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J Street Rabbi Breaks with Leftist Zionism–and Israel

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Posted on February 17 2011 8:00 am

J Street holds a rally against a Jewish presence in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria

At the end of February J Street will be holding its second national conference in Washington. Some of its leadership (and much of its base) have shown that they have lost patience with its program and are taking a much more radical stance. They even started using the language of the PLO and Hamas to attack Israel.

J Street is the controversial George Soros-funded Jewish pressure group that was created to lobby for a Palestinian state.

Writing in the Washington Jewish Week, Richard Greenberg accurately depicted J Street’s current situation:

“As the organization gears up for its second national confab later this month, J Street continues to generate buzz–but much of it has been unwelcome. Steeped in controversy since its inception in 2008, the group recently has become embroiled in a succession of political and ideological feuds that have sharply eroded whatever credibility and clout it may have accumulated.”

I have previously written about the radical rabbis that comprise much of J Street’s Advisory Council.

Rabbi Brian Walt is a leading voice in the Advisory Council and in the most recent issue of Tikkun Magazine he offers a very stark reminder of the anger toward Israel and Zionism that is harbored by the radicals that make up the core of J Street’s base.

Here are some excerpts from Walt, my comments appear in brackets:

“I still love the rebirth of Hebrew culture in Israel and I still believe Jews desperately needed safety after the Holocaust. But neither our cultural renewal nor the Holocaust justify the immense suffering imposed on the Palestinian people. [Here Walt totally dismisses the founding ideas of Zionism which predate the Holocaust by half a century; the First Zionist Congress was held in Switzerland in 1897.]

Over the years I have come to realize that progressive Jews, despite being deeply immersed in moral anguish about the state of Jewish values, often take actions that perpetuate the suffering of the Palestinians. We do so in several ways: by our refusal to fully acknowledge the Nakba [Walt uses the terminology of Fatah and Hamas and labels the creation of Israel as a catastrophe in Arabic]; by not acknowledging that the Occupation of the West Bank is directly related to what happened in 1947… [1947? Israel was created in 1948. Is he denying that a Jewish State of any size should exist? In 1947 the U.N. voted to partition the British Mandate and create a Jewish State. Does Walt now consider that a mistake?]

I once was a liberal Zionist, but now I see myself as a religious American Jew in solidarity with justice for the Palestinian people. Israel’s security and our liberation as Jews are both tied to justice for the Palestinians. [Here Walt abandons Zionism. He rejects the Zionist label for himself. Let’s be clear, Walt’s religiosity is not Orthodox. He fails to connect “justice for the Palestinian people” to any Jewish religious law, Halacha. He is now closer to the ideology of the tiny American Council For Judaism than any other viewpoint on the American Jewish scene.]

Greenberg writes:

Noah Pollak (is the) executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, which was formed last year. (Pollak states) “J Street’s veil of credibility is gone. It’s just another left-wing fringe group; it’s really very marginal now.”

I caution against Pollak’s optimism. J Street may be perceived as a “left-wing fringe group” by many in the Jewish community, but it is still incredibly well financed and has extremely high level connections to the Obama Administration. These facts make it clear that J Street cannot be so easily dismissed while President Obama still sits in the Oval Office. Consider that “White House officials (have) confirmed” that Dennis Ross will address the J Street conference.

J Street seems committed to move in a direction that further alienates it from the mainstream Jewish community. J Street should ask Rabbi Walt (and those that agree with him) to resign from their Advisory Council immediately.

J Street has given Tikkun and the Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (RHR-NA) “Participating Organizations” status at their conference. Tikkun’s Michael Lerner is a confirmed speaker. J Street has partnered with Tikkun many times since its inception. Walt was the founder and first Executive Director of RHR-NA which exists only to criticize Israel. J Street has no place in the pro-Israel community if it works with these foes of Zionism.

If J Street fails to rid itself of Walt and Lerner and company and set a significant course correction then the Jewish community must treat them with the same contempt that we reserve for American Council For Judaism and the Neturei Karta.

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