The upcoming conference of the pro-Israel, pro-peace group J Street has unhinged a faction of hawkish pro-Likud types, who see J Street’s pro-peace message as a threat to their particular conception of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Yesterday I posted on Lenny Ben-David, the former AIPAC researcher, Netanyahu adviser, and current West Bank settler who launched a racist attack on J Street, accusing them of consorting with Arabs.
Today the Weekly Standard’s Mike Goldfarb carries on the effort, going after journalist Helena Cobban, who is participating in a discussion panel next week to which I’ll also be contributing. The panel is neither endorsed by nor connected with J Street, but this doesn’t matter to Goldfarb, who is fairly desperate to smear the organization with anything at hand.
Goldfarb accuses Cobban of using “Holocaust metaphors when talking about Israel.” Cobban’s offense was pointing out that the watchtowers, walls and barbed-wire of Israel’s separation barrier reminded her of a concentration camp. Goldfarb is also outraged that Cobban noted the rather uncontroversial — though inconvenient for a Muslim-baiter like Goldfarb — fact that Hamas’ program includes a strong social work component, and that defining them solely as a “terrorist organization” fails to understand the nature of their appeal to many Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
But Goldfarb’s limited knowledge of these issues is really beside the point. Cobban has studied the Arab-Israeli conflict for decades, and has spent a career working to build bridges of understanding between the various sides. Helena is a friend of mine, and her deep commitment to a peaceful and just solution to the conflict speaks for itself. In fact, she’s so well regarded that Mike Goldfarb himself has cited her work.
Goldfarb, on the other hand, has written in favor of killing Palestinian children in order to deter attacks on Israel.
It’s understandable that pro-Likud hawks like Ben David and Goldfarb (who is also a friend of mine) are freaking out about J Street, whose pro-Israel, pro-peace message threatens their deeply held view that the Arabs — or, depending on the day, Iranians — are the problem, and Israeli violence is the solution. Being targeted by wild, slanderous attacks like theirs is, unfortunately, the price one often pays for engaging in the public debate on this issue.
And here’s a new target for them: Former Israeli Foreign Minister and current Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni. Steve Clemons posted a letter from Livni congratulating J Street on its inaugural conference, noting that J Street shares her vision of “ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by realizing the vision of two nation state living side by side in peace and security is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians and the region as a whole.”
“In my view,” Livni writes, “the discussion [in] the pro-Israel community of what best advances Israel’s cause should be inclusive and broad enough to encompass a variety of views, provided it is conducted in a respectful and legitimate manner.” I anxiously await Goldfarb’s explanation of how Livni isn’t really pro-Israel.