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Is J Street misrepresenting its real mission?
By Amb. Alan Baker
According to its website, the Congressional lobbying organization calling itself “J Street” was established “to serve as the political home and voice for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans” through “organizing pro-Israel and pro-peace Americans to promote U.S. policies that embody our deeply held Jewish and democratic values and that help secure the State of Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”1
In its founding aims and principles, J Street declares its overriding aim as “reshaping political perceptions of what it means to be pro-Israel.”
The first and evidently central provision of J Street’s basic principles acknowledges that Israel faces enemies, and J Street expresses support for Israel to defend itself and live in security and peace within internationally recognized boundaries.
However, J Street’s political manifesto detailed on its website would appear to run counter – and even to undermine – any such sentiments.
On the one hand, J Street presents itself and is perceived by many naïve elements within the Jewish and non-Jewish communities as a genuine lobbying organization with the veneer of supporting Israel and expressing concern for its welfare. But, on the other hand, one can nevertheless see, behind the misleading platitudes and sweeping statements in its manifesto, that J Street’s substantive political viewpoint is openly radical and partisan, identifying itself clearly with the Palestinian narrative, and aligning itself with other openly critical-of-Israel organizations such as the Israel Policy Forum, Brookings, and the International Crisis Group. J Street has failed to welcome and promote the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, apparently because they downgrade the urgency J Street feels for a Palestinian state. The organization has actively lobbied against military aid to those Arab states that normalized relations.
As such, J Street is clearly undercutting any genuine concern for Israel’s security and is, in fact, undermining Israel’s right to defend itself.
J Street ignores and attempts to by-pass the agreements and other documents signed by the Palestinians and Israel during the course of the Middle East peace negotiation process. These include the internationally-accepted and sponsored Oslo Accords to which the United States, together with Russia, the EU, and others are signatories, and the UN sponsored.
J Street has adopted a political viewpoint that parallels and parrots positions expressed in numerous politically-generated, anti-Israel resolutions in the UN and other international fora, including calling to stop defending Israel against one-sided international decrees such as the infamous 2016 Security Council Resolution 2334, as well as in numerous biased political statements uttered by Palestinian and European leaders.
In so doing, J Street has adopted a narrative that is hostile to Israel’s interests. So much so that it attempts to pre-empt and prejudge the agreed-upon and internationally-supported negotiating process in which issues such as boundaries, Jerusalem, settlements, security, and the permanent status of the territories, are all open negotiating issues that have yet to be settled.
While referring to Israel as the state of the Jewish people, J Street has nevertheless adopted and openly advocates complete submission to the Palestinian narrative without even requiring any change, without calling for Palestinian acceptance of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and without calling for halting Palestinian incitement to hatred, terror, and anti-Semitism.
J Street fails to call upon the Palestinians to completely stop the payment of salaries to terrorists, even though such payments violate internationally-accepted counter-terror conventions, as well as central commitments in the Oslo Accords.
J Street’s website is replete with anti-Israel propaganda and blanket, one-sided condemnations of Israeli security actions, presented out of context, all of which reads more like a summary of UN Israel-bashing resolutions. Its website even reproduces and attempts to fuel the false accusations claiming that Palestinians “living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza” do not have access to COVID-19 vaccines and have not been included in the Israeli government’s current vaccination plans.
Fabricating International Law
In calling for Israel to “give up the vast majority of occupied territory in favor of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines,” J Street is prejudging the agreed-upon negotiation process for the permanent status of the territories, as well as the issue of negotiating boundaries. Their declared preference for a two-state solution ignores the fact that any solution, whether it would involve establishing one, two, or three states, a federation, confederation, or any other permutation, can only be the outcome of direct negotiation between the parties.
J Street, that presumes concern for Israel’s welfare, cannot advocate imposing a solution upon Israel that would be an anathema to Israel’s basic interests.
In determining that Israel’s settlement policies are in violation of international law, J Street is not only misrepresenting international law and thereby misleading its supporters but is also prejudging and attempting to undermine the agreed negotiating process between the Palestinians and Israel on the issue of settlements.
