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Posted at 2:24 PM ET, 01/31/2011

J Street's really bad day

By Jennifer Rubin

It's not every day that an aggressive left-wing organization makes a public apology and turns tail. But then J Street's letter last week lambasting Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) was no ordinary letter. Today, J Street issued a letter filled with regrets:

At times, we miss the mark. In particular, we allow ourselves to be dragged into the bitter hand-to-hand scuffling that marks modern politics, rather than remaining focused on sparking intelligent conversation on difficult issues. Too often, we descend to the level of those with whom we disagree and our campaigns and actions become too personal.

This happened last week with Congressman Gary Ackerman, when we reacted sharply to statements regarding J Street to which we objected. We may disagree with him over policy matters at times - but he and we share important larger goals for the United States, Israel and the Jewish people. Our discussions with him and with all those with whom we may disagree at times should be conducted with respect.

So allow me to apologize for the tone of our email on Friday.

Well, J Street didn't apologize for the substance of the letter, mind you, or its decision to join the call for the U.S. to get on board with Israel's enemies in condemning the Jewish State in the U.N. Security Council.

The Ackerman letter and the abrupt apology are telling, according to a Democratic pro-Israel activist who is sympathetic to the notion of "progressive Zionism." He says that you'd expect a letter like the one to Ackerman to be thoroughly vetted and all the ramifications fully considered. But the quick about-face suggests, according to the activist, that the J Streeters don't even have their act together "on a political level." According to the activist, the latest gaffe -- along with revelations that George Soros and a mysterious woman from Hong Kong supply a great deal of the group's funding and that J Street ushered Richard Goldstone around Capitol Hill -- harms whatever chance J Street had to carve out some so-called pro-peace, pro-Israel agenda. "They've negated that goal by political mistakes," he says.

Now, the Ackerman letter wasn't the only mini-disaster for J Street. Jamie Weinstein from the Daily Caller in a lengthy interview asked Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren whether J Street is really "pro-Israel":

"They claim they're pro-Israel," he said, providing a less than ringing endorsement of the George Soros-funded organization. "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."

I think that's a "no" in diplomatic-speak.

Ah, but J Street had another problem. It seems that J Street claimed to be running a trip for teens to Israel, known as "Birthright," run by the tour provider Israel Experience. But, alas, neither Birthright nor Israel Experience had heard of such a trip. A page on J Street's website advertising the trip was taken down. And then today J Street "cancels" the trip. Goodness knows if the trip was ever planned, but, once again, J Street's not-ready-for-primetime routine can hardly warm the hearts of its fans.

The next challenge for J Street is its annual conference that runs from Feb. 26 to March 1. Unlike the last conference that advertised a congressional host committee (many members later dropped out) and a hodgepodge of extreme anti-Israel zealots, J Street is oddly mum about nearly all of its panelists and speakers. The Democratic activist isn't surprised. He says of a potential administration or congressional appearance, "Who's going to attend? That's a good question." The Ackerman letter, he says, is a prime example of how J Street treats its friends.

But there is a more fundamental problem for J Street beyond these serial missteps. The group has aligned itself with countries in the U.N. that routinely vilify and want to delegitimize the Jewish state. The activist says, pro-Israel activists can disagree on settlements or on the peace process, but "when it comes to aid for Israel and the U.N., these things are non-negotiable." In other words, J Street can call itself whatever it wants, but to friends of Israel and members of the Israeli government J Street's actions have demonstrated that the group surely is not.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 31, 2011; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  American Jews  
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Comments

Jennifer, God knows I love a good debate, but this J Street stuff is really "inside baseball" if you know what I mean.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 31, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

J Street has been exposed for what it is, an enemy of Israel that tries to disguise itself as a concerned friend. Its main purpose was to shield the more open enemies of Israel from valid accusations of anti-Semitism.

Jennifer, I agree with you 90% of the time, but perhaps you should reconsider your previous defense of George Soros.

Posted by: eoniii | January 31, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

J street is not an enemy of Israel, it's just AIPAC mini me.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 31, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I commend Birthright's decision to exclude J Street. Consider that J Street has mobilised students in Jerusalem to protest the Jewish return to the Shimon Hatzaddik neighbourhood ("Sheikh Jarrah") and even used J Street student mailing lists to raise money for demonstrations. See http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/30/jewish-group-pays-pr-firm-co-owned-by-president/
J Street claims to be "pro-Israel" but its actions described by Ms. Rubin are anything but.

Posted by: neighbour9515 | January 31, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

It's entertaining to read what a gatekeeper Rubin is for the status quo Israel lobby. She's a great example of how the Israel right-or-wrong club is helping Israel commit assisted suicide. Israel is now well-on its way to becoming an apartheid state. Non-negotiable? Nothing is ever really "non-negotiable" including aid to Israel and the UN.

I'm glad she's bringing so much attention to J Street. It's getting a lot more people interested in the organization.

J Street supporter

Posted by: dancingcat | January 31, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I don't get this column. Ninety percent of the time, it seems as if an editing error accidentally put a pro-Zionist, Jerusalem post op-Ed in the WaPo. I'd like to see a column named "Right Turn" focus more heavily on the "conservative" and a lot less on the "neo."

Jennifer Rubin's writing has been the source of widespread derision in the blogosphere, especially after her deliberate misquotes of Hannah Rosenthal to further her agenda of attacking Time Magazine for printing a story that was outside her Zio-bubble. Give us a break, Fred Hiatt!

Posted by: ConscientiousObjector1 | January 31, 2011 6:32 PM | Report abuse

While I find JStreet's anti Israel positions and language to be loathsome, this latest weasely sort of apology by that organization to Rep. Ackerman really set a new moral low even for them.
Probably the only reason JStreet bothered to express regret in this instance is that they cannot financially or politically afford to alienate any more powerful and influential American Jews, especially the Left wing ones they really depend on.

Posted by: Beniyyar | February 1, 2011 3:39 AM | Report abuse

While I find JStreet's anti Israel positions and language to be loathsome, this latest weasely sort of apology by that organization to Rep. Ackerman really set a new moral low even for them.
Probably the only reason JStreet bothered to express regret in this instance is that they cannot financially or politically afford to alienate any more powerful and influential American Jews, especially the Left wing ones they really depend on.

Posted by: Beniyyar | February 1, 2011 3:40 AM | Report abuse

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