Teaching young people to hate: the ugly face of J Street’s anti-Palestinian bigotry exposed

For years, J Street has posed as the kinder, gentler face of the Israel lobby, the alternative to hardline AIPAC.

Anyone who’s paid close attention knows that has never been the case, and behind the smiling exterior that J Street boss Jeremy Ben-Ami projects are similar hardcore anti-Palestinian views.

And it seems teaching anti-Palestinian bigotry to the young is part of J Street’s mission. Take a piece by Jeremy Zelinger, a J Street Summer 2012 Communications Intern, published on J Street’s website on 14 August which says (emphasis added):

I am not satisfied with a pro-Israel voice that shouts about military threats from Hezbollah but is silent about the demographic threat from a stateless Palestinian population. Just as Israel needs to prepare for war, it must also prepare for peace. A pro-Israel voice should express the importance of both.

This is bigotry and racism of the worst kind. As I’ve said and written many times before, we should have zero tolerance for talk of Palestinians as a “demographic threat” just because (a) they’re born and (b) they’re not Jews.

Widespread “liberal” Zionist bigotry

This bigotry is not restricted to the “right-wing” of Zionism. The Washington Post’s liberal columnist Ruth Marcus recently characterized Palestinians as a “demographic threat” and African refugees and migrants as a “deluge.”

Former State Department diplomat Aaron David Miller (who once described his role during his years of US government service as being “Israel’s attorney”), wrote in a New York Times op-ed about Israel last week that:

The country’s demographics look bad — too many ultra-Orthodox Jews, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs and not enough secular Jews.

What would you call someone who wrote, say, that, ‘Mississippi’s demographics look bad – too many African Americans, poor white people and Latinos and not enough White Evangelical Christians’?

Yousef Munayyer recently took this kind of widespread bigotry to task in a piece in The Daily Beast’s Open Zion:

An ideology that seeks to build a society around a certain type of people defined by ethnicity or religion is inevitably going to feature racism, supremacy and oppression—especially when the vast majority of native inhabitants where such an ideology is implemented are unwelcomed.

But this premise of too many Arabs, too many Palestinians, too many __________ (fill in the blank with people unlike you) is so common in the discourse on the Israeli/Palestinian question today that the racism inherent in it rarely ever questioned.

It’s not enough that Peter Beinart’s Open Zion publishes views by Munayyer. That does not get them off the hook. They ought to do much more, and come out clearly and explicitly against any talk of a “demographic threat.”

Don’t expect that any time soon, however, because the fear of Palestinian babies lies at the core of “liberal” Zionism.

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The impression I get is not that J Street folk (the majority, at least) are actually scared of this "demographic threat" themselves, but rather that they use the logic to appeal to the actual racists - to persuade them to pursue a two-state solution and quickly. J Street's aim is a two-state solution, which they see as a pragmatic end. It's not that they have some moral issue with the one-state idea, but they just can't see it turning out well. Invoking the "demographic threat" card probably isn't as indicative of their own racism as it is of their drive to get people on board and work towards two states, which they think will end the conflict most quickly and safely.

Ali Abunimah's picture

If you say racist things in order to appeal to racists, well that’s um… racism.

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You may be right, and there are many people on the Israeli left who have similar arguments in favor of a two-state solution ("we want one state, but the Jews are still scared of living alongside Palestinians"). But to equivocate (at best) on the rights of the Palestinians in order to appeal more to Jews is racism, pure and simple.

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I am not satisfied with a pro-[South African] voice that shouts about military threats from [the ANC] but is silent about the demographic threat from a stateless [black] population.

- At least the supremacist Afrikaners did not ethnically cleanse the indigenous majority to neighbouring African states (thereby rendering the overwhelming indigenous majority into a controllable minority in their own homeland).

- At least the supremacist Afrikaners did not use their state-of-the-art warplanes, warships and artillery to blitzkrieg, cluster and phosphorus bomb besieged and defenceless indigenous towns, cities and bantustans.

- At least the supremacist Afrikaners gave up on trying to extort their victims into agreeing to enforced inferiority in their own homeland ("the right to exist as a white state" in what would have been the only white state (of 54) in the whole of Africa).

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First of all, I think you're letting the Engish speaking South African Whites off too lightly. It wasn't just the Boers who wanted the majority kept in 'their place'. For another thing, one of the crucial differences between SA apartheid and Israeli apartheid is that the former relied on indigenous people's labour while the latter was always committed to replacing it with 'Hebrew labour'. So SA apartheid never wanted to displace the Black majority geographically. In estabishing the bantustans, however, they did displace them politically, rendering them 'a controllable minority in their own homeland.

J Street's objective is to create a Palestinian bantustan for exactly the same reasons: 'J Street unequivocally supports the existence of the State of Israel as a democracy and a national home for the Jewish people and believes that the best way to guarantee its future is through the realization of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a comprehensive regional peace.' http://jstreet.org/blog/post/p...

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I think the use of "demographic threat" you found on a J Street blog post is indeed offensive, and worth noting. But I think your headline is awfully trumped up for a post based on a single blog post by an intern. Are there any other examples of J Street using "demographic threat"?

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J-Street’s agenda is clearly exposed in a CNN interview clip possibly still on the J-Street website, where their executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami states:

“...I think the sense of urgency has never been greater to address the single greatest threat that Israel faces to its future as a Jewish and democratic state which is the demographic reality that within a matter of years there will be more non-Jews than Jews between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean and at that point Israel really can no longer remain both Jewish and democratic; therefore to avoid that we have to find some way to get to a two-state solution and do it as quickly as possible.”

