J Street held its annual conference in late October 2019 where it had several Democratic presidential candidates address the left-wing crowd. The loudest applause was, not surprisingly, heard for the most progressive candidates: Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Sen. Bernie Sanders addressing J Street Conference October 28, 2019
It is interesting that J Street bills itself as “pro-Israel” when the crowd at its annual event gave a standing ovation to the most anti-Israel presidential candidate since the founding of the Jewish State. Sanders has accused Israel of war crimes, being racist and wants to divert funds meant for Israel’s security to the Arab people in Gaza who have launched three wars against Israel since 2008. Sanders may be the only Jew among the leaders of the Democratic presidential pack, but he is without question the most critical of the Jewish State.
And it is not a coincidence that Sanders if the most left-wing of the presidential contenders. It is only through the narrow prism of a progressive worldview that J Street and Sanders can be viewed as “pro-Israel.”
For most people, being pro-“fill-in-the-blank” means actively supporting that entity. It may be with words of support and encouragement to that entity. Perhaps its with active lobbying for trade and aid on that entity’s behalf. Speaking about it positively and with enthusiasm to others.
However, for J Street, being “pro-Israel” simply means believing that Israel has a right to exist and should have secure borders. I believe that Costa Rica should exist and have secure borders, but I don’t think that makes me “pro-Costa Rica.” Maybe if I associated with people who hated Costa Rica, I would be considered pro-Costa Rica for an otherwise benign point of view, but not among most of the world.
Which is precisely the J Street dynamic.
Inside the echo chambers of the progressive halls, suggesting that Israel has a right to exist is considered extraordinary and extreme. Vocalizing that it is and should remain the Jewish homeland is considered vulgar. That it has a right to defend itself against terrorism is deemed shocking.
That’s the sad reality among J Street’s peers. Groups like the New Israel Fund actively support organizations which try to dismantle any Jewishness of the Jewish State and fund global tours for people to demonize the Israel Defense Forces. IfNotNow fights to undermine Jewish presence in Jerusalem. Code Pink supports a boycott of Israeli products. Jewish Voice for Peace has supported terrorists who have killed Israelis. And the Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis on the boards of these institutions question whether Israel should exist at all.
The progressive stances on Israel can be seen in the “Women’s March” whose leaders are against “humanizing” Israelis and in BackLivesMatter which has a platform which calls Israel an “apartheid state” and advocates for B.D.S. (boycott, divest and sanctions of Israel). These are appalling statements and opinions.
With such a peer group of progressives, it should not shock people that in that narrow “coastal liberal latte-sipping politically-correct out-of-touch folks” as Barack Obama once said, J Street actually believes that saying the Israel should exist as a secure Jewish State is considered “pro-Israel.” Outside of the far-left extreme, that’s an opinion which is considered neutral – “pareve” as they would say in the Jewish community.
Actually being “pro-Israel” for groups like AIPAC means ensuring bi-partisan support for Israel, keeping trade and military cooperation intact, advocating for U.S. support for Israeli positions at the United Nations. J Street is against all of those ideas.
One could perhaps argue that it is useful for J Street to engage with their co-progressives and get them to upgrade their views on Israel. It is clear that the “Squad” of socialists in congress are not going to listen to AIPAC or the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
But it is horribly incorrect and out-of-bounds for the general public and media to quote J Street as the mainstream pro-Israel forum when it is nothing of the sort. It is merely the fringe “meh-Israel” segment of a radical leftist anti-Zionist ideology which is regrettably beginning to permeate the Democratic party.
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