An Open Letter to Jeremy Ben-Ami

By Daniel M. Cohen

…That noted, I found your recent post on the murders of Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar to be both disappointing and extremely disturbing. You began your post by referring to “three teenage boys…” You did not even show the boys or their families the dignity of referring to them by name. Moreover, you never mentioned the perpetrators of these horrific crimes and you never used the term “terrorist.” To equate the murders of three Israeli teens who were hitchhiking home from school to the shooting of a Palestinian teen who was throwing rocks at soldiers is an outrage. I understand that you were trying to equate the grief of a Jewish mother with that of a Palestinian mother. To be sure, the anguish of a parent whose child has died is heartbreaking, no matter the circumstances. But there is no basis for equating how or why the two boys died. One was an innocent hitchhiker. The other was throwing stones – not pebbles, but stones – at soldiers…

Read full article here
Originally published on The Times of Israel

Anti-J Street sentiment dominates forum

While the tenor of the recent “Is J Street Good for Israel” forum in Lake Worth on June 18 was almost entirely anti-J Street, the lack of participation by a representative or supporter of J Street on the panel means there still is a great need for a South Florida forum with panelists on both sides of this question.

J Street is a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit liberal advocacy group, founded in 2008, which calls itself “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.” J Street advocates a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians as the only way to bring about Middle East peace.

Those against J Street believe J Street is funded by enemies of Israel who are directing the organization to create confusion among the Jewish community, particularly in Jewish college students, to weaken the support of America and the American Jewish community for Israel. They believe the Palestinians cannot be trusted because they still aim for the destruction of Israel — as evidenced by their continued terrorist activity and virulent anti-Jewish propaganda.

According to Jewish activist Alan Bergstein, one of three anti-JStreet panelists (along with Tom Trento and Ron Wexler): “It all comes down to the simple idea that if the Palestinians put down their weapons, there’d be peace tomorrow, but if the Israelis put down their weapons, there’d be no more Israel.”

Rabbi Barry Silver, of Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, organized the free event as part of the Rabbi Sam Silver Controversial Issues Forum — held the third Wednesday of every month in honor of the rabbi’s late father. Silver advertised “an open discussion with audience participation and a lively exchange of varying viewpoints.”

However, Scott Brockman, the Boca Raton-based Southern Regional director of J Street, opted out of coming to the forum — largely because of Silver’s original plan to show excerpts of the “J Street Challenge,” an anti-J Street documentary which came out earlier in the year.

Continue reading here.

Originally published on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Powerful anti-Israel forces at work in U.S.

By Larry Levine

“Unified front no more: Some Jewish groups spar over Israel” was an Associated Press article in Monday’s Dispatch. Reportedly, Jewish organizations are withdrawing invitations to Jewish speakers or performers who are too critical of Israel, but ironically, this happens more often in the reverse.

Open Hillel was mentioned as a response to Hillel’s ban on speakers such as the BDS movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions), who delegitimize or demonize Israel. But that ban is understandable. A truly pro-Israel organization such as Hillel is under no obligation to host people who want to see Israel dismantled.

Another example was that the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, representing more than 50 organizations, denied membership to J Street, a lobbying group that promotes itself as pro-Israel but isn’t.

Many groups on the council, such as Peace Now and Ameinu, are highly critical of Israel. J S treet was rejected for its behavior, including failing to disclose who funds it (George Soros and others unfriendly to Israel), for its support of groups openly hostile to Israel and for many other factors.

Ironically, those same people who say they are denied access to such institutions are, in fact, trying to deny access to those who oppose them.

I sponsored the film The J Street Challenge, which is critical of the group, and found much resistance locally. We were denied permission to post fliers in the synagogues that support J Street, and complaints were lodged at the local theater that screened the movie. We had invited the local leadership of J Street to speak or attend the screening, but they declined.

Apparently this has happened all across the country.

The article’s premise that American college campuses have become ideological battle zones over Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories is wrong. What is actually happening is an orchestrated effort by those on the far left to delegitimize, isolate, divest and ultimately destroy Israel.

J Street’s stated goal upon its founding was to weaken AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the lobbying group for Israel. AIPAC supports the elected government of Israel, no matter which party or ideology is in power.

J Street is a political organization that mostly or primarily supports those on the left. It was formed to appeal to college students who are generally liberal and idealistic. Its purported pro-Israel and pro-peace message is nothing more than an advertising gimmick to fool and lure young students.

In the film The J Street Challenge, New York law professor Alan Dershowitz, hardly considered to be a right-winger, said he found in his research that, as of early this year, J Street had never printed a positive press release about Israel.

