(June 6, 2018 / Tower) Campus chapters of J Street—an organization that calls itself “pro-Israel, pro-peace”—have worked with the anti-Israel BDS campaign, according to an investigative report by Noah Pollak, published Monday in The Washington Free Beacon.
Though Catie Stewart, deputy director of J Street U, boasted recently that J Street “does not support Israel Apartheid Week or BDS campaigns and joins anti-BDS coalitions,” the records at a number of campuses show that the local J Street chapters have refused to oppose BDS initiatives, and, in some cases, sided with those initiatives.
Based on talks with pro-Israel activists at the relevant universities, Pollak assessed, “J Street chapters provided key assistance to BDS activists through statements, lobbying and activism that fueled the anti-Israel climate on campus and reinforced accusations against Israel made by BDS groups.” In other instances, the group “sat on the sidelines during contentious fights over student government divestment resolutions.”
At the University of Minnesota, where a pro-BDS resolution passed in March, J Street U refused to join pro-Israel groups in a campaign against the vote, and in a Facebook post urged the Hillel there to be more critical of Israel. The chapter’s president is a donor to the pro-BDS organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which promotes terror and Israel’s destruction.
At Barnard, the J Street U chapter claimed to oppose a BDS resolution but refused to work with pro-Israel groups to fight it. Instead of taking a stand against anti-Israel boycotts, the J Street organization released a statement saying, “we do not oppose specific targeted boycott or divestment initiatives that recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
In the end, the Barnard BDS resolution passed.
Last year at the University of Maryland, J Street U refused to join with pro-Israel groups to fight a pro-BDS resolution sponsored by the anti-Israel group, Students for Justice in Palestine. Before the vote, J Street U said that it would not support the resolution but wrote, “we support the writers of this bill in their effort to protect human rights in Israel-Palestine.”
But after the vote, the group wrote that “blindly celebrating the rejection of this bill” was not a good response to the “human-rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinians.” The statement also protested the destruction of terrorists’ homes and promoted an anti-Israel film.
In April of this year at George Washington University, J Street U did join a coalition of groups fighting a BDS resolution but then used its position within the group to fight criticisms of the BDS effort and “prevent the formation of a consensus on strategy and messaging, according to sources familiar with the situation.”
In addition on the day of the successful BDS vote, the GW chapter released a statement opposing the BDS vote, not because BDS it was wrong, but because “”provides Israel’s far-right government with the talking points they use to justify their fear-mongering tactics.” It also defended BDS as not being anti-Semitic.
An official of a national pro-Israel organization told the Free Beacon that “J Street is unfortunately part of the BDS problem. J Street U chapters reinforce BDS messages and false accusations against Israel to students who know little about these issues, but are inclined to trust a group that calls itself ‘pro-Israel.’ J Street consistently seeks to blur the bright line between acceptable political activism and the anti-Semitic BDS movement.”