J Street and the Colorado Delegation


The following is the text of a Letter to the Editor that I wrote, and that the Intermountain Jewish News published today (not available online):

Over the past several decades, both the Democratic and Republican parties have prided themselves on their support for Israel.  Now, a group that calls itself – a little too loudly – “pro-Israel” threatens the liberal Democratic wing of that support.  And some Colorado legislators appear to be taken in.

J Street is holding its first national conference in DC next week, and is hosting its annual banquet on October 27.  Four Democratic Colorado Congressmen and Senator Mark Udall are on the host committee.

Founded in 2007, J Street poses as a “pro-Israel, pro-Peace” lobby, founded specifically to provide an alternative to what it calls the “right-wing dominated” AIPAC.  (AIPAC defers to the citizens of Israel in foreign policy, and is certainly not right-wing.  Its former president, Steve Grossman, chaired Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign.

By contrast, J Street has adopted a comprehensive platform of appeasement.  It accepts Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.  It equates Israel’s Operation Cast Lead and Hamas’s terror rockets.  It supports the division of Jerusalem.  None of these positions draws even a plurality of American Jews.  Collectively, only a small minority approves.

Until a last-minute cancellation, J Street had scheduled to appear a “street poet” who had compared Guantanamo to Auschwitz, and had accused Israelis of tattooing numbers on the arms of Gazan children.  Slightly less repugnant is J Street Advisory Board member Henry Siegman’s insidious comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa.

No wonder that board members of NIAC, lobbyists for Saudi Arabia, and PR flacks for campus anti-Israel campaigns have contributed upwards of tens of thousands of dollars to support J Street’s agenda.

So suspect is J Street that Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, turned down an offer to lend his credibility to the group by appearing, noting that “certain policies of the organization may impair the interests of Israel.”  What other “pro-Israel” group would he refuse to address on that basis?

J Street’s ultimate agenda is to buy acceptance to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party through its PAC, and then use that credibility to mainstream certain destructive policy positions.  At the same time, Jewish liberals will be less likely to question a solidly liberal lobbying group.

Both would do well to steer clear.  J Street represents only a small minority of American Jews, and American Jews have many other options for helping to elect liberal Democrats to office.

In the last week, over a dozen Congressional members of the dinner’s Host Committee have removed their names from the list.  Neither Republican representative, nor Senator Michael Bennet, appears ever to have been on the list, and Rep. John Salazar (CD-3) has withdrawn.

This leaves Representatives Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, Betsy Markey, Ed Perlmutter, and Senator Mark Udall.  I personally believe that their presence is in response to J Street PAC’s $1000 contribution in 2008 to the Colorado Democratic Party, and that they signed up believing that they were attending a function at a mainstream, pro-Israel, Jewish organization.  They, too, should withdraw.

Israel cannot become a partisan issue; too much would then hinge on American electoral politics.  Colorado Democrats should step back from this attempt to seduce them away from their principles.

I would also point out that the State Democratic Party was the only state party to receive any money from J Street during the 2008 cycle.  Those familiar with the Colorado Model and the genesis of J Street may be able to figure out why.