The string that ties all of these groups together is billionaire George Soros. Soros has displayed open hostility to Israel and has funded many overtly anti-Israel organizations.

J Street publicly states that it is against the BDS movement, yet it hosts BDS at its conventions and lets it have seminars. J Street even held a seminar at its national convention on how to subvert the Birthright Israel organization. Birthright Israel is a program designed for young people to travel to the Holy Land and learn about Jewish culture and history.

My point is, there is a concerted, purposeful attempt by the far left and Soros to divide the Jewish community when it comes to Israel.

Originally published on The Columbus Dispatch


Israel, once a cause that united American Jews, is now dividing them along ideological lines

Associated Press

Once a unifying cause for generations of American Jews, Israel is now bitterly dividing Jewish communities.

Jewish organizations are withdrawing invitations to Jewish speakers or performers considered too critical of Israel, in what opponents have denounced as an ideological litmus test meant to squelch debate. Some Jewish activists have formed watchdog groups, such as Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, or COPMA, and JCC Watch, to monitor programming for perceived anti-Israel bias. They argue Jewish groups that take donations for strengthening the community shouldn’t be giving a platform to Israel’s critics.

American campuses have become ideological battle zones over Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories, with national Jewish groups sometimes caught up on opposing sides of the internal debate among Jewish students. The “Open Hillel” movement of Jewish students is challenging speaker guidelines developed by Hillel, the major Jewish campus group, which bars speakers who “delegitimize” or “demonize” Israel. Open Hillel is planning its first national conference in October.

And in a vote testing the parameters of Jewish debate over Israel, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, a national coalition that for decades has represented the American Jewish community, denied membership in April to J Street, the 6-year-old lobby group that describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace and has sometimes criticized the Israeli government. Opponents of J Street have been showing a documentary called “The J Street Challenge,” in synagogues and at Jewish gatherings around the country, characterizing the group as a threat from within.

“I believe this has reached a level of absurdity now,” said Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder of the IKAR-LA Jewish community in California, which is considered a national model for reinvigorating religious life. “Even where people are acting from a place of love and deep commitment that Israel remains a vital and vibrant state, they are considered outside the realm. It’s seen as incredibly threatening and not aligned with the script the American Jewish community expects.”

Continue reading here

Originally published on Fox News


J Street Lies to Constituents, Outlines Media Strategy Via Email

By Daniel Mael

In an email obtained by TruthRevolt, J Street’s Director of Regional Operations and Strategy Josh Friedes outlined J Street’s strategic response to the film the J Street Challenge:

Please find below the most substantive rebuttal thus far to the J Street Challenge. Jeremy wrote in response to many requests we have received from our leaders and activists who are on the front-lines in their communities and who have subsequently requested a definitive response to which they could refer those making genuine inquiries about the facts. It will be posted on Times of Israel early this afternoon.

This piece takes to task several of the film’s most strident accusations. It can be sent to individuals who inquire in tandem with a link to the Myths and Facts page of our website. The Myths and Facts page offers a more comprehensive address of the film’s catalog of spurious allegations.

We have, to date, pursued a strategy of very limited public response to the film to ensure that we do nothing to help Charles Jacobs to promote it. And it has worked well. With the exception of one showing sponsored jointly by a local federation and a Hillel and another by a JCC, Charles Jacobs has been otherwise relegated to renting venues without support or sanction from mainstream Jewish community organizations. Similarly, the film has gained very little traction in the media beyond coverage by the usual suspects of right-wing columnists and bloggers.

We believe this intentionally limited engagement remains the best way to deny Jacobs the fight for which he is spoiling and which he needs to continue to publicize his film. Accordingly, we ask that you use this piece very selectively. You can direct people who inquire to it and it can inform your own conversations with them. In exceptional cases where an op-ed or a letter to the editor that draws on it is warranted, we ask that you coordinate closely with your field team representative.

Thanks for all you do,

Josh

Friedes then linked to J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami’s article ironically titled “Setting the record straight” though the article did little of that. Days later, Chloe Valdary of the University of New Orleans responded to Ben-Ami’s article calling out J Street’s “bigotry” and “intolerance”:

But Ben-Ami’s shtick wears thin. In suggesting that those who challenge J Street’s positions are intellectually incompetent, he does not live up to the very standards he purports to promote. He does not debate the substance of arguments. Instead, he smears his opponents by calling them names so he won’t have to address the issues. Ben-Ami portrays those who object to his musings as evil people who must be censored and whose ideas must not be considered.  He imagines that his own opinions are inherently superior and displays prejudicial intolerance for the views of others. This is fascism and it is unacceptable.

