No doubt there was raucous laughter in the Washington DC headquarters of J Street when one of their graphic designers shouted “I’ve got it!”, while sipping from his “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” coffee mug, “we’re going to do a Beyoncé meme”. How the J Street lobbyists must have fallen about laughing as they gathered round CEO Jeremy Ben-Ami’s Apple Mac.
And here is the result:
It plays, of course, on Beyoncé ‘s “Single Ladies” song, casting Bibi as the lead with two Palestinian ladies as back-up singers. It uses the chorus: “Put a Ring On It” and changes it to “Put A Border On It”. That is J Street’s way of calling for a Palestinian state, now, regardless of the facts on the ground.
They may be trying to look cool but this is a campaign that distorts facts and trivializes serious issues and the danger that Israelis like me face. It also begs some worrying questions about J Street’s vision – here are 2 quick ones:
1. Why doesn’t Abbas get the Beyoncé treatment?
The campaign was launched carefully, timed with the Prime Minister’s speech to the UN, which J Street gleefully live-tweeted, each time with the hashtag #BorderOnIt – The Huffington Post reported their effort like this:
And troll the Israeli Prime Minister they did. J Street staffers also created a silly game: B(ib)INGO, in which they encouraged activists to mark off phrases they predicted would appear in Netanyahu’s speech.
Yet, days earlier, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made his most incendiary speech yet at the UN General Assembly. In a libel-littered litany of charges he leveled at Israel, he accused the Jewish State of “Genocide,” a word which the Jewish People are all too familiar with. Abbas misused the word intentionally. The US administration and others were quick to condemn the speech with the State Department calling it “offensive” and saying it undermined peace.
So where was J Street? There were no fun online games prior to Abbas’s speech, no live-tweeting with a hashtag-message to the Palestinian leader and no Beyoncé parodies. Crucially, following the speech, any immediate condemnation was muted. That stood in marked contrast to most commentary of Abbas’s speech, including that of Larry Derfner writing on the 972 website, which is hyper-critical of Israel; he referred to Abbas’s “genocide” speech as “furious”, “combative” “plain false” and a “major fail”.
Which leads me to my next question:
2) Why does J Street parrot the view that Israel is the only party responsible for peace?
J Street would like Israel to put a border on it. But peace takes two.
Actually, there are many parties involved: the fractured Palestinian leadership which has Fatah and Hamas in lockstep and at loggerheads at the same time, as well as the different warring parties across the Middle East today. One thing is clear: peace is not dependent on Israel alone.
J Street has the right to believe that the creation of a Palestinian State immediately will lead to peace, even though this view is hotly disputed by many in Israel and around the world. But in the interests of fairness, shouldn’t they launch a campaign to urge concessions from Palestinian and Arab leaders too?
To conclude, of course J-Street’s raison d’etre is to lobby the American administration and lawmakers to pressure Israel. No doubt many Israelis will see that as anti-democratic. After all, here in Israel, we vote and choose our future. It is the height of arrogance for J Street to think they know better than Israelis who live here. But beyond their overarching goal, this latest campaign is silly and misleading.
So here’s my request to those behind the “Put a Border On It” campaign. As an Israeli, I and my fellow citizens would like nothing more to live in borders that we could be confident are safe. In case you have forgotten, we sat, hunkered down this summer in bomb shelters for weeks on end, with our nerves on edge at every boom overhead. Don’t be so arrogant as to lecture us on who wants peace, J Street. Israelis – of all shades and stripes – desperately want peace.
But here’s the rub – we also want to live. With Hamas continuing their efforts to attack us, with Hizbollah exercising more and more control in Lebanon, with Iran striding towards a Nuke and with ISIS at the gates – we are rightly worried about our borders, on all sides. Glibly stating that peace is in Israel’s gift to give, alone, is wrongheaded and dangerous because it misrepresents the facts, places pressure only on Israel and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
So, while you are busying yourself with Beyoncé memes, spare a thought for us and the very real danger we face in Israel trying to build a secure, free, future for ourselves. After all, you say you are “pro-Israel” don’t you? So if are, and you like it, put a lid on it.