J Street's line: Virus, shmirus; let's focus on the Palestinians
April 17, 2020
(JNS)—The whole world is changing—but not for J Street, which, virus or no virus, is still devoting itself to persuading members of U.S. Congress to embrace the Palestinian cause.
Over the past several weeks, J Street was mobilizing its supporters around the country to urge them to “demand the administration release vital assistance to help the Palestinians combat the coronavirus pandemic.”
Think about that. In the midst of an epidemic that has left U.S. hospitals desperately short of emergency equipment and has resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs, J Street is trying to convince the government to give millions of taxpayers’ dollars to two anti-American terrorist regimes: the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
Talk about tone-deaf! Completely oblivious to the suffering of American citizens, J Street’s top priority is to give American money to two of the most vicious America-hating regimes in the world.
It’s not just a matter of priorities. It’s not just that most Americans don’t want their money going to anti-American regimes. It’s also a matter of funding terrorists.
The P.A. proudly pays salaries to imprisoned terrorists and families of dead terrorists. Foreign aid is fungible. If the United States gives the P.A. money for one part of its budget—health care—that frees up money to pay terrorists.
Same for Hamas. Practically every week, Hamas terrorizes southern Israel with rockets or flaming balloons (on March 29, it launched a rocket into Sderot). If America sends money to Gaza for any purpose, that will enable Hamas to spend other money on terrorism.
Despite these facts, J Street plunged ahead with its lobbying effort, and last week, a group of U.S. senators and representatives sent a letter to the secretary of state, pleading for money to be sent to the P.A. and Hamas regimes.
At the time the letter was sent, the P.A. territories had just 50 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and Hamas-run Gaza had only two. Yet for some reason, J Street felt that it was urgent for these members of Congress to set aside whatever they were doing and give their attention to these geographical areas.
I don’t know exactly which congressional staffers or J Street activists had a hand in drafting the language of the letter. But boy, did they mislead the members of Congress who signed it.
For example, as evidence that the Palestinian Arabs are in dire straits, and therefore worthy of millions of American taxpayer dollars, the congressional letter asserted that in Gaza, “54 percent are ‘food insecure.’ ”
What the writers of the letter forgot to mention is that at the end of 2018, 68 percent of Gazans were “‘food insecure,” according to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. So, in 16 months, the rate has dropped from 68 percent to 54 percent, yet J Street misleadingly seeks to give the impression that things are getting worse.
There are, by the way, other economic indicators that tell a similar story. For example, we are constantly hearing about the high unemployment rate in Gaza. That same U.N. office reported in January that “26 percent of the Gaza workforce is unemployed.” But if you check the CIA World Factbook—one of the most authoritative sources of information on conditions around the world—you find that unemployment in Gaza was 26.1 percent in 2016 and 27.9 percent in 2017 (the most recent data available).
So, where’s the big crisis?
The congressional letter asserts that “according to the United Nations, 38 percent of [Gaza] residents live in poverty.” Do you know what the poverty rate in Gaza was 10 years ago, in 2010? You guessed it—38 percent.
The congressional letter also claims that “more than 90 percent of [Gaza’s] water is ‘undrinkable.’ ” The members of Congress who signed the letter no doubt would be surprised to learn that just six weeks ago, the World Bank announced that a group of countries have pledged the funds for a massive water-desalination program for Gaza—$60 million will be coming from Kuwait, $42 million from nine European countries and Australia, and $15 million from the World Bank itself.
So, at a time when Arab and European regimes are finally promising to do their part—instead of always relying on the U.S. to foot the bills—J Street for some reason insists that Americans must again trot out their check books for the Palestinian cause.
There is, however, one hopeful sign in this otherwise disheartening episode. Despite J Street’s efforts, only eight senators and 15 House members signed the pro-Palestinian letter. And some of the signatories were the usual gang of cheerleaders for the Palestinians, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
Meaning that despite all of J Street’s pleadings, very few members of Congress—like very few Americans—see the merit in sending tax dollars to supporters of terrorism.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism,” now available on Kindle.