In rebuttal: Do we really need J Street? You decide

In rebuttal: Do we really need J Street? You decide

The Oct. 15 editorial in The Chronicle entitled “We need J Street, too,” chastises critics asking about J Street’s funding and politics, and says critics never deal with substance.
A few facts:
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, suggested J Street should rescind its invitation to Salam Al-Marayati, the founder and executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
Why would he do that?
• In an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, Al-Marayati attacked the mayor and sheriff of Los Angeles for supporting Israel’s military operation against Hamas’ terror structure in Gaza with “disproportionate military attacks against the Palestinians.”
• He said Americans “are responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
• Al-Marayati said Israel’s defensive action against terrorism, “is nothing more than a war to steal lands from Palestinians, to decimate their leadership and to humiliate the Palestinian people.”
• Al-Marayati refuses to call Hezbollah a terrorist group. “I don’t think any group should be judged 100 percent on this or that.” He further states Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad don’t belong on the U.S. list of terrorist groups.
• On the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, Al-Marayati said “if we’re going to look at suspects, we should look to the groups who benefit the most from these kind of incidents, and I think we should put the State of Israel on the list….”
• Shouting “Allahu Akbar”, a man crashed his car into a crowded Jerusalem bus stop, killing one and injuring 23. The attacker was shot dead and Al-Marayati condemned killing the attacker as a “provocative act.”
This sampling of comments made by Al-Marayati is enough to show his character. With his long record of anti-Jewish statements and his opposition to almost every security measure the United States and fellow democracies take to defend themselves, the notion that he has a constructive role to play at any peace conference seems almost surreal.
Some of the speakers at J Street’s first conference made surprising and shocking comments; and its attendees’ reactions were even more shocking.
The J Street audience loudly booed Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Eric Yoffie, himself a prominent left-wing Jewish figure, for criticizing Richard Goldstone, author of the report on the Gaza war commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council.
An invited speaker to the conference, Hillary Mann Leverett strongly opposed any criticism of the Iranian regime’s negotiation’s tactics over its drive for nuclear weapons as being fundamentally “racist.”
Attendees to the J Street conference supported conditioning U.S. aid to Israel on new Israeli concessions, while saying nothing about conditioning U.S. aid of almost $1 billion to the Palestinians, despite its unfulfilled obligations to end terrorism.
J Street’s university arm decided to drop “pro-Israel” from its slogan. After much criticism and controversy, it left the decision about using it to individual campus chapters.
The JTA reported, “references to the creation of a Palestinian state frequently garnered loud applause.”
Some of those supplying funds to J Street participated in the National Iranian Council — the unofficial lobby group of the Iranian government. Judith Barnett, who serves on the J Street advisory board, is a former registered agent for Saudi Arabia. And Nancy Dutton, who supports J Street’s political action committees, was an attorney for the Saudi Arabian embassy until 2008.
The Chronicle editorial states, “peace is not possible without risk. At some point in time, we must be prepared to take that risk.” Hello? Israel has taken many risks and what does it have to show for it? Israel pulled out of Gaza and the bombing of Israel increased many fold.
As much as we all hope and pray for peace, it simply isn’t going to happen now. Which goes back to the original question: Why do we need J Street? Is it pro-Israel, pro-peace or pro-Palestinian? Each Jew will have to make his or her own decision.

(Stuart V. Pavilack is executive director of the Zionist Organization of America-Pittsburgh Chapter.)