Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obama’s Court Jews; the Rise of J Street

(BlueTruth is once again pleased to present a piece by our friend Lawrence W White MD; this piece was originally posted at American Thinker at )

Court Jews were so named because they were Jews who did favors for noblemen in exchange for prestige, social influence, and various privileges not available to other Jews. They were often more concerned with preserving their status and fortunes than in promoting the welfare of their less fortunate co-religionists, who usually faced severe bigotry, were mired in poverty, and walled into ghettoes. Because they so often rejected their brethren in order to achieve personal advantage, the term “court Jew” has become one of opprobrium.

This phenomenon has existed all through history. In more recent times, Jews in the Soviet Union who participated in the "Anti-Zionist Committee of the Soviet Public", referred to as "pocket Jews" were complicit in actions taken to discredit the Jewish emigration movement. Using Jews to undermine Jewish institutions was a win-win for both parties. It allowed the Soviets to subvert any organized Jewish movement while denying charges of anti-Semitism, and allowed Jews to boast of connections in high places, and establish close ties to non-Jews based on the claim that they were Russians and Communists before they were Jews. Those Jews who established their loyalty to the Communist party leadership simply ignored the anti-Jewish show trials and executions perpetrated by Josef Stalin.

In the widening divide between American and Israeli Jews over concern for the future of Israel, there are many American Jews who have taken positions harmful to the security of the Jewish state. There are many reasons for this. Jews who have successfully moved into the larger society may wish to establish themselves as “progressives”, with a universalist rather than particularist world view. They may fear, and wish to deflect, appearances of dual loyalty. They may strive to sidestep potential anti-Semitism by avoiding perceptions that they are less than fully American.

In part, this was the motivation behind the establishment of the American Council for Judaism (ACJ), founded by prominent and wealthy Jews in 1942 as an anti-Zionist organization. It was directed by Elmer Berger, a Reform rabbi and court Jew aspirant, who identified with Arab causes and condemned Israel as the aggressor in the Six Day War. Members of the ACJ wished to emphasize that their Judaism was simply another religion and not a peoplehood; America was their Jerusalem.

Barack Obama has also needed court Jews. The President, clearly committed to liberal-left solutions to our national problems, campaigned as a strong advocate for Israel. In doing so, personal charm, convincing rhetoric, and support from powerful Jewish figures, successfully overcame suspicion arising from his close association over many years with Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Palestinian academic firebrand Rashid Khalidi, or from his use of anti-Israel advisers such as Robert Malley and Zbigniew Brzezinski. His eloquence and apparent sincerity in speaking of his concern for Israel played a major role in his winning a stunning 78% of the Jewish vote.

Once he was elected Barack Obama found governing to be more difficult than campaigning. The choices that he has made have led to erosion of support, especially among centrists who had supported him. To be successful Obama needed to retain his base, including those who gave him not only votes, but large numbers of workers, financial assistance, and intellectual heft. This means that he cannot afford to lose the American Jewish community.

Obama’s view of the conflict in the Middle East has been shaped by those with an imperfect understanding of Middle East history and culture. Thus Obama stumbled badly in his speech in Cairo, in which he equated the horrors of the Holocaust to the inconvenience of security check points, the civil rights struggle in the US to the problems of the Palestinians, and his attribution of the origins of Israel to guilt induced by the Holocaust.

Given the gaps in knowledge and sophistication indicated by these blunders, it is not surprising that he thinks that he can talk Iran out of a nuclear option, or talk the Palestinians into suddenly behaving as rational actors despite a long history of doing otherwise. He appears to accept at face value Arab statements that peace will be forthcoming in exchange for ending the occupation (never mind their other demands). Thus President Obama seems to think that all he needs to do is show that he can push the Israelis to freeze settlements, take that success to the Arab nations, and the Arabs will fall into line with a cascade of successful agreements culminating in a durable peace. And those around him, including many Jews, encourage this ahistoric and simplistic thinking.

But the President needs to be sure that in the process of leaning on Israel, he does not lose the American Jewish community. They were needed last year to ensure an electoral majority and will continue to be needed in the future. Having campaigned on a strong pro-Israel platform, and having assured many prominent and well-connected Jews that he was committed to the security and welfare of Israel, he needed a credible way to validate that impression in order to prevent any erosion in support. This is where Jeremy Ben-Ami, the director of the new organization J Street, comes in. Ben-Ami has become the very model of the “court Jew”.

Ben-Ami has a long career in government and politics. Positions with the New Israel Fund, as Policy Director for Howard Dean’s Presidential Campaign, and as a domestic policy advisor to President Bill Clinton , have solidified his attachment to left-liberal causes. Along with others, including George Soros, Ben-Ami founded J Street last year as an organization that was “both pro-peace and pro-Israel”. A key feature of J Street’s strategy was to establish themselves as a centrist force. To achieve this they needed to do two things. First, market themselves as moderate and as authentic representatives of the American Jewish community, and secondly break the influence of AIPAC and other Jewish organizations by re-labeling them as right wing, out of touch, and not sufficiently committed to the peace process.

