Like our colleagues at AIPAC, I have long believed that support for Israel should be a bipartisan issue. Once it becomes a partisan issue, we create enormous enmity for the State of Israel within at least 50 percent of the population, which would ultimately give succor and support to Israel’s enemies. And it certainly does not help the Jewish state survive if an incoming American president regards Israel as “the other party’s issue.”
That is why my heart is so heavy when I read that mainstream leaders of the Democratic Party, such as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and almost all of the major contenders within the Democratic Party have attended the J Street Conference.
What is even more concerning is that many of the speakers in this week’s conference have made outrageously naive and even hostile statements about the State of Israel—demonstrating no empathy for what the Jewish state must contend with—to rapturous applause.
Such was the case when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stated that some of the $3.8 billion annual assistance to Israel “should go now to humanitarian aid in [Hamas-controlled] Gaza.
First, a word about J Street. Its mission claims: “J Street organizes and mobilizes pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who want Israel to be secure, democratic and the national home of the Jewish people. Working in American politics and the Jewish community, we advocate policies that advance shared U.S. and Israeli interests, as well as Jewish and democratic values, leading to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
However, when it comes to their real actions on Capitol Hill, there is little or no daylight between the positions taken by J Street and those of Israel’s avowed enemies, including NIAC, the National Iranian American Council, which advocates for policies sympathetic to the Iranian regime; CAIR, the Council of American Islamic Relations, which was an unindicted co-conspirator of the Holy Land Foundation Trial; and ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America, which was established in July of 1981 by American members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In fact, according to Lenny Ben-David, who wrote a chapter in my book, Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network, “Research into J Street’s backers indicates a Washington cadre of paid Saudi agents, sycophants and factotums. There are not many in that bunch willing to be considered pro-Israel.” Included among these is Nancy Dutton, widow of Fred Dutton, the longtime Saudi foreign agent. As recently as August 2008, news reports identified her as the Saudi’s lawyer; Judith Barnett, who has been registered with the Justice Department for being a foreign agent of Saudi Arabia; and Ray Close, who has been a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, and as Eli Lake wrote in The New York Sun, “The day he retired from the CIA, Ray walked across the street and joined Kamal Adham (the head of Saudi’s intelligence service), in a business relationship.”
What’s even more disturbing than who backs them is what they have supported. Just a few highlights: J Street was one of the most vocal supporters, together with NIAC for the Iranian nuclear deal, which has by now proven to have enriched, empowered and emboldened the Islamic regime and its terror proxies, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. It currently opposes any sanctions on Iran.
They claim not to support BDS, yet they support “targeted BDS” (the labeling of any product that has been manufactured over the “Green Line”). This has proven to be disastrous for the Palestinians, whom they claim to care so much for, as in the case of when SodaStream was forced to uproot itself from the territories and left so many previously employed Palestinians without a job.
J Street lobbied vociferously against the Taylor Force Act, which withheld the amount American funding to the Palestinian Authority which they had been giving to their “martyr’s fund” or “prisoner’s pension fund,” money that incentivized terror to murder innocent civilians. It has supported the Goldstein Report that condemned the defensive action Israel was forced to take against Hamas missile attacks in “Operation Cast Lead” and fully supported the U.N. Resolution condemning Israel in 2016 for its occupation of the dispute territories, which the Obama administration shamefully refused to veto.
And therein lies the heart of the problem. Like many Jewish organizations, J Street is seduced by lofty slogans like “pro-Israel/pro-peace.” These words are intended to give the impression that all that Israel has to do is immediately withdraw from the territories, and then peace would ultimately break out.
This ignores the empirical evidence of what happened after the withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May of 2000, giving Hezbollah and their 150,000 missiles easy striking distance to Israel.
It also ignores the internally gut-wrenching Gaza withdrawal of 2005, where the land has been used to launch thousands of rockets and incendiary devices launched from kites and balloons, making life for those on Gaza’s neighboring communities a living hell and destroying thousands of acres of Israel’s agricultural land.
I have always found it the height of arrogance for us, sitting here, between what I like to call our two “liquid assets”—the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean—to tell the Israelis what to do. They are the ones who ultimately will have to live with the consequences of any withdrawals.
They live in the Middle East. And if there is one thing that recent events in Syria have taught us, it’s that it is a very tough neighborhood.
And as former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said, “We have nowhere else to go.”
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.