Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Progressive Bloggers Lunch Held at Hotel Where J-Street Conference Will be Held

WARNING What you are about to be invited to is neither sponsored, nor supported, nor endorsed by J-Street. There may be left over food from the morning sessions, maybe not. And J-Street is not insisting on rent from the bloggers for the hotel room. In fact, the bloggers have absolutely nothing to do with J-Street, officially or unofficially.

When in DC on Monday come hear progressive I/P blogger/journalists speak briefly about the issues of the hour. I mean quite literally "the hour" since lunch at the second day of the J-Street Conference is from 12:30-1:30.

Here is some of the line-up

Phil Weiss (Mondoweiss)
Jerry Haber (Magnes Zionist)
Richard Silverstein (Tikun Olam)
Dan Sieradski (formerly of Jewschool)
Helena Cobban (Just World News)
Max Blumenthal (Daily Beast)
Laila el Haddad (Gaza Mom)
Matt Duss (Think Progress)
Joseph Dana (Ibn Ezra)
Ray Hanania
Jesse Hochheiser (Across the Border)

I am not entirely sure that all of the above will show; there has been extraordinary pressure from the far right for them to cancel their participation at the lunch.

(That was a joke.)

In fact, there has been a lot of pressure on Congresspeople not to show, and a lot of hot air about J-Street. And you know what? It doesn't seem to be working. After an initial minyan of folks dropped out, nothing new to report…except the good news that the smears against J-Street are from the usual smearers: ZOA, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, and assorted West Bank settlers. Even the Jewish liberal hawks have been cutting the new kid on the block some slack.

And that's the way it should be. Because after the J-Street conference next week, AIPAC will be indelibly identified with the hard-core "pumped-by-Sarah-Palin-and-Rush-Limbaugh" right. If you are a liberal democrat, you shouldn't be backing AIPAC, or for that matter, the right-wing Netanyahu government.



Unknown said...

On a purely personal note, I am so upset I will not be able to attend this!

Maybe you could videotape it and put it on YouTube or at least record at audio version of it?

Anonymous said...

David Duke wasn't available?

D. Ghirlandaio said...

J Street, for all it's claims still functions as something akin the NAAWP. It's the organization of concerned moderates among of the rulers, not he ruled.

Joshua Marshall's TPM, occasional parking spot for the unctuous nebbish M.J Rosenberg, will call out Pat Buchanan for his racism:

"America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right."

while expressing the same fears for Israel.
I'm sick of well meaning racists. Talk with them because its necessary but I hope you're clear in your own mind just what they are.

Jonathan Mark said...

I asked J St if I could go your meeting without registering for the J Street conference. J St's Amy Spitalnick said your meeting is in a part of the hotel where access is restricted to J St. attendees.

Is that your understanding? Could you arrange for those who wish to attend your meeting but not register for the J Street conference to gain access?

Jerry Haber said...


J-Street is giving us space, although they are not sponsoring or endorsing us. Since they give us space, they make the rules.

Frankly, your post was the first I had heard of it. I do know that media is not being allowed in to any of the non public, self-organized sessions. I think that this follows the AIPAC example, but I am not sure.



Jerry Haber said...

D. G.

Not exactly sure what you want from M. J. There are going to be people at J-Street Conf. way to his right and somewhat to his left.

I think many of us want to see where this organization is going. I don't have high-hopes for real change coming out of J-Street, but I am curious to see the phenomenon and to get the pulse of liberal Zionism in this country. If you are at all interested at convincing liberal Zionists to move to your camp, you have to engage with them.

I still believe that the most pressing imperative is to end the occupation. And I am happy to form coalitions with any group that works toward that end, Jewish or Arab, Israeli or Palestinian.

D. Ghirlandaio said...

As I said, I understand the need to engage j Street, but I don't think people are facing up to the complexities. This is still being held largely (yes not entirely) as a Jewish conversation about Arabs. I'd rather see the lunch held elsewhere and include Ali Abunimah and As'ad AbuKhalil, and a few others. The American civil rights movement was not led by well meaning whites. The parallel isn't exact but it's something to remember.

