ZOA Criticizes J Street & Peace Now For Opposing Iran Sanctions – Whose Side Are They On?
September 17, 2009

Even Israeli leftists support sanctions





The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed shock and dismay that organizations like J Street, Peace Now and Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, which always describe themselves as Zionist, pro-Israel, pro-peace and supporting the “peace camp” in Israel. Yet, they have actually taken a position to the left of leading Israeli leftists. Israeli leftists are urging support for strong sanctions against Iran if it does not halt its drive to acquire nuclear weapons. ZOA has noted that the Israel Labor Party, the far-left Meretz Party and leading leftist figures, including Yossi Beilin, an architect of the Oslo process and a former leader of Meretz, have all publicly called for strong Western sanctions against Iran. In contrast, radical left-wing Jewish organizations like J Street, Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom have publicly opposed the imposition of sanctions against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.


The Labor leader and current Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has made Iran’s isolation the centerpiece of his exchanges with his counterparts in the West. So has Meretz, which often frames its arguments for diplomacy in terms of the need to contain Iran’s ambitions. Beilin has told audiences that the late Yitzhak Rabin launched Oslo principally because of his fears of Iran, telling a German audience last year that he “advocates increased sanctions towards Iran in order to stop centrifugal uranium programs.”


Avshalom Vilan, a Meretz Knesset Member until March, was a forceful advocate of reaching out to countries most able to wound Iran’s economy, including Germany and India. Brigadier-General Yisraela Oron, Israel’s highest ranking female soldier, speaking at a J Street event, also called for diplomatic engagement with Iran to be within a limited timetable and tied to punishing sanctions. Oron said that “The thing that worries me and that worries other Israelis is that it is not limited in time … I’m not sure I’m expressing the J Street opinion.”


Yet Americans for Peace Now is unequivocally opposed to any timetable for negotiations and strong sanctions. Its spokesman Ori Nir said, “We don’t think crippling sanctions are right if the meaning of that is that the sanctions will not be targeted against Iran’s governments and leaders but will target Iranian people …We think that’s not only morally wrong but is also strategically perilous.” In a policy statement, J Street says it does not oppose further sanctions “in principle,” but “under the current circumstances, it is our view that ever harsher sanctions at this time are unlikely to cause the Iranian regime to cease weapons development … [Engagement should] not be conducted with a stopwatch.” And Brit Tzedek v’Shalom stated in July that it opposes “diplomatic isolation or veiled threats of military action” and advocates “utilizing diplomatic and economic incentives and sanctions together” (Ron Kampeas, ‘On Iran Timetable, U.S. Jewish and Israeli Left Are Divided,’ Jewish Telegraphic Agency, September 7, 2009).


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “ZOA is strongly critical of J Street, Peace Now and other radical, far-left Jewish groups taking position even to the left of Israel’s own unabashedly leftist leaders. We are frankly horrified that these groups would take such a position when dealing with a basic, indeed existential, threat to Israeli security – an Islamist Iranian regime intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and which has denied the Holocaust and called for the destruction of both Israel and the United States.


“This is matter of compelling urgency that goes to the heart of Israel’s security and survival. If something is not done not stop Iran, a major disaster could be in the offing. We must also understand that Iran could share nuclear weapons with Syria, Libya, Hamas and even Al-Qaeda.

Just as we rarely take risks in our personal lives when the risks involved are life-threatening, we cannot afford delay and risk-taking now.


“Here, we are not even talking about immediate military action. All that is involved is sanctions, something that can be an aid to the slim prospects of diplomacy. As the preeminent nineteenth century Austrian statesman, Metternich, said, ‘diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments.’ Yet J Street, Peace Now and Brit Tzedek V’Shalom seem to believe that one can have meaningful diplomacy, not only without arms, but without sticks of any sort.


“One has to ask whose side is J Street, Peace Now and Brit Tzedek V’Shalom on? Whose interest do they represent?  They clearly do not represent, on a crucial issue of national importance to Israel, the views of even the far-left corner of the Israeli political spectrum.”


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