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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘J Street’

UN Envoy Promises Cash for PUG, Calls for End to Gaza Blockade

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Robert Serry, the United Nation’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, visited Gaza on Sunday, June 8 to meet with some of the new members of the Palestinian Unity Government (PUG).

Serry held a joint meeting at the Ministry of Public Works and Housing with newly appointed PUG officials: Minister of Women’s Affairs Haifa al-Agha, Minister of Labor Mamoun Abu Shahla, Minister of Justice Salim al-Saqqa, and Mufeed al-Hasayneh, the new minister of public works and housing.

While in Gaza, Serry promised increased U.N. development aid for Gaza. He also called for lifting the internationally recognized legal blockade of Gaza’s border enforced by Israel and Egypt, according to several reports.

In a statement, Serry congratulated the PUG ministers on their appointment and discussed with them challenges ahead.

The U.N. envoy told the new ministers in Gaza that he hoped they would soon be able to travel freely to meet with their colleagues in what he did not refer to as the disputed territories. He also took the opportunity to chastise Israel.

“We count on a constructive approach by all stakeholders, including Israel, and urge all to refrain from unhelpful actions,” Serry said.

“Gazans must, as soon as possible, feel the dividends of unity. Open crossings both for goods and people, access to construction material, re-establishing trade links between the West Bank and Gaza and exports are urgently needed to kickstart the economy and create job opportunities,” the U.N. envoy added.

The U.N. official failed to mention the Gazans’ destruction of the greenhouses left behind by the Israelis agricultural workers in 2005. Those thriving, advanced agritech structures could have been the basis for a booming agricultural economy. Instead, on the very night every last Israeli, living or dead, was removed from Gaza, the residents trashed the greenhouses in a paroxysm of manic destruction.

When the PUG was first announced in April, Serry met with acting PA head Mahmoud Abbas and assured the world that the new PUG would be implemented on the basis of the PLO commitments.

President Abbas emphasized that these commitments include recognition of Israel, non-violence, and adherence to previous agreements. President Abbas also reiterated his continued commitment to peace negotiations and to non-violent popular protests.

Well alrighty then, that’s settled.

Serry was the first senior international official to meet with PUG officials in Gaza. In addition to his work at the United Nations, Serry is a popular presenter at J Street’s national conferences.

Inside the Presidents’ Conference and the J Street Vote

Friday, May 30th, 2014

The fractious public reaction to the rejection of J Street’s membership by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has been based on widespread dissemination of false information about the process, according to exclusive interviews with sources close to the Presidents Conference process. The sources declined to be named because, while fully conversant with all aspects of the J Street vote, they were not authorized to speak publicly. But they emphasize that J Street was rejected not by the “Left or Right” or a “right-wing minority” but by the overwhelming voting consensus of the 50-member organization. Moreover, the sources say, J Street supporters were in a smaller minority than initially apparent because just two voting blocs mainly controlled many of the 17 yes votes.

By way of background, after a year of trying, the controversial lobby J Street was rejected by a wide margin for membership in the Presidents Conference, the umbrella group for 50 American Jewish communal organizations. The lopsided vote rang in at only 17 for, and 22 against in a process that required 34 yes ballots out of 50 voting member groups. But digging into the numbers reveals more than previously apparent about who voted yes and who did not, Conference sources say.

J Street bills itself as pro-Israel, but has engendered controversy among the pro-Israel community about its true intentions. Since its April 30, 2014 membership rejection vote, public vitriol by J Street and its supporters in the Conference and the Jewish media have been directed at the Conference as an organization, and, in a few instances, its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, personally. The fallout included a threat by a Reform Judaism leader to break away as well as sarcastic jibes on J Street’s website, which are still live at press time more than a month after the vote.

One such J Street website remonstration declared: “Yesterday’s rejection of J Street’s bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community. The Conference of President [sic] claims to be the [sic] ‘the proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry.’ Last night’s vote removed that pretense. So join us in thanking Malcolm Hoenlein for clarifying this situation and revealing to all what we’ve long known: a new voice is needed to represent the true majority of American Jews — and non-Jewish supporters of an Israel at peace.”

