Political tidbits: Yoffie blasts J Street, first test for Hillary

  • Union of Reform Judaism president Rabbi Eric Yoffie blasts J Street in an op-ed in The Forward:

J Street, a new Washington lobbying group and a major voice of the dovish pro-Israel community, has spoken out sharply against Israel’s actions in Gaza. While it claims to represent the moderate American Jewish majority, in this case it has misread the issues and misjudged the views of American Jews.

It is not easy for me to write these words. I welcomed the founding of J Street and know many of those involved in its leadership. Furthermore, I am a dove myself. I support a two-state solution, believe that military action by Israel should be a last resort and welcome an active American role in promoting peace between Israel and her neighbors. But I know a mistake when I see one, and this time J Street got it very wrong.

  • Roseanne Barr is calling Israel a "Nazi state," according to the Jerusalem Post:

In a post on her personal blog, which appears at her Web site, Roseanne World, the comedienne, who is Jewish, wrote on December 30 that she had planned to travel with pro-Palestinian activists on a protest boat sailing from Cyprus to Gaza.

After an encounter with an Israel Navy vessel, the boat was turned back and sailed into a Lebanese port on Tuesday.

"I said Israel will attack any boat carrying doctors and medical supplies," Barr wrote on her blog, adding that, "Israel is a NAZI state. The Jewish Soul is being tortured in Israel."

  • The Gaza crisis will be an early test for new secretary of state Hillary Clinton, writes the New York Times:

Mrs. Clinton brings several strengths, according to current and former aides and Middle East experts, including her knowledge of the region and experience in navigating it, as well as lingering good will among Arabs and Israelis won by her husband, Bill Clinton, for his efforts to broker a peace deal in the waning days of his presidency.

But Mrs. Clinton will have to reassure the Palestinians that she, too, can be a broker, working with Egypt and other Arab neighbors, and putting pressure on the Israeli government, when needed.

  • Jim Besser in The Jewish Week said the "unspoken target" of this week’s pro-Israel media campaign by major Jewish groups is Barack Obama:

In conference calls, one-on-ones with reporters, and press releases, Jewish groups and Israeli diplomats alike reminded the incoming president of his supportive comments during a visit to Sderot this summer. In private, several leaders suggested one factor in the timing of the new Israeli offensive was concern Obama might try to put more limits on the offensive than a Bush administration that has flashed a green light.

  • A poll on how Americans feel about the Gaza attacks shows a split, says Rasmussen Reports:

Forty-four percent (44%) say Israel should have taken military action against the Palestinians, but 41% say it should have tried to find a diplomatic solution to the problems there, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of adults, however, believe the Palestinians are to blame for the current situation in Gaza, while 13% point the finger at the Israelis. Nearly one-third (32%) aren’t sure.

  • Salon’s Glenn Greenwald uses this poll to bolster his opinion that the debate over Israel-related issues should be more diverse:

Ultimately, what is most notable about the "debate" in the U.S. over Israel-Gaza is that virtually all of it occurs from the perspective of Israeli interests but almost none of it is conducted from the perspective of American interests.

  • Four high-profile Jewish felons — Johnathan Pollard, Lewis Libby, Michael Milken and Isaac Toussie — are hoping for pardons in the next three weeks, reports the Forward:

Bush’s Justice Department has received a record number of requests for pardon — reportedly more than 650 — but the president has granted relatively few in comparison with his predecessors. Still, supporters of these candidates say that Bush may be the best chance these men have. Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel and a leader in the effort to free Pollard, said: “We have a president who’s a friend of Israel. This is the best opportunity we’ll have for a while.”


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