With Friends Like These: The Return of Moral Equivalence

During the dark days of the Cold War, the doctrine of "moral equivalence" began to emerge. It referred to those who equated the expansionist aims of the Soviet Union with the defensive response to its policies by the Western powers. Its adherents also compared the repression typified by Stalin's vast Gulag system with the era of so-called McCarthyism in the United States.  In contrast to the millions murdered by Stalin, McCarthyism resulted in job losses or in some cases imprisonment for contempt of Congress when a few opponents of the bi-partisan Cold War policies of the United States refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

What "moral equivalence" actually revealed was the lack of understanding of what the Cold War was about by those who believed the United States was as guilty and as evil as the Soviet Union. Today, unfortunately, we are seeing the re-emergence of this kind of thinking by those who condemn Israel for its attack on Gaza, and who accuse it of being as responsible as Hamas for the fighting and the deaths of innocent civilians.

What is most galling, however, is that this confused thinking is coming from liberal quarters in the "progressive Jewish community," in particular, the group known as J-Street. The organization was founded last year as a self-proclaimed alternative lobby to AIPAC, which according to the new group's founders, was too in line with the Bush Administration's foreign policy and too hawkish. J-Street defines itself as the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement and as such supports a new direction for American foreign policy in the Middle East.  Their goal is to start a public debate about the U.S.'s role in the region that will be a break from the past.

J-Street believes that they, not AIPAC, are the true friends of Israel. Proclaiming that most American Jews were actually liberals (true) and in favor of a two-state solution in the Middle East(also true), J Street announced that it, more than AIPAC, would represent the actual political sentiment of most American Jews.

J-Streets real agenda, however, is to be seen in its response to Israel's action in Gaza. The IDF campaign, they declared, not only left hundreds dead and wounded, but pushed "the long-running Palestinian conflict further down a path of never-ending violence."  Arguing that they alone stand for "sanity and moderation," they claim that there is "truth on both sides," i.e., Israel and Hamas both have equally valid arguments and that "neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong."