Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, will not attend next week’s J Street conference. Instead, a lower-level member of the embassy staff will be sent to watch and report on the event.
This makes sense. One of the purposes of an embassy is to monitor the activities of a nation’s adversaries in the host country.
And there will be much for the lucky embassy staffer to report about. As Lenny Ben-David notes, Stephen Walt, co-author of the venomous The Israel Lobby, recently described the J Street gambit as “a key moment in the debate; it will be important whether Obama gets enough cover from J Street and the Israel Policy Forum so Obama can say, ‘AIPAC is not representative of the American Jewish community.'”
The staffer will be unable, however, to report on the poetry session J Street had scheduled. That session was to include Josh Healey, who has questioned whether “the chosen people” have been “chosen to recreate our own history merely reversing the roles, with the script now reading that we’re the ones writing numbers on the wrists of babies born in the ghetto called Gaza.”
But J Street cancelled the poetry session when word got out. A disappointed Healey reported that J Street “explained [to him] that they are playing the game — Washington politics, and seeking legitimacy. And they are not willing to fight this battle.”
But we don’t have to take Healey’s word for the fact that J Street pulled the plug on him for cosmetic reasons, not out of any disagreement with his view that Israel is evil. A key J Street member, Henry Siegman, has compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.
Finally, the Israeli embassy staffer will want to follow the money. Approximately 10 percent of J Street’s money is said to come from Muslim and Arab donors. Some of the donors are connected to organizations doing Palestinian and Iranian issue advocacy.
But then J Street itself is doing Iranian issue advocacy. Ben-David points out that it opposes sanctions against Iran.
Let’s hope that the staffer brings a thick note pad.
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