The Jstreet conference is coming up in a few days, in an attempt to ride the wave of the AIPAC conference held just a couple of weeks ago. I want to clarify before I go into critic, I agree on agenda with Jstreet. I do believe we can and should be critical in regards to policy and not accept & support the Israeli government blindly and that resolution instead of conflict should be promoted.
But Jstreet is a problematic organization, even more than AIPAC. It claims it is a lobby, like AIPAC. I would say Jstreet is more of a public relations organization, constantly putting out press releases and trying to get in the media as often as possible. The truth is the power of lobby is in being a tactic of discreet. Trying to get yourself in the news is anything but discreet. Moreover, it is dangerous to your issue. Policy makers you are trying to influence usually don’t want the public to know they are influenced on an issue, pushed by lobbyists. Secondly, you give away your strategy to your “enemy”. They can act on that information they read on the news and use it against you.
The third problem is the errors in their messages. Committing yourself to a wrong message, just like Jstreet latest statement from last week blaming the IDF for killing 12 civilians in Gaza, is equivalent of digging yourself a hole. You are hurting yourself in the eyes of your public, in front of policy makers, journalist and others. Correcting it means you are to late, and the damage has been done. Working discreetly would have prevented that. First a lobby organization tries to avoid putting out statements, as it is counter-productive to influencing policy makers behind the scenes and second you are tied to your statement, which is hard to change, and third, if you make a mistake – you have a problem(not the first time it happens to Jstreet), your words can be used against you (could be prevented by being discreet). For all those reasons, I think Jstreet is wrong in calling itself a lobby.
But the real problem with Jstreet is that it causes as much if not more damage to Israel & the Jewish community than AIPAC. Lobbying is perceived as trying to influence someone in an illegitimate way. In this case trying to influence American policy in regards to Israel.
Few like their elected officials being influenced by outside interests. Especially those of another country. So when it stops being discreet, it is a borden more than assistance.
If you read what people comment about stories relating foreign aid to Israel (maybe the only issue both parties agree on), donations by Sheldon Adelson to Newt Gingrich trying to influence the election process, about American politicians including President Obama attending the AIPAC conference trying to appease the Israeli lobby or stories about promoting military action against Iran you would be shocked of how many of the comments are borderline anti-semitic.
A reader commenting about politicians speaking in favor of Israel that are “setting themselves up to make truckloads of money”, comments about the donation given by Mr. Adelson to Mr. Gingrich – “so the Jewish billionaire buys himself a candidate.. stop aid to Israel”. Comments about Israeli official saying Israel will not notify the U.S. on decision to attack Iran: “I’m sick of this Israeli thing — trying to hold us hostage — on what they want to do. If Israel starts a war with Iran, we should bomb the Knesset, and gently urge them to move back to Europe.”. Another wrote: “OK folks, time for America to wipe Israel off the map. That is, admit it into the Union, put it in its proper place and have it pay its fare share in taxes. That’ll teach it not to interfere with our electoral system”. Others commented “…it’s time to cut Israel loose…they certainly shouldn’t be the corrupting force they are in our government” and “…i hope they do not think my son and daughter are going to war for them.” And these are some of the “nice” ones that were not deleted by the news sites.
I believe the U.S. is heading towards a wave of anti-semitic sentiments & acts in the near future. It is a range of issues from headlines relating the financial crisis ,stories about Israel & U.S. relations, Israeli lobby, Iran, political donations and much more media attention that is not necessarily “good for the Jews”.
It seems as though pushing stories about lobbying for Israel in the U.S. in current times, even if it is for a good cause like promoting peace in the middle east, is actually counter productive for the goals of Jstreet and its supporters. The bottom line is being in the headlines trying to influence “behind the scenes” is not helpful for Israel (much like AIPAC isn’t) and might even become an issue for the American-Jewish community.