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Ayalon on J Street: ‘They Should Not Call Themselves Pro-Israeli’

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister stopped just short of calling J Street “anti-Israel” at a February 16 meeting of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

“The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in an address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.”

Ayalon’s remark stood in contrast to a recent thaw in the relationship between J Street, a left-wing lobbying group, and the Israeli government, including statements by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who, after calling J Street a “unique problem” in a December address, is reconciling with the group.

In a recent interview with the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Oren almost entirely backed off of his prior critique of J Street, saying, “The J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving.” He praised the organization for supporting the Iran sanctions bill put forward by Congressman Howard Berman, and for its criticism of the Goldstone Report. Taken together, Oren said that these and other positions have put “J Street much more into the mainstream.”

Other signs of J Street’s increasing acceptance by the Israeli government came February 16, in an interview with J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami on the popular Israel Army Radio morning program “Ma Boer.” Ben-Ami, who is in Israel on a J Street-sponsored congressional delegation, said that his group had secured a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor. He also revealed that the Israeli Embassy’s Washington staff had been in conversation with J Street staff, and that he hoped to meet one-on-one with Oren.

“I think we’re well beyond the immediate conflict that you may have heard about,” Ben-Ami told “Ma Boer” host Razi Barkai.

A J Street spokesperson declined to comment on Ayalon’s criticism of the group. Also in his Conference of Presidents address, Ayalon questioned the loyalty of Israeli Arab Knesset members. “There are Arab members of Knesset who were advisors to Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas,” Ayalon said. “This is like U.S. members of Congress advising the Taliban.”

Sephardiman Tue. Feb 16, 2010

Adon Ayalon needs, in the words of Nikolai Bukharin, a good kick in the head.

esthermiriam Tue. Feb 16, 2010

And Isn't this the man who singlehandedly nearly destroyed Israel's relationship with Turkey?! J Street is very smart not to engage with him.

J Street is great Tue. Feb 16, 2010

J Street is pro Israel it just isn't pro Zionist. We want a progressive Israel that is a state of all of its citizens instead of a racist Jewish state.

All progressives reject the racist ideas of Zionism which come from ultra Orthodox judaism. Just like progressive Jews reject racist ideas such as the jews as the chosen people or the racist opposition to intermarriage so too we reject the idea of a Jewish state.

When Israel becomes a progressive deomocracy welcomes back the Palestinians with their right of return and ends the occupation all of us will be proud how J Street lead the way

J street sucks Tue. Feb 16, 2010

J street advocates the destruction of Israel. Most of their donors are Arab Islamofacists who support terrorist groups who have murdered thousands of Jewish women and children.

Israel is a democratic country. The only one in the Middles East. The Arab fakestinians need to go back to their homeland of Arabia and stop killing Jews.

Rabbi Tony Jutner Tue. Feb 16, 2010

For the first time, I find myself in agreement with the fascist Ayalon. I would be proud if J Street did precisely as Ayalon recommended. One cannot be progressive and support ziostan at the same time. It makes less sense than pregnant virgins

Jeuhdah Ben-Israel Wed. Feb 17, 2010

There is no argument: J Street people have been collaborating with some of Israel's worst enemies...!! The Goldstone affair is only the tip of the iceberg, and further collaboration, indirectly, places the very life of Israeli Jews in harm's way.

What is amazing to me is the arrogance with which J Street permits itself to demand that it be heard by Israelis and that Israeli citizens take into consideration its ideas; and this while its members are not Israeli citizens, although the Jews among them may become at any moment if they only ascended to Israel.

It is for Israel's citizens, who would share the benefits and pay the consequences of the activities of their democratically elected officials, and not for non-citizens of Israel who reside abroad to tell us, Israelis, how to conduct our lives.

Jeuhdah Ben-Israel Wed. Feb 17, 2010

To the question of Zionism that is being raised here:

Zionism, historically, has represented the affinity of the Jewish people as a people and each of its member Jews to Zion=Jerusalem. This phenomenon has been with us, Jews, for over 3,000 years, since King David established his seat there as the capital city of the Hebrew/Israeli/Jewish people.

Zionism in its modern sense is, of course, an outgrowth of long Jewish experiences and reality and came into being in the latter part of the 19th century as the non-violent (not pacifist, mind you) national liberation movement of the Jewish people.

Zionism's goal has been to re-establish Hebrew/Israeli/Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Israel (Land of Israel) with the full intention of doing so through an accommodation of peaceful coexistence with the Arabs residing in the country and with the rest of the Arab world (Google for and read carefully Israel's Proclamation of Independence please). Zionism, in addition aimed at re-energize Jewish life and Jewish civilization in Judaism's cradle of Eretz Israel. Zionism has achieved both major goals, although much is still to be done.