Getting personal, the J Street rebuke included a mock thank you note: “Dear Malcolm: Thank you for finally making it clear that the Conference of Presidents is not representative of the voice of the Jewish community. We recognize the need for an open and honest conversation on Israel in the United States. We appreciate you being honest. Now we’ll work on the openness.”

J Street’s initial public statement asserted the organization “is disappointed that our bid for membership to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has been rejected. This is a sad day for us, but also for the American Jewish community and for a venerable institution that has chosen to bar the door to the communal tent to an organization that represents a substantial segment of Jewish opinion on Israel. We are, however, most heartened by the tremendous support we received from many of the largest and most prominent organizations in American Jewish communal life who urged their fellow members to join them in building a robust and representative community body.”

In response to questions for this article, J Street vice president for communications Alan Elsner stated, “We regard the vote as a closed chapter. We were happy to receive the support from the very significant organizations that backed us; and we are heartened that the vote has prompted a debate and examination of the Jewish community’s ability or lack thereof to hear diverse views and to fully reflect the positions of American Jews.”

Dear J Street: Time to End the Hypocrisy

Friday, May 9th, 2014

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.

Rejection of J Street Best Possible Outcome…for J Street

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

A backlash has been growing in the aftermath of the failed bid by J Street for admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The group that represents the largest denomination of American Jewry, the Union of Reform Judaism, is demanding that the Conference change its one group, one vote policy while also openly threatening to leave the umbrella group. An official of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly is also demanding changes.

Meanwhile liberal commentators are blasting the Conference for its 22-17 vote to deny entry the left-wing lobby and making extravagant claims about this vote symbolizing the growing alienation of the Jewish establishment from the wishes of most of those it purports to represent.

Which means that, all things considered, the defeat at the Conference was the best possible outcome for the left-wing organization that came into existence not to fit in and cooperate with existing Jewish groups and coalitions but to blow them up. The negative vote enables J Street and its various left-wing sympathizers to play the victim and boosts their agenda to first delegitimize groups like the Conference and AIPAC and then to replace them.

But while it is understandable that the Reform and Conservative movements would join the lament about J Street’s defeat in order to assuage some of their liberal constituents who support the left-wing lobby, they should be careful about advancing any agenda that could undermine umbrella groups like the Conference.

While such organizations can seem at times to be irrelevant to the day-to-day business of American Jewry, they still serve a vital purpose. If the non-Orthodox denominations help J Street destroy them, they will soon learn that not only will it be difficult to replace them but also they and their constituents will not be well served by the politicized chaos that follows.

Only hours after its defeat, J Street was already attempting to make hay from the vote with a fundraising e-mail sent out to their list. It read, in part:

 

Thank you, Malcolm Hoenlein and the Conference of Presidents.

Yesterday’s rejection of our bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community – or even its prevailing views.

 

Thus despite J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami’s public expression of disappointment about the vote, the group was clearly prepared all along to exploit a rejection to further its campaign to brand both AIPAC and the Conference as out of touch. J Street came into existence hoping to do just that, but over the course of the last five years failed miserably to do so.

Though J Street’s raison d’être was to serve as a Jewish cheerleader for Obama administration pressure on Israel, it has little influence on Capitol Hill and has even, to its dismay, sometimes been repudiated by a president it supports unconditionally. Thus it hopes to use this incident to gain more traction against mainstream groups.

But those, like Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev, who are using this vote to bash pro-Israel groups should be asking themselves why so many members of the Conference, which already includes left-wing organizations like Americans for Peace Now and Ameinu, would vote against adding one more to its ranks. The reason is that many centrist groups clearly resented J Street’s unwarranted pretensions to speak for American Jewry and to undermine the broad-based AIPAC.

The Conference was created to provide a way for a diverse and cantankerous Jewish community a single structure with which it could deal with the U.S. government. And though its members have often disagreed, and true consensus between left and right is often impossible, the Conference still provides Congress and the executive branch an address through which they can reach a broad and diverse coalition of Jewish organizations.