When applied to AIPAC, it is difficult to find any evidence for the right wing label, since it is non-ideological, and bipartisan. In fact, AIPAC represents Jews from the entire political spectrum, and makes no policy decisions nor does it endorse or fund candidates. Its sole role is to educate and lobby elected officials to adopt measures that will promote cooperation between Israel and the US and that will ensure the survival of Israel. J Street has actively attempted to undermine this work, which is critical for the survival of the Jewish state.

During its short history, J Street has built up an extensive list of positions detrimental to Israel. With respect to Iran, they have defended Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and lobbied Congress not to place new sanctions on Iran, claiming that the President’s use of diplomacy was preferable to any timelines or new round of sanctions. They have urged ending sanctions against Syria also, and have favored pressuring Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syrian control,

They have lobbied Congress to oppose an initiative calling on Obama to pressure Arab governments to normalize relations with Israel, They favor negotiating with Hamas. They support the “Arab Peace Initiative ”, a one-sided plan that requires Israel to accept the right of return of the descendants of the Palestinian refugees who left Israel 60 years ago.

On the domestic front, they have endorsed the anti-Semitic play, “Seven Jewish Children”. And when the President awarded the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, a poorly chosen action causing many to wonder why the President would further court the ire of Jewish organizations, it was J Street that was tasked with defending the indefensible.

But their most controversial action relates to Operation Cast Lead. Last December, after several months of deadly rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, Israel finally took military action against Hamas to defend its citizens. J Street opposed this action, calling for an immediate cease fire on the first day, claiming that Israel's actions were contrary to the interests of peace. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of Reform Judaism and an early supporter of J Street, broke with them over this issue, calling it a mistake that “misjudged the views of American Jews”. According to Rabbi Yoffie, J Streetis showing signs of moral deficiency and appalling naïveté”.

J Street’s strategy is deceptively simple. No matter how damaging to Israel a particular position might be, they follow with the mantra “and we are pro-Israel”. For example, J Street responded to the criticism by Rabbi Yoffie with the statement “Our position on the crisis reflects our support for IsraelThus we have a simple syllogism; If J Street is pro-Israel and if J Street gives its seal of approval to Barak Obama then Obama is pro-Israel.

That J Street takes positions in opposition to Israel’s welfare and survival should be obvious, but it disguises its anti-Israel bias behind repeated declarations of support for the State of Israel. Since there is much disagreement about how best to help Israel, J Street’s repetitive claim that they are a pro-Israel organization offering an enlightened and liberal view, in contrast to the “right wing” views of the Israeli government and the mainstream American Jewish organizations, has credibility. The media and most individuals, lacking sufficient knowledge to recognize this deception, have rarely questioned the pro-Israel appellation. In the world of both J Street and Barack Obama, they claim to know better than the Israeli elected leadership what is good for Israel

This Orwellian deception permits Obama to take steps inimical to the security of Israel while incurring minimal criticism from those who are increasingly alarmed about his growing hostility to Israel There is no other Jewish organization so aligned with the positions of this President on the foreign policy and security issues of the Middle East. Like Obama, J Street believes that the settlements are the major obstacle to peace. Like Obama, J Street believes that mainstream American Jewish organizations are less relevant, and future developments and political inroads will come by way of progressive Jews and their organizations. Like Obama, J Street believes that the current government in Israel is right-wing and will not take steps toward peace unless pushed.

J Street’s goal of entering the mainstream and becoming the most powerful “pro-Israel” voice in Washington, has met with some success. At the urging of J Street, some members of Congress, previously friends of Israel, have refused to sign statements circulated by AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups. Former ambassadors and other officials are scheduled to speak at a J Street gathering, providing a level of respectability. And when the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation was looking for a new CEO, they chose a man who had been one of the founders and advisers to J Street.

The J Street Advisory Council is composed largely of individuals who are unambiguous in their defamation of Israel. These include Henry Siegman, a well known Israel basher, and Avram Burg, who repeatedly equates Israelis with Nazis, And there is Robert Malley, an opponent of Zionism and supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, who blames Israel exclusively for the failure of the peace talks brokered by President Clinton at Camp David, Because many (not all) advisors are anti-Israel ideologues or represent other groups with biases against Israel, J Street’s claim that It is pro-Israel and loves the Jewish state is seriously undermined.

The continuing effectiveness of J Street will be dependent on the credibility it can achieve with liberal Jews, and whether it can get away with continuing to insist that it is pro-Israel, when every action it takes is inimical to the Jewish state. Many liberal Jews, including Martin Peretz, editor of the New Republic, and Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of Reform Judaism, have been vociferous critics.

As its motives were becoming suspect, and as critics were becoming increasingly skeptical over its claim to represent a pro-Israel point of view, a major setback undermined J Street’s claim to be a pro-Israel organization. This occurred with the disclosure that J Street had accepted funding from dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as from individuals connected to organizations unfriendly to Israel.