J Street engages in the tactics its founders claim to eschew. This is why we have an aversion to the organization. We are less concerned with its official policies (regardless of how utterly ludicrous they are) and more disturbed by its members’ deliberate feigning of victimhood all while they harass those who disagree with its policy prescriptions. The notion that J Street alone possesses all the right answers and that dissenting naysayers are to be perceived as a threat to the Jewish people illustrates just how hot the air is that fills all of Ben-Ami’s sanctimonious talk about refraining from “calling us [J Street] names because one doesn’t agree with us.

We have a phrase for your scam, Mr. Ben-Ami.  Pot. Kettle. Black.

Since its premiere to a sell out crowd on Feb. 17th in Miami,  The J Street Challenge has been screened in over 30 cities including 18 synagogues and JCC’s. A dozen more screening are scheduled for the remainder of the month June 2014- including 6 synagogues and JCC’s. This despite ugly efforts to censor the film by J Street supporters in venues across the country. J Street representatives have been invited to almost every screening and consistently refused to engage in dialogue with the film producers.

Ben-Ami himself also mentioned the film in a public forum while in the midst of a debate with Dr. Daniel Gordis.

Originally published on Truth Revolt


J Street Convenes in San Fransisco

By Dan Pine

“The J Street Challenge,” a 2014 documentary produced by Americans for Peace and Tolerance, makes a public case against the organization.

Condemning J Street on camera are such prominent Jewish community figures as Alan Dershowitz, Jerusalem Post editor Caroline Glick and writer Daniel Gordis. To them, J Street is riddled with potholes.

Detractors accuse the organization of seeking to engineer an imposed peace agreement while downplaying Israeli security concerns. They accuse J Street of harboring a hostile attitude toward the Jewish state, despite pro-Israel sloganeering. Their evidence includes years of J Street public statements, many of which, they say, condemn Israel, and few that assign blame to the Palestinian side.

Charles Jacobs, who co-produced the film, believes J Street, intentionally or not, is working against Israel’s best interests. “They blame Israel for the conflict, which is deadly,” said Jacobs, founder of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, an organization that works to expose Islamic extremism. “The world is turning anti-Semitic because [people] blame Israel and hold the Palestinians to no standards.”

Writing in the American Thinker last month, critic Michael Curtis declared that J Street “misunderstands the nature of the problem by narrowly defining it as a dispute over land and borders, instead of one based on ethnic and religious differences. Does J Street seriously consider that there is a Palestinian partner who can be trusted to take part in negotiations for a genuine two-state solution in which Israel would be safe? Saving lives and healing the world is one of the great Jewish values; committing suicide is not.”

Not surprisingly, Ben-Ami denies his critics’ charges.

“The primary line of opposition tends to be a recitation of lies that have little to do with the substance of points we are making instead of legitimate disagreement,” Ben-Ami said.

Read full article here

Originally published on JWeekly.com


In Scotch Plains, pro-Israel group screens attack on J Street

By Robert Wiener

Some 75 supporters of Israel cheered and applauded a screening in Scotch Plains of a film accusing the left-of-center J Street of being — despite its motto — neither “pro-Israel” nor “pro-peace.”

The May 27 screening of The J Street Challenge was sponsored by the Israel Support Committee of Central New Jersey, a group whose members come from seven synagogues, mostly in Union County.

The documentary, called revealing by some and “McCarthyite” by others, has engendered controversy since it was released in February by Americans for Peace and Tolerance, a Boston-based group set up to counter “Islamic extremism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism.”

Sponsors of the local screening rented a meeting room for the screening at the JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains.

“The fact they are here doesn’t represent the JCC in any way,” said Jennifer Mamlet, executive director of the JCC of Central New Jersey, told NJ Jewish News. “We are not taking a stand on the film or J Street one way or another.”

The hour-long video argues that J Street ignores perennial threats to Israel’s existence, which it depicts with vintage black-and-white photographs and newsreel footage of anti-Jewish violence dating back to the 1929 massacre of 67 Jews in Hebron and continuing through the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

Using maps and graphics it emphasizes that Israel is surrounded on all sides by Arab and other Muslim nations — some of which are committed to its destruction.

The film features frequent excerpts from speeches and interviews by J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami, followed by commentaries from the group’s opponents.

Among them are Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, Jerusalem Post columnist and editor Caroline Glick, and Daniel Gordis, senior vice president and senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

They attack J Street for what they call unfairly criticizing Israeli policies without placing equally tough blame on Palestinians and their allies.

