TBI hosts J Street speakers
By JOSEPH A LIEBERMAN
article created on: 2011-02-15T00:00:00
A Eugene audience heard arguments in favor of J Street’s approach to Israeli politics at Temple Beth Israel on Jan.12.
Under the title, “Who Speaks for the American Jewish Community?,” National Field Director Carinne Luck presented the case for her organization’s support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bolstered by finding diplomatic rather than military solutions, including for Iran. She was assisted by Northern California/Northwest Regional Director Gordon Gladstone.
Luck was born in Israel, educated in England and lives in Brooklyn. She spoke about J Street’s early optimism regarding Obama’s presidency, which she said faded with the administration’s emphasis on settlements. “The focus should be on the endgame,” she said, “and specifically on final borders and security.”
While she acknowledged that J Street is sporadically referred to as a “bunch of peaceniks,” she assured her listeners that Israel’s security is their top concern. At present, what troubles her most is, “sanctions resulting in Israel’s growing isolation, recent Israeli government moves toward apparently restricting democracy and an inadequate response to what may be a short-lived moderate Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.”
At the same time, Luck said she was “feeling strangely optimistic, even as the conversation has become more polarized.” She explained that there seems to be “more coming together” among disparate pro-Israel elements in response to outside forces’ adverse attempts to delegitimize Israel. “Some criticism of Israel is fair,” she added, “but not delegitimization.”
During the Q and A that followed, congregation members asked about the George Soros secret donation “scandal,” what happens when J Street “crosses swords” with AIPAC, and what a questioner called J Street’s perceived preoccupation with Israel’s intransigence rather than the Palestinians’.
Luck responded to each: “All donors are allowed anonymity. J Street is more often lobbying on the same side as AIPAC, and both Israel and the Palestinians need to stop talking about talking and get to the final issues.”
TBI’s Rabbi Yitzchak Husbands-Hankin asked what the status of existing settlements in Palestinian territories might be if there were a two-state solution. Luck replied that about 70 percent of settlers have said they’d be willing to remain in these “ancestral lands” even under Palestinian citizenship.
Rabbi Maurice Harris of TBI said he agreed with a two-state solution, but worried about non-state players such as Hezbollah and Hamas who were being armed clandestinely with longer range rockets by Iran and Syria. Luck felt that J Street’s backing of the START Treaty helps distance Russia from Iran, and that a two-state solution would influence Syria and possibly even Hamas toward coexistence.
She pointed out that recent WikiLeaks indicate other MidEast nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt also do not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran.
TBI plans to hold a similar evening for representatives from AIPAC later this year.