The Obama administration is sending its highest-ranking speaker yet to keynote J Street’s conference in Washington.
The group has been branded a “pro-peace” alternative to pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC, the ADL and the American Jewish Committee. Alan Dershowitz once said “J Street has done more damage to Israel than any American organization.”
“It has made a generation of Jews ashamed to be pro-Israel, and has made it politically correct among young people to single out Israel to a double standard and for fault,” Dershowitz continued. “It is a fraud in advertising to call J Street pro-Israel. An organization that calls for the US to censure Israel at the UN is not pro-Israel. An organization that praises [judge Richard] Goldstone is not pro-Israel. An organization that calls for taking any military measure against Iran off the table is not pro-Israel. It should stop defrauding the public.”
J Street’s pro-Palestinian stance — Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the leader of a Palestinian nationalist party and cousin of an imprisoned Palestinian terror leader, told last year’s J Street conference that blame for imminent failure of a two-state solution will rest squarely on the shoulders of Israel — is slowly gaining traction on Capitol Hill.
Last November, the organization claimed victory in 70 of the 71 endorsements it made during the campaign season. J Street cheered the losses of what it called “One-State Caucus” Reps. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Allen West (R-Fla.), Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), and Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.). All were freshman reps who came to power in the GOP’s 2010 midterm Tea Party-driven rout.
The lobbying group defines this “caucus” as “members of Congress who put Israel’s democracy and Jewish character at risk by promoting policies—such as annexation of the West Bank—that are at odds with long standing bipartisan support for a two-state solution.”
White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett was the administration’s speaker at last year’s J Street conference. “We know that some of you are sometimes frustrated with the pace of the peace process,” she said at the March 2012 dinner. “Peace is in the long-term interest of Israel, it’s in the interest of the Palestinian people, it’s in the interest of the region, and it’s in the interest of the world.”
The announcement of Biden as J Street’s speaker comes months after some on the left accused the vice president of “pandering” to pro-Israel activists at the spring AIPAC conference.
Biden will address J Street on Sept. 30, the same day that President Obama sits down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
“The theme of the conference is ‘Our Time to Lead’ and it couldn’t be coming at a more critical time,” J Street said today.
“Secretary Kerry has helped jumpstart a new nine-month push to reach a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And as President Obama said in March in Jerusalem, political leaders are more likely to make bold decisions necessary to achieve peace when ordinary people push them to do so,” said the announcement to J Street supporters. “…Vice President Biden will be joined by an amazing array of Israeli, Palestinian and American conference guests, including Congressman John Lewis, Israeli Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich and scores of significant civil society, business and political figures.”
Last year the Israeli government sent Ambassador Barukh Binah to speak at the conference, where he received a tepid reception after he delivered an impeccably structured point-by-point barrage of the risks faced by the Jewish state and where the lobbying organization has slipped.
Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren had his share of run-ins with the lobbying organization. “They claim they’re pro-Israel,” he said in 2011. “They are calling for Israel to be condemned in the Security Council for the settlements and they are condemning some of our best friends on the Hill. So they can call themselves what they like.”