J Street on Obama's Middle East Trip

Friday, March 22, 2013

President Obama has been in Israel and the West Bank this week. Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, discusses why he thinks it might be more productive than most think.


Jeremy Ben-Ami

Comments [33]

Bob from California

I'm for a three state solution--Jews in Tennessee, blacks in Idaho and Latinos in North Dakota. Fair is fair.

Mar. 22 2013 10:04 PM

"BTW, Noah, are finished with boys?"

Excuse me?

If you have a problem with anything I posted, why not respond accordingly in the relevant threads instead of taking thinly-veiled, cheap snipes like this?

Suffice it to say that a careful, objective review by anyone in possession of reasonable critical faculties of the posts of mine to which you are apparently referring would find that they do not discredit, impugn or incriminate me as you insinuate that they do.

Your question, as worded and presented, is hardly different from the classic, "When did you stop beating your wife?", example.

Mar. 22 2013 04:19 PM

@ sanych, 12:13 p.m.:

Whether or not it has any validity, I find your characterization of Norman Finkelstein's psychological state irrelevant.

What is relevant is the actual /substance/ of Finkelstein's work; the actual views, claims and information that he expresses and advances. If these are credible and legitimate, then they would remain so even if Finkelstein himself were less-than-fully-healthy/well-adjusted/mature emotionally. Conversely, if views and information lack legitimacy/credibility, they would not somehow gain it just by virtue of being expressed or advanced by someone who may even an /exemplar/ of psychological and emotional fitness and maturity.

Basically, what it boils-down to, to use a cliche`, is: Don't shoot the messenger because you don't like the message. A legitimate message doesn't become delegitimized just because the /messenger/ may be less-than-legitimate or credible. And an illegitimate message does not become legitimized even if the messenger is an /exemplar/ of legitimacy/credibility, etc.

I will acknowledge that I lack sufficient familiarity with Finkelman's work to make an informed judgement of it. What I can and do say is that from what I have heard and read from Finkelman, I find him serious, sincere, substantiative and worthy of study and consideration and I find it disturbing that he, along with many others, never appear on WNYC. Certainly no less worthy of being given air time than any number of the people who /are/, many repeatedly.

(To be continued, hopefully)

Mar. 22 2013 03:32 PM

@ Frank Church:
If you haven't already, you may wish to view the replies I made to this past Wednesday at:

Mar. 22 2013 02:26 PM
Frank Church

The leading holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg praises Finkelstein.

Mar. 22 2013 02:14 PM
Frank Church from ohio

J street was created as a way to mute the left on Israel. The media could go to this flak for Obama and say they went to the left, which they did not, since the actual left are furious at Obama for several things he said and did in Israel, and things he didn't say but should have.

Ben Ami might as well be his press agent. The guy is so brave he refuses to debate crtics like Ilan Pappe or Rashid Khalidi.

Mar. 22 2013 02:08 PM

@ jgarbuz, 11:10

The settlements may rest on only 2% of the West Bank but:
- Doesn't that 2% just happen to include the parts that are the choicest, most habitable, most fertile and with the best water access?
- Don't the /existing/ settlements cut-up and divide the land to an extent that makes a "state" in any real sense of the word an impossibility? (See relevant quote below)

Furthermore, the Israeli organization Peace Now! published a report several years back claiming to show that a staggeringly high percentage of the land occupied by settlements is actually land that Palestinians can prove ownership of.

"Obama has indeed pronounced the words "Palestinian state," echoing Bush. In contrast, the (unrevised) 1999 platform of Israel's governing party, Netanyahu's Likud, "flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river." Nevertheless, it was Netanyahu's 1996 government that was the first to use the phrase. It agreed that Palestinians can call whatever fragments of Palestine are left to them "a state" if they like -- or they can call them "fried chicken" (David Bar- Illan, director of Communications and Policy Planning in the office of the Prime Minister; Interview, Palestine-Israel Journal, Summer/Autumn 1996). "- Noam Chomsky, "Turning Point?", June 2009

Mar. 22 2013 12:39 PM

Finkelstein is a tragic figure. I really feel sorry for him. Something went wrong early in his life, and he stubbornly stuck there. But Brian is not a match for him - he needs to be counterbalanced with someone who can decypher his exaggerations.

