Harold Evans on Israel's Challenges from the United Nations to the J Street Lobby

What would Israel's critics have the country do?

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The Goldstone report won the gold standard of moral equivalence between the killer and the victim.

The second assault, which may yet be the more difficult for Israel, is from its own friends in the United States—from Jewish liberals. Upset by what they characterize as the unthinking knee-jerk support of everything Israel does, epitomized in their eyes by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the liberals have formed a lobby of their own named after J Street (a street that does not exist in Washington). They recently held their first conference. Most members of Congress gave it a miss, but the Obama administration blessed it by sending Gen. James Jones, the national security adviser.

Who could argue with J Street's call for "peace and a two-nation solution"? Israel itself has now formally accepted that there may be an independent state of Palestine, partly based on occupied land Israel will have to yield. Its leaders—even its much-denounced new right-wing government—acknowledge that Palestinians suffer humiliations. Israel is ready to negotiate in earnest with a stable Palestinian leadership. It's the Palestinian leadership that is letting down its people by obduracy. Long-corrupt Fatah on the West Bank is working sensibly with Israel to improve security, but Hamas, controlling Gaza, is still dedicated to the extermination of the Jewish people. Hamas rejects Fatah calls for a new election for the good reason that the people of Gaza are sickened by violence.

The J Street lobby, for all its good intentions, is not much help. Take Goldstone and the Gaza war. If Goldstone wins the gold medal for moral equivalence, J Street's Isaac Luria must win a crown for circumlocution. Here is what he said about Gaza: "While there is nothing 'right' in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing 'right' in punishing a million and a half already suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them."

Agreed. So what? What would Luria and others who speak as he does have the Israelis do?

The Hamas rockets were war crimes and ought to have been universally condemned as such. Would the J Street lobby have stayed on its perch, as the rest of the world did? While new rockets hit Israel over many months, there was no rush by the world's moralizers to pass censure on Hamas, none of the urgency that we saw from "world opinion" when Israel finally responded. Then Israel was immediately accused of a "disproportionate" response without anyone thinking, "Now, what is a 'proportionate' response against an enemy dedicated to exterminating your people?" A dedication to exterminating all of his?

Israel risked its own forces by imposing unprecedented restraint. In personal testimony volunteered to the Human Rights Council (and ignored), British Col. Richard Kemp, a former commander in Bosnia and Afghanistan, stated: "The Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare." Indeed, the "collateral damage" was less than the NATO allies inflicted on the Bosnians in the conflict with Yugoslavia.

No doubt there were blunders. A defensive war is still a war, with all its suffering and destruction. But Hamas compounded its original war crime with another. It held its own people hostage. It used them as human shields. It regarded every (accidental) death as another bullet in the propaganda war.

There is an air of unreality about the J Street lobby: hope engendered by amnesia.

The Israeli withdrawal was a wonderful chance for Gaza to be the building block of a new Palestinian state. Hamas had a chance to do what the Israelis did—take a piece of land and build a model state. It didn't. Instead of helping the desperate Palestinians, Hamas conducted a religious war. Israel withdrawal was rewarded with missile attacks.

And what do J Street's lobbyists think about the way Hamas plundered the greenhouses left by the Israelis that might have been a foundation for new Palestinian businesses? When Hamas took control of Gaza by violence, it didn't do anything for the desperate Palestinians. Millions of dollars of international aid money was diverted to circumvent the U.N. and dig hundreds of tunnels, bringing in material for rockets. Before the Gaza war began, thousands of rockets had landed.