On Friday, April 25, on the way back to his dorm room, Brandeis student Daniel Mael passed a group of his peers with whom he had previously engaged in civil discourse about the state of Israel and the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although they had often disagreed on many aspects of this issue, according to Mael, he felt that it was necessary to extend a hand of graciousness and respect to them in the name of civil and polite discourse. After all it was the Sabbath, and politics should never interfere with showing kindness to your fellow man.
And so, that Friday night, Mael wished these students a “Shabbat Shalom.” Yet Instead of responding with the same respect and cordiality Mael afforded her, according to witnesses present, Talia Lepson, a J Street U Brandeis board member, shrieked at Mael, “Jews hate you!” and “You’re a [expletive deleted]bag!” It was also reported that another unidentified male in the group echoed Lepson’s words, again hurling the vulgar epithet at Mael.
Understandably taken aback by this verbal lashing and feeling unsafe in such a hostile environment, Mael filed an incident report with the university police. He also wrote at length about it on his Facebook page, wondering why this simple act of saying ‘Shabbat Shalom’ elicited such a hateful response. Yet by the time the Sabbath was over, he put the incident out of his mind. Thinking it had passed, he began to focus on more important things like taking finals and finishing the semester.
But he was wrong.
That following Sunday afternoon, J Street National posted a blog on its website denying the incident had occurred. Moreover, they accused Mael of making up the story and claimed that he was the one harassing them. They wrote that he had engaged in a “campaign of personal intimidation and harassment” and implored others to distance themselves from “this blogger and others with a history of conduct driven by malice and deceit.”
But suggesting that Mael would make up a story which witnesses corroborated and then proceed to report that same story to the police is risible. He would not only be incriminating himself but the people with him who witnessed the incident.
According to Mael, he was deeply upset by this slander. It was bad enough to have been verbally attacked on campus. It was worse to have the perpetrators blatantly lie about it on a national forum and suggest that he should be shunned by the entire Jewish community. This bullying and intimidation caused him great physical and emotional turmoil.
Unfortunately J Street’s behavior is typical. Founded in 2008, J Street is an extreme left-wing national advocacy group that claims to be a pro-Israel organization. According to its website, J Street is committed to “fighting for the future of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people.”
But J Street has lobbied for anti-Israel legislation: it endorsed a North Carolina resolution proposed in 2012 by the North Carolina Democratic Party which called for negotiations with Hamas and it has supported efforts to divide Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.
J Street also has university chapters known as “J Street U” whose students have promoted anti-Israel activity. For example, at UC Berkley, J Street U students have supported the BDS movement, which calls for a boycott of the only Jewish state in the Middle East. Also, just last week at Swarthmore University, J Street U students co-hosted an event with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a rabidly anti-Semitic organization that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and which also promotes BDS on campuses.
Moreover, J Street has had a history of attacking and maligning its opponents and then, when called out for such behavior, it accuses others of harassment and claims to be the victim. For example, J Street has hosted rabidly anti-Semitic speakers such as Sam Bahour on its national stage. Bahour peddles slanders against the Jewish people, accusing them of engaging in ethnic cleansing and genocide against Arabs. Yet when activists in the Zionist community reject allowing such an immoral group into the pro-Israel “tent,” J Street claims it is being bullied.