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Sunday, November 8, 2020

What AIPAC and J Street Stand For Concerning Israel

Nadene Goldfoot                                       

We all know that anti-Semitism is very strong everywhere right now and AIPAC has been receiving the attacks.  "Progressive groups are demanding that Democratic presidential candidates, who in past cycles might have rushed at the chance to address such a large and engaged crowd, stay away. At least six, including Senator Kamala Harris, who addressed the conference in 2017, have said they would comply. (New York Times).                                          

It was a shock to read this, "In her very first foreign policy vote in January 2017, for instance, Harris sided with President Trump in criticizing the outgoing President Obama’s refusal to veto an otherwise-unanimous, very modest, and largely symbolic UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements. Among other things, that resolution reiterated previous Security Council calls for Israel to stop expanding its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, which violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice."  This has been my point of contention with Obama.  He voted against Israel on his last day in office in this UN decision.  
Harris highlighted the co-sponsorship in a 2017 speech at AIPAC’s policy policy conference, saying it would help “combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations and reaffirm that the United States seeks a just, secure and sustainable two-state solution.”

While considering him a close friend, Biden has not shied away from criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has joked about not agreeing with “a damn thing” the premier says. Harris on the other hand has yet to publicly spar with Netanyahu, who several democratic candidates went as far as to call him a “racist.” Harris's husband is Jewish. (Douglas Emhoff is an American lawyer and the husband of U.S. Senator and vice president-elect of the United States Kamala Harris. He is set to become the first Second Gentleman of the United States.) Asked about the prime minister’s plans earlier this year to annex large parts of the West Bank, Harris told Pod Saves America last year that she is “completely opposed” to the move and would “express that opposition.” However, she avoided calling out Netanyahu by name.

"The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC /ˈpæk/ AY-pak) founded in 1963, is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States. The current president of AIPAC is Betsy Berns Korn.   Aipac was never the big spender its antagonists claim. Its total lobbying expenditures in 2018 came to $3.5 million, which doesn’t even put it in the top 50. (Realtors spent $72.8 million.) Instead, Aipac depends on grassroots organizing in every state. It is built on people power.

One of several pro-Israel lobbying organizations in the United States, AIPAC states that it has over 100,000 members, 17 regional offices, and "a vast pool of donors." Representative Brad Sherman (D-California) has called AIPAC "the single most important organization in promoting the U.S.-Israel alliance." In addition, the organization has been called one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States. The group does not raise funds for political candidates itself, but its members raise money for candidates through political action committees unaffiliated with AIPAC and by other means.   AIPAC is not a political action committee and does not donate to political candidates.

Its critics have stated it acts as an agent of the Israeli government with a "stranglehold" on the United States Congress with its power and influence. AIPAC has been accused of being strongly allied with the Likud party of Israel, and the Republican Party in the U.S., but an AIPAC spokesman has called this a "malicious mischaracterization." 


The Washington Post described the perceived differences between AIPAC and J Street: "While both groups call themselves bipartisan, AIPAC has won support from an overwhelming majority of Republican Jews, while J Street is presenting itself as an alternative for Democrats who have grown uncomfortable with both Netanyahu's policies and the conservatives' flocking to AIPAC."  

"J Street is a nonprofit liberal advocacy group based in the United States whose stated aim is to promote American leadership to end the Arab–Israeli and Israeli–Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. J Street was incorporated on November 29, 2007. It is believed that George Soros was behind its beginnings and helped financially."  Being that they are a very liberal group, I doubt very much if they were backers of Trump, who ran on the Republican ticket.  Trump has been the president during 3 Muslim states making peace with Israel by moving their embassies to Jerusalem and a Christian state in Africa; a first since Israel's birth on May 14, 1948.

J Street does support political parties financially.  "

Contributed 40 percent of all pro-Israel money to US congressional campaigns

Raised over $3 million in political giving in 2016

Endorsed 110+ Congressional candidates, including more than half of the Democratic caucus


Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law-has worked on the plan for the past 3 years.

