What to Do About J Street, An Enemy of Israel

Dear Friends, 

The survival of Israel depends on we, as American Jews, recognizing and actively combating the insidious growth of anti-Israel organizations within our own Jewish Community. One such anti-Israel organization has been successful in embedding its supporters and sympathizers within our mainstream Jewish community organizations, and it is influencing their actions. We refer to J Street, and unless we as a Community learn the truth about this organization and resist it, a day is not far off when it will control our institutions and US government policy toward Israel. Some contend it already has close friends on the boards of our mainstream Jewish organizations and finds a close ally in the current US administration. 

     “I think J Street has been the most damaging organization in American history against Israel. It has been the most damaging, more damaging than Students for Justice in Palestine [and] more damaging than the early anti-Zionist Council for Judaism. J Street has done more to turn young people against Israel than any organization in the whole of history. It will go down in history as one of the most virulent, anti-Israel organizations in the history of Zionism and Judaism. It has given cover to anti-Israel attitudes on campus and particularly its approach to Israel’s self defense” Tablet Magazine, August 2015

One method J Street employs to worm its way into mainstream public opinion is to hold small talks in synagogues and community centers in which it misrepresents its agenda, goals and methods. On January 13 the Daytimers group at Har Shalom in Potomac sponsored a talk by Alan Elsner, special adviser to the president of J Street. The talk was entitled, “Why Everything You’ve Heard about J Street is Dead Wrong.”  In point of fact, the title itself and its premise were dead wrong. It should have read, "Why Everything You've Heard About J Street Is Dead Accurate." 

J Street describes itself as pro-Israel and repeats that mantra over and over again, allowing the organization to gain entrance into our Jewish institutions. But J Street's actual behavior vis-à-vis Israel belies the claim of being pro-Israel. As Daniel Gordis, Senior Fellow at the Shalem College in Jerusalem, observed: “It’s one thing to put pro-Israel in your tag line, and another to be pro-Israel.”

As the title of the Har Shalom Daytimers talk suggests, J Street attempts to label most of the reports of its anti-Israel activities as "myths." A quick example: Jeremy Ben Ami (J Street's president) speaking at the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY was asked why Jewish students on a J Street tour of Israel were taken to Yasser Arafat's grave in Ramallah. This same question, framed as a "myth" on the J Street web page of "myths and facts," is answered by the following ridiculous assertion; There was time to kill before the next appointment on the tour and the students were learning "about an important piece of the history of the conflict" and the need to "build a more peaceful future." This disingenuous excuse was designed to bamboozle audiences.  At the talk for the Westchester Reform Temple, Ben Ami provided yet another distortion for the questioner. He stated that J Street brings students to Yasser Arafat’s grave to teach the students that "a former Palestinian terrorist renounced and abandoned violence in 1993, and became a man of peace..."  The very notion of teaching students that Yasser Arafat, one of history's most infamous terrorists, renounced violence and was a man of peace is shockingly dishonest. Arafat has been conclusively shown, even by the admission of key Palestinian officials, to have deliberately planned and started the second Palestinian "intifada."  The second Palestinian "intifada" began in September, 2000 and didn't end until a year after the November 2004 death of Arafat. Is there anything that can be believed by an organization that would teach Jewish students such a blatant lie?

It is worth examining a few of the ways that J Street fails to live up to its motto as a pro-Israel organization. This will require selectivity, since in the few years of its existence, J Street has managed to promote a huge number of anti-Israel policies and positions that even its cleverest leaders are unable to spin as pro-Israel. 
1.     If J Street is, as it says, pro-Israel, why does it never say anything good about Israel? One might expect at least an occasional acknowledgement from an organization that claims to be pro-Israel that Israel has done something good.  Don't hold your breath.  As Alan Dershowitz, rhetorically addressing J Street, asks, "I went back and I read every single J Street press release from the first day of its existence.   I could not find a single one of them that praised Israel.  How can you be a "pro-Israel" organization and never express any pro-Israel views? It is absolutely shocking to me.  Every press release seems to have a negative about Israel." 

Sara Greenberg, writing in the Jerusalem Post comments: “Instead, J Street U partners with some of Israel’s greatest enemies on campus including BDS activists and anti-Israel faculty. ....Sadly, J Street seems to focus more on educating its constituents and students about how to defend the agenda of those who seek Israel’s destruction, instead of being honest about the facts on the ground and equipping young people with the tools necessary to stand up for Israel. .... Rather than call attention to the challenges and regional threats Israel faces today – including terrorism and an impending nuclear-armed Iran – J Street spends its time lobbying Congress (and asking its student chapters to do the same) against resolutions condemning incitement in Palestinian schools, opposing the introduction of a Senate bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, and endorsing the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the United Nations Security Council. .... If an organization is never willing to stand up for Israel, should they still be considered pro-Israel?” 

2.     If J Street is pro-Israel, as it says, wouldn't we expect it to express concern over Israel's ability to defend itself in a region hostile to its very existence?  Instead, J Street continually opposes and criticizes Israel’s right to self-defense and worries far more over the well-being of its enemies.  A few examples follow: 

      Today, as Israelis are being attacked on the streets with knives, car-rammings and bullets by Palestinians, J Street cloaks itself with words of neutrality by speaking of "Israeli-Palestinian violence," rather than acknowledging the truth, which is that the violence originates with the Palestinians and is being perpetrated against Israelis. (Israeli-Palestinian Violence is a Failure of Political Leadership on Both Sides,” J Street blog, 10/2/15)

      J Street has a history of at first opposing any sanctions at all and then later supporting the easing of sanctions against Iran, considered by Israel to be the most dangerous power that Israel faces today. Whatever view one may have of the eventual Iran deal that was struck, it was the sanctions against Iran that ultimately forced Iran to the table and induced it to come to the terms that were struck. But J Street resisted sanctions from the start. This resistance took place at a time when Iran was feverishly working to acquire nuclear weapons and was frequently declaring its goal that Israel be wiped from the face of the earth. How can we square J Street's positions on sanctions against Iran with J Street's claim that it is pro-Israel? We cannot. It should therefore not come as a surprise that J Street eventually broke with mainstream Jewish institutions which opposed the Iran Deal and launched instead a large, well-financed campaign with ads and a video in support of it. 

       In Boston, New York and Seattle in the summer of 2014, during the Israel Gaza conflict, J Street refused to join in Jewish community rallies to support Israel. This refusal took place while rockets rained down on Israel from Gaza, and only the Iron Dome defense system was saving the lives of thousands of Israelis. Why would a self-proclaimed pro-Israel organization refuse to support Israel in its time of need? 
     With reference to the Iron Dome defense system, the J Street Pac supported political candidates who were actually against funding the Iron Dome Missile Defense system, perfected just in time to save many Israelis. http://freebeacon.com/national-security/j-street-endorsees-in-congress-refuse-to-support-iron-dome-funding-for-israel/  Iron Dome is a purely defensive weapons system. It was designed to intercept and destroy rockets before they reach the ground in Israel. What pro-Israel organization would want Hamas's rockets to continue to reach Israel unimpeded?

      Who can forget J Street's support for the biased and inaccurate Goldstone Report that condemned Israel for defending itself during Operation Cast Lead in 2008 against rockets and mortar shells launched by Hamas. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, then president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who considers himself a dove, found J Street's words "deeply distressing because they [were] morally deficient." He accusingly noted that J Street "could find no moral difference between the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militants, who have launched more than 5,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilians in the past three years, and the long-delayed response of Israel, which finally lost patience and responded to the pleas of its battered citizens in the south." http://forward.com/opinion/14847/on-gaza-sense-and-centrism-03081/#ixzz3vTr7nS3K

Rabbi Yoffie was loudly booed at the 2009 J Street Conference when he expressed those views. 

3.     What does J Street do to defend Israel against the unrelenting stream of anti-Israel propaganda and lies leveled against the Jewish state? The answer -- it not only does nothing at all, it actually helps spread that negative propaganda. As an example, J Street opposed a 2011 congressional letter criticizing Palestinian incitement in the wake of the Itamar massacre of five members of an Israeli family. 

J Street U sponsors talks on campuses by the group "Breaking the Silence,” which sends out former IDF soldiers to misrepresent and demonize the Israeli Defense Forces. 

In a rather revealing development, J Street U recently elected a Muslim as its President, who, according to ZOA, is a "radical Muslim who spews hatred for Israel and its leaders, supports violence against Israel, and supports anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS)." 

4.     J Street claims that it is opposed to the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel, the standard set by our DC Jewish Federation for the inclusion of organizations and speakers into Jewish communal events. Yet the credibility of J Street and J Street U are severely compromised by their hosting of representatives from pro-BDS organizations to speak at their conferences and campus events, thereby providing a platform for the messengers of BDS to spread their hatred for Israel.  A number of speakers at J Street conferences have questioned the right of Israel to exist. While asserting its opposition to BDS repeatedly, J Street has also stated that it does "not oppose boycott, divestment, or sanctions initiatives that explicitly support a two-state solution, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and focus only on occupied territory beyond the Green line.”  So, the truth of the matter is, J Street accepts some BDS initiatives against Israelis and is always open to giving a platform to those who support all BDS initiatives to spread their propaganda and recruit supporters. J Street's position gives only lip service to opposition to BDS. Its conduct demonstrates otherwise. Most telling of all about J Street's equivocal stand on BDS, J Street opposed the Roskam-Vargas Trade Bill (that passed) because it contained a provision discouraging the European Union from engaging in BDS activity.

