Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Last week I came across a video I had stored on my Google Drive that I haven't looked at in years. It is a short clip from 2012 featuring J Street Field Director Carinne Luck answering a question during a J Street training session:

The video has been edited from a slightly longer video here.

The main points to take away from what Luck says are:
  • A sizable percentage of J Street is not Jewish
  • J Street responds to "the Hill, the (Obama) Administration" which wants J Street to "move Jews"
  • The bulk of J Street resources are dedicated to this
  • There is an uneasiness about those in J Street leadership who are not Jewish who may present themselves as Jews
  • In the longer version of the video, Luck also talks about how J Street "gives cover" for politicians in terms of the Jewish community - what are the politicians doing right or wrong and what do their Jewish constituents think.
  • Bottom Line: The goal of J Street is advocacy to the Jewish community--not representing Jewish interests and advocating for those interests in Washington.
The issue of J Street's goal being to "move Jews" on behalf of the Obama Administration seems timely considering the ongoing discussion of the echo chamber used by the White House to market the Iran Deal and discredit those who opposed it. Lee Smith writes about the implementation of the White House marketing strategy and how the Obama Administration echo chamber has now come unplugged:
The things that seemed to make sense last year—like exchanging Iranian crooks and spies for ordinary American citizens—now look ridiculous. And it’s clear why the deliberate urgency with which the administration messaged its Iran policy had the feel of an advertising campaign—because it was an advertising campaign, crafted to convince consumers that something you think is bad for you is actually good for you.
How much of that 'bad is good' way of thinking applies to J Street?

As a more recent example of J Street doing something "bad" for Israel's own "good" J Street brought "Breaking the Silence" to speak this week during Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. In their description on their website, J Street makes no mention of the days they picked for this. As for Breaking the Silence, J Street describes them as
an organization comprised of former Israeli soldiers who share testimonials of their experiences serving in the occupied territories. Through a photo exhibition, the soldiers share testimonials and highlight the moral and strategic dilemmas that the occupation creates for Israel and for the Israel Defense Forces.
But according to the NGO Monitor report on Breaking the Silence:
  • Breaking the Silence (BtS) collects testimonies of soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories during the Second Intifada,” claiming that the “testimonies portray a…grim picture of questionable orders in many areas regarding Palestinian civilians [which] demonstrate the depth of corruption which is spreading in the Israeli military…Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye, and to deny that which happens in its name.
  • Active in promoting “war crimes” charges against Israel. These charges were based on anonymous and unverifiable hearsay “testimonies.” [emphasis added]
  • Although claiming to address Israeli society, the NGO’s lobbying and media advocacy focus on international audiences, including presentations in Europe and the United States. Yehuda Shaul, BtS co-founder, defended this practice: “Sometimes, when you want to deliver messages to the inside, you must go outside.”
On the issue of echo chambers -- in 2012, in a New York Times article Jeff Zeleny described J Street as "a Jewish lobbying group in Washington that favors Democratic candidates"

Take a look. According to the J Street website:
That's 254 candidates J Street has endorsed over those 4 years.

Since J Street claims to be pro-Israel and pro-peace, are we to assume that there just aren't any pro-Israel candidates around?
Is it possible that in each and ever political race, the Democrat has a better record on Israel than the Republican?

For that matter, do each and every one of these Democratic politicians have a pro-Israel record?

Apparently not.

J Street described Tammy Baldwin as
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI-2) is running to replace retiring U.S. Senator Herb Kohl in what figures to be one of the most expensive and competitive races this cycle. Baldwin is the first openly gay woman elected to Congress and has represented this Madison based district since 1998. She is a strong supporter of Israel and two-state peace and proudly took JStreetPAC’s endorsement in 2010. Prior to serving in Congress, Baldwin served in the Wisconsin State Assembly, Madison City Council, Dane County Board of Supervisors, and practiced law for several years.

The Emergency Committee for Israel countered

J Street described Lois Capps as
Rep. Lois Capps is running for her sixth term representing this Coastal California district in Congress. Trained as a nurse, Rep. Capps serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, sits on the Subcommittee on Health and is expected to face a competitive re-election contest in this newly re-drawn district that includes much of Santa Barbara. One of JStreetPAC’s earliest endorsees, Rep. Capps has been a public champion of pro-Israel/pro-peace issues since being elected to Congress in 1998. As she has stated: “The vision the President has set forth for two states for two peoples reflects longstanding efforts by the U.S. over several Administrations and is the only viable way to move forward and achieve these critically important goals.”
The Emergency Committee for Israel countered

Keep in mind that this is going on at a time when Pew Research shows that Democrats are now about equally split between sympathizing more with Israel (33 percent) and with the Palestinians (31 percent):

For the first time this century — if not ever — Democrats are now about equally split
between sympathizing more with Israel and with the Palestinian Arabs. Source: Pew Research

J Street may well argue that they are concentrating on electing Democrats to Congress in order to combat that trend. However, the fact remains that this trend is going on at time that J Street is insisting on endorsing only Democrats, some with questionable pro-Israel credentials, for office.

Some echo chamber.

If indeed J Street acted under the guidance of the Obama Administration, not only backing the Iran deal but in general influencing American Jews rather than representing Jews in Washington -- J Street may well have served as a small scale echo chamber. J Street has successfully advocated and supported causes that were sometimes questionable and at other times actually detrimental to the cause of Israel.

Lee Smith notes in his article that the power of the Obama Administration echo chamber has been unplugged now that Obama is out of office.

That may be true.

But that is not going to stop J Street from continuing to try to follow the Obama White House directive to "move Jews."

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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