Asked what J Street thinks about Trump's peace plan, they said, "We need to be clear: This is a “two state solution” in name only, just as it is a “peace plan” in name only."  I take it they did not approve.                                   

J Street's goals say that "the contours of a workable negotiated outcome that would be broadly supported by both peoples are well known. Various initiatives by the parties and others have spelled out the principles and even many of the the details of such a resolution, including President Clinton’s parameters in 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s proposal in 2008, the offer by Arab states and the Palestinians in 2013 to adjust and negotiate based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and the official US principles put forward by Secretary of State Kerry under President Obama in 2016."

J Street believes that Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem and will be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed conflict-ending resolution, through which the majority-Jewish areas of Jerusalem are recognized as the capital of Israel and Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem become the capital of the future Palestinian state."

"J Street believes the next US administration should reinstate an independent US diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in East Jerusalem that is physically and institutionally separate from the US Embassy. While the next administration is likely to keep the US Embassy in Jerusalem, it could offset much of the harm caused by the Trump administration’s move by declaring that it is the intention of the United States, upon the achievement of a negotiated resolution to the conflict, to open an embassy in East Jerusalem to the Palestinian state."

The U.S. diplomatic presence in Jerusalem, first established in 1844, was designated a Consulate General in 1928.  In March 2019, the U.S. Consulate General was merged into U.S. Embassy Jerusalem.  As part of U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, (the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU) operates out of our historic Agron Road property to promote our overarching strategic objective of achieving a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.) It happens to be in the heart of Jerusalem. 

AIPAC has maintained high levels of participation from Democratic and Republican lawmakers. AIPAC describes itself as a bipartisan organization, and the bills for which it lobbies in Congress are always jointly sponsored by both a Democrat and Republican. AIPAC's supporters claim its bipartisan nature can be seen at its yearly policy conference, which in 2016 included both major parties' nominees—Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump—as well as high-ranking Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and senator Kamala Harris (both of whom ran for president in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary), and high-ranking Republicans, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan."


      Jeremy Ben -Ami, one of founders of J Street,  became President 

Worked under Bill Clinton as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy

"J Street was created to serve as the political home and voice for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans. The views of the majority of American Jews were previously underrepresented and ignored in our politics. We’re changing that, and in the process transforming our national conversation about what it means to be pro-Israel. We advocate and engage on every level – in Washington, in political campaigns, in our communities and on campuses." 

If they are advocating Israel's viewpoints on campuses, they're not doing so well, as campuses are the hotbeds of anti-Israelis.  BDS is doing well on campuses.  

J Street endorsed the nuclear disarmament deal with Iran, which Obama supported and Netanyahu and AIPAC opposed.

The feelings between Israel and J Street have not been like Israel and AIPAC.  According to Nathan Guttman, "J Street and its supporters have never made a secret of their opposition to Netanyahu and his policies." But on October 22, 2009, then–opposition leader of the Knesset, Tzipi Livni, sent a letter congratulating J Street on its inaugural event. She said she would not be able to attend but that Kadima would be "well represented" by Meir Sheetrit, Shlomo Molla, and Haim Ramon."  Kadima is closer to J Street's ideal than 

other Israeli parties. It's left of others.  

The Israeli Embassy stated that Ambassador Michael Oren would not attend J Street's first national conference because J Street supports positions that may "impair" Israel's interest. Oren continued his criticism after the conference, telling Conservative rabbis meeting in Philadelphia that J Street "is a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It's significantly out of the mainstream." Hannah Rosenthal, head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in the Obama Administration, criticized Oren, saying his comments were "most unfortunate." 

After several American Jewish groups criticized Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department said that "Rosenthal has the complete support of the department."] 

In April 2010, Oren had a meeting with J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami to discuss the issues. After leaving his role as Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and campaigning for an MK position in the Knesset, Oren described his view as follows: "We have to understand that people who aren't anti-Israel have criticisms of specific Israeli policies. We have to show greater flexibility on the peace issue. Israel is willing to go a serious distance on peace."


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