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Did WH Pressure J Street to Drop Poetry Slam?

5:14 PM, Oct 19, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Why is J Street cancelling an anti-Israel poetry slam at their conference? Could it be White House pressure? According to a statement from J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami to Ben Smith, the poetry slam was cancelled because,

as J Street is critical of the use and abuse of Holocaust imagery and metaphors by politicians and pundits on the right, it would be inappropriate for us to feature poets at our Conference whose poetry has used such imagery in the past and might also be offensive to some conference participants.

We are sorry for any distraction that this issue may cause for those interested in working with us to advance the cause of peace and security for Israel and the Middle East.

So Ben-Ami apparently wasn't offended by the imagery in Josh Healey's poem Queer Intifada -- it's just that someone else might be offended. Ben-Ami can condemn THE WEEKLY STANDARD, but he can't condemn Richard Goldstone's UN report, and he can't condemn a speaker at his own conference who compares Gaza to Auschwitz.

And who is it at the J Street conference who would be offended? I've yet to hear any complaint from the left-wingers who are scheduled to speak at the event. Maybe, instead, it would be offensive -- or at least embarassing -- to the keynote speaker, General Jim Jones?

Look at the sequence of events: on Friday J Street announces Jones will speak at the conference, an hour later THE WEEKLY STANDARD posts the video of Healey performing Queer Intifada, and by Sunday they'd canceled the event. Or maybe it wasn't Healey but his fellow panelist, Kevin Coval, seen here calling Israel a "whore," that someone was worried about. The "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby might have been even more worried about the following video in which Coval, just a few seconds into the interview and out of nowhere, says he wants to "kick Joe Lieberman in the face." I doubt we'd ever find a video of a J Street conference speaker saying he wanted to do violence to the leaders of Hamas or Hezbollah, but Lieberman -- even "pro-peace" has its limits.