The time has arrived for liberal American Jews who support Israel to ask themselves whether there should be some limitations or red lines for organizations seeking to be part of what they describe as the “Jewish tent.” Until now, many seem to be convinced that it is in the Jewish interest for all organizations to be brought into the Jewish fold irrespective of how much they malign the Jewish state.
The most prominent example is J Street, which is publicly committed to lobbying the US government to force Israel to take actions contrary to the will not only of the democratically elected government, but the vast majority of the people.
Many consider that tolerating such a group within the Jewish mainstream transforms the concept of a Jewish tent into a farce.
EMBOLDENED BY the reluctance and in some cases cowardice of establishment Jewish leaders to confront it, J Street has now advanced beyond this.
Deliberately designed to coincide with the date of President Barack Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, The New York Times published a full-page article challenging US charitable contributions which directly or indirectly assist enterprises in Jewish settlements.
The article selectively focused on fringe extremist elements and implicitly linked them with the broader settlement movement, questioning the validity of tax deductible status for donations which may benefit such areas. Not surprisingly, as Gerald Steinberg pointed out in a recent Jerusalem Post article, the Times skimmed over the many radical left organizations soliciting tax exempt funds to undermine and demonize the Israeli government.
J Street capitalized on this article and bombarded its members and supporters with an e-mail titled “Investigate the Settlement Charities: Take Action Now,” which was followed by utterly misleading themes including: “Disgraced Political Fund-raiser Jack Abramoff; Settlements in the West Bank; US-designated Jewish Terrorist Groups.”
J Street has thus exploited an unbalanced and biased article and further distorted it by focusing out of context on the reference by The New York Times to the extremist Kahane Hai fringe group and bracketing it with the settler movement. Although Kahane Hai does not even exist today and at its peak never comprised of more than a handful of followers, to package its message J Street emphasizes that Kahane Hai “was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 1994,” to convey the false message that charitable contributions to any activity or welfare over the Green Line is akin to supporting terrorism.
To further delegitimize the settler movement, the J Street e-mail disingenuously highlighted the fact that disgraced fund-raiser Jack Abramoff had supported a charity over the Green Line.
HOWEVER, J STREET truly crossed the red line by calling on its supporters to launch a concerted campaign to bombard the US Treasury, which it describes as “the federal agency responsible for enforcing the law when it comes to terrorist financing and tax evasion,” with e-mails demanding an investigation to determine whether charitable organizations which provided funding to activities beyond the Green Line “have broken the law.”
It is outrageous for J Street to imply that donations, including those intended to assist educational institutes, kindergartens, medical facilities or welfare, represent “terrorist financing” or “tax evasion” because some of the funds raised may also benefit residents of Jewish settlements. And in today’s toxic environment, it is reprehensible for a Jewish organization – claiming to be mainstream – to be effectively calling for criminal sanctions against organizations which support causes in Israel which are contrary to its political worldview.
While criminal sanctions are unlikely to result, J Street is shamelessly lobbying the government to rule that all philanthropic donations to charitable organizations funding projects beyond the Green Line not only be denied tax deductibility, but be deemed to contravene US law. In the unlikely event that such action succeeded, it would economically devastate countless vital projects and institutions beyond the 1949 armistice lines.
Surely self-respecting mainstream Jewish organizations appreciate the potentially disastrous consequences should J Street succeed in its latest campaign.
This organization is no longer limiting its activities to undermining the Israeli government. Its activities now extend to seeking to deny vital assistance to needy Israelis and legitimate apolitical social welfare projects that happen to be located over the Green Line, the bulk of which would impact on Jerusalem and the uncontested major settlement blocs.
Will American Jewish organizational leaders continue to remain silent in the face of such outrageous actions, not merely directed against the Jewish state and its citizens, but also toward USbased charitable organizations contributing to the legitimate needs of Israelis? Perhaps if Israeli government and opposition leaders, both of whom who are unquestionably opposed to such harmful activity, were to raise their voices in a bipartisan manner and condemn such actions which could inflict enormous damage to the Jewish state, it would encourage American Jewish leaders to endeavor to marginalize such groups from the Jewish mainstream.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post