The PJ Tatler

Israeli Knesset debates if J Street is Pro or Anti-Israel

Tomorrow, the Israeli Knesset will hold an extraordinary hearing to examine if J Street is pro or anti-Israel. J Street is the Jewish American organization that has been fiercely critical of a roster of Israeli policies.

Most recently, the group criticized the Obama administration’s veto of an Arab resolution before the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements.  Knesset members also argue the group has opposed Western sanctions against Iran.

Feeling under siege this week J Street began circulating an online petition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaiming “J Street’s pro-Israel, pro-peace views represent a large segment of American Jewry. We should be welcomed as allies by Israel’s leaders.”

Even some high profile J Street supporters, however, believe the group has taken positions that are counterproductive and has marginalized itself within Jewish American mainstream.  At its national conference last month  in Washington, D.C. liberal Rabbi David Saperstein scolded J Street for criticizing the administration’s UN veto on settlements. According to Pajamas Media contributor Ron Radosh, who reported from the conference, Sapperstein told a stunned J Street audience that its criticism of the U.S. veto “became ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.'”

Radosh reported that Saperstein said as a result “many centrists who had supported them have broken ranks and dropped out of J Street.” “We,” [Saperstein] said, “made them move away from us.”

Radosh writes that “J Street therefore pushed the mainstream of the Jewish community away from them, rather than towards them.”

In the Israeli Knesset, the opinion expressed is that J Street indeed is anti-Israel.  Shas Party Knesset member Nissim Ze’ev, told Israeli lawmakers that J Street was worse than their enemies. “Their sheer hatred toward the State of Israel and the government’s policies is more terrible than that of Israel’s worst enemies,” he said.

Kadima Party Knesset member Otniel Schneller, who called for the debate was just as blunt. “The fact that J Street fought against the sanctions that the United States wants to place against Iran is very, very serious in my eyes, as is the fact that they acted against the American [UN] veto,” he told his colleagues.

J Street’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami in a March 22 statement called the hearing an effort to “stifle debate” within the Jewish community.  He called their public discussion “extreme and anti-democratic.”