by Dr. Gabriella Berzin
How can J Street call itself pro-Israel when it works against the majority of Israelis?
American Jews are embarrassed. The feeling that U.S. President Barack Obama is determined to approve a deal with a country that threatens to destroy Israel puts them in an uncomfortable position. Concerns about the consequences of the deal have united most Jewish organizations in an unprecedented manner, as they work with various American groups making every effort to thwart it.
It is therefore puzzling that the left-wing Jewish lobby group J Street, which purports to be "pro-Israel and pro-peace," chose to remove itself from the Israeli consensus that is supported by most American Jewish organizations.
J Street is not embarrassed, however. It is in the midst of a multi-million dollar campaign supporting the deal, which -- even if the optimists are correct, and a nuclear Iran is delayed -- still gives the ayatollahs billions of dollars that they will use, among other things, to arm terrorists against Israel. How can J Street call itself pro-Israel when it works against the majority of Israelis?
Those who are familiar with J Street are not surprised. As early as 2008, when the group first voiced its vague policy about the Iranian issue, concerns were raised. In a film created by the Americans for Peace and Tolerance organization, Professor Alan Dershowitz tells of his request to donate money to J Street on condition that it answer questions on Iran -- but for nought. This past April, when the framework for the Iran deal was publicized, J Street, along with the National Iranian American Council and the Arab American Institute, welcomed and promoted the nuclear agreement. Worse yet, NIAC board member Genevieve Lynch funded J Street, and the organization she belongs to established a subsidiary company focused on advancing the Iran deal. J Street is also funded by the Ploughshares Fund, which is dedicated to working toward a world free of nuclear weapons, but its lobbyists worked fervently to have sanctions on Iran lifted.
In 2012, J Street used its funds to convince lawmakers on Capitol Hill to soften their rhetoric against Iran, and along the way, to improve the status of Palestinian diplomatic delegations to the United States. In 2013 and 2014, they dedicated funds to lectures for members of Congress about the serious consequences of a pre-emptive attack on Iran, while promoting a diplomatic solution for the Iranian issue. Even as Obama was claiming that the congressional sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, J Street staunchly opposed the sanctions, accusing supporters of being hungry for war.
J Street's use of pro-Iranian funding to promote Iranian agendas in Congress does not stop it from calling itself pro-Israel. After all, that description, in addition to agendas that are ideal for those who oppose Israel, brings in a lot of money.
J Street's behavior did not bother Israeli politicians, mainly those from the opposition parties. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, formerly the communications director for the New Israel Fund, smiled when Tzipi Livni declared at a conference that history is made by realists who are not afraid to dream. With a realistic dreamer like him, the Iranians can sleep peacefully and laugh all the way to the bank.
Dr. Gabriella Berzin is an expert in Jewish and Arab philosophy and teaches at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.