At Large

A Sordid Exercise

Sorry entities like Jimmy Carter and the Israel Policy Forum are busily repackaging terrorist Hamas into a moderate force for peace.

By 4.17.08

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Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas has been roundly condemned as another expression of his anti-Israel sentiment. Ken Stein, director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel at Emory University, who resigned as a fellow of the Carter Center in the wake of the former president's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, said at the time that Carter recasts Hamas as a moderate partner ready to negotiate with Israel. He launders its reputation both with careful word choice and omission. He uses the past tense, for example, to describe Hamas as an "Islamic militant group that opposed recognition of Israel [and] perpetrated acts of violence."

But Carter is not alone in this sordid exercise. Three weeks ago I wrote an article revealing that Barack Obama's national campaign co-chairman believed that the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East were Jewish voters who were acting in opposition to American interests and against a lasting peace. Most of the criticism of the piece came from Jewish leftists who not only support the Carter trip but share his view -- and the view of many Obama advisers -- that the principal obstacle to peace in the Middle East is a small handful of neocons and Christian Zionists who abet Israel in its willingness to hang on to Jerusalem and the territories.

Much like Carter, groups such as the Israel Policy Forum seek a "shift" in America's approach to the Middle East that begins and ends with making nice to Hamas. Read how Seymour Reich, President of IPF -- like Jimmy Carter -- played down Hamas's genocidal actions Hamas through semantics and omission in a recent Boston Globe editorial:

While there are legitimate concerns [!] over Hamas policy and over direct engagement with it, it is impossible to achieve an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians on any of the key issues without engaging Hamas through some means. Hamas is the governing authority in Gaza, a reality we can no longer ignore... Hamas can torpedo talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority by intensified rocket attacks or suicide bombings...

Reich is correct when he notes that Hamas is the governing authority. But like the rest of the Jewish Left, he construes terror as a tactic, not an instrument of jihad. He ignores the fact that when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 Hamas-sponsored rocket activity surged by 500 percent. That increase, along with the tunnels that were built to allow genocide bombers to enter Israel even as Israel was forcibly dismantling settlements, had nothing to do with an effort to undermine peace talks. Negotiating for a cessation of violence that a return of territory was supposed to produce is called rewarding terrorism.

Except in the eyes of Jimmy Carter and the likes of the Israel Policy Forum. When Hamas was elected and took over Gaza, Congress crafted legislation that would insure any funds going to the Palestinian Authority did not go to Hamas. The Israeli government supports the initiative. Who opposed it? Hamas and the IPF.

M. J. Rosenberg, IPF's policy director who has kinder things to say about Hamas than he does the Jewish residents of the settlements, said at the time, "We oppose the legislation. The U.S. should be extending carrots to Hamas, and not just slapping them with sticks."

Indeed, Rosenberg has kinder things to say about Hamas, Stephen Walt, and John Mearsheimer than he does about his Jewish brethren. He calls Jewish settlers that have, with support of the government and often at the cost of their lives and the lives of their children, tamed a dangerous border, "the worst of the worst." (He claims young Israeli soldiers hate every minute of their service in Hebron. He should speak to my son who serves in the IDF and has nothing but good things to say about Hebron's residents.)

Meanwhile, here's what he has to say about Walt-Mearsheimer and their j'accuse, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy:

It's an important, heavily sourced and documented book (108 pages of footnotes) by two distinguished professors at two of our best universities. It deals with Middle East policymaking at a time when America's problems in that region surpass our problems anywhere else. And it is a serious book about a subject that is decidedly provocative, a much improved and expanded version of the original London Review of Books article.

Neither Rosenberg nor the IPF are alone in their passions or positions. Something called the J-Street Project is being launched by left-wing Jews who worked for Carter, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The J-Street board of advisers includes former Clinton aide Daniel Levy, Obama Mideast adviser Robert Malley, and Alan Solomon, a top Obama fundraiser.

The invitation to the first meeting of J Street observes:

For too long, the loudest American voices in political and policy debates have been those on the far right -- often Republican neoconservatives or extreme Christian Zionists....We are the first and only lobby and PAC (political action committee) dedicated to ensuring Israel's security, changing the direction of American policy in the Middle East and opening up American political debate about Israel and the Middle East.

As noted, change boils down to blaming Israel for the actions of Hamas and Islamic hatred of Israel.

Here's Daniel Levy blaming terrorism and genocidal acts on...Israel, of course:

There is also very strong case to be made that the endless humiliations of the occupation and its manifestations in checkpoints, closures, military raids, and sonic boom over flights, etch a more powerful image into a young Palestinian conscience than words occasionally heard on unpopular TV stations or on a mosque on a Friday.

SETTING ASIDE THE "blame Israel first" approach of these groups, what exactly would their Carteresque approach to negotiating a ceasefire with Hamas accomplish? These groups call for UN forces or a "robust" international military presence. A good example can be drawn from the recent ceasefire in Lebanon. Since the UN forces entered Lebanon, Hezbollah has been rearming itself with tons of weapons, including Russian-made antitank missiles, short- and long-range rockets, small arms, mines, and ammunition. Hezbollah now has substantially more rockets in its arsenal than the 14,000 it had before the conflict -- likely more than double that number.

Similarly, each time a ceasefire has taken place in Gaza, Hamas has re-armed and re-grouped for its next round of attacks on Israel, courtesy of Iran. As David Hazony has pointed out, thanks to Iranian cash and training, Hamas now has a terrorist Army equal to Hezbollah. The al Qaeda presence has grown with Iranian assent. Hamas functions as an arm of Iran. It exists so that there will be another front against Israel's Western flank, to parallel the one up north.

Which is exactly the strategic vision that binds Jimmy Carter and his supporters on the Jewish Left. To them, Israel's ultimate configuration, demographic, strategic, political, should be decided by others than the Israeli people -- especially those despicable settlers and Orthodox -- who are obviously too stubborn to know what's best for regional peace.

But there is also something else growing. Groups like the IPF consist of Jews who feel uncomfortable with a powerful Jewish state instead of a scattered and battered Jewish people. They wish to reduce Israel into an extension of the Jewish Diaspora, assimilated and marginally committed to Jewish continuity. They rush to defend Israel's most venal critics. But worst of all, to paraphrase Mitchell Cohen in Dissent magazine, there is nothing Hamas does that they ultimately don't blame on Israel. That's an enslavement of a totally different type to contemplate during Passover.

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About the Author
Robert M. Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and founder of Hands Off My H ealth, a grass roots health care empowerment network. His is new book, Tabloid Medicine: How the Internet is Being Used To Hijack Medical Science For Fear and Profit, was published last month by Kaplan.