On the wrong side of the J Street

Hoping to be identified as the “middle-ground," J Street characterizes itself as the home of the “pro-Israel and pro-peace Americans.” But its inconsistent stances reflect only uncertainty.

A Star of David on a man's kippa (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Star of David on a man's kippa
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 Since the 1937 Peel Commission, 16 peace offers have been made to the Palestinian leadership – and all have been rejected, most without a counteroffer. While the conflict itself is not short of historical complexities that have made the discussion of concessions difficult for both parties, those complexities have nonetheless always been objective. 
Settlements were never the sole obstacle to peace, Israel was not responsible for the unfortunate creation of Palestinian refugees, and the Palestinian leadership has been a principal oppressor of the Palestinian people. While the suffering on both sides cannot be empirically compared or objectively measured, the history that created such complexities is not up for debate or interpretation. 
But a significant problem at the table of negotiations has consistently persisted on behalf of the Palestinian leadership, a lack of clarity and a distorted approach to history which have led to the contemporary realities that predominate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
The tactics employed by J Street, which are reliant on spreading uncertainty, represent this very same failed approach. This is not only leading to the further divide within the American Jewish community, but to the harming of productive conversations about the conflict. 
Following the indisputably antisemitic remark by US Congressional Rep. Ilhan Omar, where she accused Jews of using their financial influence through AIPAC to safeguard American support for the Israeli government, J Street published a disturbing statement titled “Weaponization and Oversimplification of the Israel Debate Must End.” The content of the statement, which essentially condemned antisemitic remarks by US policy-makers while calling for nuance when discussing the conflict, was not as concerning as the timing of its publication. Using this statement to respond to Ilhan Omar’s notorious antisemitic trope, J Street aimed at creating more chaos and division at a time when the American Jewish community aches for unity. 
However, following the organization’s statement after Airbnb’s discriminatory decision to boycott Jewish settlements in the West Bank, should we be surprised? The comments condemned criticism of Airbnb’s decision, claiming the occupation must be protested without truly addressing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement or its ideology.
While rejecting global BDS (in reference to practice within Israel’s Green Line), J Street failed to condemn Airbnb’s clear double standard by singling out Jews in the West Bank. After all, Russia’s Crimea and Morocco’s Western Sahara were never targeted for the same accusations. Lack of clarity is J Street’s strategic approach to dividing the Jewish community in the US under the guise of progressive attitudes toward peace. 
In an interview with foreign policy analyst Joshua Keating, J Street president Jeremy Ben Ami responded to Omar’s comments as follows:
“It’s the entirety of the argument that is overblown. What we’re losing sight of is the actual issues that we should be discussing. We’re debating whether a particular tweet or expression is antisemitic. The issues I would like to see a focus on are the occupation, the settlements and the question of whether we can end this conflict.”
IF THE leadership of the organization itself is unable to call out transparent antisemitism, how are they to be given any sort of legitimacy to address a conflict, which at its core is rooted in the refusal to recognize Israel as the rightful home of the Jewish people? While legitimate and proportional criticism of Israel should exist, J Street’s aim at nuancing antisemitism is unacceptable. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1995, the Palestinian leadership has consistently violated the agreement by refusing to tear down its systematic indoctrination of antisemitism in the disputed territories.
The same lack of clarity, which has perpetuated the conflict and the consequential suffering that followed, serves as the same contributing factor to the rise of antisemitism in the United States. J Street’s audacity to label its national organization as “unequivocally Zionist,” while accepting Airbnb’s decision to boycott Jewish settlements in the West Bank – or by seeming to be incapable of releasing a comment solely dedicated to condemning antisemitic language in the US Congress – is nothing short of the same lack of clarity guiding the Palestinian Authority’s rejectionist policies. 
Hoping to be identified as the “middle-ground” between both sides of the conflict, J Street characterizes itself as the home of the “pro-Israel and pro-peace Americans.” But its inconsistent stances reflect only uncertainty. 
It is evident that the American Israel Council for Public Affairs (AIPAC) stands for bipartisan support of the American-Israeli relationship – one based not only on Zionist principles but on shared values and interests between both nations. And we know that Students for Justice in Palestine advocates for ethnic cleansing. It is just as transparent that American Muslims for Palestine serves as the megaphone for Hamas’s terrorist network in the US, and that Jewish Voice for Peace seeks to eliminate the Jewish character of Israel by supporting the claim to the full right of return for 5.2 million Palestinians (the large majority of whom have never set foot in Israel). 
Whether Zionist or anti-Zionist, these organizations are at least transparent enough to be characterized not for the loss of Israel’s Jewish nature, but occasionally for being incapable of condemning organizations which condone Palestinian terrorism and violence. With several more of these inconsistencies, how exactly does J Street seek to be perceived? This uncertainty is cause for concern. 
J Street has not just become a divisive factor for the Jewish community in America, it has also become an obstacle to productive discourse and possible reconciliation among the millions waiting for peace to be made. Distorting facts, revising history and disguising a policy of obscurity as neutrality has not only eliminated the organization’s claim to “seek a peaceful two-state solution,” but has also prolonged the harmful lack of clarity that plagues meaningful talks between prominent sectors of the American Jewish community. 
The writer is a former IDF paratrooper, and an Israel advocate, public speaker, Middle East analyst, and campus coordinator for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). He has a master’s degree in diplomacy and international security from IDC Herzliya.