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'With the Jewish and Arab populations between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea at near-parity, demographic trends preclude Israel from maintaining control over all of Greater Israel while remaining a democratic state and a homeland for the Jewish people.' http://jstreet.org/blog/post/t...

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Yes! Thank you for this article.

J Street is definitely concerned with "demographics" and many are beginning to see it as a Jewish supremacist group devoted to blocking the human rights, especially the right of return, for an entire group of people, the Palestinians.

Our local "progressive Zionist" J-Street rabbi distributes material giving the impression that there was an exchange of populations between Jewish refugees from Arab lands and those forcibly expelled by Zionist terrorist militias in a desperate attempt to justify the unspeakable and block advocacy of that right. We distribute that sheet now with our rebuttal attached deconstructing that misinformation. This same rabbi has written and organized against Palestinian human rights activists and guest speaker, Ali Abunimah. On Jan 1, the Register Guard published a long guest opinion by this rabbi which included the statement, " If the two-state solution dies, all that’s left is the one-state option which, for demographic reasons, spells the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state." - the language of racism. Wanting "justice, peace and reconciliation" he doesn't seem ready to admit that the only way privilege can be maintained is through violence and oppression.

One Jewish man was forced to resign from the local J Street steering committee because he dared suggest in a Register Guard letter that a one democratic state would "be the beginning of a democratic, peaceful Israel where Jews and others could live in peace and harmony. Israel would then be accepted by the Arab nations and by the world community."

We have been exposing J Street's unjust positions from the beginning. Here is one of our critiques, J Street, a Dead End for Palestinians: http://www.al-nakba-history.co...

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Excellent article. Zionism is Zionism no matter how gentle its genocidal voice. I think liberal and many left-wing Zionist, along with their US "liberal" tutors of the Wilsonian humanitarian ilk, have proven far more dangerous to world peace in general than any intellectual neanderthals we love to hate.

You wrote: "Don’t expect that any time soon, however, because the fear of Palestinian babies lies at the core of “liberal” Zionism."

Thank you for stating things clearly, based on the evidence not on some mellifluous sounding gas from well-wishers!

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I believe Tariq's impression on this is incorrect. My impression of J Street is that they support two states not because they think that it is the most pragmatic solution, but because J Street wants that there be a Jewish state. Other than cosmetics and rhetoric, I don't think that there is much difference between J Street and AIPAC.

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One of the triumphs of hasbara is that statements like this, the very first of J Street's 'Core principles' don't immediately ring alarm bells: 'We believe that the Jewish people have the right to a national home of their own, and we celebrate its re-birth after thousands of years.' http://jstreet.org/page/j-stre... J Street would never advocate the right to a national home for the Hindu people or the Christian people. States that identify as 'Islamic republics' and the like are never deemed acceptable, much less a light unto the nations.

It's not that racism is hardwired in Zionism. Zionism is actually an expression of racism. It can only exist by creating a racialised 'Jewish people' out of a diverse collection of individuals who practice, or whose ancestors practiced, forms of the Jewish religion. http://bureauofcounterpropagan...

As an explicitly Zionist organisation, J Street has never made any bones about where it stands: http://bureauofcounterpropagan...

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Once you accept the tenets of Zionism as your own, you simply can't escape racism, no matter how well-intentioned you are. That is the contradiction that will always haunt J-Street and other similar dovish associations. But I don't doubt their dovishness, and I wouldn't bang them too hard on the head for this kind of declarations. They really believe they are helping Palestinians.

Besides, they can wrest some support from AIPAC, and they do openly criticize the Israeli regime. Their political correctness also make their criticism more difficult to dismiss by Israeli apologists and their allies in Washington. Maybe they're still part of the problem, but I wouldn't alienate them just yet.

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If anyone on this page wanted peace, they would work to reduce Israel's fears, by following Memri's example of publicizing and denouncing the anti-Jewish statements of Muslim opinion makers. Instead, the goal of the site is to foment the fears of Zionists by promoting the notion that Israel should not have a Jewish majority, leaving the Jews to the whims of a hateful majority. First convince the Jews that such a majority would not be hateful. At that point, the demographics would not be viewed as a threat.

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Jon, you have so many things backwards that one doesn't know where to begin. The Zionists invaded and colonized the homeland of another people and then declared that the land belonged to Zion and to no one else -- and certainly not to the native inhabitants. That's the problem, and the Zionists, at various levels of consciousness, are aware of this and that's why Zionists are frightened. (Plus, their government indoctrinates them to believe that they are under threat so as to justify the land-grabbing and the barbarous treatment of Palestinians.) It is NOT up to "Muslim opinion-makers" to mollify Israel (here you mischaracterize the conflict as a religious one, which it is not; it is a conflict between invader/occupier and native/occupied). But it IS up to Israel to recognize that the only workable solution is a secular democratic state, with "democratic" not meaning the ability to vote. "Democratic" means "rule by the people" with equal rights and equal justice for each inhabitant. This means, FOR STARTERS: (1) No more Israeli occupation and no more "separation wall"; (2) Absolutely equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, including education, healthcare, access to appropriate employment; active participation in government, etc.; and (3) The right of return for all Palestinians to historic Palestine, from the river to the sea. And that's only the beginning. It's not complicated. Palestinians don't wish to slaughter Israeli Jews; Palestinians only wish to live in and on their land. The state of Israel and Israeli Jews need to recognize that they have everything to gain by discarding their victim/siege mentality in which they are so heavily invested -- emotionally, politically, socially, militarily -- and they have everything to lose by continuing on the present path.