March 24, 2019

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The J-Street Agenda is anything but pro-Israel (Daled Amos)

J Street seems to have a habit of hurting Israel in the pursuit of its own agenda.

J Street Support for BDS

An article came out Monday in The Washington Free Beacon detailing how J Street Chapters Aiding BDS Campaigns on Campuses. While it is true that the deputy director of J Street U, Catie Stewart, claims that the organization does not support neither “Apartheid Week” nor BDS campaigns on college campuses, there are indications that J Street hedges on their position and do not necessarily oppose BDS per se:

o  In response to a BDS referendum at the University of Minnesota in March, a pro-Israel coalition launched a campaign in opposition. J Street U released a statement opposing the referendum not because it was anti-Israel, but because “this resolution and others like it only serve to empower the Israeli far-right” and that you cannot “effectively oppose BDS without also actively opposing the occupation that fuels it.” The BDS referendum passed at UMN in March. 

o  When a BDS resolution was proposed at Columbia University/Barnard, J Street U posted a statement, since revised, stating that it “opposes the International BDS Movement.” But then it went on to decry “the conflation of anti-occupation with anti-Israel,” accusing anti-BDS campaigns as being “government funded attacks” targeting “anti-occupation groups, like the New Israel Fund, B’tselem, and Breaking the Silence” while pretending to deal with “the handful of hardline anti-Israel activists.” The Barnard BDS resolution passed. 

When a BDS resolution was brought up at George Washington University in April, the J Street U there did not oppose BDS per se, instead again used the familiar theme that “BDS legislation provides Israel’s far-right government with the talking points they use to justify their fear-mongering tactics” and insisted that “one can be pro-BDS and not anti-Semitic.” The BDS resolution at GW passed.

This disregard for Israeli seems to be part of a pattern.

J Street Support for The Iran Deal

o  In 2009, long before there ever was an Iran Deal, Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street, co-wrote an article, How Diplomacy with Iran Can Succeed with Trita Parsi, president of National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
o  A US District Court found that the work of NIAC president and founder Tritra Parsi was “not inconsistent with the idea that he was first and foremost an advocate for the [Iran] regime.”
o  J Street was paid $576 million by Soros’ Ploughshares Fund to advocate on behalf of the Iran Deal
o  In the months leading up to the Iran Deal, Ben-Ami was a frequent visitor to the White House, where he met with Ben Rhodes and with Morton Halperin, the Senior Advisor for the George Soros’ Open Society Institute.
o  J Street put up a website defending the Iran Deal without any hesitation about possible consequences or dangers for Israel

Jeremy Ben-Ami. Credit: Joe Mabel

J Street Support for Democrats Only

Last month, I wrote about Judging J-Street By The Candidates They Support, that J Street consistently supports Democratic candidates over Republican ones — as if they were the only ones who supported Israel. This was true in 2010 through 2016.
I just found a list from 2008 in a J Street report

There actually are Republican candidates listed here: 2 out of 41.
One of them, Representative Charles Boustany, voted against a Congressional resolution to neither endorse nor consider the Goldstone Report. But on the other hand, in 2009 Boustany distanced himself from J Street, writing:

Unfortunately, within a few years of J Street’s establishment, I came to the realization that I had been deliberately misled and in a one instance lied to by the senior leadership of the organization. I refuse to work with any group that conducts itself in this manner.

According to his spokesman Paul Coussan, Boustany was put off by J Street lying about the money it received from George Soros.

Geoff Davis, the other Republican backed by J Street, was supposed to appear on a panel at a J Street Conference but did not show up.

At the same time, it was reported that a number of other Congressmen also distanced themselves from J Street:

The names of Reps. John Salazar (CO-03) and Ed Towns (NY-10) have been scrubbed from the list of congressmen serving on the host committee for J Street’s inaugural conference. That brings to ten the number of congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, senators and representatives, who have bailed on J Street after learning that, contrary to their promotional materials, they are not a pro-Israel group…
o  Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
o  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
o  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
o  Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
o  Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE)
o  Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR)
o  Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)
o  Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA)
o  Rep. John Salazar (D-CO)
o  Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY)

Since then, J Street has had the last laugh, gaining in legitimacy.  But the fact remains that it has done so by openly declaring itself the “blocking back” for Obama and aligning itself with policies and groups that do not act in Israel’s best interest, and by limiting itself to supporting only Democrats.

J Street Support for The Goldstone Report

I’ve noted in earlier posts that Jeremy Ben-Ami claimed that J Street was “refusing to embrace” the Goldstone Report.
o  In fact, Mort Halperin on the J Street advisory council also wrote the letter that Goldstone circulated as his own on Capitol Hill last year, defending his anti-Israel report against a House resolution condemning it. This is the same Halperin, mentioned above, who was the Senior Advisor for the George Soros’ Open Society Institute.
o  J Street went so far as to facilitate visits for Goldstone to the Hill. Ben Ami said Goldstone met only 2 or 3 Congressmen; Goldstone said it was 10 or 12.

As a side note, in the same October 2009 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for Atlantic Magazine where Ben-Ami claimed not to support the Goldstone Report, he also referred to “Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups that are consistently upset with us for backing Howard Berman’s [Iran] sanctions plan.” [emphasis added]

Earlier, in May of that year, J Street came out with a press release, praising Berman for supporting Obama’s plan to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran: “As Chairman Berman stated, the Administration should be given reasonable time to pursue serious and tough diplomacy with Iran.” Seeing that J Street was already aligning themselves with NIAC, one has to wonder just how tough J Street thought that diplomacy should be.

Where Is All This Leading?

In a recent article, Caroline Glick notes the growing influence of identity politics in the Democratic Party, and what it means for Israel:

Obama advanced policies and positions that empowered the radicals at the expense of the moderates.
Obama’s hostility towards Israel, his repeated intimations that Israel is a colonialist outpost while the Palestinians are the indigenous people of the land of Israel were part and parcel of his across-the-board effort to enable the radical Left to take over the party. Obama’s efforts laid the groundwork for socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the party’s presidential primaries. It also set the stage for the rise of radical leaders like Congressman Keith Ellison and Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the post-Obama Democratic party.

The left wing of the Democratic Party is clearly gaining influence, and J Street is part of that.
But to the degree that it has backed Obama, and continues to support how he framed the Middle East, J Street undermines Israel.

J Street’s refusal to condemn BDS, except as a tool in the hands of the “right-wing”; its association with the likes of Soros and NIAC in supporting the Iran Deal; J Street’s backing only for Democrats;  its support for the clearly one-sided Goldstone Report and most recently J Street’s support of the narrative of the “Great March of Return — these positions do nothing to support Israel.

There are many ways to support Israel, and no one says you cannot criticize it — but the actions J Street takes demonize Israel and affect Israeli security.

In 2009, William Daroff, the Washington director of the Jewish Federations of North America told JTA that J Street was developing “better PR tactics”, such as condemning Iran’s Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust — but:

these were easy calls. J Street, he said, has not yet defended Israel when it is unpopular to do so.

Don’t hold your breath.

At the time, Daroff wondered aloud, “when and if the Obama administration shifts direction, would J Street still be relevant?”

J Street has proven that it is capable of staying relevant.

Just not relevant to the survival of Israel

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