Although J Street opposes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, its critics in the film say it has shared forums with such BDS supporters as Jewish Voice for Peace.

It repeats previous reports that Ben-Ami lied about accepting funds from George Soros, the Jewish billionaire who has been critical of Israeli policies. (Ben-Ami has apologized for not publicizing the decision by Soros to fund J Street.)

And it expressed deep and frequent concern that its “pro-Israel, pro-peace” rhetoric is being accepted without question by many gullible college students.

Sarit Catz, international letter-writing director for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA, took part in a lively question-and-answer period after the screening. One member of the audience urged “every Hillel in the country to show this DVD” to immunize Jewish college students against what another called “J Street’s lies.”

“It is one of the fallacies of J Street that there are many ways to criticize Israel without giving comfort to your enemies, which is what they are doing,” said one man in the audience.

“How do critics of J Street indicate that we want peace, too? It is very tricky,” asked another audience member.

“Nobody wants peace more that Israelis,” Catz responded. “Remember, J Street was founded by a PR professional. What they do is put out excellent ads. But it’s not real. You can be pro-peace and pro-Israel and not blame Israel for everything.”

But a dissenter in the audience called the film “a very one-sided presentation…I don’t think J Street is as omnipotent as this film portrays it to be. I think a lot of things in the film were way over the top,” she said.

No representative of J Street was present in the audience. But Debbie Schlossberg of East Brunswick, an organizer and member of the J Street steering committee for Central New Jersey, told NJJN, “I have not seen the film but our understanding is that it is deceptive and full of lies and we don’t want to give credence it by appearing at a screening of it. Instead we have offered to come and address [the Israel Support Committee] at a different time in a balanced forum. We plan to do that in the fall.”

The Israel Support Committee has also agreed to the debate. As he introduced the film, the committee’s chair, Conrad Nadell of Scotch Plains, said “our goal is to provide a format to hear both sides of the issue.”

In a Feb. 19 statement on its website, J Street said the film “contains numerous inaccuracies, distortions, and outright lies. Most of these false charges are years old and have been debunked long ago.”

In The Times of Israel news site on May 13, Ben-Ami wrote: “Generally speaking, those attacking J Street either support the goal of creating a ‘Greater Israel’ stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea — or they have no answer to the question of what happens to the Israel they love” if Israel’s expanding West Bank settlement and occupation of millions of Palestinian people is not reversed.

Asked by NJJN at the end of the meeting whether they would be interested in hearing J Street’s message directly, more than half of the audience raised their hands in agreement. The date of the forum has not been announced.

Originally published on New Jersey Jewish News

 


J Street debate hits the presses

By Dmitriy Shapiro

Members of Reform and Conservative synagogues have signed on to recent full-page advertisements in Jewish newspapers around the country, blasting their denomination’s leaders for supporting the (eventually failed) bid of the self-labeled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby J Street to join the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The 50-group umbrella organization in late April voted 22-17, with three abstentions and the rest of the members not showing up for the vote, to reject J Street’s membership application. J Street needed an affirmative vote from 34 Conference of Presidents members to gain admission.

Among the Conference members voting in favor of J Street were the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), umbrella organizations for their respective denominations. Both organizations came under scrutiny in an advertising campaign sponsored by a group called Jews Against Divisive Leadership, raising the question of whether or not the Reform and Conservative umbrellas’ decisions on the J Street vote accurately reflect the attitudes of America’s estimated 1.5 million congregants from those denominations.

“Voting to include J Street in the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations was not advocating for diversity. It was falling for duplicity,” said the Conservative ad, which noted that J Street has accused Israel of war crimes when it defends itself from missile attacks from Gaza, gives a platform to advocates of the movement to boycott Israel, and has called on the U.S. not to veto U.N. resolutions that criticize Israel. The ad—signed by 60 people, along with the congregations they belong to—ran May 22 in the New York Jewish Week, The Jewish Press, The Jewish Advocate of Boston, the Washington Jewish Week, and the Baltimore Jewish Times.

By voting for J Street, the USCJ “acted contrary to the support for Israel we find so important in the Conservative movement,” the ad said.

The Reform ad, signed by 41 people and printed May 15 in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles as well as May 22 in the Florida Jewish Journal, accused URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs of “divisive” leadership due to his threat to pull the Reform umbrella out of the Conference of Presidents over the J Street vote.

