J Street's Troubles Began Even Before its National Conference Convenes: Could This Year be Its Swan Song?

Even before its national conference convenes on Saturday night (which I and other PJM folk will be covering and blogging about throughout the conference), J Street is facing opposition from Kadima, the Israeli centrist party headed by Tzipi Livni, because some of its members agreed to attend and speak at the event.

Writing today in the Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman reveals that the few who accepted the invitation to speak were told by colleagues in their own faction that “they should not be supporting the left-wing American lobby.” By putting it in this way, the opponents of participation have accurately portrayed J Street for what it is: a fringe leftist sect trying to appear as a mainstream part of American Jewish life.

Hoffman also notes that J Street was unable to get senior Israeli politicians to attend, even a minister whom Hoffman calls “the most dovish minister in the cabinet, Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor,” who is from Likud, PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s party.

J Street, which continually tries to assert that it is “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” is well known for opposing whatever measures the Israeli government takes to protect the country. Most recently, it refused to oppose the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Now that the United States voted against it -- (although UN Ambassador Susan Rice undercut the meaning of the vote by explaining the administration’s reluctance and stating that “we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. We view Israeli settlement activity in territories that were occupied in 1967 as undermining Israel’s security, its democracy, and hopes for peace and stability...”) -- J Street is in the position  of formally opposing a decision taken by the United States delegation to the UN.

The organization had also escorted Judge Richard Goldstone around Washington, D.C., to gather support for his notoriously biased anti-Israel report, and refused to condemn the Goldstone Report, even though it accused Israel’s leaders of purposefully targeting civilians in Gaza. Most recently, as Lenny  Ben-David pointed out at PJM, its founder, Jeremy Ben-Ami, has greatly compromised the group’s raison d’etre.

Among the organization’s many recent embarrassments, Ben-Ami was first discovered denying that the anti-Israel billionaire George Soros was funding the group, then reluctantly trying to spin his extensive monetary contributions after they were exposed, to finally bragging about his financial support to make it appear that they always knew about it and were proud of his role in helping them.

As  Lenny Ben-David reported, J Street founder Ben-Ami co-authored an article with Trita Parsi in 2009 opposing U.S. sanctions on Iran, in favor of diplomacy. At the time, the real debate in our country was between those who supported some form of military action against Iran -- because they argued sanctions were not working and would not work -- and those who argued we should rely on sanctions alone. There were very few who took the position taken by Ben-Ami and Parsi, which was a stance that, if adopted, would have strengthened the mullahs' regime in Tehran.  No wonder that, as Hoffman writes, Kadima members of the Knesset “were also upset with J Street for undermining the international effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran."