Bintel Blog

J Street and the Israel Project: A War of Words

By Nathan Guttman

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The Israel Project and J Street are now officially at war.

The two groups have been trading barbs in Jewish media outlets in recent days over leaks from the Israel Project’s (TIP) “message guide” on what to say when talking about Israel.

Columnist Doug Bloomfield reported in the New Jersey Jewish News about the manual and provided some juicy excerpts that stirred immediate controversy. Among them was The Israel Project’s suggestion that its activists compare the demand for removal of all Jewish settlements from the West Bank to “ethnic cleansing.”

The best argument on this issue, states the TIP manual, is that since Israel provides its Arab citizens with full rights, the idea of removing Jewish settlers from Palestinian areas would be racist.

The 140-page guidebook is titled “2009 Global Language Dictionary” and was prepared by political strategist and pollster Frank Luntz. At the bottom of each page it carries a warning: “not for distribution or publication” but a full copy was obtained by the Forward.

Here are some ideas for effective advocating for Israel, according to TIP:

Don’t talk about religion Americans who see the bible as their sourcebook on foreign affairs are already supporters of Israel. Religious fundamentalists are Israel’s “Amen Choir” and they make up approximately one-fourth of the American public and Israel’s strongest friends in the world. However, some of those who are most likely to believe that Israel is a religious state are most hostile towards Israel

Or this:

Concede a point Look for opportunities in every TV debate or interview to concede a point to the interviewer or debate partner. It doesn’t have to be a major point. The point isn’t to undermine some essential plank of Israel’s foreign policy platform. But the simple words “you make a good point” do wonders among an audience.

And this one:

Never, never, NEVER speak in declarative statements. Never

The information leaked from TIP’s manual instantly got all the red-alert lights flashing at the headquarters of the Jewish dovish groups. Americans for Peace Now’s Ori Nir argued that “American Jews increasingly realize that settlements undermine Israel’s ability to survive, long term, as a democratic Jewish state and that they undermine America’s national security interest.”

And over at J Street, an immediate action alert went out, calling supporters to sign on a letter demanding The Israel Project remove any “pro settler fear mongering” language from its talking points.

TIP’s president and founder Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi responded to JTA that that the withdrawal from Gaza was in fact an act of ethnic cleansing, since all Jews “including the dead Jews” were removed.

Laszlo-Mizrahi also took a shot at J Street: “I get up in the morning and say ‘How can I attack the Iranian nuclear threat,” said Mizrahi. J Street “gets up in the morning and says ‘How can I attack other Jewish organizations?’”

Shoded Yam Sat. Jul 11, 2009

You know what Franky?

I'm an Israeli citizen. Served as a paratrooper in Zahal for 3 years (1985-88). By the way, Frank. Don't remember seeing you there. I love the way the testicularly challenged are always so willing to sacrafice other peoples kids to compensate for their "shortcomings". I now have a 3 year old son, also an Israeli citizen. I have no intention on sacraficing him on the altar of the state, so that lazy religous zionists, ultra-orthodozx jews don't have to work (because their "studying") can demand free housing and utilities under the hackneyed guise of a "spiritual and national imperative" or to satisfy the holocaust revenge fantasies of gutless, insecure American Jews who are big talkers in cyber-space and at the local synagogue, but in the end have no problem sacraficing my kids blood because of their penis envy.

Sephardiman Sun. Jul 12, 2009

Well said SY!

Jacob Tue. Jul 14, 2009

If you ask me, there's some truth to the comparison between "settlers" and Arab Israelis. Why force settlers out? If they want to stay in a Palestinian state, without the protection of the IDF, as second-class citizens the way Arab Israelis are, why not let them? But I bet that when the IDF withdraws and a Palestinian state is established, settlers will be clamoring to get back into Israel proper.

Jeffrey Wed. Jul 15, 2009

Shoded Yam, I don't believe you're Israeli. If you were, you would know that settlers work, pay taxes and serve in combat units in a higher percentage than any other sector of the population.

israeli, american and offended Wed. Jul 15, 2009

not to give shoded extra PR, but if the Forward says that: "Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not." - WHY IS THAT COMMENT THERE? his degenerate language makes a mockery out of life and death issues and defeats mr. genius' own purpose. if he cares about his 3 year old so much, maybe he should start by setting a better "dugma ishit" as we israelis say (or used to...). In the end, neither the settlement madness nor American jewish quarrels well get israel - what will do us in is our own inability to listen, reason - and think.

Shoded, grow up.

Shoded Yam Thu. Jul 16, 2009

Jeffy said;

"...Shoded Yam, I don't believe you're Israeli. If you were, you would know that settlers work, pay taxes and serve in combat units in a higher percentage than any other sector of the population."

Guess what cupcake? You mistake me for somebody who gives a shit. You're affirmation of my nationality and so forth is neither solicited, necessary or relevant. What? Another jumped-up little prick from the pantheon of assholes who like to style themselves arbiters of Israeliness and Jewish piety? Gee, what a surprise.

Yes its true that settlers work. But everything is relative. If by "work" you mean some extorted gov't job in education granted as a political favor which amounts to babysitting or lasiviously drooling over 9 year-old talmedei yeshiva, than yes you work. The question is whether this "work" produces enough revenue for the state in order to offset the expense of your "lifestyle" that secular Israel foots most of the bill for. I think not sweetie. To wit;

"...What is the economic basis of the Gush Etzion bloc? As is the case throughout the West Bank, settlers living in the Gush Etzion bloc, as well as those in the more far-flung corners of the Gush Etzion Regional Council’s territory, receive substantial subsidies, tax breaks, mortgage benefits and other financial incentives for living in settlements.

As far as employment, the Gush Etzion bloc, as noted earlier, is located close to Jerusalem, facilitating commuting to jobs inside Israel. In addition, there is some employment inside the settlements (schools, services, administration, agriculture, small industry). There is also a small industrial zone east of Migdal Oz. As is the case with most industrial zones in the West Bank, there is little active or successful industry in this zone, and its primary purpose appears to be to expand the footprint of the settlers in this area.

In addition, the Gush Etzion settlements (like other settlements) actively raise funds outside Israel. The main fundraising arm for the entire area is the Gush Etzion Foundation, which raises tax deductible donations through its U.S. arm (located in Manchester, New Hampshire). Individual settlements also raise funds directly for their own projects. These include the settlement of Alon Shvut and its yeshiva, which raise tax-deductible funds via the Etzion Foundation, with its U.S. arm located in New York City. Similarly, a women’s school in Bat Ayin raises its own tax-deductible donations via an organization with a U.S. arm based in Aventura, FL; Tko’a raises funds on its own website, and Efrata appears to raise tax-deductible funds via The Central Fund of Israel, based in New York City."

This is not about God, Judaism, the Torah, saskwatch, or the tooth fairey. This is about a free ride and a free house on the company dime, plain and simple.

As far as serving in combat units go, religous participation is but a recent phenomena and a mixed bag in terms of effectiveness if the last two wars are any indication.

Shoded Yam Fri. Jul 17, 2009

Israeli, American, and Offended said;

"...Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not." - WHY IS THAT COMMENT THERE?"

Because unlike your phelgm inflected drivel and contrived outrage, its real and judging by your melo-drama, entertaining as well. :-)

Lori Sun. Jul 19, 2009

I am a member of JStreet and suppport most of it's aims. I'm a secular Jew who had a religious upbringing. I was in Israel before the 6-Day War, during the war, and after the war. I am in total agreement with Shoded and more so.

I think after the 6-Day War,the amazing victory was too heady to comprehend. I think Israel lost its collective soul in that victory. I think it should have sued for peace, all the while maintaining the territories and possibly, enacted a Marshsall Plan for those territories. Demolishing homes does not make for good relationships, and this was done (is done) without much thought. Could we for a minute, understand what having your home, your family's own dwelling place, being demolished in front of your eyes, would mean to you?

I think Jews here make the mistake of supporting everything Israel does with $$$ and blind faith. It isn't helping anyone. When I was in Israel, I noted some issues the Israelis had that discontented them. It was the ultra-orthodox that was at the forefront of old and disagreeable traditions that had to be maintained. But, my Israeli friends said, they were in the minority, nothing to fear from them. We must fearthem because they are motivated by their bible and not reality or reason. They are takers from the taxes of everyone and in return are arrogant directors of the State, sometimes arguing that the State doesn't exist because their messiah didn't present it, and other times insisting every little bit of land must be preserved and more gotten. They are a greedy bunch of bigots.

Yes, this dialogue with JStreet is good. Let's keep it up. All Jews in this country do not agree with Israel. We're not a aggregate of dummies saying, here's $$$, do whatever you want. Maybe a more neutral approach to the problem would have engendered more trust by the Arab community and less hatred for the USA. Not everything anyone does is perfect and right. Not even what my dearest friend does. I'm not a friend if I don't criticize and point out the flaws. Go JStreet.

Yes, let's stop the settlements and let's notice that more and more Middle East countries are talking and willing to negotiate with Israel. And let's remember, all these years and wars have not made it a safer place. Let's work for solutions without war. Gee, I hate to say peace, it sounds almost sacreligeous

Bernice Sun. Jul 19, 2009

I am a non-Jewish member of J-Street who supports its goal of peace and justice for BOTH Israel and the Palestinians.

As I recall, during the 2008 war the Israeli government blocked TV transmissions of the carnage Israel inflicted upon Gaza and showed only "rockets raining down" on Israel. This effort to make the Gazans look more violent than Israel, although untrue, seems to have succeeded in Israel. I doubt, too, that many of the Israeli media discuss the anti-Arab racist legislation limiting the rights of Arab-Israelis Mr. Lieberman wants passed.

Many Israelis seem totally unaware that Israel IS, as the United Nations is in the process of proving, guilty of war crimes in Gaza. As it was in Beirut a few years ago.

You may be interested in reading about the opinions of American Jews as measured in a poll commissioned by J-Street this spring.

In 1975, American Jewish journalist I.F. Stone warned in The Progressive magazine: "We cannot ignore the problems of the Arab refugees, and of Palestinian national aspirations, nor blind ourselves to their realities. We cannot say that Jews have a right to yearn for Palestine after 1,900 years and deny the Arabs the right to yearn for their homes after nineteen years.

"I want to see Israel live.

"If we do not pursue the path of reconciliation, the Jewish people will be transformed in the span of a generation; we cannot harden our hearts against our Arab brothers and remain the kind of people we have been proud of being for 2,000 years."

I think we have seen Mr. Stone's warning become fact, which is very sad for Israelis and all their neighbors.

Marshalldoc Mon. Jul 20, 2009

Contrary to Laszlo-Mizrahi's comment:

“I get up in the morning and say ‘How can I attack the Iranian nuclear threat,” said Mizrahi. J Street “gets up in the morning and says ‘How can I attack other Jewish organizations?’”

As a J Street supporter I get up in the morning asking "what can I do today to stop further Israeli ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem's & the West Bank's Palestinian inhabitants and to counter Likud's & the NeoCon's "mad mullah" pretexting propaganda while insuring that Israel adheres to the "Roadmap" and removes all Israeli settlements from the West Bank, including Jerusalem?"

That, Ms. Laszlo-Mizrahi, is what I actually wake up thinking about.

Bernice Mon. Jul 20, 2009

Marshalldoc: The Iranian nuclear "threat" may exist only in the minds of Israelis who are afraid Iran MIGHT develop nuclear weapons SOMEDAY and use them on Israel. Our National Intelligence Report shows that none of our intel agencies has found any evidence of a weapons program. The IAEA made 12 or 13 unannounced inspections in a year and found no evidence of a weapons program. Fear of a possible future even is no excuse for violence against another country.

Iran is a signer of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (unlike the US and Israel) and, as such, has a legal and moral right to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses.

See an interesting June 5 article by Farmarz Farbod, Adjunct Prof. of Political Science of Moravian College, at She notes that "Israel does not favor [a] lessening of tensions between the U.S and Iran" because the tensions take attention away from Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Says Farbod, "Israel is thus putting maximum pressure on Obama (1) to limit Washington's engagement period with Iran to several months at most, (2) to make the whole endeavor as fragile as possible by continuously beating the drums of war, and (3) to win from Obama a commitment to hard power politics immediately following the hoped-for failure of the diplomatic route."

Is it not obvious that Iran is in much more danger of an attack by Israel than Israel is of a maybe-someday attack on it by Iran?

Bernice Mon. Jul 20, 2009

Marshalldoc: Excuse me. My comment should have been directed to the same person to whom you directed yours. Sorry.

Shoded Yam Tue. Jul 21, 2009

Study: Settlements get more state funding than Israeli cities By Reuters;

"... While Israeli municipalities as a whole receive 34.7 percent of their income from [the government] and obtain another 64.3 percent from their own income, settlement municipalities obtain 57 percent from the [government], and only 42.8 percent from their own income," the study found"

"...Israel's government "allocates 4.1 percent its total budget for municipalities to settlements, although they constitute just 3.1 percent of the total Israeli population", the report adds"

"... "Not only do settlements distort priorities of the Israeli government's decision-making process on economic, political and social issues -- the government of Israel proactively funds more than half of their existence too," said director Roby Nathanson."

Marshalldoc Wed. Jul 22, 2009

Hi Bernice,

Thanks for clearing that up. I was wondering...

For all posters on Israeli issues sites, be aware of the new Israeli hasbara (propaganda) effort as reported in "The Foreign Ministry presents: talkbackers in the service of the State" (at: and at:

We should all realize that any poster supporting or defending Israeli policies is very likely to be a paid Israeli propagandist masquerading as a private individual expressing only personal views.

See also, Jonathan Cook's "Israel deploys cyber team to spread positive spin" (at:

Shoded Yam Wed. Jul 22, 2009

"...We should all realize that any poster supporting or defending Israeli policies is very likely to be a paid Israeli propagandist masquerading as a private individual expressing only personal views."

Thats one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. Anyone who supports Israeli policies is automatically a paid agent of the Israeli gov't? That would include every Israeli citizen for one reason or another. As an American, who supports several arguably questionable American policies, are you a paid agent of your gov't? Get a grip on yourself.

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