Eric Fingerhut
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
July 9, 2009 - 12:00am

J Street and The Israel Project are firing shots at each other after the disclosure that The Israel Project was advising its activists to say that the removal of Jewish settlements would be a version of "ethnic cleansing."

Syndicated columnist Doug Bloomfield got his hands on an internal TIP document on how to talk to journalists and opinion leaders about the Arab-Israeli conflict. First, Bloomfield said, TIP suggests changing the subject instead of trying to defend settlements. But if that doesn't work, the group says the "best" argument is to"try accusing those who advocate removing Jewish settlements of promoting 'a kind of ethnic cleansing to move all Jews' from the West Bank":

“The single toughest issue” to defend among Americans generally and American Jews in particular is settlements, says the manual, and “hostility towards them and towards Israeli policy that appears to encourage settlement activity.” ...

Instead of defending settlements, go on the attack, advises TIP, a Washington-based group that seeks to enhance Israel’s image among journalists and policy makers. ...

TIP says the “best argument” for settlements is this: Since Arabs citizens of Israel “enjoy equal rights,” telling Jews they can’t live in the Palestinian state “is a racist idea.” (Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said this week that Jews would be welcome to live in the Palestinian state and enjoy the same rights Israeli Arabs enjoy in Israel.)

Until Israeli policy changes, TIP suggests deflecting critics by mentioning Israel’s “willingness to negotiate” and stressing how “Israel has already sacrificed in the name of peace” and got terrorists’ missiles in return.

The TIP talking points raised the ire of J Street, which sent out an e-mail Thursday urging its supporters to demand that "The Israel Project's Executive Director Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi remove any pro-settlement, fear-mongering talking points from herorganization's materials":

Unbelievable. As someone who cares about Israel's future, I know that stopping settlements - as well as Palestinian incitement and violence - are first steps towards a secure, Jewish, and democratic Israel through a two-state solution. Using terms like "ethnic cleansing" to undermine that agenda is incendiary and dangerous - and, I believe, not pro-Israel.

Mizrahi defended her use of the term "ethnic cleansing" in an interview with JTA Thursday afternoon, saying that the document that Bloomfield saw is simply telling the truth about what happened when settlements were dismantled in Gaza, something she and her organization supported and which she was in Gaza herself to see.

"What happened in Gaza was ethnic cleansing," said Mizrahi. "Every Jew left Gaza, including the dead Jews," whose graves had to be moved, she noted.

"Israel did that with the hopes of trying to jump start a two-state solution," but instead it just led to Hamas rocket attacks and more Israelis and Palestinians dying.

Thus she believes that anyone who thinks "unilateral" Israeli concessions on settlements will move the peace process forward is mistaken, and she says that any future Palestinian state should allow Jews to remain living inside it. Mizrahi adds that she was very happy with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's recent comments that Jews would be free to live under Palestinian rule in such a state -- although she doubted Hamas would accept it.

And she criticized J Street, which she feels focuses lots of attention on settlements -- and what others in the Jewish community are doing -- but rarely speaks out about the obligations that the Palestinians have and doesn't back tougher sanctions on Iran.

"I get up in the morning and say 'How can I attack the Iranian nuclear threat," said MIzrahi. J Street "gets up in the morning and says 'How can I attack other Jewish organizations?'"


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