up on Muslim holy land.

    (2)The fact that Hamas, by its very nature, would never agree to a 2-state-deal, and will do everything in it’s power to block one, is not disputed by one person in this forum, with anything substantial.

    And so, Hamas is on record promising to support any deal approved by the Palestinian people via referendum

    Yes, but we know through their all of their actions and words over the past two decades that Hamas would do everything in its power to make sure such a deal never came to fruition.

    (3) I’m still waiting of something of substance that shows why Hamas would ever be part of a 2-state agreement.

    Note–substance is not a detailed explanation of what Hamas is, an explanation that ignores the indisputable fact that Hamas would work against a 2-state-treaty; abd substance is not noting that many in the Israeli political scene oppose a deal too–because that doesn’t prove that Hamas would.


    Jonathan1 · March 13th, 2011 at 1:26 am
  34. @JG:

    And I still think you owe an explanation as to why you have lied in this forum, and written that I’ve said things in this stream that I clearly haven’t said, to make me look not serious.

    Why have you written that I’ve called Hamas “evil,” and that I’ve called you and others here “appeasers?”

    I want to know why you’ve written that I’ve called people here “self-hating Jew” (much to the open-minded KFJ’s amusement.)

    Don’t run away from it. You had the courage to write it, so now have the courage to explain it.

    I seriously think you owe an explanation on this.


    Jonathan1 · March 13th, 2011 at 1:31 am
  35. I never mentioned you. What the hell are you talking about? I’m pretty careful not to put words in other people’s mouths.
    Hamas leaders are on record agreeing to a long term two state ‘ceasefire’ or ‘hudna’ which many see as a way of bridging the gap between Hamas’ past and future. If I were Hamas, I’d remain agnostic about what I really support until there is anything like a deal between the PA and Israel, and then I’d do everything to improve it, from a Palestinian perspective.
    The bottom line is even the mainstream fundamentalist Muslim movement is willing to tolerate Israel’s existence and come to terms with it. But only after Israel comes to terms with a fully independent Palestinian state that meets the minimal needs of the entire Palestinian community, including those living outside the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

    I assume that Hamas will be a player in Palestinian politics for quite some time. If Israel can’t find a way to make peace, or have a long term hudna with Hamas, then Hamas will eventually lose ground to even worse alternatives.

    I remember when Israel was refusing to talk to the PLO, and offered support to Islamists as a counterweight. Ah, the brilliant long term strategy of the Israeli intelligence services…. Time is running out for Israel.


    Jew Guevara · March 13th, 2011 at 10:25 am
  36. I just want to point out that the latest mass murder of Israeli Jews was not by the hand of Hamas, but by a group with links to Fatah, a movement currently enjoying near total sovereignty over West Bank Palestinians, unparalleled prosperity and universal international support. Let’s not give Hamas all the credit, now, Jonathan1.


    Victor · March 13th, 2011 at 11:36 am
  37. @JG: What is this all about?

    A: We should talk to Hamas
    B: Hamas are evil muslim fundies
    A: So? We should talk to Hamas, ‘the evil muslim fundies’
    B: But they want a Caliphate!
    A: no they don’t
    B: aha, so you support the evil muslim fundies!
    A: *face-palm*
    B: look at you avoiding the real issues!
    A: all I said was they don’t want a Caliphate
    B: but you admit they are evil muslim fundies, and still want to appease them? Fool!
    A: *face-palm*. I never said that.
    B: close enough, my naive self-hating Jewish friend…. Off to write for FrontPage.com now. See ya! “Jewschool: We Love Hamas!”

    Maybe it’s not directed toward me. Maybe it’s another JG. It’s neither here nor there at this point.


    Jonathan1 · March 13th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
  38. If I were Hamas, I’d remain agnostic about what I really support until there is anything like a deal between the PA and Israel, and then I’d do everything to improve it, from a Palestinian perspective.

    But, this is the problem–you aren’t Hamas.

    The bottom line is even the mainstream fundamentalist Muslim movement is willing to tolerate Israel’s existence and come to terms with it.

    Really, when exactly did this happen?

    I remember when Israel was refusing to talk to the PLO, and offered support to Islamists as a counterweight.

    That was a big mistake, and Rabin wised up at Oslo. The problem is that Hamas is not the PLO.

    You can have the last word . . .


    Jonathan1 · March 13th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
  39. Here’s the link to Hamas’s acceptance of the two state solution, now 5 years old. www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/apr/09/israel My guess as to why they are moving in this direction is that they realize they would be marginal figures at best in a one state solution and only hope for power is a fragmented Palestinian state. The current Israel policy of sundering the West Bank from Gaza is aiding them greatly.


    treyfe · March 14th, 2011 at 7:08 am
  40. Why do you say that Fatah and Fatah’s terrorist wing are the same thing when we clearly don’t say that the National Union party and the price tag vigilantes are the same thing? It’s like we were conditioned to be stupid whenever we talk about Palestinians. We clearly differentiate among Jews, but Palestinians? They’re all the same. Ugh.


