This past Monday, the Hartford area Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) co-sponsored an event with J Street, a self-proclaimed ‘pro-Israel’ organization that lobbies against the Israeli government both here and abroad and who, in close cooperation with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the national umbrella organization of JCRCs around the country, wants to make Israeli political debate the subject of local debates as well. Our editorial last week plainly stated that we disagreed with J Street’s view; more specifically, we took issue with J Street using a co-sponsorship with the local Federation to project views that were divisive and controversial.
To be clear, we never questioned the Federation’s dedication to the survival and well being of Israel. They are without peer in their leadership in support of the Zionist idea and Israeli people. Federation support of Israel since the founding of the Jewish state has been strong and consistent during both Labor and Likud governments.
Our concerns stem from Federation’s co-sponsorship of an event with an organization whose primary mission is to change the politics in this country in order to influence events in Israel. We don’t question in any way J Street’s right to exercise their First Amendment rights. But we do take issue with who sponsors them in our community. We think it far more useful for our communal organizations to continue to seek common ground on issues pertaining to Israel than politicizing them and dividing us in the process. This has been their historic role over the last 60+ years.
Common ground becomes scarce when we divide over things like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, that is in essence an effort to delegitimize the Jewish state. Common ground becomes difficult to find when we splinter over things like the Goldstone Report, which accuses Israeli soldiers of war crimes and questions Israel’s right to defend herself. Common ground is close to non-existent when Jewish groups welcome into their midst organizations who work to dilute sanctions against an increasingly capable nuclear Iran. In these cases and others, J Street has chosen to take issue with prevailing opinion within our communities and certainly is at odds with the people of Israel.
Caroline Glick describes J Street in the Jerusalem Post as follows .
“J Street is an anti-Israel lobby, which among other things, has urged Obama not to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for allowing Jews to build on their property in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria; lobbied Congress not to pass a resolution condemning Palestinian anti-Jewish incitement following the massacre of the Fogel family; and lobbied Congress not to pass sanctions against Iran.”
We believe Israel is a vibrant democracy in which its citizens participate in its governance to the fullest extent. In Israel, voters decide on the country’s priorities, just as we do here; and Israelis have consistently, over the last several decades, made the safety and security of their country and their people an overriding concern. Outside groups may advise and Israelis may choose to listen to that advice or to ignore it. But what J Street does is actively lobby both in Congress and at the United Nations for the United States to exert influence on Israel to override choices made that country’s own people. We truly hope that Hartford and the rest of Connecticut not be a battleground for these issues. If it is, however, our communal organizations, which have managed to live with all shades of opinion within them, have no obligation to provide a podium for this debate. It is in the best interests of our communities and Israel that we continue our strong support for the Zionist idea and aggressively maintain the common ground where we can all support that effort.