Something else to remember is that Zionist "liberals" are finally being forced to ace the fact that their logic is oxymoronic. Rosenberg et al. are being forced to the left. They're not going there willingly and Rosenberg himself tries to ignore that he's moving at all. He's a truly desperate man.

Jonathan Mark said...

Best to you also.

You wrote: "I do know that media is not being allowed in to any of the non public, self-organized sessions."

How on earth would J St keep media from entering the room where your event is held? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of your event? And is J St going to station someone outside of your door to keep media out?

I would hope that in the next few years you would return to what I consider to be sanity. I noticed that after years of promoting anti-Israel boycotts of Israeli artists and performers, Vanessa Redgrave now opposes boycotts.

She even stars in a new film shot in Tel Aviv.

Christopher Hitchens was vehemently anti-Israel for decades. Now he is at worst neutral.

No one can say "I will never change." People change w/o realizing it. They go this way and that. I've changed.

Y. Ben-David said...

"Jerry" said:

I still believe that the most pressing imperative is to end the occupation. And I am happy to form coalitions with any group that works toward that end, Jewish or Arab, Israeli or Palestinian.

There, you have put your finger on the difference between J-Street and the rest of us who support Israel. You oppose the occuption, the "liberal Zionists" oppose the occupation, Abbas opposes the occupaton, HAMAS opposes the occupation, Bin Laden opposes the occupation, Neo-Nazis oppose the occupation, Nasrallah opposes the occupation and Ahmedinejad opposes the occupation. Do you really mean you support the idea "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"?
That is why it is legitimate to ask why Arabs or lobbyists for Arab countries like Nancy Dutton financially support J-Street (she works for Saudi Arabia, possibly the most Judeophobic country in the world) and what they really means.

If J-Street were to drop the nonsense that they are "pro-Israel" and at the same time say they oppose Israeli policies because they supposedly endanger both the US's position in the Middle East (who is J-Street to unilaterally decide such a thing?) and the position of Jews in the US, I would have no problem with them. If they said instead "we are Jews who oppose a new, more balanced approach to American policy in the Middle East", that would be fine. In addition they would need to drop the ridiculous assertion that they represent the "mainstream" of American Jewish opinion based on the claim that "we have a poll that says most American Jews support 'active' US involvement in the so-called 'peace process' and since we, at J-Street interpret that as meaning America placing punitive sanctions on Israel or voting to condemn Israel at the UN, then we extrapolate to mean that to mean that most American Jews support those things". This is blatanly dishonest.

J-Street will not succeed in its goal to become THE spokesman for American Jewry. If they had more modest goals they might find a niche for themselves, but seeing as how it is becoming nothing more than a refuge for malcontents who are at odds with mainstream American Jewry who really don't agree on what they want, other than to bash AIPAC and the Judea/Samaria settlements, the objective is doomed to failure, which I can only say is a good thing.

Jerry Haber said...

You folks have problems with J-Street; address them to J-Street. I am not on their payroll, or on their board.

Y Ben David, I think we are in total agreement that J-Street will not succeed in being THE spokesperson for American Jewry. I think they will agree with you, too, since it is not one of their goals.

What I would like J-Street to succeed in doing is to convince Americans that if you are a liberal democrat, you can't support AIPAC. Leave AIPAC to the Jewish republicans and liberal hawks.

If they can do that, then this will be a nice first step.

And Jonathan, I hope I am never on Christopher Hitchens' side on any issue.

And what makes you think I support boycotting Israel?

Jonathan Mark said...

No, you support Right of Return. Mondoweiss supports anti-Israel boycotts.

I was aware of that. My point was that Vanessa Redgrave, who had insistently advocated boycotting Israeli theaters and artists, changed her mind.