    Kung Fu Jew · March 14th, 2011 at 10:29 am
  41. Regarding those price tag vigilantes:

    If someone is expecting a revenge attack or “price tag” – they won’t find it here, at the yeshiva where Fogel taught, whose chief rabbi is Avihai Ronski, the former IDF Chief Rabbi.

    “These people don’t go out and demonstrate, that’s not their style,” says Yohanan Goldin, a 24-year-old sixth-year yeshiva student. Goldin was close to Fogel, and was part of the community security team that was called in to find that Fogel was killed.

    A day and a half after the attack, Goldin feels the need to improve the public image of the community, and perhaps the yeshiva, as well. “‘Price tags” are not the way of the yeshiva,” he said.

    Goldin’s friend, fifth-year yeshiva student Itamar Brooker, says, “Anger does not interest us, people aren’t hung up on that. There is pain, there is shock, but not anger. Personally, I still haven’t taken it in. A family has been stabbed to death, it will take time to register.”

    Brooker says, “Normal people don’t go to demonstrations. These people are delegitimized, even demonized, especially those living on the hilltop, as if they are extremists.”

    “People who know us ask us why we’ve come to study with all the crazies, but that’s rubbish. There is an extremist group in the area, they are reactionary, and their photographs are always printed in the papers,” Brooker adds. “But understand: ‘price tag,’ demonstrations, it’s not even a part of our lexicon. Never has been, never will be.”


    Victor · March 14th, 2011 at 11:32 am
  42. Lots of settlers are reasonable (within a certain insane frame.) Lots aren’t. I’d like all of them loaded onto trucks and taken back to Israel, or left to the mercy of the Palestinians whose land they stole.
    How to put it – I deny the settlers the right to exist in the West Bank, under nearly all circumstances. The one opening is to have Palestinians beg them to stay. Failing that – get to packing.
    Let’s affirm in a deep and meaningful way that the settlers are a wild offshoot of the Jewish people whose ability to return to the fold has an expiration date. Modern day Kara’ites whose fundamental heresy – worshipping real estate alongside God – represents a radical departure. A cult with surface similarities to Judaism. A dangerous, violent, messianic cult with no respect for man-made laws.


    Jew Guevara · March 14th, 2011 at 1:23 pm
  43. Jew Guevara, I reject and condemn your hatred.


    Victor · March 14th, 2011 at 2:05 pm
  44. www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/apr/09/israel

    www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=186752

    www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/01/us-palestinians-israel-hamas-idUSTRE6B02ND20101201

    This is a long stream, so I’ve put treyfe’s link first, and then two others I provided above.

    I invite anybody unfortunate enough to be reading this stream to read all three pieces, and to read what the pieces actually say–not what we wish they’d say.

    Also, anybody reading these pieces might due well to consider Hamas’s two decades of activity and statements, through the summer of 2007′s expulsion of Fatah from Gaza.

    We can all just decide for ourselves about whether or not Hamas is an organization committed to the 2-state paradigm.


    Jonathan1 · March 14th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
  45. Victor, I respect and approve of your rejection of my opinion. But there’s no hatred. When a fellow Jew errs on the path, one only has to hate the sin, not the sinner! My desire to see all settlers brought home is motivated by love, for them as individuals and for the Jewish people as a whole.
    (Have to collect all those holy sparks on OUR side of the Green Line, so that we’ve got enough kedusha to endure what lies ahead…)


    Jew Guevara · March 14th, 2011 at 4:04 pm
  46. If there really wasn’t hatred, Jew Guevara, and I’m willing to consider that there isn’t, then you’d learn another way to speak about hundreds of thousands of Jews you disagree with.


    Victor · March 14th, 2011 at 10:23 pm
  47. I agree with J1 that Hamas is not “committed” to a two-state solution, but I also don’t think they’re as committed to Israel’s destruction as many people do. As I see it, the leadership of Hamas (which doesn’t necessarily represent the members – anyone seen Budrus?) are largely political opportunists. They came to power because of the immense suffering of the people of Gaza, and they remain in power because they’re marginally more capable than Fatah was in delivering basic needs to Gazan civilians. Like any political organization, their ideology takes a back seat to remaining in power.


    renaissanceboy · March 14th, 2011 at 10:43 pm
  48. Judge Richard Goldstone has put in his two cents regarding Hamas.

    From his piece in the Washington Post:
    “Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations”

    www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html

    JG and KFJ–go ahead and tell us how Judge Goldstone is part of the right-wing echo chamber.


    Jonathan1 · April 3rd, 2011 at 9:05 am
  49. And the race is on to find quotes by Jewschool writers boldly concluding that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza, that Goldstone performed a fair and unbiased inquiry, that civilian casualties were far greater than claimed by Israel, etc. etc. etc.

    Oh how very heated these Jewschool comment sections were when we, the ones who didn’t buy into the blood libel, defended Israel and her armed forces against those of you who not only bought into it (some with considerable relish, if memory serves), but made sure to tear a pound of flesh off to advance your own agendas. How could you have been so very wrong? How could you have misjudged Israel’s culture so much as to have jumped to the conclusion that her armed forces, your fellow Jews, would systematically and intentionally murder civilians in cold blood? How could Israeli human rights NGOs mislead you to such an extent, and will you hold them accountable?

