Iran deal: J Street’s latest example to undermine Israel’s security and support

Since its formation shortly after the election of President Obama, J Street – the leftist group that supports American pressure on Israel to force one-sided concessions in the peace process   – has functioned as little more than a pawn of Administration policy. “Our No. 1 agenda item,” said J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami, “is to do whatever we can in Congress to act as the president’s blocking back.”

And, through it all, J Street’s love has never wavered. When the president chose to have the U.S. join the U.N. Human Rights Council, he got two thumbs up from J Street. When the president told a group of Jewish organizational leaders that there needed to be “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, J Street had Obama’s back. When the president insisted that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations begin on the basis of the pre-Six Day War armistice lines (which would have consigned the Old City of Jerusalem to part of a foreign country), J Street was a vocal defender. In late 2013, with the Senate considering a new round of Iran sanctions, J Street cited the president’s opposition as the reason for their own.

{mosads}At the J Street annual conference in Washington this past spring, speaker after speaker brought the crowd to its feet with condemnations of Israeli “occupation.” Even chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat – who must have left his Holocaust denial notes in his other suicide vest – got multiple standing ovations. The one speaker to touch on Israeli security – White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, using the same boilerplate he would use before an actual pro-Israel crowd – was met with chirping crickets when he reiterated the administration’s commitment to security cooperation and military aid for Israel. At a meeting in Chicago in April, Ben-Ami questioned the proportionality of Israeli actions in Gaza – a distortion of reality usually reserved for Israel’s most hardened enemies.

Fast forward to this week’s announcement of the Iran deal. After giddily Tweeting out key quotes from the president’s early morning statement, J Street – minutes after the president completed his remarks and before they could have possibly read the 150-page agreement – “welcomed” the deal with Iran. While acknowledging the “complex and multi-faceted” nature of the deal, they pointed out that “from what we have seen so far and what we have learned from President Barack Obama,” the deal was worthy of their congratulations. While the negotiations had drawn to “a successful conclusion,” J Street paid lip service to the need for congressional “review” while reminding the representatives of the American people that there would be “consequences” if they didn’t do what the president wanted.  Because that’s what “review” means.

To be fair, J Street has occasionally deviated from the Obama administration line—by being even less pro-Israel than the president. In 2009, when the U.N. released the Goldstone report on the 2008-2009 war in Gaza (a report so false and defamatory that even the author later disavowed it), the Obama administration was unequivocally opposed to it. Meanwhile, J Street released a mealy-mouthed statement that refused to condemn the report, chastised Israel for not cooperating with the inquisition, and then showed the report’s author around Capitol Hill.

J Street has very little impact on Capitol Hill beyond giving cover to the Democrats who either actively dislike or are uncomfortable with Israel – a number that is growing because of cultural trends rather than anything affirmatively being done by J Street. They make it slightly easier for Democrats who would vote against Israel to do what they would do anyway. Their PAC has a winning record because they involve themselves in races whose outcomes are not in doubt. They do no heavy lifting on legislation and are only brought in to sell decisions already made. J Street may not even exist in three years.

But the movement does pose a threat. J Street has convinced a number of well-intentioned leftist Jews – some of whom work for them, some of whom are rabbis – that their interest is in an expanded dialogue on Israel within the Jewish community. They have no such interest. Insofar as they want any expansion of the dialogue, it is not their end but a means to force the doors of the Jewish community open to their policies – policies that would undermine American commitment to Israeli security. Their plea for nuance and openness is a ploy. At that Chicago meeting in April, Ben-Ami said that what he wants is for Jewish institutional leadership to stand up and say that Israel is wrong. Some nuance!

J Street is neither liberal nor pro-peace. It is anti-Israel. Willfully or otherwise, J Street is in bed with the same illiberal forces that seek to isolate and stigmatize the Jewish state. It is playing the long game of culture rather than the short game of policy to which end its support for the Obama Administration is a first step. Its goal is to plant a flag on the far Left, demand a seat at the table in the name of tolerance, mainstream its anti-Israel ideas, and destroy the pro-Israel culture of the American Jewish community.

Greenberg is an ordained reform rabbi and the senior vice president of the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought. An expert in Middle East policy and former staffer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you can follow him @JGreenbergSez.

Tags Barack Obama Denis McDonough

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