Praise for J Street conference, concern for the future
I just celebrated my 86th birthday by attending (virtually) another wonderful J Street Conference. As always, the wide scope of the speakers was impressive, from President Abbas to Elizabeth Warren, speaking eloquently for the support of Israel and a two-state solution. The conference strengthened both my own connection to Israel and my hope for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state. Israel has all of my affection and admiration for its accomplishments. I am concerned about its commitment to what I see as Jewish values. I have been a strong Zionist all my life, but am discouraged at the lack of progress toward the establishment of a Palestinian state. The video of life on the West Bank was overwhelmingly discouraging. This human rights issue continues year after year and seems to have been put on the back burner while the occupation continues. There is room for compromise on both sides, but at present, instead of compromise we are talking annexation and destroying homes. Where, when, how will this be settled?
Supporting a strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel
I’m inspired by the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle’s editorial staff for its recognition of the significance of the Deutch/McCall letter to the Congressional Committee on Appropriations in support of renewing the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which provides $3.8B in security assistance for Israel. As the editorial board pointed out, this letter (signed by over 75% of congressional representatives) reinforced that bipartisan support for Israel remains strong and steadfast, and that those within Congress who seek to undermine the U.S./Israel relationship are a fringe minority. I’d like to express a special thank you to Western Pennsylvania’s local congressional representatives, including Reps. Conor Lamb, Guy Reschenthaler and Mike Kelly for signing the letter, and also recognize Rep. Mike Doyle, who sent his own letter to the Committee reinforcing his commitment to the U.S.-Israel MOU. May we continue to work together to fight back against anti-Israel politicians and groups that single out and demonize Israel, and work hard to ensure that our members of Congress know that bipartisan support for Israel is important to their constituents. In our community, we don’t have to agree about every decision that the Israeli government makes in order to advocate for a strong U.S./Israel relationship, and to support U.S. aid to Israel, which ensures that Israel has the ability to support itself, by itself. In the words of the Talmud, all Jews are responsible for one another. May we all take responsibility to ensure that we care and protect one another by investing our time and energy in strengthening our community through positive and productive engagement, and supporting a strong U.S./Israel relationship.
J Street remains committed to Israel’s security
In a recent editorial (“Resounding bipartisan support for Israel,” April 30) about the Deutch-McCaul letter expressing support for the continued funding of U.S. security aid to the state of Israel without added conditions, the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle went out of its way to criticize J Street and its support for Betty McCollum’s “Palestinian Children and Families Act.”
Unfortunately, the editorial’s criticisms were based on inaccurate representations of both J Street’s position and the bill itself.
The editorial made two incorrect claims about J Street and the bill: that the Deutsch-McCaul letter was written as a “direct response” to the McCollum bill, and that the bill is a “fig leaf for a more nefarious goal” like cutting security aid to Israel. Both of these assertions rest on an unfortunate misreading of both the bill and the letter.
The Deutsch-McCaul letter was in no way written as a response to McCollum’s bill. This is clear not only because the letter was circulating for weeks before the McCollum bill was introduced, but also because the bipartisan sentiment in support of ongoing aid to Israel according to existing U.S. commitments does not conflict with the McCollum bill in the slightest.
The McCollum bill does not call for any cuts to or conditioning of aid to Israel. It does call for increased transparency around how security aid to Israel is used, and for end-use restrictions to ensure that while Israel should receive every dollar of the U.S. security assistance already committed to it, this assistance can only be used for legitimate defense purposes — and not for the seizure of Palestinian land, the demolition of Palestinian homes or the arbitrary detention of Palestinian children. These restrictions are not a “fig leaf” for a more nefarious goal — if anything, they are preventing American taxpayer dollars from being spent on harmful activities for which they are not intended, and which ultimately undermine the prospects for peace and make Israel less safe.
J Street is committed to Israel’s security and to its future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, living in peace and security alongside a future Palestinian state. Our goal in supporting the new McCollum legislation is to help make absolutely sure that U.S. security assistance is used to advance that goal, and not to undercut it. What’s radical and nefarious about that?