“We told you that [Jacobs] would use his position to bolster the anti-Israel J Street. We told you that he would try to diminish American Jewry’s support for Israel,” the ad said, alluding to opposition to Jacobs’s URJ appointment over his former roles as a board member of the New Israel Fund and Rabbinic Cabinet member of J Street. “But we did not know quite how divisive Rabbi Jacobs would be. We did not expect that when he failed to persuade the Conference of Presidents to accept J Street as a major Jewish organization—which it is not—he would threaten to take the URJ out of the Conference and ask others to leave, too, over differences about Israeli foreign policy.”

In a statement after the J Street vote, Jacobs had said, “We may choose to advocate for a significant overhaul of the Conference of Presidents’ processes. We may choose to simply leave the Conference of Presidents. But this much is certain: We will no longer acquiesce to simply maintaining the facade that the Conference of Presidents represents or reflects the views of all of American Jewry.”

In the vote, all four Conference member groups representing Reform Judaism and all but one (Mercaz USA) of four representing Conservative Judaism, voted in favor of J Street. Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, leader of the Conservative-affiliated Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md., said the denomination’s leaders made their decisions on J Street without necessarily taking the entire movement’s pulse on the issue.

“I think part of what upset people really was the fact that certain leaders in the Conservative movement were so out front, advocating so strongly, which seemed not to take into consideration the feelings of various members of Conservative synagogues and rabbis who felt differently,” he told JNS.org.

Weinblatt said he was not surprised by the sentiments expressed by the ad.

“These are people who care deeply about Israel, who feel a sense of having been disenfranchised,” he said. “Usually most Jewish organizations are driven by consensus and trying to reflect the overall position of its members, and in this particular case it’s hard to gauge really how accurate a reflection it was to take the position that they took.”

Rabbi Jessica Kirschner, leader of the Reform-affiliated Temple Sinai in Washington, DC, said the ads did not reflect the beliefs of most Reform Jews, and defended the stance Jacobs took.

“The thing that I have heard most as a response to Rabbi Jacobs’s actions is an appreciation that the Reform movement was demonstrating leadership on the issue,” Kirschner said, adding that those she spoke to said they were glad that their movement “was speaking up and saying” that there “needs to be a rich and complicated conversation.”

Kirschner said she reads most of her Jewish news online, and that Jews Against Divisive Leadership’s method of placing ads in Jewish print newspapers is therefore probably ineffective if the group wanted to reach young Jews, the demographic J Street claims to represent most.

Jews Against Divisive Leadership also placed an ad that focused on Jacobs in Jewish newspapers in 2011, contesting his appointment as URJ president.

“We call on the Union for Reform Judaism to reconsider this divisive appointment,” that ad stated. “Do not drive mainstream Zionist Jews out of the Reform movement.”

Rabbi Joshua Segal—the rabbi emeritus of Amherst, N.H.-based Congregation Betenu, a Reform synagogue—signed both the 2011 and 2014 ads on Jacobs, and told JNS.org he believes that “J Street is to Zionism what Jews for Jesus is to Judaism.”

“To the extent that the URJ claims (through its affiliate ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America) to be a pro-Israel entity, Jacobs’s positions certainly undermine that assertion,” Segal wrote in an email. “And the ad is just calling him to the carpet—perhaps an ‘I told you so’ to his election to his current job.”

Los Angeles resident Paul Jeser—who considers himself a member of both the Reform and Conservative communities, but prefers to identify as just Jewish—called Jacobs’s approach after the J Street vote “absurd.”

“The organizations [in the Conference of Presidents] have the right to vote the way they did, but then when you lose a vote and you threaten to pull out, it just show how immature and inappropriate your actions are,” Jeser told JNS.org.

Jeser did not sign the ads, but said he agrees with their message.

“It’s very obvious in my mind that the people who support J Street don’t understand how bad J Street is,” he said. “If they really delved into it and stopped drinking Kool-Aid, they would understand J Street is dangerous. [Members of the Conference of Presidents] make their decisions based on not right or left, but on right and wrong, and J Street, in my mind, is obnoxious and just has no right to be under any tent.”

Jessica Rosenblum—director of media and communications for J Street—dismissed the new ads, saying it does not surprise her “that there are 40 people in the Reform movement and 60 people in the Conservative movement who are strongly opposed to their respective leaders’ decisions to support J Street’s admission to the Conference of Presidents.”

“The Reform and Conservative movements voted to admit J Street to the Conference of Presidents, not because they agree with everything J Street says,” Rosenblum wrote in an email. “They did no more than faithfully represent the diversity of opinion within their movements—but such diversity is apparently unacceptable to the signers of these advertisements.”

Originally published on JNS.org


J Street Must Cease Its Mishagas

By Elliott Hamilton

J Street prides itself as “a political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.” Since its president Jeremy Ben-Ami founded it six years ago, J Street has captured the attention of members of the American Jewish community, as well as other liberally-bent individuals who hope to see peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It seemed that from their initial statements, there was hope for another positive voice discussing the nuance of the Israeli-Arab conflict. However, its words are nothing more than mishagas when one takes note of their actions.

The reality is that J Street is neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace, and those two descriptors do not belong on its website, its mission statement, or anywhere for that matter. The past few months have demonstrated it. Ben-Ami’s statements and commentary have confirmed it. Most importantly, J Street’s admonishment over various Jewish institutions, libels of Zionist activists, and defense of anti-Semitism within the ranks of the Palestinian Authority have done nothing more but dig their hole deeper into the abyss of hypocrisy. Their intent is to ridicule the Israeli government, to demonize the State of Israel, and to hijack the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States of America.

Let me be clear about what I mean by these statements. If one goes on the J Street website and reads every press release, one will find at least one criticism of the State of Israel and little to no criticism of the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority, riddled with corruption, anti-Semitism, and terrorist hero-worship, has not been condemned nor been the center of J Street’s attention. Not one comment about Abbas’ extraordinarily long term as President. Not one statement about Fatah’s Abbas Zaki’s call for Allah to kill Israelis. Not a word about the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip targeting innocent civilians within Southern Israel.

It is not a problem to be critical of Israel, but it is completely unjust to hold Israel to such a double standard when it comes to the peace process. When it comes to the Palestinians’ demands for peace, J Street figuratively kisses their feet and calls for Israel to meet those demands. If Israel pushes for a particular concession, J Street demands that Israel keep its mouth shut. Jeremy Ben-Ami even had the audacity to make a statement calling for Benjamin Netanyahu not to push the “Jewish state” descriptor of Israel during the peace negotiations in March. How can somebody who claims to be “pro-Israel” be so anti-Israel simultaneously? Either he is genuinely confused over the definition of a “Zionist” or he is intentionally lying through his teeth.

The reality is that J Street catches onto the absurd belief that the Jewish people should feel guilty about Israel’s involvement in the conflict and that we should expect Israel to give up more than it already has for peace. J Street forgets how the Jewish people were initially given the land meant for a Jewish homeland that includes Israel, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jordan following the Balfour Declaration. It also forgets about how the Israeli government has spent the last twenty years trying to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinians, including disengaging from the Gaza Strip and releasing convicted terrorists from its prisons. And while Fatah decided to strike a unity deal with a terrorist organization whose charter calls for Israel’s annihilation and Israel suspended talks, J Street members argued that it was Israel’s fault that the peace talks fell through. The fact that J Street defended Kerry when the latter made a comment regarding Israel potentially turning into an “apartheid” state also lowers J Street’s credibility as a legitimate organization bent on protecting Israel’s interests. I read about all of these statements and I cannot help but imagine how delusional J Street is when it comes to the facts on the ground.

Then there is J Street U. How can a “pro-Israel” organization allow its student activists to co-sponsor events with the frequently anti-Semitic Students for Justice in Palestine and/or to take an active part in the BDS movement? Within the growing leftist climates of college campuses, people love to talk peace and social justice and then climb onto the anti-Zionist crusade. J Street U embodies such “trendy” movements that love to bash Israel and target Zionist activists who actually care about Israelis and Palestinians. I could talk about Brandeis University’s J Street U, how its new Vice President has a penchant for using outrageous statements to harass her peers, and how J Street defended her and called to isolate a critical Zionist activist, but I have already discussed this. Such anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activities are unbecoming of an organization that calls itself “pro-Israel.”

This is why J Street should stop kvetching about its rejection from the Conference of Presidents because it brought this upon itself. Following that vote, J Street acted like a spoiled brat who still demands to get ice cream after its misbehavior. Sorry J Street, just because you say “please” does not mean you are exonerated from your morally reprehensible actions against the State of Israel.

Here’s my question for Jeremy Ben-Ami: Would you put effort into ending a dispute with your neighbor after he becomes best friends with a raging anti-Semite bent on your annihilation? If your answer is no, then you are demanding Israel to do something that you would not do, which is completely hypocritical. The Jewish people have spent millennia trying to stay clear of anti-Semitism. That is why Zionism was founded in the first place. However, you and your group of seemingly “pro-Israel” colleagues are undermining the very mission that Theodore Herzl had in store for the Jewish people. Instead of defending the Jewish people from anti-Semitism, you are demanding that the only Jewish state continues to make peace agreements with anti-Semites who would rather see Israel destroyed than to live in coexistence! If that is not the classic definition of “counterintuitive,” then I have no idea what is.

If J Street wants to be part of the discussion regarding Israel’s future, then it must cease its mishagas, halt its anti-Israel attitudes, and start taking accountability for its actions. Since it has not figured out by now that its conduct has been inconducive to its efforts to reach the front lines of pushing policy, it needs to take in a slice of humble pie, swallow its undeserved pride, and put an end to its arrogant approach on how to solve the conflict.

Originally published on The Times of Israel


The Perils of J Street

By Michael Curtis

In 1955, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations was founded to serve as the collective voice of organized Jewry in the United States.  It included diverse segments of views within the Jewish community.  Its mission is to advance the interests of the American Jewish community, to provide a forum for discussing and establishing policy on vital national and international issues, and to sustain broad-based support for the State of Israel.  On April 30, 2014, the Conference confronted the highly controversial question of whether limits should be put on who is allowed to become a member when J Street applied for admission into the metaphorical tent covering the organizations.

Since its inception in 2008, J Street, co-founded by Jeremy Ben-Ami, who is highly experienced and skilled in public relations, has been very successful in gaining access to and presenting its point of view in Jewish and other public forums.  It was a legitimate issue for the Conference to discuss whether J Street should be allowed inside the tent.  By a vote of 22 against, 17 in favor, and 3 abstentions, a vote that was related to both ideological and tactical issues, J Street was denied entry.  Though J Street’s organizational rhetoric proclaims that it is “Pro-Israeli, Pro-Peace,” the Conference decided that the actions and policies of J Street are not in accordance with the rhetoric.

Everyone can agree that American Jews, like the rest of the world, have the right to be critical of specific Israeli activities with which they disagree.  However, in the case of J Street, one must ask two crucial questions.  The first is whether that criticism is proper if it relentlessly blames only Israel for various actions or non-actions, and does not take into consideration the actions of others.  The second is whether Israel is being judged by a standard not applied to any other country or political group.  The positions of J Street have to be assessed on this basis.

J Street’s position on a number of crucial issues affecting Israel has not been revealed, and there is what appears to be a studied ambiguity in regard to others, but those positions that have been made public have not simply been controversial, but also biased against Israel.  Among them were J Street’s continued support for the Goldstone Report critical of Israel, a document that was initially accepted and then subsequently discredited by analysts, and J Street’s constrained support for the Israeli airstrikes that took place in December 2008 to counter the hundreds of rockets coming from terrorists in the Gaza Strip.  J Street’s comment was that “escalating the conflict will prove counterproductive.”

J Street seemed to agree with a letter signed by a number of members of Congress that Israel end “the blockade of Gaza.”  It hesitated in supporting, and even opposed, increased sanctions on Iran’s nuclear weapons development.  It approved the call that the U.S. should not veto a U.N. Security Council Resolution condemning Israeli settlements.  It also displayed a lack of transparency, at least for a time, about its sources of funding.

To deal with these issues, a valuable commentary examining and debating the reality of J Street has appeared in a new film, The J Street Challenge, produced by a group, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, led by Ilya Feoktistov and Charles Jacobs.  The film presents comments on J Street by a number of distinguished scholars and journalists, including Ruth Wisse, Alan Dershowitz, Richard Landes, Daniel Gordis, Caroline Glick, and Bret Stephens.  Regrettably, Ben-Ami refused to be interviewed for the film – ironic, since he was so anxious to be heard inside the tent of the Conference of Presidents.

The film is highly critical of the opinions of and the presentations by J Street regarding Israel.  Those presentations focus, virtually single-mindedly, on the need for peace in the dispute between Israel and its neighbors with the seductive message alluding to Jewish values, Tikkun Olam, of saving lives that has attracted so many, especially young, people.

But the essential simple message of J Street is that peace will occur and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be ended if a Palestinian state is established, and the only way to accomplish this is for Israel to make territorial and other concessions – actions which so far it has refused to take.  This argument entails that it is only Israel that is responsible for continuation of the conflict.  Therefore, pressure to make one-sided concessions must be put on Israel by the self-adulatory J Street, leading minor organizations such as the U.S. Administration, Congress, and the Jewish community, and its centers, synagogues, and college campus organizations, to join in.

The clips shown of J Street’s speeches and presentations reinforce the film’s analysis that J Street blames Israel for the lack of peace, ignores the refusal of Palestinian and other Arab leaders to accept Israel’s existence and to enter into the negotiation process, and makes no mention of the animosity and hatred the Arab world has ignited against Israel.

The scholars in the film argue that J Street has ignored the historical context of the present-day conflict as well as the reality that the Palestinians and almost all the Arab states have rejected every plan for negotiations.  J Street pays little or no attention to the continuing physical peril under which Israeli civilians live, and the threat against the very existence of the state.  By pursuing its one-sided advocacy, J Street has divided the Jewish community and weakened support for Israel.  J Street has succeeded in making many in the younger generation of Jews feel embarrassed about supporting Israel.  They want peace more than they support Israel.

For J Street, the American presidential administration must pressure Israel for the good of Israel.  With J Street’s monopoly of wisdom, in its utterances there is little praise of Israel for its extraordinary achievements, but rather the assertion that Israel, especially because of the settlements built since 1967, is the obstacle to peace.  Hostilities would end if Israel changed its ways.  J Street holds that the Palestinian leadership is a serious negotiating partner that can be trusted.

Everybody wants peace, but realities protrude beyond this desirable goal.  On this point, Ruth Wisse in the film makes a penetrating remark.  There is no Israeli-Palestinian conflict; there is only an Arab war against Israel.  J Street takes advantage of the desire for peace to falsify the real political picture.  The film presents a number of statements made by Ben-Ami in previous speeches.  The rhetoric is always the same, characterized by arrogant posturing that J Street has a monopoly of wisdom and truth and is on the right side of history.  The aura is of moral righteous, what Richard Landes calls “moral narcissism,” that Ben-Ami feels good in possessing but that Israelis do not have.  Ben-Ami is not known for medical skills, but he and his associates know that Israel must heal itself.

The arrogance stems from the self-definition that J Street is a heroic group daring to issue criticism of Israeli personnel and activities when others fear to do so.  But its fundamental mistake is that far from being the lone group in the world crying wolf, J Street is merely echoing the mainstream media and organizations that are constant critics of Israel.  The statements of Ben-Ami repeat those to be read or heard every day in the New York Times, MSNBC, the U.N. General Assembly and other units of the U.N., the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the BBC, the Independent, the Guardian, the World Council of Churches, Oxfam International, Amnesty International, and the bigoted armchair revolutionaries on so many university campuses.  The true courageous people and groups are those who defy this mainstream chorus of critical voices who see Israel as the one country to be incessantly condemned as being responsible for violation of human rights of innocent people and the cause of almost, if not all, the problems of the world.

Should the real character of an organization be understood by observing the policies of individuals and groups with which it associates or from which it obtains funding?  J Street has been linked with left-wing groups, some supporting BDS.  Information about the funding of J Street has been less than candid.  In particular, it took some time before Ben-Ami went public and accepted “responsibility personally for being less than clear” about the support provided to J Street by billionaire George Soros.

It is not clear exactly how much Soros individually, members of his family and associates, the Soros Fund Charitable Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation Network have given J Street.  Some reports show that Soros has given $750,000 in some years.  Probably about $500,000 a year now goes to J Street from Soros, who, of course, directly or indirectly, donates considerable amounts of money to left-wing groups.  In any case, J Street has accepted financial support from a number of sources known to be hostile to Israel.

A baffling contribution – an unexplained amount, about $811,000 – comes from someone called Consolacion Esdicul, an individual hitherto unknown as interested in Middle Eastern affairs, who lives in Hong Kong.  Esdicul appears to be associated with William Benter, a businessman and gambler who has contributed to Media Matters and MoveOn.org, organizations known for their one-sided criticism of Israel.

J Street misunderstands the whole nature of the problem by narrowly defining it as a dispute over land and borders, instead of one based on ethnic and religious differences.  President Abbas, and all Palestinian leaders, have declared they will never accept Israel as a Jewish state.  The co-founder of J Street, Daniel Levy, appears to agree, though he claims to have been misquoted.  He is cited on October 5, 2010 as having said that “I have no reason – there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice in the creation of Israel.”

In that belief, Levy agrees with the 22 Arab countries and 400 million people in the Arab League, and with the Islamic Republic of Iran, almost all of whom are unwilling to acknowledge the existence and legitimacy of a sovereign State of Israel.  Does J Street seriously consider that there is a Palestinian partner who can be trusted to take part in negotiations for a genuine two-state solution in which Israel would be safe?  Saving lives and healing the world is one of the great Jewish values; committing suicide is not.

Originally published on The American Thinker