In calling for reinstating an independent U.S. diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in east Jerusalem, J Street advocates a policy that runs counter to numerous congressional resolutions, as well as attempting, again, to prejudge the agreed-upon negotiating issue of Jerusalem.
In supporting a right for the Palestinians to join international organizations, institutions, and conventions as a member state, J Street is deliberately ignoring the legal situation in which, pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations, there is no such thing as a “Palestinian state.” J Street is not only seeking to prejudge the issue of the future permanent status of the territory but sanctions and encourages a material breach of the Oslo Accords in which the Palestinians have committed themselves not to join international organizations and conventions, pending the outcome of negotiations on the permanent status of the territories.
Evenhandedness Does Not Mean Twisting Israel’s Hand
In J Street’s most recent flurry of activity aimed at influencing the incoming Biden administration, it has reportedly presented to President-elect Biden and his advisors detailed policy recommendations that echo a distinct Palestinian, anti-Israel narrative. Such proposals include reversing the Trump peace plan, reversing the State Department’s legal opinion regarding the legality of settlements, reopening the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, restoring U.S. financial aid to the Palestinians, canceling the penalization of boycott activity against Israel, and diluting the accepted international definition of anti-Semitism.
In a further attempt to undermine the internationally-accepted and agreed peace negotiation process called for in UN Security Council resolutions and implemented through the Oslo Accords, J Street advocates setting aside bilateral, direct negotiation, preferring to recommend a “multilateral approach to resolving the conflict.” Such a multilateral approach echoes ongoing Palestinian attempts to by-pass direct negotiations with Israel and to transfer the issue to an international conference that would impose a solution on Israel.
J Street Sides with Iran
Despite universal condemnation of Iran’s declared hostility towards Israel, its oft-repeated intention to attack Israel, and its deep involvement in encouraging and financing international and regional terror, J Street is nevertheless pressing the incoming Administration to relax sanctions on Iran. It encourages a return to the JCPOA arrangement that would enable Iran to push ahead with its aims to achieve a nuclear weapons capability.
How does J Street equate its supposed concern for Israel’s security and welfare while at the same time deliberately ignoring Iran’s direct existential threats against Israel and advocating a policy of appeasement vis-à-vis Iran?
All of the above is indicative that J Street has evolved from an organization justifying its existence by expressing concern for Israel’s security and welfare into an organization that is actively working to undermine Israel’s interests, its legitimacy, security, and international standing, as well as its democratically-elected government.
J Street is doing so first and foremost within the U.S. Jewish community, and secondly, within the U.S. congressional and governing bodies.
In J Street’s recent flurry of activity aimed at influencing the incoming Biden administration, it seems to be more intent on bolstering its own stature within new White House and Congressional circles, rather than acting in accordance with its declared aims. To the contrary, J Street is increasingly acting to harm Israel, side with Israel’s enemies, fuel false information, and incite against Israel.
While logical and substantive criticism of any particular action or policy by Israel may well be legitimate, J Street, by its actions and policies, has redefined itself as an anti-Israel organization. What is perhaps even worse is that through its activities and incitement, J Street is permitting itself to be a tool for use by Palestinian and European organizations hostile to Israel, which utilizes its ostensible “concern” for Israel to bolster and enhance their own credibility and status.
Any purported concern for Israel as a means of justifying and mobilizing support and financing from donors and organizations within the U.S. Jewish community is patently false. It is nothing more than a sham, a thin veil of deception, poorly camouflaged intense and obvious aversion, both to Israel’s democratically-elected leadership and government, as well as a deep-rooted and radical political agenda that is an anathema to Israel’s security and national interests.
J Street cannot presume to determine for Israel the details of its government, security, and political interests. In attempting to do so, it deceives its constituency, acts with unclean hands, and misrepresents its true intentions.
J Street is working to undermine Israel, its democratically-elected government, and the Israeli public’s will. It is nothing more than another anti-Israel pressure group that has blindly adopted the Palestinian narrative.
It is therefore high time that J Street remove the letter “J” from its name, and replace it with the letter “P,” and admit to its supporters and donors that it is functioning solely to undermine Israel, promote Palestinian interests, and maintain itself.
Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.