    Goldstone was a big enough of a man to admit his failure. And let’s not split hairs here. The Goldstone Commission was the peak of this once-upon-a-jurist’s professional life, and he failed, miserably, reprehensibly, in a way that damaged international law, gave sanctuary to terror and advanced global Jew hatred. I wrote back then that Goldstone will have much to atone for before the Jewish community welcomes him back. Now that he’s begun this process, perhaps there’s some of you who might want to join in, while the teshuvah is piping hot and all.

    You Jewschool writers who supported Goldstone’s conclusions are not off the hook. Every progressive convention you attend, every social justice outing you participate in, every Israel-related discussion you engage in must be used to reverse the damage you contributed to. Yes, yes, you’re aghast that I am so arrogantly ordering you to do this. That’s fine, you can think whatever you want. My purpose is to lodge that kernel of culpability so far up your… cranium, that you can’t help but think of your responsibility to do real justice for the slander you participated in, whenever the opportunity presents itself. And again, this isn’t all Jewschool writers; just the ones with an uneasy conscience, and you know who you are.

    AND F-f*cking-YI (yes, this is big enough to start swearing and don’t even try to suggest that it isn’t)… we told you so. Please bear that in mind, for the future, not because we “trolls” are always right, but because sometimes, you “prophets” aren’t.


    Victor · April 3rd, 2011 at 12:03 pm
  50. @Victor.

    As we’ve debated before, I don’t buy into the concept of International Law and, therefore, I don’t lend much credence to Judge Goldstone’s opinions–although I have no reason to doubt that he does his work professionally and sincerely at all times, regardless of whether or not he wrote that piece in the Post.

    ((but, psssst, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The people who less than two years ago wrote things like this in this forum, with utter confidence, about the Mubarak and Assad regimes:

    The magic is reportedly credited to several approaches decried by the right-wing and Bush. The most important is improved U.S. relations with Syria (and Egypt) brought extra pressure to bring Hamas to the negotiating table. A regional approach that deals with all actors together allows gains in one corner to benefit all.

    and who have conveniently forgotten about that, probably aren’t going to have very much trouble placing Judge Goldstone in the right-wing echo chamber troll classification, where you and I have sat for so long.))

    But keep that between us, achi.


    Jonathan1 · April 3rd, 2011 at 12:39 pm
  51. I guess the real question, Jonathan1, is whether these people you’re describing will now defend Goldstone as vigorously against charges that he’s capitulated to the right-wing militarist Zionist cabal, as they were two years ago in defending him from charges of pandering to anti-semites and Israel-haters.

    I’ll be watching for Jewschool posts defending Goldstein from the mondoweiss/richard silverstein crowd’s trash-talk.


    Victor · April 3rd, 2011 at 1:07 pm
  52. I see how each side is trying to use Goldstone for partisan purposes and it makes me sad. Goldstone is by now a tragic figure. I think his original report was the best it could have been as a result of Israeli refusal to cooperate, and that it serves as a test case for the failure of Israeli policy in this matter. His amendment confirms that, by showing his fundamental fairness and adherence to the norms of human rights and international law.

    But it does not follow that Israeli crimes and policies are somehow less deserving of condemnation. Goldstone doesn’t whitewash anything. The Israeli policy towards Gaza was and is criminal for all sorts of reasons.

    Like with the hubbub around Jenin: one side erred by wanted to make it a massacre instead of just awful bloody combat. The other wanted to gain some points by proving it was not a massacre, ‘only’ awful bloody combat. All that is a sideshow: the occupation itself is the crime, the ticking bomb that threatens Israeli existence.


    Jew Guevara · April 3rd, 2011 at 1:35 pm
  53. Except there has been no occupation in Gaza for the better part of a decade now.

    Goldstone doesn’t whitewash anything.

    He doesn’t, does he? Tzipi Livni, Barak and Olmert, not to mention hundreds of IDF commanders, have been afraid to step foot on European soil because of the legal findings of the Goldstone Commission. These aren’t some willy-nilly, dual-sided accusations, JG. Goldstone had an impact in the real world, a horrendously negative impact from the perspective of human rights, international law and regional peace.

    Now that Israel has been exonerated, and Hamas has been demonstrated as the terrorist entity that it is, I assume you’ll now support Goldstone’s implicit call for the UN to forward Hamas “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” (2 individual statutes) on to the ICC for adjudication and punishment?


    Victor · April 3rd, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Leave a Reply

If your comment does not immediately appear, do not freak out and repost your message a dozen times. Please note that all new visitors must have their first comment approved by the editor, and you must provide a legitimate e-mail address and use the same username for the system to "remember" you. The editor maintains the right to refuse comments deemed inappropriate or unhelpful. Users who repeatedly delve into ad hominem attacks or other troll-like behavior will be banned.

Trackback (Right-click & 'Copy Link...') | Comments RSS

"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik