AJC’s David Harris complains that liberal Zionist groups tried to ‘bully’ and ‘intimidate’ him to take ‘macho’ stand against Israel – Mondoweiss

Posted By on July 2, 2020

We have been saying for days now that the annexation argument has transformed the Israel lobby. Liberal Zionist organizations such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now are emerging as the new leaders of the Israel lobby because they seized on an issue of great moment and took a firm stance and by lobbying the Democratic Congress and appealing to foreign leaders appear to have turned Israel back from its determination to annex portions of the West Bank.

While the leading rightwing organizations kept their mouths shut and wavered and have suffered a political collapse in the eyes of the pro-Israel community, for doing nothing as beloved Zion burned.

Today the leader of one of those rightwing groups the American Jewish Committee lashed out on a webinar against liberal Zionist organizations for trying to bully him and practice intellectual intimidation so that the AJC would take a more macho stand against Israel.

David Harris never mentioned his enemies by name, but it was clear he meant J Street and Americans for Peace Now, which rose to this occasion and repeatedly called on leading Jewish groups to oppose annexation.

Harris was obviously referring to incidents like this one: Last week the AJC came out with a mealymouthed statement against annexation but assured Israel that it would defend Israel no matter what it does. Hadar Susskind, the head of Americans for Peace Now, responded to the piece by writing, Delete your organization.

In his webinar today, David Harris repeatedly slammed the left for having the arrogant notion that we know better. Or to use that famous phrase, To save Israel from itself. Thats where the AJC parts company. No it doesnt mean we have to keep silent but we at AJC have to keep in mind the distribution of risk here. Israelis are at physical risk from attack; and American Jews who criticize it are not.

Harris then said he was against annexation, but nicely.

The very word annexation itself is a toxic word. Because annexation in our vocabulary is very negative. Annexation is a hostile word, which is why some Israelis who support this prefer to use the extension of Israeli sovereign law.

From AJCs perspective again were friends of Israel, we are independent in our thinking, we will offer our perspective but at the end of the day we recognize its not our decision to make. Its Israels decision to make. From our perspective at AJC, we see the costs of the annexation or extension of sovereignty we see the costs as being very high. We dont see the benefits. There may be local benefits, political benefits within the domestic Israeli space. We dont see the benefits. We see instead something that will be used as yet another excuse or pretext by the Palestinians to avoid the peace table

But Harris said, thats not good enough for some in the American Jewish community. Hes faced attempted intellectual intimidation for not going further.

From our perspective at AJC, we are opposed to what were hearing based on our cost benefit analysis. I want to be very clear. On the other hand, there is a separate discussion to be had, and one cannot simply be lumped into a different political category for saying what Im about to say, although in todays world that is exactly how some will try and play it. Because in todays world you have a kind of binary political equation on just about everything, including this Youre either with us or youre against it. The moment youre trying to introduce any other elements or nuance, then youre immediately in the opposite camp. Thats not AJC, and were not going to play into attempted intellectual intimidation. Were going to defend our space which is to say, No to unilateral steps on the West Bank as are being discussed, in our perspective. At the same time it is fair to ask How long will Israel have to wait for a credible serious partner to sit across the table and negotiate

Harris said Israels failure to gain peace was not just Benjamin Netanyahus issue. Governments of the left and center had also failed. The burden was on the Palestinians, to show up, seriously, credibly, perseverantly.

But he went on that these liberal Zionist groups are playing to their donors by taking a muscular and macho stance against Israel. And Harris implied that they dont love Israel enough.

Look there are times that we have disagreed with Israel. How could we not? What AJC has done and I think its well understood in Israel is when there is criticism we try to find the most constructive way to channel the criticism. That means were not playing to our bleachers. Were not going to a group of donors and saying, Look how muscular and macho we are in what we told the Israelis. Were not hoping that the New York Times or the Washington Post picks up on our opposition to this or that and turns it into a pullquote and a headline. Were operating from a principle that for us would be referred to as ahavat Yisrael, love of Israel.Its not an effort to score points, to get attention, its not an effort to get patted on the back by other groups in the United States that we hunger for their validation..

So the donors are to Harriss left! It seems very clear from these remarks that the center of gravity in the pro-Israel Jewish community has shifted from the AJC to J Street.

Harris attacked J Street and other leftwing ideological organizations and dogmatists though not by name for supporting the Iran deal in 2015 even when Israels leaders said it posed an existential threat to Israel.

Take the Iran issue. The Israeli leadership came together as one and said the Iran deal as proposed poses an existential threat to the state of Israel. To me this was a defining moment in terms of how to lead the American Jewish community The Israeli leadership across the board at the very top said we agree on this, we disagree on everything else.

The ideological organizations werent prepared to follow along. So the leftwing groups here even confronted with that fact took recourse in their support for in this case the Obama administration, the assurance of the Obama administration that the Israeli concerns were misplaced and miguided. Did those groups even read the deal? AJC was one of the organizations that came out very clearly, If its a matter of existential importance to the state of Israel we have an obligation to speak out Thats where I seriously parted company with the dogmatists and the ideologues who couldnt get out from under the uniform that they wear every day.

He said that the AJC got bullied for trying to introduce nuance into the annexation debate.

If were really entering into a binary world, with two opposing orthodoxies and no room for conversation in between. youre either with us or youre against us. For me intellectually thats a very frightening world.

The AJC has always tried to inject nuance into our conversation about the U.S.-Israel relationship . That comes from a love of Israel.

I saw for example last week When we tried to introduce some nuance into one of the topical issues of the day, the anti-nuance crowd jumped on us, tried to mischaracterize our position, tried to in a way bully us. They were not going to succeed. I come from a place of Jewish unity, not disunity

The Israel lobby is breaking up before our eyes into two branches, liberal Zionist and right Zionist. Each has a political party. For once leading Jewish orgs are speaking in two voices on Israel. This fracturing will foster the politicization of Israel for U.S. politicians.

Link:
AJC's David Harris complains that liberal Zionist groups tried to 'bully' and 'intimidate' him to take 'macho' stand against Israel - Mondoweiss

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