Mondoweiss / January 25, 2022
Establishment Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League sent a letter to Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett saying settler violence is “undermining Israel’s image and relations with the U.S. government.” I.e., we can’t do our job of selling Israel in the U.S. with this sort of publicity.
The spate of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, culminating last week in killings of older men that drew the attention of MSNBC and the New York Times, a settler attack on activists planting saplings, and the nighttime eviction of Palestinians from a Jerusalem home Israel then demolished, is clearly undermining U.S. public support for Israel, including among Jews. And today there are cracks in the firewall that the Israel lobby maintains against any political criticism of Israel here.
Seven establishment Jewish groups today sent a letter to Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett saying Enough’s enough, take action against settler violence; you are “undermining Israel’s image and relations with the U.S. government.” I.e., we can’t do our job of selling Israel in the U.S. with this sort of publicity. The “major Jewish organizations” include the Anti-Defamation League and Israel Policy Forum and National Council of Jewish Women and Union for Reform Judaism, but not liberal Zionist groups. Excerpt:
attacks by Israelis have been steadily increasing and intensifying over the past year, and as pro-Israel Jewish organizations, we are deeply concerned by these trends and request that you address them. These attacks serve as an affront to Israel’s rule of law, to Israeli democracy, and to Jewish values, while undermining Israel’s image and relations with the United States government, American people, and American Jewry. They make it more difficult to appreciate Israel’s legitimate and ongoing security needs and efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The letter is being covered by the Israeli press but not by the American press, which avoids covering the Israel lobby. The Times of Israel notes that the letter respectfully avoids “using the word ‘settler’” while speaking of “Jewish Israeli extremists.” I think that is so as to gain more traction with the Israeli government. After an Israeli government minister discussed settler violence with an American diplomat last month, Bennett distanced himself from the minister and he needed 24-hour security from threats.
The ADL/Israel Policy Forum letter is of a piece with a Saturday twitter “rant” from Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal Zionist group J Street, about a “horrific week in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.”
Ben-Ami wrote “to honor the memory” of two elderly Palestinian protesters killed by Israel and cited the MSNBC report on one of those killings. He also wrote “in the name of” the Salhiya family evicted from that Jerusalem home and “in the name of” Palestinian schoolchildren subject to harassment and raids on a continual basis.
J Street knows that progressive Democrats are alarmed by these stories, and it needs to look like it is doing something besides supporting $4 billion a year in military aid to Israel. “The occupation… threatens the legitimacy and place of the state of Israel.” Though all Ben-Ami has to offer is, It’s time for the U.S. to take steps to establish a Palestinian state. (Spoiler alert: nothing will happen.)
J Street and Israel Policy Forum represent different chambers of the Israel lobby. IPF is center-liberal, J Steet is liberal. Still, these are significant statements because the Democratic Party Israel lobby understands that its own rank and file, American Jews, are growing impatient with the scenes of never-ending violent expansion of the Jewish state.
In his “rant”, Jeremy Ben-Ami repeatedly rejected the Palestinian answer to atrocities — BDS — and signed off with a tweet that suggested that the problem is How American Zionists feel, and not what is happening to a persecuted population: “Whew. OK, so the occasional rant on Twitter does feel good. And now I can sign off again for many months, I hope.” As if Israeli atrocities will stop for those many months.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006