J Street

From Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is developing and not approved.
Main Article
Talk
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
 
This editable Main Article is under development and not meant to be cited; by editing it you can help to improve it towards a future approved, citable version. These unapproved articles are subject to a disclaimer.

J Street is an interest group intending to encourage a U.S. role in ending the Arab-Israeli and Israel-Palestine Conflicts. While it describes itself as composed of "Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, peacefully and diplomatically", it also supports a two-state solution with a sovereign Palestinian state. Its policies differ from many held by the State of Israel's government and other U.S. Zionist organizations. [1]

Its name is something of a Washington pun, as while Washington, D.C. streets are alphabetical and K Street NW is associated with the highest density of lobbyists, for reasons never explained, the original city design skipped the letter J; there is no physical J Street.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom merged with it in October 2009, bringing an estimated 50,000 grass-roots members and 1,000 rabbis. [2]

Positioning

The organization is fairly new, having been founded in 2008. It is positioned as a liberal alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; David Kimche, former Mossad officer and director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said "AIPAC has become more militant than the Israeli government. Its messages reflect more the oppositionist Likud doctrine than the moderate stance of Prime Minister Olmert. Moreover, whereas … some 80 percent of the Jewish voters traditionally cast their votes for the Democrats, AIPAC is geared to an extreme-right-wing agenda, often more in line with the Jewish neo-cons than with the majority of American Jews.” [3]

While FrontPage Magazine, the publication of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, claimed that the organization was founded and funded by George Soros,[4] J Street denied his involvement, says he is welcome to contribute, and its financial disclosure statement revealed no contributions from him. [5] The Washington Times, however, reported, in September 2010, that it had obtained tax reports for Soros and two of his children, showing "$245,000 to J Street from one Manhattan address in New York during the fiscal year from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. The contributions represent a third of the group's revenue from U.S. sources during the period. Nearly half of J Street's revenue during the timeframe — a total of $811,697 — however, came from a single donor in Happy Valley, Hong Kong, named Consolacion Esdicul."[6]

Philip Giraldi, generally associated with a paleoconservative ideology, has written that J Street, positioned as a "self-proclaimed kindler, gentler alternative" to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), but only differs from AIPAC in "tone, not substance".
Israel is and should be a Jewish state with unlimited right of "return" for Jews from anywhere in the world and no such rights for Christians or Muslims who lived in the country before 1948. A Jewish state, by definition, would have limited rights for the 20% and growing segment of the current Israeli population that is Christian or Muslim. J Street quixotically supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, even though it knows that the half million Israeli Jews living in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank cannot be moved and will make two states impossible. [7]

He supports the presidential campaign of Ron Paul, and argues, citing J Street protest over Paul's call to terminate all foreign aid, "Why should there be a new and powerful lobby in Washington composed of American citizens arguing for a special relationship with any country? Why should the United States be providing unlimited support to a nation that claims to be a democracy but which limits rights based on religion? If J Street truly wants to fix Israel it should be working in Israel, not in the United States, because the settlers and hardline right-wing parties are Israeli problems."

October 2009 conference

For its October 2009 conference, the keynote speaker was James L. Jones, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs in the Obama Administration. Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, however, declined to appear, saying that J Street's policies "could impair Israel's interests." [8] J Street, however, did not invite Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) to the conference, because JVP does not assume a two-state solution.[9]

Relations with Oren

While there is suspicion from the Israeli government, Oren, in February 2010, said, in a February 10 interview with the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, that J Street had moved "The J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving. The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process. J Street has now come and supported Congressman Howard Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone Report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream." J Street, in turn, defended him after protesters at the University of California at Irvine kept him from speaking.[10]

Gaza sanctions

J Street and Americans for Peace Now cosponsored a letter from 54 House Democrats to President Obama, calling for lifting sanctions on Gaza. The lead authors were Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington) and Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota)[11] Gaza is under the control of Hamas. The letter was critical of Israeli positions. Hadar Susskind, Director of Policy and Strategy at J Street, on February 21, 201, coauthored an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, commenting on the response to the letter.[12]
Not a single major Jewish communal organization opposed the letter during the six weeks it was open for signatures. There is a good reason no groups opposed the letter, because there is nothing in it that would justify such opposition.

Yet now, the Republican Jewish Coalition (not a Jewish communal organization but rather a partisan organization that targets the Jewish community), for its own narrow political reasons, is attacking members of Congress who signed the letter, grossly mischaracterizing its content and the focus of its message.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who supports the State of Israel policy, said J Street takes “positions in Washington I have difficulty with.”[13] According to Engel, J Street overemphasizes Israeli imperfections and refuses to put "the blame squarely where I think it belongs – the Palestinian attitude of denying Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state.”

Congressional visit to Israel

When a group of Democratic Congressmen ,led by Bill Delahunt (Massachusetts), with Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio), Bob Filner and Lois Capps of California and Donald Payne (New Jersey) visited Israel in February 2010, sponsored by J Street and Churches for Middle East Peace, the Deputy Foreign Minister, refused to meet with them as long as staff from the sponsors would be present. Israeli Defense Forces prevented them from going to Gaza. They did meet with Palestinian officials, the king and prime minister of Jordan, and members of the Knesset including the leader of the opposition, Tzipi Livni (Kadima). [14]

Yuli Edelstein (Likud), the Diaspora affairs minister, was among those to refuse to meet with them.
There's a very simple rule, and I leave it with a question mark: If J Street says it is able to represent every government in Israel, maybe they can be a lobby. If they can't be a lobby, call themselves Young Liberal Jews for whatever, for Better Jewish Communal Life in the United States, and then we'll speak with them.[10]
Ben Ami responded that Edelstein was setting an impossible benchmark for any U.S. Jewish group to meet.
The minister clearly misunderstands what J Street is and how American lobbies that are not agents of foreign governments operate. We don't claim to, and in fact do not, represent the government of Israel. We explicitly reserve the right to agree with it at times and to disagree with it at times -- as we do with the U.S. government.