The Vote Heard ‘Round the World

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

To the chagrin of supporters who confidently predicted otherwise, J Street failed to receive the votes it needed for admission into the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. So now, they have a new spin.

Had J Street won the vote, of course, its supporters would have claimed the vote was a victory for a “wider range of views on Israel” and, of course, democracy. But having failed in their efforts, supporters have responded with unbecoming condemnation of that same democratic process. The Conference of Presidents followed its by-laws which require a new applicant to receive the support of two-thirds of the members present, with at least three-quarters of the total membership in attendance.

“An analysis of the vote,” argues the Forward, “indicates that J Street enjoyed the support of liberal groups, Reform and Conservative organizations and several major players, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The majority voting against it were right-wing and Orthodox organizations, as well as smaller groups with no clear ideological leaning.”

The Conference has 49 voting members, of which 17 supported the admission of J Street, 3 abstained, 22 voted against, and the others didn’t care to attend. To claim that the majority of the members, 34 organizations, are right-wing, Orthodox, or have no clear ideology, is untrue and ridiculous.

In this case, perhaps more than most, the vote represented the consensus of the American Jewish community, which regards J Street and its policies to lie beyond the pale. Even the Anti-Defamation League President Abraham Foxman, in announcing that he would vote in favor, said he did so, not because the ADL supports J Street’s views, but to define American Jewish advocacy more broadly.

Nonetheless, Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs has responded to the vote by announcing that the Union of Reform Judaism may consider dropping out of the Conference of Presidents entirely. Similarly, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, has claimed the vote was unrepresentative, and called on the Conference of Presidents to examine their structure – claiming that J Street would have won the popular vote of the organizations’ memberships.

It is interesting to note, the Reform and Conservative movements each have 4 votes in the Conference: Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American (Reform) Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism and ARZA, Association of Reform Zionists of America, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbinical Assemly (of Conservative Rabbis), Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and Mercaz, the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement. They constituted almost half of the positive votes that J Street received, and they claim the system was unfair; it was, in their favor, and they still lost the vote.

In addition, the Conference by-laws were last updated under the committee chairmanship of Rabbi Joel Meyers, then, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism. This reminds me of the kid in the school-yard who makes the rules, in his favor, but when he loses the game, claims it was unfair.

In making these declarations, Rabbis Jacobs and Schonfeld presume to speak for the aggregate membership of the Reform and Conservative synagogues nationwide. Is the majority of the membership of AIPAC not comprised of Reform or Conservative Jews? Needless to say, they don’t support J Street. Many Reform and Conservative Jews that I have spoken to in the last few weeks have told me, that they believe that J Street is not healthy for Israel. I wonder what the individual members of these movements really think.

Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements like to say that they represent the majority of American Jews. The recent findings of the Pew report debunk that myth. Today, unfortunately, the “Jews of no religion” are the fastest-growing Jewish group; they care little, if anything, about Judaism or Israel. How many families in these movements joined congregations because membership (and Hebrew school) were prerequisites for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and not because they endorse the positions or policies advocated by the Rabbis?

Thank You J Street (You Too, Reform Movement)

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

In the aftermath of being denied entry to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, J Street has fulfilled the predictions and warnings of those who foresaw divisiveness and petulance within the ranks had  J Street been admitted.

Rather than taking the vote as a sign that the organization had not yet become sufficiently established for the mainstream organizations to feel confident it would play nicely in the sandbox with others, J Street began a letter-writing campaign ridiculing the long-serving and highly respected executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein. That campaign also attacked the manner in which the vote had been taken – a vote in accordance with the bylaws of the organization.

J Street lashed out at those who dared to apply the same rules to it as the Conference has applied to every other new member.

The sophomoric message J Street posted on its website sought to rebuke the Conference of Presidents, and to claim that the fact it was rejected proves its conceit:  its positions are bold, brave and absent from the Conference and the fact it was rejected proves its voice is needed.

J Street suggests that without its voice as an essential and robust part of the conversation, the Palestinian Arabs will continue to be victims of the Israeli aggressors and deprived of their rights to at least half of the sliver of land to which Israel is currently in control, either due to a global licence or as the result of a defensive war.

