The Metropolitan Democratic Club meeting on Wednesday August 10 featured two supporters of a two state solution in the Mideast, Rainer Waldman Adkins of J Street and Rob Jacobs of Stand With Us.
This was the present author’s first visit to a meeting of the Metropolitan Democrats group. Two weeks ago the organizer of the anti-Israel bus ads spoke. The opportunity to hear the responses provided a good motivation to attend.
Before the scheduled presentation about Israel began, a member of the club introduced the subject of the state budget. Distributing a recent Stranger article about the budget, she started a group discussion in objection to the continuation of tax loopholes for corporations and special interests while cuts were mandated in social services. The group decided to write a letter to Gov. Gregoire objecting to her call for budget cuts next year. State Senator Adam Kline told the group that the legislature tried hard and could not achieve the necessary 25 votes, but no substantial amount of time was devoted to his comment.
It was very clear from the comments made by the club’s members that mainstream progressive voters in the Democratic Party do not understand what happened last spring: the effects of 1053, the power held by the Republicans, the politics of the legislative session and the reasons why the proposals to close tax loopholes did not pass. It is impossible for voters to understand unless it is explained to them clearly. The Democratic leadership should communicate with the voters or the misunderstandings within the Democratic voter population will continue.
The voters are upset with Gov. Gregoire because she isn’t leading in the sense of presenting a vision and using the bully pulpit to convince the public of the need to close tax loopholes. Instead she is starting out from a defeatist position.
On to the main topic of the meeting, Israel. The foundation for Adkins’ remarks was the position that the two peoples both have legitimate claims to the same lands. He emphasized the need for a two state solution and said that the status quo is dangerous for both sides. He warned against simplistic viewpoints, reminding the group that “reality is nuanced.”
The protests of 300,000 Israelis against economic inequality would be comparable to 12 million people in the US. He believed that the Arab Spring influenced Israelis, as evidenced by “Egypt is here” signs and imagery comparing Netanyahu to Mubarak. He conjectured about the progress we could make here in the US if 12 million people went out into the streets and protested.
J Street is calling for a movement for a two state solution and for peace and emphasized Israel’s need for security. Adkins said that Mideast peace is a serious American interest. J Street opposes a one-state solution because the organization is “striving to be reality based,” a reference to the differences between the two cultures. He emphasized the peace dividend that would result if the fighting stops.
Objecting to inflammatory anti-Israel propaganda, Adkins said that the enemies of Israel act “from a place of anger. We act from a place of love.” Zionism can only succeed if there is a Palestinian state. J Street is meeting with Senators Murray and Cantwell on August 23 and is carrying out a postcard campaign advocating for the two-state solution.
Rob Jacobs of Stand With Us was concerned that the Arab Spring was being used as a means to levy inaccurate accusations against Israel. Governments falsely accused Israel of instigating the protests and some protestors believed that Israel supported the governments they were protesting against. Nearly 2000 Syrians have been killed by the Syrian government in recent months and Hezbollah supports this. Jacobs questioned why so little concern was voiced over these Arab lives as compared to outcries over Israeli settlement permits. He was distressed that some progressive Democrats have completely adopted the Palestinian narrative.
Israel upholds a more progressive agenda than its Mideast neighbors, as demonstrated in areas such as LGBT rights, and is a democracy in the Mideast. Minority populations have legal rights and hold elected office in Israel, but that is not true for the Jews in the countries that neighbor Israel.
Jacobs showed some of the maps that Israel’s critics use to claim that Israel gradually took over Palestinian land. These maps are misleading because the original map in 1946 consisted of one state controlled by England. In addition, there was trans Jordan, from which all of the Jews were expelled in 1920. The US partition added the Negev desert to Israel. This makes Israel look bigger, but the land was and still is largely uninhabitable. The 1947 boundaries were the result of the peace treaty armistice. Since 1967 Israel has withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula and gave up its only land on which there was oil.. In 1967 Egypt wouldn’t take Gaza and Jordan wouldn’t take the West Bank.
Jacobs said that Israel wants direct negotiations, but that there is no one negotiating partner on the other side. There is no guarantee that the Palestinian Authority could prevent violence on the part of Hamas. Israel’s concern is that without proper security, if it withdraws from the West Bank it will become another Gaza, from which Hamas is building up weapons and fires rockets into Israel. Israel cannot risk the firing of rockets into Tel Aviv or its main airport. There is no peace plan that Hamas will agree to.
The leadership of the Palestinian authority needs to stop the anti-Israel propaganda that is currently being disseminated to the Arab public.
Last, he said that we cannot point the finger at one side and hold the other side blameless.
During the question period, Judith Kotlikoff discussed a historical account she read about disputing the idea that the Palestinians fled in 1948. Her source accuses the Israelis of driving the Palestinians out. Jacobs stated that reputable historians dispute this claim. Adkins wanted to concentrate more on peace negotiations in the presence and on support for President Obama’s efforts to negotiate a solution.
Jacobs had stated that he has previously been acquainted with several members of the Metropolitan Democratic Club whose position has been strongly opposed to his and this was shown in a vocal group that sat in the front row. It is good that the group was willing to listen to the other side.
Someone asked about the difference between J Street and Stand With Us. Adkins described J Street as a lobbying group which fills a void in foreign policy. The group had postcards available for meeting attendees to express support for Obama’s diplomatic efforts. Adkins said that J Street supports the 1967 boundaries as a starting point, not a final agreement point, from which to adjust the lines for negotiated boundaries. It is the present author’s opinion that this may not be practical, if you think about what American towns and cities looked like in 1967 versus today.
J Street takes a balanced view and advocated on behalf of the needs of the Israelis and the Palestinians in achieving peace. Stand With Us is not a lobbying group. It is similar to the Anti-Defamation League in that it’s main focus is to oppose anti-Semitism and false statements about Israel. Stand With Us is primarily an educational organization. The attendees at the meeting may have expected a dispute between the two groups, and the two groups had philosophical differences. But the increase in anti-Semitism and propaganda has brought the two groups into greater agreement. Jacobs was visibly supportive of Adkins’ advocacy for the two state process.