A few years ago the Ledger started running advertisements for a national service organization that is a key responder in disaster relief as well as a facilitator for individuals with particular problems like alcoholism and drugs. We had some knowledge of the good things they did and were comfortable in working with them. After running the first ad, we got a call from a member of the community who referred us to this organization’s mission statement. The statement, plainly stated, included a conversionary agenda that conflicted with the Ledger’s own mission in the Jewish community. We stopped running the ads. It was an amicable parting. There was no misrepresentation involved. We simply weren’t aware of their mission and they weren’t attuned to our sensitivity. It reminds us that we continually have to be concerned about what we present to the Jewish community, even in the advertisements we accept.
We are now involved in a different situation that also points us to our obligation in the community. That responsibility includes being aware of not only what an organization says, but what they do. It is not merely what a group chooses to say that is important, it is also the effect of their policies on the Jewish community and the State of Israel that have to be taken into account when we get involved with them.
We are referring to an event sponsored by the self-proclaimed pro-Israel organization J Street and co-sponsored by Hartford’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). We disagree with the JCRC’s involvement in this event and, contrary to the claim that J Street is just part of the ‘discussion’ within the Jewish community, we believe their actions and policies are detrimental to the safety and security of the State of Israel. That the JCRC is a part of the Federation itself makes this a matter of community concern.
Founded a little more than three years ago, J Street’s glib policy statement about what the organization stood for was, by and large, initially accepted by the Jewish world. Now, however, J Street has a record that speaks for itself. On an issue-by-issue basis, J Street stands outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior for most Jews. A Frank Luntz/CAMERA poll recently reaffirmed what major opinion surveys continually tell us: when Israel is in peril, American Jews coalesce around her both in deed and thought. (The Federation’s emergency campaigns also attest to that notion.)
Aside from differing with J Street on many issues, we also have problems with their deceptive approach to dealing with the Jewish community. Their discussion of the issues is a constant chain of dissembling. Foremost, is their claim that the self-proclaimed anti-Zionist George Soros was not a J Street donor. In fact, Soros was later revealed to be a major backer of the organization. Then there is the organiztion’s reprehensible role in promoting the findings of the odious Goldstone Report that effected a harm on Israel that can’t be reversed. In the doing, J Street questioned Israel’s right to protect herself and held the IDF, which was defending Israel, to the same standard applied to Hamas, which was firing rockets at Israel’s civilian population.
J Street recently visited Israel and was received with little enthusiasm. Lenny Ben-David, the former head of AIPAC in Israel, commented that J Street hides “its real anti-Israel face behind a ‘pro-Israel’ mask.” Ben –David also wrote:
“I want to emphasize that in the Zionist world, there is plenty of room for organizations from the left and the right, secular and religious organizations, Jewish and Christian organizations….But I have never seen an organization like J Street that hides behind the cover of a pro-Israel organization and works with such furtiveness in the United States.. to undermine and hurt the State of Israel”.
Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post wrote of J Street that, “These people don’t want peace. They want to wage war against Israel. They support waging economic war against Israel. They view the IDF as indistinguishable from Hamas….(their) positions are not positions that are conducive to peace.”
When J Street urged the Obama Administration not to veto a UN Security Council resolution against Israel, a leading Democrat in the House of Representatives, Gary Ackerman, who was an early supporter of J Street, loudly and emphatically backed away from the group. “I’ve come to the conclusion that J Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated…The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help.”
Why this turnabout from people who might be expected to be supportive of pro-Israel groups? Maybe it’s the people they associate with, as evidenced by the long list of active Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) speakers given the podium at J Street’s recent Washington meeting. Or it could be the organization’s behavior demonstrated by their disgraceful objection on Capitol Hill to a letter, written in the aftermath of the brutal murder of the Fogel family in Ithamar this past winter, sponsored by Representatives Rothman and Austrian and signed by most of Congress, that asked the Palestinian Authority to stop preaching the kind of incitement that led to this heinous act. J Street’s objection to the Rothman-Austrian letter, as described by columnist Joel Mowbray, was that it “failed to talk about Israel’s misdeeds”.
Israel needs our support. Dialogue and debate are essential parts of our process. It also must be realized, however, that it is self-defeating to start any conversation about Israel with a discussion about her right to exist. We’d no more start a dialogue on that point than we would on the continued existence of the United States.
Being open to all points of view precludes being supportive of one. At the Ledger we do take sides. For 16 years we’ve been one with the Hartford Federation on its positions on Israel. This time we’re not. The pity is that now is when Israel needs us the most.