CUFI and J Street — time for a sulha?


Ari Morgenstern, who flacks for Christians United for Israel, is getting antsy about election season heating up, and I can’t say I don’t sympathize.

Here he is at the American Thinker:

We will not always agree on policy, but organizations who associate themselves with Israel advocacy must shun the most unethical tactics in the public relations’ arsenal — lest we expend resources attacking each other, rather than defending the Jewish State. 

Ari notes the lie-that-won’t-die attacks on CUFI — that its principal motor is a desire to bring about bloody end times.

(It is not. It is a sympathy for Zionism rooted both in the bible and in Israel’s Western tilt. It also must be noted that this sympathy extends to right wing Israeli claims on the West Bank.)

He cites an especially egregious example in which Bruce Wilson quotes another writer’s misbegotten conclusions about CUFI — but attributes the quote to CUFI founder John Hagee, and not to the writer.

Ari also notes that J Street’s sustained attacks on CUFI have based themselves largely on this kind of journalism.

But here’s where it gets interesting: Ari acknowledges that J Street has been on the butt end of exactly this kind of distorted advocacy journalism:

J Street’s recent exposure to the efforts of an activist journalist who filmed a few participants at the "pro-Israel pro-peace" conference saying things that some might view as neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace, is a perfect example.  Given J Street’s present use of activist journalism to advance false Christian Zionist stereotypes, it would be hypocritical for the organization to protest the use of such tactics.

I would have written the second sentence differently: Instead of demanding J Street’s silence lest it be accused of being "hypocritical," why not ask for a little noise — from both J Street and CUFI?

How about this from Ari:

Given J Street’s present use of activist journalism to advance false Christian Zionist stereotypes, it could now advance responsible journalism by rejecting such stereotypes, just as CUFI should reject stereotypes it has advanced about liberal Jews acting as useful idiots for Israel’s enemies.

Wait — when did CUFI do that?

Just the other week at an American Jewish Committee conference, when Gary Bauer spoke on behalf of the organization, and was challenged to repudiate efforts to silence those who call themselves pro-Israel critics of Israel:

We bite our tongues because we think it’s inappropriate by and large for people in the safety of this great nation to sit in our air conditioned offices and lecture Israelis on what they can or should and shouldn’t do for peace, that’s a decision they have to make.

For the Jewish community you obviously are going to feel much more comfortable giving your views on Israeli democracy and whether its being true to its values.

I would offer this bit of unsolicited advice: On any given day when the sun comes up there is no shortage of people in the world prepared to berate Israel and Jews. It is incredible.

There’s no shortage of people no matter what the incident is, whether it’s a flotilla or an Israeli bombing raid in Gaza in response to missile attacks, there’s no shortage of people who are willing and ready to immediately assume the worst.

I have to say for pro-Israel Christians, our assumption is always to assume the best.

Because again, we look at Israel, and we see people that are doing extraordinary things even when it backfires on them time and time again for peace.

Maybe this would be a bridge too far I would urge anybody who loves Israel, whether Christian or Jew, when Israel does something you don’t like, I would tell them privately, rather than publicly. When you do it publicly, Israel’s enemies exploit that and it further demoralizes the Israeli people.

How packed with stereotypes is that? The effete liberal ("air conditioned offices" — by the way, Gary, air conditioning has arrived in Israel); the conflation of criticism with subversion ("Our assumption is always to assume the best" and "it further demoralizes the Israeli people.")

Good for Ari for at least for denouncing — however backhandedly* — this claptrap coverage of the J Street conference as equivalent to the claptrap CUFI has borne.

*UPDATE: I should have included the concluding paragraph from Ari’s piece — his denunciation of underhanded attacks on J Street is actually straightforward, and not backhanded:

Though we often vehemently disagree with their tactics, messages, and policy positions, CUFI wishes to enunciate its opposition to the recent use of activist journalism against J Street.  We hope that other major Israel-oriented groups will have the integrity to similarly voice their disapproval of activist journalism and refrain from using its poisonous fruits to advance a short-term agenda. 

My sympathies are with Ari because this clutter ("CUFI equals Armageddon! J Street equals treason!") crowds out substantive reporting.

But I would tell him what I would tell my kids: Don’t name-call; talk.

Instead of calling out J Street with what boils down to "Yo, shut up, hypocrite" how about getting together and agreeing to disagree on substance — and not by pressing sensitive scare buttons?

Recommended from JTA