In memory of Adrienne Rich

I have just learned that Adrienne Rich, the renowned and brilliant feminist poet has died at the age of 82. 

I am not going to go on at length, here. But I want to say that I was proud to have called Adrienne a friend. She was one of the earliest supporters of both Jewish Voice for Peace and my own work as an analyst and writer on Middle East matters.

Adrienne supported JVP financially, and me personally. Her thinking, her support and her criticism meant a lot to JVP’s and my early growth.

All that is aside from her brilliant work as a feminist and political thinker.

She was a woman of bravery, frankness, grace and warmth. I am a better person for having known her, and feel privileged to have not only read her work but to have called her a friend. She will be missed.

Restoring Israeli Political Discourse

This week’s Souciant pieceis up. In it, I look at what was perhaps the high point for me of this year’s J Street conference, the words of new Meretz chairwoman, Zehava Gal-

Meretz chairwoman, Zehava Gal-On

On. Meretz has been reduced to a tiny party in the Knesset, but a voice as powerful and clear as Gal-On’s really does have the potential to start shifting Israeli discourse away from its current, fascist direction.

J Street Looking Less And Less Like A Potential Game-Changer

This article originally appeared on LobeLog

Four years ago, there was some hope in Washington that J Street, the self-proclaimed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” Jewish lobbying group, could someday provide a

J Street President, Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the crowd at J Street's third conference

counterweight to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

No one expected J Street to seriously challenge AIPAC after just four years. But the organization’s track record to date gives some cause for concern with regard to the direction its heading in.

J Street has had some controversial missteps in its time. For example, its waffling on the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-09, and its dissembling response when it was revealed that left-wing magnate George Soros had been one of its key initial funders.

This time their investment in Peter Beinart presented a hurdle for them. Beinart published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for what he regrettably termed “Zionist BDS,” which is simply a new name for a policy long advocated by left-wing groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and more center-left groups likeAmericans for Peace Now. It basically advocates for the boycott of settlement products, services and venues.

Just a few days before Beinart appeared as one of the key figures at their conference, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami gave an interview to Iran/Israel hawk Jeffrey Goldberg where he strongly criticized Beinart’s stance. The result, which became apparent when the issue came up during one of the plenaries, was to split the conference audience over the issue. Continue reading

Pro-Peace Jewish Lobby Stresses Return to Stalled Talks

My report for Inter Press Service on the J Street conference is up and running. This one reports on some highlights of the conference. I hope to write more about it in the next few days, giving more of an analysis of the conference.

Well, They Let Me In…

Just to let my readers know, I’m covering the J Street conference, starting tonight (indeed, I’m writing this from the opening plenary). I’ll be writing it up for Inter Press Service, and hopefully blogging some things afterward as well. I’ll also be live tweeting, so you can follow me on Twitter @MitchellPlit or on Facebook.

But I think it bears noting that J Street has no more guarantee of my objectivity, or that I’ll write a positive article about the conference, than AIPAC did (other than my own integrity). They had no problem letting me in, and good for them. It just serves as a further counterpoint: J Street has a lot more to worry about with negative press than AIPAC, yet somehow big, tough AIPAC was scared of little old me. Look here and see if you think their fear was justified.

Anyway, I’ll do everything I can to keep you posted on this conference. With Jeremy Ben-Ami having just heavily criticized the rock star of the group, Peter Beinart, in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic, it’s not exactly off to a promising start. And the key Obama Administration speaker, Anthony Blinken, is a considerable step down from Dennis Ross last year, and even more so from Jim Jones, the National Security Adviser at the time, at their first conference. But we’ll see….

Separate But Federal

My latest piece is up at Souciant. I’ve been spending a good deal of space in the past year on the idea that the two-state solution as previously conceived is dead. Today, I try to start a conversation about where we go from here, for those of us who believe, as I do, that the single state will mean either greatly escalated violence or the spreading and entrenchment of apartheid, as it exists in the West Bank.

The New Iron Wall

In my latest piece for Souciant, I speculate about the possibility that the strong performance of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system in recent days might make Israel even more reckless and foolhardy about an attack on Iran.

I still don’t believe an attack on Iran will happen, and make no mistake, I am delighted that Iron Dome can protect innocent Israelis from harm (it would be nice if Palestinians had any sort of protection at all, let alone something similar). Still, with the heightened rhetoric and tough talk, and the moves to increase pressure on Iran, we have an atmosphere where a mistake or miscalculation could bring on results I don’t think anyone, save for a few warmongering neoconservatives, really wants. A lowered sense of vulnerability can, possibly, make that risk worse.