Zionism, it should also be noted, and the nation-state of the Jewish people it brought about, the Jewish state of Israel, is a perfect example of the universally accepted right of all peoples, including that of the Jewish people, to national self-determination and independence.

To single out the Jewish people and to call for the end of Jewish people's affinity to its national homeland and for its national liberation movement to cease promoting Jewish renewal in the Land is nothing short of racism, anti-Jewish racism.

Stu Wed. Feb 17, 2010

Dear Mr. Netanyahu, Please sack Messrs. Lieberman and Ayalon so that Israel doesn't become the laughing stock of the diplomatic world. It's painful and it's embarrassing. But more importantly, Israel's current Foreign Ministry tag team is becoming truly dangerous for Israel.

Stu Wed. Feb 17, 2010

Dear Mr. Netanyahu, Please sack Messrs. Lieberman and Ayalon so that Israel doesn't become the laughing stock of the diplomatic world. It's painful and it's embarrassing. But more importantly, Israel's current Foreign Ministry tag team is becoming truly dangerous for Israel.

lisa B Wed. Feb 17, 2010

"Adon Ayalon needs, in the words of Nikolai Bukharin, a good kick in the head."

Amen to that. A crash course in the meaning of the word "diplomacy" might be in order too.

Jeuhdah Ben-Israel Wed. Feb 17, 2010

May I ask: If J Street is not a pro-Israeli organization, why should its members call it a pro-Israeli?

And if this is the reality to which members of Knesset and ministers in the Israeli government point, why shouldn't they?

Cleaning up the language on one hand and discussing matters based on facts and not wishful thinking is perhaps called for, don't you think...??

Donna L. Halper Wed. Feb 17, 2010

Excuse me, but I'm as pro-Israel as a human being can be, but I do NOT support the utterly hawkish (and often bigoted) views of some of the ultra-right wingers in Israel, just like I did not support the Neocons here in the USA. I think it's time to move beyond juvenile name-calling. Just because I am not automatically a hawk on every issue doesn't mean I am supporting Al Qaeda. Such slurs against J Street miss the point. Many American Jews believe AIPAC has become an adjunct of the Republican Party and the Neocon ideology. We love Israel but we also hope for a more moderate position, where Israel is safe and protected, but dissent isn't demonized, and moderates are empowered. The ultra-right wing has dominated the discussion for far too long. Diplomacy is not necessarily a bad thing.

Michael Levin Thu. Feb 18, 2010

Also see: "Ayalon Snubs J Street Congressional Delegation," Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 2/17/10. [Excerpt] "The upshot seems to be that Ayalon will arrange meetings with any Israeli officials they wish to see as long as he, Ayalon can dictate who they want to see. Makes sense? I’m guessing that Ayalon wanted to exclude J Street personnel from any meetings in a deliberate insult against the so-called anti-Israel group. Personally, I think Danny missed an opportunity to humiliate the Congressmembers as he did the Turkish ambassador. He should’ve seated all of ‘em on pre-school sized chairs with the legs unscrewed so he at the opportune moment when the TV cameras were rolling he could’ve kicked the legs out from under ‘em and sent ‘em sprawling on the floor. That’d show ‘em what’s truly pro-Israel! This incident is the ultimate revenge of the hasbarist mafia. May it come back to bite Mr. Ayalon in the tuchus as his little fracas with the Turkish ambassador did. The difference being that Erdogan don’t take s(&t from no one and threatened to recall his ambassador. Neither Barack Obama nor Nancy Pelosi have quite the b(&#s to pull that off."

Jeuhdah Ben-Israel Thu. Feb 18, 2010

"...I'm as pro-Israel as a human being can be..."

And so, you have the right to describe yourself the way you wish, but it is not for you to try to affect the very life of Israel's citizens and the very existence of the sovereign Israeli state as long as you a non-citizen, refuses to shoulder the responsibilities of being one and suffer the consequences of Israel's governance.

It is pure and simple a form of arrogance to tell Israeli citizens how to conduct their affairs!

J Street, if it were a "pro-Israeli" organization, would do well to coordinate matters with Israel's elected officials and not to counter them. It would do well to collaborate with Israel's citizens instead of doing so with Israel worst enemies whose entire drive is to annihilate the Jewish state, to wipe it off the face of earth.

And I say the above not as a "leftist" or "rightist", not as a "Neocon" (we don't have such terms in Israel, incidentally) nor as a "Post-Zionist". I say it as a proud Jew, Israeli, Zionist and a resident of one of the many collective farming communities (can you be more "leftist" than that?): In short, a main-stream Israeli.

It is time for some humility, J Street supporters...!!

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