I was appalled and dismayed to read in last week’s Chronicle that J Street supporters, at their annual conference, were favorably inclined to support Democratic candidates who indicated their willingness to cut and/or divert U.S. aid to Israel.
I was also disappointed to read that J Street welcomed anti-Israel groups like IfNotNow (a BDS-supporting group that prides itself on “disrupting” mainstream Jewish organizations by hijacking events they deem pro-Israel and encouraging donors to divert funds from Jewish organizations that support Israel); and individuals like Bashar Azzeh, who is a member of the PCC (Palestinian Central Council), a leading body of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization).
The funds allocated to Israel are not “a blank check,” but rather part of a 10-year bipartisan memorandum of understanding spearheaded by former President Barack Obama and ratified yearly by members of Congress. This support, part of the larger foreign aid bill for our American allies, is one of the few pieces of legislation that enjoys rare bipartisan support exactly because of the nature of the funding and its critical role in ensuring Israel’s security. It creates bilateral opportunities of engagement in the areas of defense, water innovation and technology (just to name a few), protects the lives of Israeli citizens and preserves U.S. interests in the Middle East.
I find it disturbing that J Street, a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization, is opening the door to using U.S. aid funds to dictate Israeli security policies. Since its inception, J Street has blurred the line between “legitimate criticism of Israel” and holding Israel to an unattainable moral standard while dismissing Palestinian incitement and terror. If J Street’s recent conference is any indication, they are ramping up their efforts to isolate Israel and align further with anti-Israel politicians and activists.
I commend the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations for condemning calls by Democratic presidential candidates to condition military aid to Israel contingent on compromising what the Israeli people consider best for their security in an effort to achieve peace with the Palestinians, whose leaders have repeatedly rebuffed peace efforts over the last 70 years. I am also grateful to the several moderate Democratic candidates who speak in support of Israel’s right to defend itself and soundly reject this call to cut aid.
It is inconceivable that we, as American Jews, should dictate the terms that Israel should agree to, decide what is best for Israel, or interfere with Israeli policies while Israelis face daily threats to their safety and security from every direction. I encourage J Street leaders to be more transparent and consistent about their position on U.S. aid to Israel and take a stand to political leaders and anti-Israel groups who seek to harm Israel, consistent with their proclamations of being “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” and not sacrifice Israel’s security in an effort to broaden their progressive donor base or to appease Israel’s enemies.
If J Street leaders are unwilling to stand up for Israel and continue to give a platform to her enemies, it is ridiculous for them to describe themselves as “pro-Israel” while they actively lobby the U.S. government to undermine the policies of the democratically elected government of Israel. pjc
Julie Paris lives in Squirrel Hill.