Sunday, September 08, 2013

Syria, AIPAC, and J Street

Things might change later this week, but I couldn't help but notice the delicious irony that has confronted the two opposing US pro-Israel advocacy groups as they come to terms with President Barack Obama's bumbling approach to a proposed military operation against Bashar "Breaking Bad" al-Assad.

Ever since J Street emerged in the 2008 election cycle, I've had a theory that always seemed to be re-verified: the true purpose of the fake movement J Street was to provide progressive pro-Obama American Jews a sense of belonging. In my theory, J Street could care less about the two state solution, or the plight of the Palestinians, or the corrosive moral rot of the occupation - all that was blather, a smokescreen to hide its true purpose. In my theory, the real reason for the existence of J Street was to galvanize progressive American Jews who "cared" about the future of Israel into a political force that would support the Obama administration's approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, whatever it was, and keep those Jews in line. J Street was an ethnic brick in the Obama coalition.

So now, 5 years later, comes the moment of truth: Obama wants to bomb al-Assad, but in a surprising turn, wants to have the American political system back him before he strikes. And as the dust settles on that stunning development, American Jewish policy organizations have one after another been forced to take a stand. The much larger and more successful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has decided to go "all-in" on behalf of a president it oftentimes disdains & distrusts. Published reports tell of a decision within AIPAC to send a flood of advocates to Congress this coming week on behalf of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

But so far, J Street is like a deer caught in the headlights. As late as September 6, Buzzfeed reported that J Street is in the midst of intense internal discussions of just how to proceed.

One can expect that the currently "undecided" J Street operators are agonizing with the throes of a classic conundrum. Their champion is advocating military action which most American Jews support, and which Israelis of all stripes overwhelmingly want. I suspect that many of J Street's supporters are at best conflicted, and quite possibly opposed to military action in Syria, because progressives in American politics are opposed to further American intervention in the Middle East. The fact that more than a week has gone by since Obama's "road to Damascus" conversion and J Street hasn't been able to muster anything more than a toothless UN-style condemnation of the use of chemical weapons speaks volumes as to the organizations ultimate irrelevancy.

Eventually the poor deers of J Street will have to chime in one way or the other. If they ultimately come out in favor of the President, it will be a half-hearted leap. If they choose to oppose their beloved commander-in-chief and his wannabe predecessor John Kerry, it will be equally meek. For someone who has always doubted J Street's sincerity and commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace, I feel nothing but schadenfreude for the hapless souls of this progressively pointless organization.

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