The emptiness of those claims is revealed when one actually looks at the membership of the Conference of Presidents.

Of the 49 voting members, well more than half are easily classifiable as either center, center left or simply left, when it comes to support for Israel.  And J Street’s claim and dominant focus is Israel and Israeli security.

Americans for Peace Now, the Jewish Labor Committee, the four or five organizations which represent the Reform movement, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the four or five organizations which represent the Conservative movement, and Ameinu all represent the leftist end of the spectrum of American Judaism.

The core center is well-represented by at least a dozen other organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah, B’Nai Brith International, the Jewish National Fund, American Jewish Congress, American Gathering/ Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Zionist Movement, Amit, the Anti-Defamation League, B’Nai Zion, Israel Bonds, Hadassah,  NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, ORT America, Alpha Epsilon Pi,  and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

So J Street claims that its rejection from the club is because the Conference of Presidents rigged the system to exclude J Street, or that without its voice at the table American Jewry is deprived of a desperately needed view, or that J Street is entitled to an admission process different than the one  applied to every other application is yet more affirmation that the organization and not the Conference needs to change.

This is J Street’s message to its supporters:

THANK YOU, CONFERENCE OF PRESIDENTS!

Yesterday’s rejection of J Street’s bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community.

The Conference of President claims to be the “the proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry.” Last night’s vote removed that pretense.

So join us in thanking Malcolm Hoenlein for for clarifying this situation and revealing to all what we’ve long known: a new voice is needed to represent the true majority of American Jews–and non-Jewish supporters of an Israel at peace.

Mainstream American Jewish Groups Reject J Street

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

In a rebuke to the relatively young but very well (and oddly so) financed group J Street, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations decisively rejected the group’s bid for membership.

J Street has only been in existence since 2008, but it shot out of the starting block with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank and the backing of a wide array of well-connected American (mostly) Jews (mostly) who were itching to establish a new standard for the American Jewish community’s attitude towards Israel.

J Street’s backers are the ones who bridle at the idea that American Jews should feel a strong inclination to support and respect the Jewish State’s assessments of the level of threat it can survive with. They also chafe at the notion that those whose jobs and whose lives are put most at risk as the result of Israel’s security compromises are the ones who are entrusted with making the decisions about how and where and, especially, when, those compromises will be made, if at all.

But J Street’s star rose along with President Barack Obama’s election to office. The first year of its existence, J Street was already invited into the pantheons of American political and media power.

With the kind of cachet that adheres to those close to positions of wealth and power – for it is, as always, wealth and power that gives prestige, even if the wealth and power belongs to those who claim to disdain such “conservative” markers of strength, J Street’s coffers were well-stocked and its dance card was always filled.

But on Wednesday, April 30 – the day after, by the way, the latest effort to impose a “solution” on parties whose elemental problems are far from solved – the royal court of mainstream American Jewish organizations shut the door firmly in J Street’s face.

The Conference has 50 members, only 42 of whom voted. And while the vote was supposed to be confidential, over the past few days several organizations made public statements about their positions.

Few were surprised when the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the parent body of the Jewish Community Relations Councils, came out declaring it was going to vote in favor of including J Street.

Fewer still were surprised that the staunchly pro-Israel Zionist Organization of America came out strongly against admitting J Street to the Conference of Presidents.

But some were surprised that the Anti-Defamation League announced it planned to vote in favor of inclusion, and perhaps not everyone could have predicted that the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism movement voted to welcome into the inner circle a group which had long fought hard against economic sanctions to deter the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The final vote was a resounding one against including the group that (usually) refers with the tagline “pro-Israel, pro-peace.”

According to the bylaws of the Conference of Presidents, J Street needed a full 2/3s membership vote in its favor. It didn’t even get a simple majority. In the end, only 17 members of the Conference voted in favor of including J Street, 22 voted against it, and three voting members abstained.

Members of the Conference told the Jerusalem Post “what J Street is doing is exploiting the situation to get visibility.”

In other words, hubris – which is what propelled J Street out of the starting gate is also what slammed the door shut in its face.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/mainstream-american-jewish-groups-reject-j-street/2014/05/01/

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