J Street: A New and Realistic Movement for Peace and Justice for Israel and Palestine Emerges

Categories: Letters From Leadership
By Michael Givel

            For over a half a century the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has claimed to represent and vigorously lobby in support of Israel for the U.S. Jewish political right, center, and left. However this supposed non-ideological agenda with an Israel right-or-wrong political orientation and mentality has been anything but neutral with a current strong orientation toward continued militaristic Likudist-type policies that has not brought Israel real peace or security since 1967.  There is an urgent need to negotiate a viable and immediate pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and pro-peace agreement to resolve the continual state of conflict that envelops the Middle East.

Enter on the scene a new pro-peace and Israel organization that supports realistic diplomatic and peaceful solutions to solve the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict—J Street,  http://www.jstreet.org/  J Street’s U.S. advisory board includes numerous prominent academics, former public officials, religious, and community leaders, see: http://www.jstreet.org/supporters/advisory_council  Also supporting J Street are various Israeli military officials, diplomats, public officials, academics, and religious leaders, see: http://www.jstreet.org/page/israeli-supporters-list .

Currently, AIPAC claims, (see: http://www.aipac.org/The_Issues/index_5976.asp) to want to “bolster” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as if the Palestinian Authority is a puppet state and argues the Arabs need to supposedly “match” the Israelis in the peace process. AIPAC also advocates for substantially more military aid to Israel and continues to send dire and ominous warnings about Iran’s peaceful nuclear program despite Iran halting this program in 2003, according to a Bush Administration–December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate report.  All of this is a recipe for continued conflict, human rights violations, instability, and bloodshed in the Middle East contrary to the interests of Israel, Palestinians, and many Arab states.

A realistic and alternative pro-Israel political, diplomatic and military approach for real security and peace in the region has now been outlined in a very sensible and clear manner by the nascent J Street organization, see: http://www.jstreet.org/page/policy. This includes treating the Palestinian Authority as an equal partner in good faith negotiations rather than like a puppet state.  Real peace includes setting a deadline and time table for a just two-state solution instead of redirecting the issue by claiming it’s only the Arabs that are the problem.

The two-state solution, which is supported in a bi-partisan manner in Washington D.C. and is well known, includes negotiating the cessation of violence on all sides, Israel moving back to more-or-less its pre-1967 borders and ending the occupation, fair compensation and treatment for Palestinian refugees, the establishment of a fair division of Jerusalem including respect for sacred religious places of all religions, and recognition of Israel’s right to exist.

Real peace and stability also includes ending the noxious right wing and far right wing fundamentalist as well as Messianic Jewish “Greater Israel” religious settler presence in the West Bank that operates in tandem with the current occupation. This movement sometimes acts above the law with respect to Palestinian land rights, water rights, and environmental protection.  Real peace also means negotiating a fair peace treaty with Syria about the Golan Heights.

Such an arrangement would also open up normal diplomatic relations with other Arab states in the region. The Arab League currently has a peace proposal on the table that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, similar to J Street position, in return for normal diplomatic relations and recognition of Israel.

None of this suggests that Israel or other Arab states for that matter should turn a blind eye to movements or states that seek Israel’s destruction. Israel’s military is quite  strong and is capable of dealing with, in the short-term rogue and extremist movements like Hamas and Hezbollah. Ultimately, however, after bloodshed and war, diplomacy and negotiations must occur.  This is now happening with an unofficial truce being negotiated between Hamas and Israel that is mediated by Egypt.

I urge Americans of good faith of all religions or not to support the J Street campaign. It is time to reject the destructive right wing vision in ideology and practice in both Israeli and American society that obstructs a realistic peace. J Street and groups like it offer a viable alternative to the stalemate in the Middle East.  As the U.S. labor organizer Joe Hill once said: Don’t mourn, organize. I think that is exactly right. Politicians in Washington and in Israel need the political space and cover that comes from an advocacy group with a hard nosed pro-peace vision in conjunction with concerted and practical advocacy.  The time is now to just say no to the conflict and occupation, seemingly without end, in the Middle East.  The time is also now to just say yes to people in the Middle East living in a stable, peaceful, and secure region.

About Michael Givel

Michael Givel joined the Department of Political Science at Oklahoma University in August of 2002. His current areas of teaching and research interest include: public policy, health policy and tobacco policy, social welfare policy, urban politics, and social movements. He is the author of The War on Poverty Revisited: The Community Services Block Grant Program in the Reagan Years published by University Press of America. His recent journal articles have appeared in the American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Public Health Policy, Tobacco Control, St. Louis University Public Law Review, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Policy Studies Journal, Public Integrity, International Journal of Health Services, and Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
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