Consider my head cleared.

Well, this just pisses me the hell off.

American-Israeli Michael Oren, author and — oh yes — Israel’s ambassador to the United States has just told the world that I am “fooling around with the lives of seven million people” in pursuing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is opposed by the current Israeli government. Moreover, he made this scurrilous accusation when speaking at the biennial convention of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, of which I am a member.

Or, in other words: The man walked into my house and accused me of not caring if my fellow Israelis die. And walked out.

I am truly having a hard time marshaling my thoughts here without resorting to language as vulgar as the accusation.

Did the man call me out by name? No, of course not. He cares not a whit about who I am or what I think (if he did, he might not have said what he said). No, Oren made his indefensible, heinous allegation not about me personally, but about J Street — an organization which I support, in both word and deed, and which would not exist were it not for the will of a hundreds of thousands (quite possibly millions) of American and/or Israeli Jews such as myself.

In America, Jews who support J Street reflect the opinion of fully two-thirds of American Jewry — because that’s the percentage of Jewish Americans who believe that a two-state solution is what’s best for Israel and that, moreover, the American government should pressure both Israel and the Palestinians to achieve it. They are — we are — not marginal, nor are we cavalier about the lives of anyone.

On the contrary, those of us who actively support a two-state resolution to this bloody, decades-long conflict have taken a good hard look at the constant, consistent, endless failure of Israel’s military to actually resolve, rather than manage and perpetuate, the conflict and have come to the conclusion that love of Israel demands a vigorous search for peace. That if we care for Israeli lives, if we want no more Israeli toddlers, babies, soldiers, mothers, grandfathers to die horrible, useless, pointless deaths — then we absolutely must commit ourselves to peace.

I recently blogged about the roughly 2,000 people, Israelis and Palestinians, who have died since Israel first refused to negotiate the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (the release of whom Israel is now negotiating), but if we were to go back and count up all of the Israelis who have died since Israel launched its occupation of the Palestinian territories?

Well, quite honestly, the spirit fails. I can’t bring myself to do that on this last day of Hanukkah. But suffice it to say that if there had been a peace agreement, most of those people would have died very differently indeed.

Here’s the exact quote:

[J Street is] a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there. We understand there are differences of opinion. But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke.

Needless to say, the assertion that J Street “opposes all policies of all Israeli governments” is so absurd as to be laughable (“all” policies? Really? J Street has a problem, with, say, kibbutz subsidies? Not to mention: Remember Yitzhak Rabin, Mr. Oren? Remember the policies of his government — policies for which an Israeli Jew killed him?), but never mind that. It’s clear that the man was fuming, and he lost the plot for a second.

The plot being to impugn me and mine, and to accuse me of a callous disregard for the very lives that I have spent the better part of a quarter of a century fighting to protect and improve.

I am J Street, Mr. Oren, and you owe me one hell of an apology.



Israel/Palestine: the basics.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy – places to start.

Israel/Palestine – a reading list.


  1. Stu

     /  December 18, 2009

    Right on! With ambassadors like these, Israel doesn’t need enemies. Check out a more polite, but still stinging, response to Oren from Meretz USA –

  2. Cotton Fite

     /  December 21, 2009

    Thanks, Emily. I attended the J Street Conference in October and am so very heartened by its commitment to give voice to the Jewish community who does not want to continue the destructive and deadly policies of the Israeli government. Ironically, I heard Oren speak in Chicago after the last Lebanon War and heard his condemnation of the use of some weaponry. I have been appalled at his willingness now to be the voice of the present government and to make such outrageous charges regarding J Street. I wager that his words will come back to bite him. Cotton Fite

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