Bintel Blog

J Street and the Israel Project: A War of Words

By Nathan Guttman

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?’”

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