"Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core."
- Hannah Arendt
J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami disavowed support for Peter Beinart's recent settlement boycott call in an interview with American Jewish establishment bouncer Jeffrey Goldberg just days before Beinart's official book release event at J Street's annual conference.
In addition to admitting, with Goldberg's agreement, that Green Line Israel and Occupying Israel are literally inseparable, Ben-Ami stated that J Street does not support the BDS call to hold Israel accountable to international law and to grant equal civil and human rights to Palestinians in their own homeland. When Goldberg asked Ben-Ami why he disagrees with Beinart's call "for a boycott of products made in settlements," the J Street head explained:
Because I don't think that it makes any sense to put negative pressure on people whose behavior you hope to change. I think that the way that Israelis will feel comfortable making the compromises and the sacrifices--and Israel as a whole, not just the settlers --is when they really feel that not only American Jews, but the United States, is going to be there for them. I think if you begin to do things that say, "We're not really with you, we're against you, we're putting pressure on you," I think that causes people to pull more into a shell and pull back.Ben-Ami added that when the "Jewish people" feel "under pressure, under criticism, under attack," they will "get defensive" and respond stubbornly and aggressively to such pressure. "Rather than it making you more inclined to do something, it actually makes you less inclined," Ben-Ami says.
So, according to the so-called "liberal" wing of the Zionist community in the United States, Jews don't respond well to "negative pressure" over the continued Israeli ethnic cleansing, occupation and colonization of Palestine. In fact, the rights-based approach of the BDS movement, in Ben-Ami's opinion, will only cause Israel and its Jewish supporters here in the U.S. to become less amenable to the basic tenets of non-discrimination, human rights, self-determination and the rule of law.
Yet, when Ben-Ami claims to believe it is counter-productive and self-defeating "to put negative pressure on people whose behavior you hope to change," his opinion doesn't appear to apply to all people, but only to Jews. Such a quirk of human nature certainly doesn't extend to Iranians. If it did, one would assume Ben-Ami wouldn't so strongly advocate for and support the multiple rounds of sanctions implemented on the Islamic Republic.
Of course, thirty years of increasingly draconian sanctions against Iran is a textbook definition of "negative pressure," and this kind of pressure - when the target is Iran, not Israel - is the kind Jeremy Ben-Ami has no qualms encouraging. But, even more importantly, let's all be clear: Israeli settlement of Palestine is illegal in the extreme; not a single government or international organization on the planet other than the offender itself recognizes such colonization as legitimate or lawful. Iran's nuclear energy program, however, is fully legal, constantly monitored and inspected, and is not weaponized. While BDS calls for Israel to respect international law, sanctions against Iran explicitly abrogate it.
In a statement released October 16, 2009 regarding the latest "Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act," Ben-Ami himself declared that, if coercive "engagement" over Iran's nuclear energy program (read: Iran kowtowing to Western diktat) fails to produce the "desired result," then "the United States should seek hard-hitting multilateral sanctions" followed by "[t]he imposition of unilateral sanctions, without UN approval or the support of allies." He also reiterated that, while his organization encourages "diplomatic engagement and multilateral action" with regard to Iran, "J Street does not oppose the imposition of sanctions per se."
Two months later, when asked why J Street supported new sanctions on Iran, Ben-Ami claimed that Congressional bill "gives the president this tool, this additional tool, to work with in trying to convince the Iranians that there's no time." Perhaps he believes that Iranians, by virtue of not being Israeli, consider sanctions to be positive pressure. But probably not, considering Ben-Ami, in the same interview said, "Well, there's no question that the sanctions ultimately does hurt people," adding, "This is also important in putting a real squeeze on the government."
Apparently Ben-Ami believes that the time Iranians have to capitulate to Western demands to give up its sovereign, national rights is short, while the Israelis have plenty more time to decide to stop their century of colonization and "pressure" might make them more dismissive of the Geneva Conventions, Nuremberg Principles, United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.