J-Street: In the Wrong Corner

Finally, there is a new Jewish lobby, said to be dedicated to the security of Israel, called J-Street. Sadly, from day one it defined Israel's number one enemy as --another pro Israel lobby, another group of American Jews, namely, AIPAC. Jews have excelled in many areas, but in none have they done nearly as well as in hating each other and in generating factions and sub factions that fight one another, even when the enemy is at the gate. (There are already fights within J-Street).

The number one concern of the new political action group, organized by a small band of lobbyists, is to raise money. The easiest way to raise money is to engage in negative advertising. To mobilize people to dig into their pockets, lobbyists know, you must be against someone, define someone as the enemy. For J-Street that enemy is not Iran, nor Hezbollah, nor Hamas, but the strongest pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

One wishes the new J-Street lobby would follow its declared aim and look for peaceful, diplomatic solutions to the tragic conflicts that bedevil the Middle East, and that their opening shot would be some new way to make peace or a revival of an effective old way. Unfortunately, this is not what you will find in their PR onslaught or any other place.

Professor Shibley Telhami (a Palestinian-American) and I (an Israeli-American) have called upon on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop blaming each other, stop trying to show that the other side is at fault and hence must be the one to yield if peace is to have a prayer. We suggested that for now the focus should be on where we go from here, which clearly requires both sides to make concessions. Later there will be room for a truth commission to sort out who was at fault, although most likely there is plenty of blame to go around. [Read the full text here.]

I outlined in a previous post [here] an approach to peace which would be based a two state solution, a return to the green line (following minor adjustments in both directions), two capitals in Jerusalem, and a right to return (after the number of Arabs who left Israel and seek to return is calculated to be reduced by the number of Jews who left Arab countries). There surely is room for many other quests for a peaceful solution.

J-Street, however, does not embrace any of the various formulas for peace. Sadly, it was launched with a vicious attack on fellow Jews who support Israel, accusing them of being right wingers who are allied with religious Christians, and for having "hijacked" Washington.

The timing could not be much more inauspicious. The threat to Israel's very existence is greater than it has been since it was established 60 years ago. Iran does not need a nuclear weapon to finish off Israel. No one is denying or questioning that Hezbollah has accumulated a very large number of long range missiles. When Hezbollah used its short range missiles following the very ill advised Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon in 2006, the northern half Israel had to be evacuated. The Israeli military found no effective counter measures against these attacks. After 38 days of fighting, Hezbollah was firing more missiles at the Israel than on the first day. Long range missiles would easily reach Tel Aviv, and there just is no way the city can be evacuated. In addition, Syria is reported to be standing by, more than ready to join the fray.

All this argues for greater efforts for peace. Surely no one group has a monopoly on promoting peace. And surely there is considerable room for questioning the tactics employed by AIPAC. But sadly J-Street shows no sign that it has found a realistic way to promote peace in this tragic part of the world. Hold on to your check until they mend their ways.

Amitai Etzioni is a professor of international relations at The George Washington University and the author of Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy. For more on the subject, visit www.securityfirstbook.com. He can be contacted at comnet@gwu.edu.