J Street and J Call: possible partners?
J Street and J Call (or the “European Jewish Call for Reason” petition) have been presented in the media as the voice for peace from respectively the American and European Jewish community. Leïla Shahid, the Palestinian general delegate at the European Union even declared that “through J Call we have a partner for the Palestinians” . The progressive newspaper le Monde Diplomatique in an article written by Jean Altermann described the new Jewish lobby J-Street as a pacifist one and as working against the AIPAC’s pro Israeli conservative policy in the USA . Therefore, should Palestinian and International solidarity groups all welcome these new partners in the struggle to implement International Law in Palestine and force Israel to respect the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people?
Unfortunately, this is not the case, and attribute such as progressive, peaceful or pacifist does not apply to them in any way. This is why true Jewish partners in the solidarity movement for Palestine have denounced both J Street, as another Israeli lobby in the United States, and J Call, as a call to save Israel and not for peace. This is why organization such as “l’Union juive française pour la paix” ( French Jewish Union for Peace) or “International Jewish AntiZionist Network” refused to sign J- Call, describing it as a dishonest call, and even published a critical article against it, entitled “Un appel à la raison bien déraisonnable » ( A call to reason very unreasonable) . Here is a short abstract of this article describing J-Call:
“This call to reason is actually a call to come to the help of Israel. The Palestinians do not count, except to say that they are a demographic threat to Israel… This call is dishonest”.
J-Call and J Street actually both work in a Zionist framework. This will become clearer in the presentation of the different elements.
Firstly, their support for a Palestinian State is only in the perspective to save the Jewish nature of the Israeli State. J Street declares for example on its website that “We are pro-Israel because we believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the single best chance we have to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy. We believe in the original Zionist idea of a country where Jews could always go to be secure, and we hope that Israel will live up to and represent the core Jewish values of justice, equality, and democracy” .
The J Call text also describes the way the signatories are linked in a way or another to the State of Israel and they observe that the existence of Israel is in danger. David Chemla, who presented the J-Call petition to the European Parliament and also serves as chair of Peace Now France, exposed very clearly the way the signatories follow the Zionist ideology and do not question at any time its credibility: “We identify ourselves with Israel and its rights, but we criticize. This is healthy and needed. We are Jews, Zionists and are always ready to stand up for Israel’s right to exist. We are against delegitimization and boycotts of Israel, but what we are showing is that it’s okay to be identified with Israel, and at the same time also to criticize [some] of its actions” .
In relation to the support for establishing a Palestinian State, the J-Call petition put it the following way “the establishment of a peace with the Palestinian people on the basis of “two peoples, two states” is necessary for the future of Israel. We all know there is urgency. Soon Israel will be facing a disastrous alternative: either it becomes a state where Jews are a minority in their own countries, either by setting up a regime that would disgrace Israel and transform it into an arena of civil war” . What a catastrophe, imagine Jewish being a minority in their own country! Is it not a strange statement? One might wonder, as all the J-Call signatories are citizens of European countries where the Jewish communities are minorities, and I do not think they face any problems or discriminations as such.
Both actors by proclaiming the need to recognize Israel as a Jewish State deny the possibility for Palestinian citizens of Israel to absolute equality in this regard, which is actually currently the case with discriminatory laws and practices against them. They therefore support different levels of citizenship according to a citizen’s religion.
We should remind ourselves that during centuries, Jewish intellectuals in Europe worked to be recognized as equal citizens in their own country whether being France, England or elsewhere and they finally achieved it after long efforts. Today we can find all over Europe and in the United States official representatives coming from the Jewish community, because they – as they should – are considered as any other citizen. Unfortunately, and this in total contradiction with the struggle of these Jewish liberal European intellectuals, movements such as J Call and J Street are calling for different levels of citizenship inside Israel. The Jews will actually be regarded as the privileged and the Palestinians of Israel as the discriminated. What an odd turn of events!
The J-Call and J-Street, also through their support to the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, deny the right of return for the Palestinian refugees, as recognized by the UN Resolution 194 and International Law in general. With regards to this topic, J-Street declares very clearly on its website that the resolution of the refugee issue is within the new Palestinian state and in the current host countries . No mention whatsoever of any right of return inside Israel is made.
In addition to these elements, we can also take into account the acts and declarations made by the signatories of the J-Call or by the J Street movement. Bernard Henri Levy for example, who signed the J-Call initiative, entered Gaza during the war in 2008-09 in an Israeli army tank, declared that Zionism is the only “ism” of the 20th century that didn’t fail and become a caricature, of all the great movements , and also claimed the day before the attack on the Free Gaza flotillas that he has never seen an army as democratic as the Israeli Defense Forces (which we should call instead Israeli Occupation Forces) . Following the attack on the Free Gaza flotillas, himself and Alain Finkelkraut, another signatory of the J-Call, declared that the organizers were themselves responsible for the deaths of the activists on the boat and not the Israeli army . J-Street on its side has been opposing measures to sanction Israel’s behavior in the United States. J-Street, for example, collaborated successfully with AIPAC to sustain the executive veto, upheld by the student senate at the University of California-Berkeley on April 26, 2010, on SB118, which is the student body resolution endorsing divestment of university funds from General Electric and United Technologies, two companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip .
We can observe J-Street limits and conservatism, in relation to the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, and Sanction) call from the Palestinian Civil society; they, quite rightly besides, consider it as an attack on Israel’s character as a Jewish state. Isaac Luria, a member of J Street, complains that the BDS movement “fails to draw a clear distinction between opposition to the post-1967 occupation and opposition to the existence of the state of Israel itself as the democratic home of the Jewish people.” The BDS call emphasizes rights, as opposed to political solution, but actually its demands may lead to an Israel that is a state of all its citizens irrespective of religion. This possibility does not satisfy in any way members of J-Street, which actually asks for a Jewish supremacy in the State of Israel.
In relation to the Free Gaza flotilla attack, J Street calls for “an Israeli independent commission to investigate the events onboard the Marmara and the decisions and circumstances surrounding the tragedy” and not an International investigation led by the United Nations. To the question “Weren’t the Israeli Defense Forces acting in self-defense?” they answered the following way: “Video does show that the IDF soldiers were attacked by a violent mob, and we hope that an independent inquiry will determine the exact circumstances”.
In conclusion, we have observed the way J-Call and J-Street work in a Zionist framework struggling to maintain the Jewish supremacy in the State of Israel and not in order to build a peace between Palestinians and Israelis based on International law. They actually do not speak about Palestinian fundamental rights and they even deny them such as the absolute equality of Palestinians citizens of Israel or the right of return for Palestinian refugees. This is why J-Call and J Street are and should be considered as partners in the solidarity movement for Palestine. Finally, any organization endorsing openly the Zionist ideology, which is a racist ideology, cannot be considered as a partner in the Palestinian struggle for liberation.
Nouvelobs.com, 4 mai 2010.
Le Monde Diplomatique, Des Juifs américains contre la droite israélienne, Jean Altermann, Octobre 2009
Noura Erakat, BDS in the USA, 2001-2010