Just who are the financial supporters of this anti-Israel group?
"J Street has a history of taking significant sums of money from anti-Israel sources—and lying about it. For example, J Street continuously lied about its funding from George Soros, who has blamed Israel and the Jewish people for the rise of global anti-Semitism. While J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami kept denying it, Eli Lake reported in 2010 that J Street acquired $750,000 from Soros’s family. Ben-Ami was eventually forced to apologize for lying.

Even more troubling was the discovery that Genevieve Lynch, a board member of the NIAC [National Iranian American Council], also funded J Street. NIAC is no ally of the Jewish community, and has recently created a 501(c)4 to counter pro-Israel groups’ attempts to halt the Iran deal." http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2015/7/24/its-time-to-evict-j-street-from-the-jewish-communal-tent#.VpqYRvkrJj0=
From the Jerusalem Post:
"The J Street political action committee has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as from several individuals connected to organizations doing Palestinian and Iranian issues advocacy, according to Federal Election Commission filings. ....Arab and Muslim donors are extremely rare for other organizations that describe themselves as supporters of Israel as J Street does, Jewish leaders at organizations across the political spectrum told the Jerusalem Post."
5.     If J Street is pro-Israel, why does it work to undermine the integrity and independence of the democratically elected government of Israel? J Street works tirelessly to pressure our government to force Israel to adopt its policies. In fact, J Street’s 2016 New Year’s resolution is to "Press President Obama to finally break the impasse: it's time to put an American plan -- explicit and public -- on the table.” (email, Ben Ami, “Top ten resolutions for 2016”) The editor of Tower Magazine points out the error of J Streets ways: “The idea that American Jews have the right… to impose their ideas in contradiction to Israeli self-determination. This idea weakens Israel, weakens the American Jewish community, and—most problematically — contains at its heart an implicit repudiation of Zionism itself." 

6.     If J Street is “pro-Israel,” why are so many of the organizations that it partners with working to the detriment of Israel, including support for BDS?  Doesn’t that tell us something about J Street itself? It allies itself on policy issues with radical organizations that defame Israel, such as The New Israel Fund, Breaking the Silence, Peace Now, Jewish Voice for Peace and B’Tselem. It is little wonder that in 2014 the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations appropriately voted to reject J Street's application for membership. Undaunted, J Street has found its own ways to circumvent the establishment. J Street is working hard to win over the young and is already accepted on about 50 plus campuses, many as part of Hillel. It is also involving itself in educational programs at Jewish day schools.  The list of local synagogues and temples that have hosted talks by J Street includes Har Shalom (Men’s Club and Daytimers), Temple Micah, Temple Sinai, Adat Shalom, Beth El Hebrew, Temple Rodef Shalom, Tifereth Israel, Temple Shalom and B'nai Tzedek.

By falsely posing as a pro-Israel organization, J Street is infiltrating our Jewish institutions, especially our synagogues and day schools, who are responsible for educating our young, the future Zionists of America.
If you, our readers, share our concern, we ask for your help: 

      1. Please stay attuned to and challenge J Street involvement in your community organizations, your synagogues, your children’s schools, and all those organizations that rely upon us for support,
      2. In challenging J Street, the best defense against their misrepresentations and their false claims to be pro-Israel is to show their anti-Israel advocacy and the activities against Israel to which they devote themselves. Their presentations should not be one sided, and opposing speakers should be invited. The film, “The J Street Challenge,” produced by Americans for Peace and Tolerance” in 2014 and shown at many synagogues and Hillels throughout the country is available for showing. http://thejstreetchallenge.com/watch-online-for-free/ It is now available on CD and also YouTube. Let us know if we can help arrange a program with a speaker to accompany the showing of the film.

      3. Please let us know about any scheduled J Street event.

      4. Please help us to expand our reach by passing along this email to your friends, family members, synagogues, Jewish day schools, etc. 

Coalition of Pro-Israel Advocates (COPIA)
Robert G. Samet, Chairman
Mark H. Lazerson, Vice-Chairman
Carol Greenwald, PhD, Treasurer
Barbara Leber, PhD, Secretary
Jeffrey Ward, General Counsel