Why Israel and its friends must keep false friends outside the tent

The need for lucidity must take precedence over sham inclusivity – especially now – in the aftermath of the not completely successful Operation Protective Edge – when various organisations  like the US’s J-Street and the UK’s Yachad continue to manifest a certain capacity to undermine pro-Israel advocacy in various important elite circles.

The unfounded condemnation for the murder of Mary Phagan, in August 1913, of Leo Frank – who had been elected president of the Atlanta chapter of the B’nai B’rith in 1912 – and the mounting anti-Jewish agitation which came to be associated with the increasingly bitter polemics to which the trial and the verdict gave rise were major factors in the decision of found the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – the hundredth anniversary of which was commemorated last year. It is, therefore, disappointing to say the least, that Abraham Foxman, outgoing head of an organisation established “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” should have been in favour of the admission to the Conference of Presidents of J-Street. This lobby group, which has repeatedly endorsed various unfounded accusations against Israel, uses distortions and falsehoods to defame Israelis and their friends who do not support its campaigns to pressurise Israeli governments into withdrawing to the 1949 armistice lines – with or without minor adjustments – regardless of Israel’s fundamental security needs. In order to achieve its goals it attempts to undermine mainstream pro-Israeli organisations like AIPAC and has often given aid and comfort to those political forces which aim for a significant reduction in American diplomatic support for Israel.

This is not to mention other activities by J-Street representatives, including the indirect promotion of various anti-Israel activists – ably summarised in Isi Leibler’s article of the 8th May 2014 – and the culpable indifference its leadership seems to have shown to the fact that not a few members of the current Iranian regime had been involved in the planning of the mass murder of Argentinian Jews in the 1994 atrocity. Not only does J Street not lobby actively, or even make serious protests, against the systematic incitement against Israelis and sometimes against Jews in general in Palestinian Authority controlled media, as well as against the pernicious indoctrination which continues in the schools under its authority, but it has actively opposed attempts to put pressure on the PA to put an end to this. (A recent CAMERA Snapshot piece points to the behaviour of some of the elected representatives this lobby group has sponsored.)

Like J-Street, the British organisation Yachad claims to be “pro-Israel”, “pro-peace”, and like J-Street its leaders and activists have shown themselves to be as unconcerned about anti-Israel incitement and indoctrination as their American counterparts. It has promoted trips to Israel in which the participants are taken to be “briefed” both by important individuals who are either out and out detractors of this state – to the extent of overtly or covertly questioning its legitimacy – and by individuals who, while claiming to be Zionists, are frequently given to levelling unfair or dishonest criticisms against it. More seriously, it has often promoted the anti-Israel lawfare-abetting movement “Breaking the Silence”, which specialises in making generally unfounded war crimes allegations against members of the IDF and trying to present many if not most Israeli soldiers as potential or actual war criminals. Despite Yachad’s well-documented record of dishonesty and certain dubious activities by its leadership, there is pressure, both from within and outside the long-established British Board of Deputies, for this organisation to be accepted as a constituent member.

To protect the civil and religious rights of Britain’s Jewish citizens, the Board of Deputies must perforce oppose antisemitism and extremism, describing as follows its activities in this field: “We work with our partners, such as the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and the Community Security Trust (CST), to combat all forms of defamation or inflammatory discourse aimed at the Jewish community, whether manifested on campus, in the media, public institutions, politics or anywhere else in wider society.” Though this was not always the case, especially in the immediate post-war period, the Board of Deputies has in recent decades joined with various pro-Israel advocacy groups in fighting certain campaigns – as, for example, against the BDS movement. Even if it limited itself to defending the rights of British Jews as equal citizens peacefully to express pro-Israel views or to join pro-Israeli organisations, it would still need to challenge lies directed against Israelis, especially the most extreme unfounded accusations, since these have played an enormous part in the increase of anti-Jewish attitudes. It would therefore be ill-advised for its leaders to accept Yachad within its ranks and to risk this organisation’s gaining an undue amount of influence if certain combinations of circumstances presented themselves.

About the Author
Paul Leslie is an occasional independent journalist and researcher, living in London. He has degrees from Exeter College, Oxford University and the Sorbonne (history of the Jews of Algeria and Tunisia, in two different colonial systems). Paul Leslie is am a fan of cinema – all genres – and is passionately interested in modern history.