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Israel to J Street: We Know You're Not Pro-Israel

Stop pretending.

4:55 PM, Feb 16, 2010 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, lowers the boom on J Street:

"The thing that troubles me is that they don't present themselves as to what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli," Danny Ayalon, the deputy to hard-line foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, told Jewish leaders today.

It's funny because that's what troubles me, too. Of course, Ayalon can be less than diplomatic at times. He was last seen dressing down the Turkish ambassador on Israeli TV, but he did offer a humble apology for that, promising the use of "more acceptable diplomatic means" in future protests. J Street isn't likely to ask for any such apology and is even less likely to get one. Still, I can make a well educated guess about what the group will say -- Ayalon has "no right to decide who is and is not pro-Israel based on whether they agree with your views." At least that's how J Street responded to Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, when he questioned the group's pro-Israel bona fides.

But the whole who-died-and-made-you-decider-of-who's-pro-Israel shtick is wearing a little thin, especially with  J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami publishing another op-ed today questioning the pro-Israel credentials of Christians United for Israel because the group doesn't agree with J Street. In the piece, Ben-Ami accuses CUFI director John Hagee of attacking "Israeli democracy itself" by supporting...an ad campaign Ben-Ami doesn't agree with. (Terrorist groups that actually attack Israel with bullets and missiles and suicide bombs need not fear any such condemnation from J Street.) It's hard to trump that ludicrous charge, but Ben-Ami closes on a high-note by declaring that "CUFI's views represent a dead end for Israel and the Jewish people." For J Street, this is an unusually subtle approach to questioning CUFI's pro-Israel credentials.

When J Street launched a (failed) campaign to stop Joe Lieberman from speaking at CUFI's annual conference in 2008, the petition it circulated attacked "the purportedly ‘pro-Israel’ views of Hagee and his supporters." Purportedly pro-Israel? Doesn't Ben-Ami know that he has no right to decide who is and isn't pro-Israel based on whether they agree with his views? But the petition goes on to say that "CUFI which describes itself as 'pro-Israel,' opposes efforts by the Israeli government to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through territorial compromise." Describes itself as pro-Israel? So J Street doesn't take such statements at face value?

Well, it turns out neither does the Israeli government. So while J Street questions CUFI's pro-Israel credentials, the government of Israel is questioning J Street's, again. And if the Israeli government doesn't have the right to decide who's pro-Israel, then who does (besides Ben-Ami, of course)? 

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