Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Joshua Levine Shills for J Street

It's now become laughable how the Huffington Post has so blatantly picked a side when it comes to which "pro-Israel lobby" American Jews should support. They have two full time bloggers who do nothing except attack AIPAC and yet can't stop praising J Street for...existing, mostly. Shockingly they have only had one article about a recent J Street conference that you might have been aware of if you're on Twitter a lot; a blog post by Rabbi Joshua Levine. Rabbi Levine is hardly a far-left radical (at least not by Huffington Post standards) but his praise of J Street is so uncritical it reads like a press release.

After declaring that J Street has brought "nuance" to "the conversation in the American Jews community" about how to make peace in Israel, he goes through a laundry list of all the things that happened at the conference. You can read it for yourself if you aren't already familiar. He say that a lot of things were discussed, namely the issues such as what he calls the "right of return" and then says this highly questionable remark (emphasis mine):
"Did we all agree on what people said? Of course not. People are afraid of J Street because of this. I argue that everyone agreeing is much more scary than disagreement. J Street is finding success primarily because it is a place that has become a safe haven for people to argue on the merits of the conflict, meet people who push their buttons, engage and discuss, both with the speakers and with each other. This is a good thing."
First of all, what does "argue on the merits of the conflict" even mean? Secondly, I may be the only person who remembers this but when J Street first appeared it claimed to be "pro-Israel and pro-peace." Now, according to Levine, it's some kind of Arab-Israeli conflict forum? Is it still even pro-Israel? Rabbi Levine seems to stick with this perception of J Street as a forum as he gets into one huge paragraph. For the ease of reading I've added a break. So check out Levine's faint praise for J Street:
"[A Palestinian speakers'] argument was that Israel needs to offer an apology and acknowledgement for its role in the displacement of thousands of Palestinians as part of the 1948 War of Independence. Then, offer four options, all with compensation: stay where you are living currently; relocate to a new Palestinian state; relocate to another country of your choice; relocate to Israel. It was this last point that caused the outcry. How can Israel offer all the refugees who want to come back to Israel that opportunity and still survive? Obviously, they can't. And other Palestinian speakers, including high level Arab League officials, acknowledged that fact. 
But, a truth was spoken and a place to start the negotiations was opened. That is what can occur at J Street conferences: hard truths can be said, nobody boos, some people clap, some people don't, and everyone can discuss. I personally spoke to this speaker and challenged him on his point and he was open to the conversation. No hatred, no violence, no name calling, just talking about difficult issues and beginning a dialogue."
Freaking hilarious. There's "no violence" at a conference? Wow, talking about damning by faint praise for J Street huh? Because the attendees aren't punching each other or screaming insults we're all supposed to fall over each other praising J Street for its tolerance? I didn't see any violence, hatred or name calling at AIPAC either and you didn't see me on the Huffington Post crowing about it.

The damning by faint praise is also notable in his depiction of the Palestinians. Again, admitting that not all of the Palestinians can move to Israel is not that much of a concession. It's obvious to everyone except the Palestinians that it was never going to happen. So sure you can say from a Palestinian standpoint it's a deep and painful concession but from my perspective it's just reaching the bare minimum. Also it's one thing to acknowledge this at freaking J Street, it's another to sell it to the Palestinians themselves.

As if all this wasn't informative enough, Levine goes a step further:
"I do know that the Jewish tradition values apologies and speaking of hard truths. That is what our High Holy Day season is all about. Can we know what would happen if the Israelis offered an acknowledgement that bad things happened in 1948 on our way to independence? I believe that we cannot know until we try. And, in this effort, I would expect that the Arab world acknowledge what they did to 800,000 Jews that caused them to leave or be expelled from the Arab countries they were living in, and maybe even be compensated."
Notice he says "our" way to independence. Rabbi Levine lives in Pasadena, California. But since he is left-wing and J Street approved, don't think any of the Huffington Post readership is going to call him an "Israel firster."

Secondly is this thing about apologies. Maybe Rabbi Levine isn't aware of this, but when it comes to the Middle East apologies aren't merely "we're sorry this happened." When you apologize for something it's basically saying "we're sorry, and it's our fault." That is exactly why Israel was reluctant to apologize to Turkey for the violence on the flotilla and it's why Israel shouldn't apologize to the Palestinians. The Palestinians were made refugees because they started a war against Israel. All Israel did was defend itself and that is exactly what the Palestinians want them to apologize for.

Similarly, asking the Arab world to apologize for the Jewish Nakba is not a corollary, if for no other reason than they never will. If Israel should ask the Arab world to apologize for anything, it should be for the 60 years of war and failed extermination they have waged against Israel. But once again, the Arabs won't apologize for trying to destroy Israel because (as they freely admit to each other) they still want to. Don't expect that to get much traction at the J Street conference. He finishes up with some platitudes then points out that J Street does 'peacemaking.' So much for being pro-Israel right? Anyway here's some of those platitudes:
"Truth is sometimes black and white, but more often that not, truth involves nuance and always involves vulnerability. If there is ever going to be peace between Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, some hard truths will need to be spoken, on both sides."
Honestly the only hard truth I've seen here is that there is no "right of return" for Palestinians, which doesn't involve nuance or vulnerability, just Palestinians backing down from a claim they have held onto for years and don't appear to be letting go of any time soon. Levine claims that J Street is now a "serious player" for peacemaking but if that's the case his article doesn't really prove it. It's just more of the usual "dialogue" that we have heard about for years now.

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