Will the New Jewish Lobby Prompt the Creation of a Long Sought Arab Lobby?

On the third of May, 2010, the birth of a new Jewish lobby called “J Call” was announced at a Jewish convention held at the headquarters of the European Parliament. “J Call” stands for “a European Jewish quest for reason and logic”. The venue set for the convention suggests an ‘official support’ by the European Union for the new Jewish organization said to be created to enhance a Jewish moderate and active stand initially advocated  by the American Jewish lobbying Organization ‘J Street’. Indeed, the US based ‘J Street’ is seen as a moderate lobbying group founded to counter the influence of the extreme Jewish right movement which voices blind loyalty to the ultra-right government in Israel, with the support of  two major lobbying groups; AIPAC in the United States and CRIF in France.

An important document entitled ‘The Call to Reason’ was signed by the gathering at the convention aimed to address the ‘narrow mindedness of  Zionist zealots’. The document stated that “the existence of Israel is being threatened” and that “the future of Israel depends on reaching a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians according to the principle of two states for two peoples”. The signatories voiced concern over the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy calling it “a clear threat to the state of Israel” and declaring that “the automatic support of Israel’s policy does not serve its real interests.” “Our aim” explained the signatories, is to “create a European movement with a voice of logic and reason. This movement is not partisan and a one whose main aim is to insure the existence of Israel. This will never happen unless a viable sovereign Palestinian State is established”. They emphatically criticized the policy of expanding the Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied West Bank including Jerusalem as “a political and moral mistake”.

Four principles figured high at the above-mentioned convention and appeared to be targeting Jewish communities in the West:

  • The future of Israel “depends upon urgently achieving a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians, based on a two-state solution.” Israel will soon be faced with two catastrophic choices either to become “a state of a Jewish minority” or establish a “disgraceful regime that may lead to civil unrest.”
  • It is incumbent upon the European Union along with the United States to “apply pressure on both sides to help them reach a speedy solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. History confers on Europe a particular responsibility in this region of the world.”
  • While the final decision belongs to “the sovereign people of Israel,” yet, automatic “systematic support of Israel’s policy is dangerous and does not serve its true interests.”
  •  The aim of the movement is “to ensure the survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic State which depends on the creation of a Palestinian State”.

The head of the French branch David Shlomo, said their aim was only to reach out to Israel because, as he said, when a partner and a friend are in real danger, “one’s duty is to be out there for them”. Historian, Professor Za’if Shternel who survived an ultra-right attempt on his life in 2009, further explains that “the great news brought by “J Street” to American Jews is that the act of supporting Israel does not necessarily mean supporting all its policies. It requires the application of pressure on the government of Israel from three directions: the American administration, European governments and the Jewish communities”. Member of the European Parliament Cohen Bandit warned that “the Israeli policy is causing a wave of extreme animosity against Israel and against Jews in Europe and around the world. It reminds us of the sordid black times in Jewish history”.

This historical Jewish convention caused a shocking effect among Israeli rightists, within and outside Israel. Hundreds of Jewish leading figures from the far right attacked “J Call” as a dangerous organization that turned itself to be “a Jewish weapon in the hand of the enemies of Israel”. To add to their fears, “J Street” distributed during the convention results of polls which confirmed the opinion of a vast majority of Jews around the world as supporting Jewish efforts to apply pressure on Israel to follow a peaceful path with the Palestinians.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz supported the Jewish convention in Europe. Leftist Israeli Knesset member, Yossi Sarid congratulated the signatories of ‘J Call’, document saying “the best friends of Israel do not have to be from among the ones who refuse to criticize its policies.” Meanwhile, Israeli political expert, Emanuel Sivan, warned that “this active movement marks the beginning of a split between the Jews of Diaspora and Israel which raises real concern.”

The new Jewish lobby has yet to fulfill its goals, nevertheless, it is signaling a confrontation with the Israeli far right. Such a development leaves us with the unanswered question; why an ever sought Arab lobby supporting Arab stands with ability to work effectively in the USA and Europe to bring about a positive change in Western policies towards the Arab-Israeli conflict has to remain a dream unfulfilled? The new Jewish lobby with its contrasting duality, the one critical of Israeli extreme rightist policies and the other extending unconditional support to the State, reminds us of the urgent need for such a lobby. Will it serve to precipitate its creation?