Jewish schism threatens Israel’s deadly grip on USA

Israel is losing its deadly grip on the American people. And it’s not just the ordinary folk who are turning their backs on the apartheid state, but American Jews, hitherto its loyal foot soldiers.

Nothing could illustrate this better than the sight of the leaders of J Street, the “liberal” Zionist American lobby group, praising the Israeli armed forces while the audience cheers the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, BDS. As Philip Weiss describes in the Mondoweiss website,

This is the year that the Israel lobby group J Street became part of the Jewish establishment. It has announced this fact in Washington with a conference demonstrating that it has the ear of the American president and also of the rightwing Netanyahu administration in Israel. Its program is crowded with Israeli members of Knesset, including one from Likud and Netanyahu’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. And Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador who once bashed J Street, has a fulsome letter to the group in everyone’s packet.

But, as Weiss says, there is a “great disjuncture at J Street… between the rank and file idealists and the leadership”. It’s a disjuncture that is brought into sharp relief when a strong Palestinian speaks to the group.

A year or so back Mustafa Barghouti was the rock star of J Street. The young liberals and old dreamers were captivated by a man of soul and eloquence. You could hear a pin drop when he spoke. And there were 500 people in the room. This year that role has been filled by Husam Zomlot, a Fatah man and official in the Palestinian Authority. Yesterday [29 September] he stole the show. Because when you put any thoughtful Palestinian up against the thick-skinned Israelis, there is no contest. It is  like the difference between Muzak and Bach.

So while J Street’s leader and the keynote speaker Israel’s justice minister decry the Palestinian right of return as a fantasy of Israel’s destruction, Zomlot explained why it is a right that it is impossible for any Palestinian leader to sign away. It is the right of two thirds of the Palestinian community, he said…

Some of the refugees might want to stay where they are, he said, as the audience went stone silent. Some might want to resettle in third country. Some might want to return to their original homes. Some want to go to Palestine.

“All of them want one thing. Full recognition of the Nakba [Arabic for catastrophe, the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948] that has befallen on them. All of them.”

According to Weiss,

Zomlot’s statements drew strong applause, even as you saw old Zionists shaking their heads in disbelief and anger. Just as Zomlot and Riman Barakat of Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information both got applause for praising BDS as the nonviolent tool of the Palestinian people in their struggle. Zomlot called BDS a “gamechanger”, and said, “How do you discomfort the very comfortable status quo”?

As Weiss says, it is “remarkable that an Israel lobby group would cheer the right of return and BDS, or that a great number of them would do so”.

Hence J Street’s crisis. “It has organized to support Zionism in the United States. But the community it claims to speak for, liberal Jews, are sure to undermine that agenda by embracing a language of Palestinian rights. And in the end, J Street will not abandon the IDF [Israel Defence Forces].”

In other words, J Street is condemning itself to the dustbin of history. It might not abandon the IDF, but young Americans – Jewish and non-Jewish – seem set to abandon it.

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