As Ambassador Dennis Ross prepares to speak at the upcoming J Street conference, he might want to think about addressing a few serious concerns during his speech. While Ross has certainly been a friend to Israel, some of the people he’ll be sharing the spotlight with at the conference have not. Far from it — quite a few of them can’t be characterized as anything other than outright enemies of the Jewish state. And so by lending his profile to the event, Ross is giving credence to the noxious ideas of his fellow conference speakers.
The Emergency Committee for Israel has outlined some of the troublesome statements made by other conference speakers in a letter it sent to Ross today. These include the claim that Israel is “a full-fledged Apartheid system,” as Ross’s fellow speaker Mustafa Barghouti alleges. Add to that the insistence, by Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, that Hamas shouldn’t be “lumped in” with other terrorist groups. And Edina Lekovic’s designation of Osama bin Laden as a “freedom fighter.” Consider also the allegation, by James Zogby, that the IDF is waging a “Holocaust” against the Palestinian people. And the dangerous theory that Jewish members of the Bush administration were surreptitious agents of Israel, as advanced by Lawrence Wilkerson.
If all that isn’t sufficient to dissuade Ross from attending the conference, how about the contention that Israel is illegitimate or that it must be boycotted or that its government officials and soldiers are war criminals, or any of the other delegitimization themes promoted by NGO leaders like Naomi Chazan, Rebecca Vilkomerson, and Oded Na’aman.
It can be assumed that Ross doesn’t buy into these toxic claims. So why would he give them legitimacy by tying his name to this event? Will he address and reject them unequivocally during his speech? And is he prepared to deal with the consequences to his reputation if these sort of outlandish statements are made during the conference he’s keynoting?
The Emergency Committee for Israel has rightly asked Ross to “seize this moment to explain why the Jewish State is not just one of our closest allies, but a country that fully deserves the admiration and moral support of all Americans.” This type of vicious anti-Israel rhetoric can’t be allowed to pass by unchallenged. And if Ross fails to address it, there’s certainly nobody else speaking at the conference who will.