J Street's foul formula
November 15, 2019
(JNS)—When it was founded some 10 years ago, J Street claimed to be a “pro-Israel and pro-peace” organization. That was taken to mean partnering with the mainstream Israeli political left to build support in Washington for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
Since then, J Street has morphed into an anti-Israel organization. J Street spends its time and money besmirching Israel, smearing AIPAC and other leading American Jewish organizations, boosting former President Barack Obama’s dangerous deal with Iran (and now trying to bring it back), and supporting political candidates for whom BDS is a badge of honor.
Its campus arm, J Street U, has become a primary vehicle for conveying the most poisonous messages about Israel to students, acting to block student participation in Birthright and actively campaigning against support for Israel at American universities.
J Street also believes that it has the “moral responsibility” to get America to force Israel to change its policies on the Palestinian issue. Why? Because J Street knows what’s best for Israel. It knows better even than the Israeli political left, which generally doesn’t share J Street’s radical positions on unilateral withdrawals and mass settlement eradication.
J Street knows how to bring peace to the Mideast: Israel needs to be pressured. As if Israel is the party unwilling to compromise. As if Israel hasn’t already offered the Palestinians at Oslo, Camp David, Taba and Annapolis just about everything they want of post-1967 Israel. As if the Palestinians have compromised on their demands one whit since the great handshake on the White House lawn. As if the Palestinians are currently willing to enter peace talks with Israel unconditionally.
No, it is Israel that needs to be pressured and shamed, say the J Street moral oracles.
Of course, this is the same J Street that supported the anti-Israel United Nations Goldstone Report, supported the illegal Palestinian bid for unilateral statehood recognition at the United Nations, and supported talks with Hamas but not military action against it.
Now, J Street has ramped up its anti-Israel campaigning to outrageous heights. At its conference in Washington last week, it launched a new initiative: to condition U.S. military aid to Israel on an end to Israeli home-building in Judea and Samaria specifically, and an “end to the occupation” more generally.
“American aid is not intended to be a blank check,” sneered Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s president. “As Israel receives that $3.8 billion in aid, what is it being used for?” he demanded.
“For too long, American taxpayers and lawmakers have been asked to provide military assistance to Israel without questioning whether the material acquired with that aid was being used as a blank check to further Israeli policies and actions that the U.S. opposes, including the entrenchment of the occupation,” J Street added in a press release.
Sure enough, J Street activists have for months been ambushing Democratic presidential and congressional candidates at campaign events, posing the new J Street litmus test: that candidates outright condemn Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and declare they would consider withholding aid from Israel to get it to change its policies.
This is a shocking, contemptible new low for J Street: actively campaigning to cut U.S. military aid to Israel. Even the most unfriendly to Israel and pro-Palestinian U.S. president ever, Barack Obama, didn’t seek to harm Israel’s security by cutting military aid to Israel. Just the opposite. To his credit, Obama increased military aid to Israel and signed an agreement to guarantee the aid for a decade.
Of course, this was part of Obama’s campaign to snow Israel over the ruinous Iran deal. And Obama fiercely pressured Israel regarding settlements, too. But he never conditioned U.S. military aid on Israel’s bending to Washington’s dictates regarding peace diplomacy.
In other words, J Street is less protective of Israeli security than Obama was.
Alas, J Street is getting results. At its Washington conference this week, several Democratic presidential candidates cozied up to J Street’s foul formula, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. They each said they were open to cutting or conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel as a way of forcing Israel to bend to their will on the conflict with the Palestinians.
Sanders said he would transform some U.S. aid to Israel into humanitarian aid for Gaza “on the first day of his administration because we have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy.” That’s right: “Uncle Bernie” wants to take money that Israel uses to defend itself against terrorists and instead give it to the terrorists.
To this, add the cabal of congressional Democrats who back the boycott Israel movement—Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—and others, like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who have said that U.S. aid should be used to pressure Israel.
J Street loves them all for their “courage.”
In other words, instead of helping moderates in the Democratic camp responsibly steer the discourse on foreign policy and Israel in useful directions, J Street is egging on the radicals who seek confrontation with Israel and who would effectively empower Hamas to kill more Israelis.
It is further worth noting the pious spiritual claptrap with which J Street weaponizes its confrontation with Israel. J Street conference speakers earnestly broadcast their “profound” Jewish and “spiritual” identities in order to besmirch both the mainstream Jewish and Israeli public, and drive a distancing in U.S.-Israel relations. They seem to need to salve their tortured American Jewish progressive souls by attacking Israel.
And they call this “pro-Israel.”
David M. Weinberg is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, jiss.org.il. His personal website is: davidmweinberg.com.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.