J Street and Abbas deserve each other
May 7, 2021
(JNS) — It was telling that J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby, would invite to its annual conference Mahmoud Abbas, the anti-Israel, anti-peace, Holocaust-denying president of the Palestinian Authority. The lobby, whose hallmark is gullibility, soaked up the familiar propaganda from Abbas and joined him in castigating Israel while ignoring the tyrant’s intransigence and persecution of his own people.
Both Abbas and J Street are hoping to return to the heyday of the Obama years when Israel was expected to make one-sided concessions to satisfy Palestinian demands. Hence, Abbas found a receptive audience to his request that the group lobby President Joe Biden to ignore the laws that placed the PLO on the terrorism list and bars aid until he ends the “pay-for-slay policy.”
He also said he was ready to resume peace negotiations, which he effectively ended in 2008, refusing to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for all but a few hours of Obama’s eight-year term and none of Trump’s. Ehud Olmert was on hand to ludicrously insist Abbas could resolve the conflict “today if both parties came to the table.” Apparently suffering from amnesia after his prison term, Olmert forgot he had 36 negotiating sessions with Abbas, during which he offered the Palestinians a state, concessions on Jerusalem, withdrawal of settlements and more, and still failed to get a deal. Similarly, J Street ignores Abbas’ irredentism in its pursuit of the two-state unicorn.
During the sympathetic Obama administration, Abbas complained to Secretary of State John Kerry: “You’ve been telling me to wait, and telling me to wait, and telling me to wait. You can’t deliver the Israelis.”
That one remark says it all about the Palestinian strategy, and it is heartily endorsed by J Street, which exists for the sole purpose of lobbying the American government to capitulate to Palestinian demands and “deliver the Israelis.”
One other area where J Street and Abbas are in sync is their mutual disrespect for democracy. Abbas, in the 16th year of his four-year term, is far more popular with J Street than the Palestinian people. More than 60 percent of Palestinians have said Abbas should resign due to his corrupt administration, total failure to achieve Palestinian national goals and authoritarian rule that denies his people civil and human rights. It is indicative of how J Street is as out of touch with the Palestinian people as it is with Israelis that Abbas would be welcomed as a statesman.
Abbas said he plans to finally hold elections next month, not mentioning that the candidates include terrorists and convicted murderers. Marwan Barghouti, for example, is perhaps the most popular Palestinian and greatest threat to Abbas’s re-election even as he serves multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail for the murder of five people.
Abbas made the laughable claim the voting would be conducted respecting the rule of law, transparency and democracy, which is even more absurd now that it is likely he will cancel the elections, as he has in the past, for fear of losing to Hamas. In the meantime, he is having rivals intimidated, silenced and arrested. We also just learned Facebook discovered the Preventive Security Service Abbas controls has engaged in a hacking campaign throughout the Middle East attacking journalists, human-rights and anti-Fatah activists, and other critics of his autocratic rule.
Then again, it should not surprise anyone given J Street’s own disdain for democracy. J Street can’t stand that those darn Israelis keep electing people who don’t agree with the dangerous policy prescriptions of a minority of American Jews living comfortably 6,000 miles from the conflict.
Yet another example of the disconnect between J Street and “pro-Israel” is its support for cutting or conditioning aid to Israel while calling for resuming aid to the Palestinians, which amounts to a subsidy for Palestinian terrorists paid by American taxpayers. Despite dissembling remarks to J Street, Abbas has repeatedly made clear the support of terrorists in Israeli jails and terrorists’ families will continue. Providing aid to the P.A. is a violation of the Taylor Force Act and an insult to that American soldier’s memory and that of all the Israelis and Americans murdered by terrorists.
While backing legislation to punish Israel for its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians, J Street has nothing to say about the denial of civil and human rights by the Palestinians unless Israel can be accused of responsibility. Like other two-state cheerleaders, they do not care a whit for the fate of Palestinians now or in the future under the dictatorial rule of the likes of Abbas.
There is also silence on the ongoing persecution of Palestinians by Hamas and the likely possibility its representatives will serve in a future Palestinian government. That was the result in 2006, which prompted Abbas to dissolve the legislature. A year later, Hamas staged a coup and seized control of Gaza. If Hamas wins the election, we will see how desperate J Street and the Biden administration are to prove their fealty to the Palestinians because further engagement with the P.A. would require breaking the law unless Hamas meets conditions it has no intention of accepting.
In its continuing enthusiasm for creating a Palestinian state, J Street implicitly endorses Abbas’s antisemitic view that Jews have no right to live in “Palestine” and that tens of thousands of Jews should be forced from their homes—something that hasn’t happened since the Holocaust and the expulsions from the Arab world—based on Palestinian claims to land that Israel has an equal or better right to annex to Israel.
J Street also completely misunderstands the nature of the conflict, buying into the simplistic “two people competing over one land” narrative. They ignore the psychological, historical and, most important, religious roots of the conflict. As Hamas makes clear, it is unacceptable for Jews to rule over “Islamic land” or govern Muslims. Abbas and his supposedly secular PLO call for a state with Islam as the national religion that extends from the river to the sea (as reflected in everything from its logo to its maps). No matter who wins the elections, assuming they are ever held, the Palestinian leadership will remain unwilling to agree to establishing a Palestinian state beside a country they do not believe should exist.
How is this consistent with J Street sloganeering?
Many supporters of Israel worry about Democrats abandoning Israel but, fortunately, despite publicity about their supposed newfound influence under a Democratic administration, J Street’s positions have little support. This is demonstrated by the handful of J Street-backed Democrats seeking to cut aid to Israel compared to the more than 300 bipartisan members of the House who said, “Congress is committed to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and its ability to defend itself, by itself, against persistent threats. Our aid to Israel is a vital and cost-effective expenditure which advances important U.S. national security interests in a highly challenging region.”
The J Street conference did strip away the facade of the group’s tagline and demonstrated it has more in common with the president of the P.A. than the people of Israel or most of Israel’s supporters inside and outside the U.S. government.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”