When ‘friends’ can be enemies
The ‘pro-peace’ alternative Israel lobby believes Israel is to blame for its own woes
The response of Chas W Freeman, the short-lived chairman-designate of the US National Security Council, to being forced to resign recently after protests over his lobbying activities for Saudi Arabia and China and his extreme antipathy to Israel, was not merely to pin the blame on that all-purpose scapegoat, “the Jewish lobby”, or even its modern version, “the Israel lobby”. He came up with another variation on the theme.
He said his opponents “should probably be called the Likud lobby… Whereas Israelis in Israel routinely criticise Israeli policies that they think may prove to be suicidal for their country, those who criticise the same policies here, for the same reasons, are subject to political reprisal.”
Leave aside for the moment the unlovely figure of Chas W Freeman himself, and that what actually brought him down was the widespread consternation among members of Congress — especially House Leader Nancy Pelosi — that a pivotal role over US intelligence should go to such a brazen apologist for the Tiananmen Square massacre.
His words should cause wider concern for those of us watching aghast as Israel is progressively delegitimised. For the emergence of this new bogyman, the “Likud lobby”, is an ominous reflection of the attempt to drive a wedge between Israel’s supporters by demonising one side of an increasingly bitter and desperate, internal argument.
In one camp are those who believe that the only route to peace is through the “two-state solution” and the creation of a state of Palestine. In the other, are those who believe the cause of the conflict is not the absence of such a state, but that the Palestinians are being used as a Trojan horse by the Arab and Muslim world to destroy Israel altogether.
Since Israel places conditions upon the Palestinians (to abjure terror) before it will agree to such a state, the “two-staters” agree with the prevailing EU-UK-US consensus that Israel must be pressured to make “painful concessions” to end the stalemate.
The “existential war” camp believes that, with Iran-backed Hamas poised to take control as soon as Israel departs the West Bank, this would be not so much a two-state solution as a Final Solution.
The two-staters respond by demonising their opponents as “right-wing”, “Likudniks” and “warmongers”, even though they may be innocent of all three charges. No matter — to so-called progressives, anyone who is not on the left must be on the right; and since the left embodies all things that are good, the label “right-wing” is a synonym for all things evil, of which both war and the Likud are without doubt prime exemplars.
The concern is that the Obama administration — although it showed an early graciousness towards the new Netanyahu government — takes the same view. Dominated as it is by a combination of leftists, peace-process retreads and Israel-haters, and Jewish-conspiracy theorists, it is seizing upon this division among the Jewish ranks to redefine “the Jewish lobby” as its patsy.
With the predominant view at present apparently being that Israel’s security must be sacrificed to achieve the “grand bargain” with the Iranians (“living with” a nuclear Iran!) it is happy to demonise objectors as “the Likud lobby”. And there is no shortage of Jews coming forward to help it do so — most notably in the form of J-Street, the George Soros-backed alternative Jewish lobby which has set itself to displace AIPAC and the established Jewish groups.
This describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace”. It is composed of Israeli and Jewish leftists such as Daniel Levy, who has done incalculable harm to both Israel and the free world by assiduously peddling the idea to western leaders that talking to Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran, Syria and Uncle Tom jihadist and all is the way to peace.
J-Street is being smiled on by those within the Obama administration who are in tune with J-Street’s appalling core premise: that Israel is to blame for Arab terror — the age-old calumny of blaming the Jews for their own destruction.
The danger of J-Street lies not just in its savvy, web-based mode of operation but through the way it defines itself as “moderate”. So those who believe with overwhelming reason that a Palestine state would bring Iran to Israel’s border are painted as extremists to silence their voice. Yet if they protest, it is the J-Streeters who claim they are being “cowed into silence”.
When Israel’s “friends” characterise suicidal policies as “moderate”, while policies essential for Israel’s self-preservation are “extreme”, who needs enemies like Chas W Freeman?
Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist