'Israel's Self-Described Greatest Concern'

I'm telling people who are worried about the hijinks at the unofficial J Street bloggers' panel not to become overly bothered by it; it was a clownish event, and the people on the panel were marginal figures except in the rather circumscribed universe of anti-Zionists-with-Jewish parents (where they are giants).

I couldn't go to the conference, as I've explained earlier, but I have heard from many people who attended, and they describe to me an organization still finding itself. The leadership of J Street seems drawn from liberal pro-Israel circles. The average participant in the conference, they said, seemed somewhat to the left of the leadership (included in this group are the sort who often begin statements on the Middle East with "As a Jew," as in, "As a Jew, I am appalled/shocked/perturbed/ etc. etc.' These are the sort of people caught booing Rabbi Eric Yoffie for condemning the Goldstone report.)

The most problematic thing I've heard so far is the make-up of the panel meant to discuss Iran. In the program, Iran was described as "Israel's self-described greatest concern and strategic threat," which is a bit too distancing a description for me, but never mind that. The panel featured Hillary Mann Leverett, who, with her husband, Flynt Leverett, is an apologist for the Iranian regime. Goldblog Iran-Panel-Reporter-At-Large Tali Yahalom told me that the consensus on the panel, which also included Trita Parsi, who also does a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime, was that Iran doesn't think about Israel, doesn't care about Israel, and certainly doesn't want to obliterate Israel. Here are some of Hillary Mann Leverett's thoughts:

Hillary Mann Leverett: Tehran has asked for an extension of the deadline for its response to a proposal to shed most of Iran's low-enriched uranium out of the country. ... Many commentators here in the U.S. and Israel have attributed this delay to political divisions in Tehran ... (or to) quote-unquote typical Iranian negotiating behavior, that they're just merchants in the bazaar, haggling away to get the most that they can in a very deceptive atmosphere. I believe these characterizations are fundamentally misleading.

... Too often, Iran's security concerns are dismissed in the U.S. and in Israel as false or manufactured, reinforcing the stereotype of Iranians as chronically duplicitous and unprepared to keep any commitment they enter into. ...  Those stereotypes are simply not supported by the historical record. ... They are fundamentally racist -- if someone were to criticize Israeli diplomacy by referring to rabbis as lying and conspiring behind their beards, as far too many commentators accuse Iran's mullahs of lying and conspiring behind their beards, we would rightly -- and I'd be the first to -- denounce that as an anti-Semitic stereotype."

One small point worth making: Rabbis aren't in charge of Israel. Mullahs are in charge of Iran. This is a fact that probably does seem relevant to most people, though not to Hillary Mann Leverett.