I made a mistake in this post and I hope my friend will forgive me. I stopped reading former AIPAC and Israeli D.C. embassy official Lenny Ben-David’s vile screed against J Street after he descended into racist innuendo that the organization is suspect because it takes money from (gasp) human beings of Arabian heritage. Had I read further, I would have seen that he uses as a case study my friend Rebecca Abou-Chedid.
Take for example, the case of Rebecca Abou-Chedid. She appears in the federal elections records as contributing to J Street’s PAC. Her occupation is listed as “consultant” for “USUS LLC.” But until recently, she was also the national political director at the Arab American Institute where she “was responsible for formulating AAI’s positions on foreign policy … and represented the Arab American community with Congress as well as the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State.” Today, Abou-Chedid is the director of outreach at the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force.
And blah blah onto an arguendo point about J Street’s “interlocking directorship.” This is what they call a teachable moment.
You will notice that nowhere in Lenny Ben-David’s post is there any accusation that Rebecca has taken any sort of objectionable stand or made any sort of objectionable point. And that’s because it is impossible to do so. I would wager that every journalist in Washington who writes on Middle East peace issues has had some interaction with Rebecca, as has every Hill staffer and innumerable current and former administration officials. Every single one of us will attest that Rebecca is incapable of ill will toward the Jewish people or toward Israel. Her entire professional life is devoted to peace, reconciliation, and two states. I have repeatedly marveled at how good natured she can be. Many has been the time I have felt that I’ve been too dour or pessimistic about peace in her presence, because Rebecca lives it. Anyone who has spent any time with her, any time at all, knows how true this is. And any person or organization that would disrespect her is not sincerely interested in peace.
All Ben-David does, like the cowardly racist he is, is point out that Rebecca has worked for the Arab-American Institute and now works for New America. Oh, and there’s that matter of her Lebanese name, of course. What he is trying to do is simple: scare Jews into tribal and atavistic fear against an organization that says, proudly, peace for Israel, the Palestinians and the region is in everyone’s interest. There is nothing more than that in his piece — nothing at all. It’s not the organization with support from Rebecca that has to answer for something. The organization that doesn’t have her support has to explain itself.
We Jews in this country frequently demand that our Arab-American fellow citizens denounce the radical and racist fringe in their midst. Yet they show more fortitude in doing so than we do when we’re faced with a Lenny Ben-David, someone who once worked for the premiere Israel-U.S. lobby group and even for the Israeli embassy. Every Jew who knows Rebecca — knows the goodness in her heart and her soul and the relentlessness with which she works to make peace a reality — must denounce Lenny Ben-David. I’ll go first, and very eagerly:
Lenny Ben-David, you and I will meet someday, face to face. I hope it comes very soon. I promise you it will be an unforgettable experience.