BTW, Noah, are finished with boys?

Mar. 22 2013 12:13 PM

Has outspoken critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein ever been on this show or on WNYC or even NPR at all?

Phyllis Bennis?

Noam Chomsky was last on the Brian Lehrer show in 2009, for barely twenty minutes, and he was barely allowed to say anything about the middle east. And, if my search results were accurate, the last time Chomsky was on BL was circa 2002. Has Chomsky been invited more than that?

Mar. 22 2013 11:36 AM

a better link for "piece of paper for peace in our time"

if Ben-Ami is typical for foreign policy advisors, we are doomed!

Mar. 22 2013 11:33 AM
Marc Anders from Manhattan

The current "Two State" discussion is sspurious because it ignores history.
By what right does the nation of Jordan exist with a population of 90% Palestinians (same ethnic groups as in the West Bank and Gaza) ruled by a Hashemite King and his minority brethen who hale from Saudi Arabia. I defy anyone to justify this situation on historical and moral grounds. Until this injustice - perpetrated largely by the British at the end of WWI for it's own strategic purposes - is rectified, there will be no place for The Palestinian people, who will likely force Israel to transport them to their historical homeland, i.e. Jordan. Yes, the international hypocrites will pitch a fit led by the U.K. no doubt. How ironic.

Mar. 22 2013 11:32 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I haven't heard anyone comment on this: Pres. Obama used words straight out of the Israeli national anthem in speaking on both sides of the Green Line. On the 1st day of his trip, if I remember this right, he spoke of the US & Israel as being "free people in their own land, & later (in Ramallah?) he said Palestinians had a right to live as a free people in its land. HaTikvah ("The Hope"), the national anthem of Israel, says that the hope of the Jewish people is to be a free people in our own land (lihyot `am chofshi b'artzenu), the land of Zion & Jerusalem. I wonder if this was a deliberate choice of words in an attempt to extend the idea of the right of Israelis to their own country to cover the right of Palestinians to *their* own country?

Mar. 22 2013 11:32 AM

Piece of paper!!! Peace in our time!!!

Mar. 22 2013 11:29 AM

(Noach the non-Zionist Orthodox Jew here. (Also anti-corporate/bankster, anti-war, anti-buggery ))

The President needs to put down an ultimatum to Prime Minister Netanyahu: ALL construction/expansion/encroachment into Palestinian land STOPS now or the funding and other goodies will start dwindling.

Mar. 22 2013 11:26 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

I don't know how your guest can say there is a partner on the other side when Abbas has yet to acknowledge peace with a JEWISH state.

Mar. 22 2013 11:23 AM

Narrow labels of self-identification cause so much pain in the world.

Mar. 22 2013 11:22 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

These high level talks are big circle jerks for the wealthy and powerful as their people kill each other off.

Mar. 22 2013 11:21 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Let these people fight it out w/o American intervention or weapons support. Tribalism, whether Jewish, Arab or Christian, is not our concern and not in our interests.

Mar. 22 2013 11:19 AM
Sharon from Ridgewood

Boy does WNYC love to talk about this subject naseum.

Mar. 22 2013 11:18 AM
gary from queens

Obama's speech in Cairo to the Muslim world was held at the Islamist Al-Azhar Univerity. By speaking at Al-Azhar, Obama weakened Mubarak in three different ways. First, Al-Azhar's faculty members regularly issue religious rulings calling for the murder of non-Muslims, prohibiting the practice of Judaism, and facilitating the victimization of women. In stating these views, Al-Azhar's leadership has demonstrated that their world view and values are far less amenable to American strategic interests and moral values than Mubarak's world view was. By speaking at Al-Azhar, Obama signaled that he would reward the anti-American Islamists at the expense of the pro-American Arab nationalists.

Second, in contempt of Mubarak's explicit wishes, Obama insisted on inviting members of the Muslim Brotherhood to attend his speech. In acting as he did, Obama signaled that under his leadership, the US was abandoning its support for Mubarak and transferring its sympathies to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Finally, by addressing his remarks to the Muslim nation, Obama was perceived as openly rejecting Egyptian nationalism, and indeed the concept of unique national identities among the various Arab states. In so doing, Obama undercut the legitimacy of the Egyptian regime while legitimizing the pan- Islamic Muslim Brotherhood which rejects nationalism in favor of a call for the establishment of a global caliphate.

As subsequent events showed, the conditions for the Egyptian revolution that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power were prepared during Obama's speech at al-Azhar.

It is possible that in addressing the unelected radical Left in Jerusalem, Obama seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the Israeli government. But if that is the plan, then it would bespeak an extraordinary contempt and underestimation of Israeli democracy. Such a plan would not play out the same way his Egyptian speech did.

Mar. 22 2013 11:18 AM
emmanuel from westchester

My great grand parents died in Auschwitz and the state Israel has betrayed their tragedy by keeping anti-semitism and genocide alive by choosing to do so.

Mar. 22 2013 11:18 AM
Paul from Staten island

Young Israelis did not get anything out of Obamas speech. Young does not mean pro peace. Most Israelis I met on a three week trip to Israel and Jordan were okay with the status quo. Any step towards peace was only seen as a security threat. Likewise, all of the young people I met in Hebron, did not believe peace was possible. Palestinians are happier with today's relative piece of calm, but the only way they see they can change the status quo is through violence in the future. Israelis do not have an incentive for peace as long as they have the power.

Mar. 22 2013 11:18 AM
Sarah from LES

One state is the way! Thank you caller!

Mar. 22 2013 11:18 AM

This is where Ben-Ami looses me - there were no checkpoints 12 years ago. Palestinians could travel freely.

The checkpoints were established after Palestinians started sending suicide bombers into Israeli towns - murdering people in buses, restaurants, etc. Jews were killed when passing through Arab towns.

WHY BEN-AMI and people like him blame Israel for defending its citizens??? WHY? WHY? WHY?

Mar. 22 2013 11:17 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

The US intelligence and DoD are not trustworthy.

Mar. 22 2013 11:16 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The fact is, the only obstacle to a two state solution are the Palestinians themselves, who know that such a state will be a failed state if they disconnect themselves from Israel. The fact is, the status quo will remain in place because any "change" that upsets the status quo will only lead to more conflict and more suffering. The status quo exists because it is the least worst situation compared to all the others. Nobody likes it, but everyone knows that all alternatives are worse. "Change" is not always for the better, often for the worse.

Mar. 22 2013 11:15 AM
gary from queens

Obama is trying to marginalize/weaken Binyamin Netanyahu the way Bill Clinton had done. But this time, obama is seeking to empower the far left in Israel. not just liberals.

Obama decided to boycott Ariel University by not inviting its students to attend Obama's speech to students from all other universities. Obama also decided to bypass Israel's elected representatives by spurning the invitation to speak before the Knesset and just address a handpicked audience of university students - an audience grossly overpopulated by unelectable, radical leftists. And no comment or criticism from MSM, or j street---Brian

Mar. 22 2013 11:14 AM
Larary from UES

Why does this matter to the average American? It's less than 2% of our population.

Mar. 22 2013 11:12 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

I hope the President brings this message back home and send it to Bloomberg and Kelly re: stop and frisk.

Mar. 22 2013 11:12 AM
The Truth from Becky

An excellent choice to speak to the NEXT generation. The existing generation is a lost cause, left up to them, change will never come to that region.

Mar. 22 2013 11:11 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Why are Jewish communities living on less than 2% of the West Bank an "obstacle to peace?" The fact is, Israeli Arabs own half the private land in Israel and nobody calls the 1.6 million ARab citizens, and the homes they build, a "threat to peace." Can't Jews be citizens of a future Palestinian state?

Mar. 22 2013 11:10 AM
henry from md

Whether J Street is a positive or negative force remains an open question for me. However, as long as the Arab side has not created some equivalent it throws into relief the unfortunate truth that they are not yet a peace partner.

Mar. 22 2013 11:08 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

“Jewish left-wingers are cheering President Obama’s Jerusalem speech in which he once again made the case for a two-state solution. Some are hoping that this will mean a renewed campaign of U.S. pressure on the Netanyahu government. With a new secretary of state in John Kerry who may well be foolish enough to believe he can succeed where so many other American peace processers have failed, perhaps they are right.”

Mar. 22 2013 11:02 AM

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