Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elie Wiesel Mocked at J Street Conference

Michael Goldfarb
The Weekly Standard
26 October 09

The "independent" blogger panel at J Street's conference can only be described as clownish. The panel consisted mostly of crackpots and self-described anti-Zionists and "one-staters" (J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami calls the one-state solution a "nightmare," but it seems to be the dream of many of the organization's supporters). Though J Street tried to distance itself from the panel by describing it as an "unofficial" and "independent" event, the bloggers used one of the rooms otherwise reserved for conference events, a podium in the front had a J Street placard on it, and a J Street banner hung on the back wall of the room. Ben-Ami came in to "check up" on the panel, and a J Street flack ejected someone from the room at the behest of one of the panelists. If this wasn't an official event, I don't know what official means.

At the event, Helena Cobban, who describes herself as "agnostic" on a two-state solution, said that blogging had "changed international relations" because now the world could get real-time reaction from the people "underneath U.S. and Israeli bombs."

Another panelist, Max Blumenthal, attacked Ben-Ami for having "capitulated" in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg last week. Most of the media at the conference were pleased with Ben-Ami's interview with Goldberg -- it was proof, they said, that J Street was indeed a reasonable organization. But that was not the view among the average conference participant. There was "a lot to be troubled with in this interview," Blumenthal said. Ben-Ami had "prostrated himself before this 'serious man.'"

Blumenthal really doesn't like Goldberg. He called him the "Chief Rabbi of a one man island," and then, with respect to Ben-Ami, asked, "if you can't stand up to Goldberg, how can you stand up to Netanyahu?" Blumenthal was upset that Ben-Ami had, under pressure from Goldberg, denounced Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of The Israel Lobby, as anti-Semites. Among the rank and file at the J Street conference, Walt and Mearsheimer are revered. Matt Duss, another panel participant who writes for John Podesta's Center for American Progress, said "the idea of attacking [Walt and Mearsheimer] as anti-Semites is outrageous."

Blumenthal went on to trash Elie Wiesel for speaking this past weekend at the Christians United for Israel conference in San Antonio. After mocking Pastor John Hagee, the founder of CUFI, Blumenthal said "the last time Elie Wiesel trusted someone so much it was Bernie Madoff." Wiesel admitted earlier this year that he lost "everything" he had in Madoff's ponzi scheme. The audience erupted with laughter at Blumenthal's tasteless joke.

Finally, we heard from the proprietor of the blog GazaMom.com, a hijab clad Palestinian woman who said she doesn't consider Mahmoud Abbas to be the legitimate president of the Palestinian Authority. Does she support Hamas? Who knows. "Whenever I hear two-state solution, I shake my head," she said, "I'm a one-stater." Again the room erupted with applause. Philip Weiss, another blogger participating in the panel, looked around and said "there are many Zionists in this room, there are also some non-Zionists and anti-Zionists." I would say that's a pretty good description of the J Street conference as a whole.

One other note: I didn't see a single member of Congress at the conference today. That's not to say there were none there -- there was an afternoon panel featuring Reps. Boustany, Schakowsky, and Filner -- but I didn't see any wandering around. I did see Jonathan Tasini, who is running a primary against New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010 and has tried to make an issue out of Gillibrand's decision to pull her support for the J Street conference.



  1. Of course you ignored those who spoke strongly in favor of "two-states," a rejection of palestinian AND Israeli extremism, and a rejection of violence. The people you cited were only a few among a handful. Discourse and discussion are Democratic principles if applied properly in the Middle East -- in israel and the Arab World -- would have encouraged peace long ago. J Street is bringing hope that the Jewish and pro-Israel extremists will be eclipsed by a more moderate voice supporting genuine peace based on two-states, compromise and real peace. Hopefully, that shift away from extremists in the Jewish and pro-Israeli community will also help embolden Palestinian and Arab moderates who support two-states and who reject the idiocy of the so-called "one-stater" fanatics.

    Ray Hanania

  2. It both saddens and disgusts me to hear about Max Blumenthal's cheap shots at Elie Wiesel and CUFI, but I can't say I'm surprised. Juden-Strasse (that's J-Street, after all) WOULD try to insert a wedge between Jewish and Christian Zionists for the simple reason that they cannot abide the presence of ANY pro-Israel organization, even though Juden-Strasse bills itself as "pro-Israel"; we who know better see J-Strasse as the Jewish arm of the International Solidarity movement and their ilk - Marxists all, and solid supporters of all Palestinian causes, without discriminating between legitimate projects and terrorism.

  3. Dear Ray,
    "Discourse and discussion are Democratic principles if applied properly in the Middle East -- in israel and the Arab World -- would have encouraged peace long ago." Unlike and unlikely in the "Arab World" where discourse does not exist, Israel has a press that in it's lack of national responsibility, exceeds all standards. The J Street conference in it's physically removing those it disagrees with or shouting them down, could certainly feel welcome in any non-democratic forum.

  4. I retain the right to moderate comments and have done so with the objectionable part of "Anonymous said...
    He and CUFI deserve each other. My father's buried in Israel in Rishon. I'm sure he's rolling in his grave knowing Israel is in bed with the CUFI goyim cholerya."

  5. I want to answer Ray Hananiah, but the MAC technology apparently interferes....

    His definitions are themselves driven by ideology, so the facts are irrelevant to his goals. This is the danger of being doctrinaire LEFT.

    The idea that by being "moderate" (Israel, this means only YOU make concessions, and the terror camp goes scott free) that this concession will somehow soften the other side is a faulty thesis to begin with, and it has been proved wrong by twenty years of peace process negotiations, where Israel offered concessions, and then received nothing but continued violence in return. Upon analysis of this history, we see that the other side does not wish peace, but wishes only to strengthen its goal of taking over the Jewish state.
    There is nothing more to discuss here. Israel must defend herself against Arabs who wish to destroy her (not all do, but many do) and she must defend herself against naive LEFTIST ideologues like Hananiah and the J Street crowd. We would have had peace in Israel long ago if foreigners had kept their interference to themselves.

  6. The Hananiah assumption about merely behaving democratically and all will be fine here in the Middle East does not show any understanding of local culture here.

    Concessions do not provoke respect; they give the impression of weakness to those who have been taught to hate from the cradle and are fed on a media diet of hate. True, perhaps those who actually work with Jews know the truth, but many do not, and they are content to let their extremist, Iranian sponsored leaders take them down the terror path with all its consequences.

    The moderate Arabs here among the Xians and Muslims do live in peace with us, but the majority are yet willing to follow their leaders to their own detriment.

    Twenty years of efforts toward peace have produced nothing because Israel does not have a "partner for peace" here.

    It is better off for all parties if Israel will annex all disputed territory and rule here as the sovereign people. Then and only then will justice come for all of Israel's residents.

    Arabs may complain about the waiting in line to find work every morning in Israel, but why is Israel and ONLY Israel responsible for the fact that they have not developed their economy sufficiently in order to employ all of the population of Arab towns? Is that the fault of Israel, or are they lacking customers because of twenty years of constant war against us has closed down their towns to Jewish visitors? Is Israel to blame for this? Hardly.

    The ultimate irony is that if Obama's demand for cessation to all building is implemented, then Arabs will be the first to suffer the cessation, since it is they who supply the work force for the continued settlement building. Bad idea on a oractical level, and worse on a theoretical level.