These include Richard Abdoo, a Lebanese-American businessman and board member of Amideast and of the Arab American Institute, and Genevieve Lynch, a member of the National Iranian American Council board, a group that supports the repressive and anti-Israel regime in Iran. . The group has also received funding from Nancy Dutton, an attorney who at one time represented the Saudi Embassy. Other donors include leaders of Muslim student groups, Saudi- and Iranian-born Americans, and Palestinian and Arab-American businessmen.

In addition, donations came from at least two State Department officials connected to Middle East issues, Nicole Shampaine, director of the State Department's Office for Egypt and the Levant, and Lewis Elbinger, who used to serve in Saudi Arabia. It may fairly be asked why they would want to donate money to a pro-Israel organization.

As before, J Street tried to explain this away by turning this news into a virtue still insisting that they were pro-Israel. As Ed Lasky put it; “J Street is spinning the news regarding its Arab and Muslim donors as a positive sign that J Street has been able to expand the tent of pro-Israel supporters to include Muslims and Arabs” And in a further sign of desperation, supporters of J Street declared that critics of the funding scandal were motivated by racism directed at Arabs or Muslims.

Several weeks ago, the mainstream Jewish organizations requested a meeting with the President. The administration found itself in the position of wanting to ignore or neutralize these groups, and so they were initially put off. After repeated requests, a meeting was scheduled but its existence was kept very quiet; the ground rules ruled out any reporters.. For the meeting, the President took it upon himself to decide who the representatives of the Jewish community should be, eliminating pro-Israel stalwarts such as ZOA, and including J Street. This ensured that one group in the oval office would be in full agreement with the President, and made it awkward for others to dissent.

J Street is sitting with a precarious house of cards. Many factors could lead to its demise, including its reputation for dishonesty, the near impossibility of being an umbrella organization for a group as fractious as the American Jewish left, its success in continuing to convince the President that it really does represent the majority of American Jews, and the acceptance of funding from sources that are not friendly to Israel. The major risk to the survival of J Street is the potential recognition by the broader Jewish community that J Street is not what it claims, and in fact is manipulating the community in order to get close to the corridors of power. All of these factors is causing those on the left who really are pro-Israel to undertake a reassessment.

The claim by J Street that they are pro-Israel is one of the largest con jobs ever perpetrated on the American Jewish community. Three parties are colluding in this fiction.

For Obama, J Street permits him to create the illusion that he has the support of the American Jewish community, that he is maintaining his promise to be a friend to Israel, and by doing exactly what a pro-Israel Jewish organization is recommending, he is acting in Israel’s best interests, When challenged he is able to state with some credibility that it is Israel that needs to do some “serious self-reflection”. All Obama needs in order to continue this is for the other two parties to follow their scripts

For J Street to continue to function as Obama’s court Jew, they need to straddle a precarious balance between two clients, the President and the American Jewish community. On the one hand, they need to convince Obama that their positions do in fact have the support of the majority of American Jews, that they represent a broader cross section of the American Jewish community than does AIPAC, and that they can thereby prevent leakage of support for Obama from the Jewish community. On the other hand, they need to continue to have their declaration of being pro-Israel taken at face value by the American Jewish community.

The final party, the organized Jewish community and supporters of Israel, need to buy the entire scenario. As soon as the community sees through J Street’s claim of being pro-Israel, the game will end. At present however, J Street is an unofficial adjunct of the Obama administration. Its allegiance is to Barack Obama, not to the American Jewish community and certainly not to Israel.


  1. I will have to disagree with Mr. Lawrence W White MD.
    Court Jews where created by rulers who wanted to oppress Jews, and did so; whatever views president Obama has about the settlements, they are light years away from any intention to oppress Jews, whether in Israel or in the US.
    J street philosophy of blaming all on Israel is indeed disturbing and them having access to power is scary, as scary as the idea that someone like David Duke will have the same kind of access. But if they are Court Jews, they are the Court Jews of the Arab dictators.

  2. Really interested read about something I knew almost nothing about. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Just because someone calls themselves “pro-Israel” doesn’t necessarily make it so.

    In the end, J Street is a great “hope and change” alternative to real Israel lobbying. Hope for terrorists and change that reduces the support for the only real democracy in the Middle East.


    Tracking Israel's Jewish Defamers.
    Check it out.
    Together, we can expose J street

  5. Just because you label something anti-Semitic does not make it anti-Semitic. I would recommend that you try to be fair and try to understand people who come to different conclusions than you do.

    love, john + + "The spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure you are right.” – Judge Learned Hand

  6. Let me explain this to you Pastor John.
    When someone kills, wholesale, deliberately and systematically, civilians from specific ethnic or religious group, he is a racist.
    And if his victims are Jews he is anti-Semitic.
    And if someone else is indifferent to those lives, he is also racist and anti Semitic.
    Are you one?
    Judging from your blog, we can tell that you want us to dismantle the settlements imminently, with nothing in return, no evidence of concern for the security of our citizens. Now why is that Pastor? It could be you are an anti Semite, it could be you’re just glorifying yourself with this empty preaching; I believe it is called vanity.
    Whatever your reasons morality is not one of them.