Criticising an organisation you do not understand: J Street and AIPAC

To my readers: I’m sorry that this week has been completely focussed on Israel and Toulouse. Hopefully regular blogging will resume soon.

Myriam Miedzian says AIPAC’s policy is making American Jews less liberal on Israel. Her solution, naturally, is to plug J Street.

Myriam Miedzian: How the Split on the Jewish Left Helps AIPAC and What Can Be Done About It.

according to a 2011 poll commissioned by J Street 67 percent of American Jews would support U.S. leadership in helping to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict even if it meant “publicly stating its disagreements” with Israelis and Arabs. This is contrary to AIPAC’s position of pressuring our government into supporting Israel’s conservative leaders.

… Most American Jews remain exceptionally liberal  … It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that AIPAC influences U.S. Jews to be less liberal on Israel than on other issues.

I am completely sick of reading this kind of thing. I noticed that Miedzian hyperlinked references to most of what she said, but not to the bolded sentence. The reason why she didn’t? That is not AIPAC’s position.

J Street and its supporters everywhere have been dismantling a straw man for the past two years, completely missing what AIPAC in fact stands for and what it actually spends its time doing.

She goes on:

J Street, founded in 2008 to provide American Jews with an alternative to AIPAC, supports a two state solution, is opposed to West Bank Settlements and military action against Iran.

Firstly, let’s take a look at what AIPAC’s actually are vis-à-vis Iran and a two state solution. This may surprise you:

The Peace Process.

Two-states for two people.

AIPAC strongly supports a two-state solution and works tirelessly to bring peace to the region. A two-state solution–a Jewish state of Israel living in peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state–with an end to all claims is the clear path to resolving this generations-old conflict.

Only direct talks will lead to peace.

While Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has called for direct talks to begin immediately, Palestinian Authority President Abbas is refusing to meet with his counterpart. As was the case in the previous Arab-Israeli peace deals, only direct talks between the parties can lead to a real and lasting peace.

Arab states must take a more constructive role.

The United States should continue to press the Arab states to normalize relations with Israel and take concrete steps to support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Iran.

Iran must stop its nuclear weapons program.

American policy must unabashedly seek to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. A nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to Israel and would arm the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism with the ultimate weapon.

Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. 

Iran finances, arms and trains terrorist groups operating around the world. It is the leading sponsor of Hamas and Hizballah, and is also arming insurgents fighting U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stop the human rights violations.

In the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian presidential election which falsely awarded Mahmoud Ahmaninejad a second term, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard quelled popular protests by arresting civil leaders, beating and killing peaceful protesters and cutting off internet and mobile access to its citizens.

So AIPAC is in favour of a two-state solution and does not support a war on Iran but does not oppose one either. What do we learn from this? J Street’s problem with AIPAC is not that it has right wing policies, just that it doesn’t specifically advocate left wing ones.

This is where J Street gets it all wrong. AIPAC does not take positions on West Bank settlements, war with Iran, Israel’s government — right wing or otherwise — or any other particularly controversial issue. This is for the very pragmatic reason that it wants to incorporate as many people as possible in order to achieve the goals that it does have: increasing US-Israel security cooperation and preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. That is it, those are its actual policy goals.

That is also why JStreet supporters like Miedzian will never see this particular dream come true:

… J Street has since its creation been hampered by virulent attacks from AIPAC and the right, but also suffers from a destructive fissure between mainstream Jewish liberal and Jewish radical organizations, which could prevent J Street attaining anything close to the power of AIPAC.

… A strong vibrant J Street is desperately needed to balance AIPAC. Supporters of organizations whose policies can only alienate most American Jews, would do well to consider transferring their support to J Street (and organizations such as Americans for Peace Now) which can attract wide support and eventually provide a serious counterbalance to AIPAC.

J Street can never “counterbalance” AIPAC, because the majority of Israel’s supporters will never support an organisation representing an ideological niche. J Street is an organisation with a very specific position, falling somewhere to the left of the “centre-left” but to the right of the “fringe-left”. Where AIPAC enjoys overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans, J Street will only ever be supported by the small proportion of Democrats that fall within that narrow wavelength. This means that it will never have even close to the power that AIPAC has, it is simply working under the wrong model.

I actually agree with some of J Street’s polices and disagree with others – I would not join them, but I do not always take issue with those who do agree with their ideological position. I just wish that they would stop comparing themselves to AIPAC until they figure-out what AIPAC does. Then maybe they can stop trying to replicate its modus operandi of lobbying Congress and start doing something useful.

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  1. Olmert Rebukes J Street at their own Conference « Major Karnage
  2. The real crisis is the America-centric Zionism « Major Karnage

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