So, maybe someday you'll also change your mind about a few political things.

Jerry Haber said...


Re BDS. I have always supported D and left the "BS" to others. Selective divestment (e.g., from Caterpillar) can make noise and is much more easily focused than the boycott.

In general, I have been opposed to the boycott movement because I felt that it hasn't worked well as a tactic. But when I see how the Goldstone report is driving the You-Know-Whos crazy, I am rethinking BDS. In any event, if anybody asks why there should be BDS of Israel when there are more serious human rights violators, the answer to that will be easy --
it has a bigger effect in Israel.

Jerry Haber said...

D. G.

If the Zionist left folks are moving to the left, why should that make you unhappy? Who cares about their motivation?

Try to see the glass half-full, for Pete's sake. There will be plenty of time to bash J-Street if they foul up. For the moment, just sit back and enjoy the righwing consternation. You don't have to be on the same page with them. I sure am not. But they have a role to play.

Y. Ben-David said...

I made a boo-boo in my last comment-Obviously I meant to say that I would have no problem if J-Street would drop the "pro-Israel" pose and say they FAVOR (not, "oppose" as I wrote) a new, more balanced approach of the US to the Arab/Israel crisis.

I realize that you are not a spokesman for J-Street but by participating in this supposedly "unofficial" blogger session, it seems you are endorsing them and they are endorsing you (and, even worse, Phil Weiss). Actually, from my point of view, it is GOOD that they are having Phil Weiss because it will discredit them with the public at large.

J-Street DOES claim to speak for American Jewry. They keep pointing out their misleading polls that falsely show American Jewry to be supporting J-Street's positions and, in addition, and they say that most American Jews vote for Democrats and voted for Obama and so this means they support J-Street, since J-Street is Democratic (and anti-Republican) and pro-Obama.

They also, in their article by James Traub in the New York Times are proud to say they represent "assimilated" American Jewry ("we are all intermarried and have Buddhist Passover Seders") and they assume this crowd doesn't feel attached to Israel.
The bottom line is that by saying, on the one hand, their constituency is supposedly alienated from Israel, and that, at the same time they are "pro-Israel", that American Jewry (which they claim to speak for) supports Israel ON A CONDITIONAL BASIS...i.e. as long as Israel conforms to "progressive" values, (i.e. isn't too religious, doesn't hit back to hard when its citizens are killed, occupies only some Palestinian land but not other, is at least somewhat socialist, etc) than American Jewry is willing to identify with it and to support it, to some extent.
I believe this is all false. The clear majority of American Jewry supports the right of the Israeli government to make policy based on Israeli interests and security. The clear majority of American Jewry opposes BDS. All this in spite of the fact that they voted for Obama, who during the election campaign NEVER mentioned settlements, boycotts, sanctions votes against Israel in the UN, etc. He said he was "pro-Israel". Period. This is what really counts.

Dana said...

Y. Ben-david, many of us support J Street as centrist as it is, because it has the potential to drive people like you even further to the extreme right, where you seem quite comfortable. This way, we'll at least know who the real enemies of progress, humanity and sanity are. The reason J street exists in the first place is because Israel, as an ultra-nationalist, profoundly racist, apartheid entity is suffering from collective psychosis, and maybe some people worry that that sad enterprise can potentially drag perfectly excellent jewish people who live happily where they are down the drain with it. So J Street is an attempt not to modify the behavior of the patient (which is hopeless) but to help inoculate the healthy jewish organs elsewhere and build up their resistance.

I do see a problem in that Israel is destined to move further to the right towards a pre-destined rendez-vous with its fascist/prussian future. Therefore, since J Street supporters are generally a sane - and liberal - lot, I'm not sure how long they'll be able to support the Israel that is (as opposed to the israel they would have liked to have). But that's OK - because zionism and Judaism need to diverge anyways. Not a moment too soon, for my taste.

Best of luck to the bloggers panel. Wish I could hear all you guys in person. Maybe next year.