Emergency Committee for Israel

The Emergency Committee for Israel, led by Christian Zionist Gary Bauer, with neoconservatives William Kristol and Rachel Elliott, opposes J Street. Answering questions from the Jerusalem Post, Noah Rosen, its executive director, contrasted it with J Street.
Well, for starters, ECI is pro-Israel. Our purpose is to address three major threats to the U.S.-Israel alliance in the context of the American political debate: the Iranian nuclear program and Iran's sponsorship of terrorist groups; the campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel; and the hostility of the Obama administration to the traditional closeness of the two nations. At bottom, we believe that the turn against Israel is a rejection of America's special role in the world as a defender of liberal democracies. We will do great damage to our own national soul if we allow ourselves to become cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state. [15]

The Jewish Telegraph Agency reports that the race is taking on national significance, as it explores whether candidates can successfully ally themselves with less hard-line groups such as J Street. Believing that it is too dangerous to alienate groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "dovish" congressman have refused J Street support, such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), "a Jewish lawmaker who took J Street's money in 2008 but is not on their roster of 61 endorsees this year." Jeremy Ben Ami, J Street's executive director, said "There's no question that this race is a very important test of what kind of support J Street and its supporters can deliver/ We will show a substantial amount of money can be raised from our political action committee, and that a substantial amount of money can be raised for a candidate that opposes the right wing on these issues." [16]

Kristol has suggested that ECI is challenging, as well as J Street on the left, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), usually thought to be on the right, but not far-right, of U.S.-Israel positions. "There are some who say they’re pro-Israel but aren’t really ... then there’s AIPAC, which is a wonderful organization, but one that’s very committed to working with the administration, so they pull some punches publicly. Jewish Week also quoted Bauer on J Street: "You have to take a group and look at what it does. In my view, you have to come up with a pretty bizarre definition of ‘pro-Israel’ to fit J Street into that category.”[17] Kristol's criticism of working with the Administration reflects other comments that wonder to what extent ECI is concerned with Republican interests.

UN resolution on settlements

In January 2011, J Street issued a position statement relating to a draft United Nations Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. "J Street shares the growing global frustration at the lack of progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and at the Israeli government’s continued expansion of settlements beyond the Green Line....J Street grounds its work in a deep commitment to the security, survival and character of the state of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people....The Resolution introduced in the United Nations Security Council this week condemns Israel’s ongoing settlement activity and calls on both parties to continue negotiating final status issues in an effort to resolve the conflict in the short term.

These are sentiments that we share and that we believe a majority of Jewish Americans and friends of Israel share." The group stated its firt preference was "...Israeli or American action that averts the need for such a Resolution. However, if the Resolution does come to a vote, we urge the Obama administration to work to craft language, particularly around Jerusalem, that it can support condemning settlement activity and promoting a two-state solution.

"While we hope never to see the state of Israel publicly taken to task by the United Nations, we cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy.[18]

During the 2010 Congressional election, J Street's political action committee gave a fundraiser for Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) , Dan Maffei (D-NY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), whom they called "...excellent advocates for pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Congress and courageous leaders on other progressive issues as well, such as health care and climate change." J Street did not disclose if he had sought the endorsement.

In response to the above statement on the resolution, Ackerman dissasociated himself from J Street. "After learning of J-Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and—critically—would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel.

"America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”[19]

References

  1. About Us, J Street
  2. 50,000 Brit Tzedek Activists, Rabbinic Cabinet to Ally with J Street’s National Grassroots Program, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom
  3. Michael Brendan Dougherty (19 May 2008), Turning on to J Street: A new lobby re-examines the special relationship
  4. John Perazzo (12 January 2009), "A Street Named Surrender", Frontpage Magazine
  5. J Street: Myths and Facts, J Street
  6. Eli Lake (24 September 2010), "Soros revealed as funder of liberal Jewish-American lobby", Washington Times
  7. Philip Giraldi (10 March 2011), The J Street Scam, AntiWar.com
  8. Dan Eggen (24 October 2009), "Tense debate on U.S.-Israel foreign relations begins ahead of J Street Conference", Washington Post
  9. Richard Silverstein (6 September 2009), "American Jewish Left in Transition", Tikun Olam
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ron Kampeas (16 February 2010), "J Street, Oren mending fences—but wariness lingers", Jewish Telegraph Agency
  11. Natasha Mozgovaya (26 January 2010), "U.S. lawmakers to Obama: Press Israel to ease Gaza siege", Haaretz
  12. Hadar Susskind; Lara Friedman (February 21, 2010). Enough is enough. Jerusalem Post. Retrieved on 2010-02-22.
  13. Herb Keinon (February 22, 2010). ‘New US envoy to Syria a mistake’. The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved on 2010-02-22.
  14. "J Street congressional group snubbed, blocked from Gaza", Jewish Telegraph Agency, 17 February 2010
  15. "Rosner's Domain: Noah Pollak on "cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state"", Jerusalem Post, 15 July 2010
  16. Ron Kampeas (20 July 2010), Pa. Senate race turning into Israel proxy fight, Jewish Telegraph Agency
  17. James D. Besser (14 July 2010), "GOP Heavies Launch New Pro-Israel Group: Kristol, Bauer target J Street’s candidate in Pa. Senate race.", Jewish Week
  18. Amy Spitalnick (20 January 2011), "New J Street Policy Statement on Settlement Expansion & UN Security Council Resolution", J Street
  19. Ackerman Blasts J-Street support for UN Condemnation of Israel, Office of Gary Ackerman, U.S. House of Representatives, 25 January 2011