Jeffrey Goldberg is angry that Israelis are fuming about J-Street, and has proclaimed on his blog that "Goldblog is a pro-J Street blog". I'm not going to cut and paste any segment of his; you should read it in its entirety. It's a good post, written with the passion of his anger.
I like Jeffrey, personally, and although I don't always agree with everything he writes, I like his blog - actually it's the first one I read every day. Yet in the Jewish spirit of a squabble among friends, I've got to say that Lozowick is an anti-J Street blog.
Since Jeffrey starts with his personal credentials, here are some of mine: I have gone to war for this country. Both of my sons have, too, as we raised them to. I have been in favor of a Palestinian state alongside Israel since the late 1970s. Just for context: back in those days Jeffrey may have been too young to have an informed opinion on the matter; Barak Obama almost certainly was, and for all I can tell, so was Jeremy Ben Ami, the boss of J Street. Also, the late 1970s were more than a decade before the PLO grudgingly began talking about the two-state solution; as late as 1989 their official and practical position was that Israel must be destroyed, preferably by the force of arms.
Also, I have been against the settlements for all those years, and am against them till this very day - though I know the large settlements that straddle the Green line will never be removed, and I'm strongly against the division of Jerusalem which will cause war, not peace. So far as I can tell, these are the positions of a large chunk, and probably a significant majority, of the Israeli electorate; contrary to what Jeffrey seems to think, no-one is shutting my mouth, banning me from saying what I think, or branding me a traitor for saying it. Nor do I need faraway outsiders such as J Street (or President Obama) to inform me what's good for Israel.
I am also a historian of Nazism, and a student of history. I know that words are dangerous things, since they are the tools with which we formulate ideas, and ideas are what motivate people to do things, and justify their actions for them. Persecution of Jews over many centuries was because of anti-Jewish words and the ideas expressed and disseminated in them. Call them a series of Big Lies about Jews. The freedom and equality enjoyed by America's (and these days, by Europe's) Jews are the result of words and ideas. Call them Rational Enlightenment. The war against Israel is also first and foremost because of words. Because of a new set of a Big Lie.
The Big Lie of our day has a number or versions. The Jews are not a nation and deserve no state. The Jews have no historical rights to the land they call Israel, and even if they do, they're anachronistic and cannot justify harming the Palestinians. The Palestinians have been in their homeland for time immemorial, and were pushed out by the Jews. The Jews continue to aspire to ever more control of the land, and to ever more oppression of the Palestinians. The Jews' way in war is uniquely evil and cruel. The Palestinians yearn for peace, but the Israelis refuse to allow it, because they haven't finished taking Palestinian land, or because they don't recognize the Palestinians as equally human. The Jews protect their nefarious projects through sinister control of power-brokers, most importantly the United States.
One of the odder parts of the story is of course that the most important propagators of this Big Lie are not only Jews, they're Israelis. No one persecutes them for their malice: we're not Islamists, not Arab dictators, not Argentinian generals or Bolshevik commissars or Gestapo or anything of the sort.
Do Jeremy Ben Ami and his J Streeters believe in the full set of lies? No. But remember, the Knesset member who lead the hearing against him last week, Otniel Shneller, is from Kadima, not Likud; moreover, he's a settler who openly espouses the dismantling of settlements - probably including his own - if that's the price for peace. What distinguishes him from Ben Ami, therefore, isn't the idea of partition and dismantling settlements; what distinguishes them is the idea that Israel is the reason there's no peace; that pressure must be brought to bear on Israel to force it out of Palestinian territories; and also, alas, Israeli willingness to use force to protect its interests.
In other words, what distinguishes Otniel Shneller from Jeremy Ben Ami is that Ben Ami and his organization agree with parts of the Big Lie about Israel, and promote it. If in response a significant segment of Israeli society wishes to ostracise him and his organization, this seems to me a moderate and measured response.
In his final sentence Jeffrey seems to be saying that there are many American Jews attracted to J Street's message. This may be true - I'm too far away to judge. If so, it's a serious problem - first and foremost, of those American Jews who prefer the Big Lie to the Jewish State.