Rival Israel activists locked horns at Monday's AIPAC conference in Washington as leading pro-Israel commentator Alan Dershowitz launched a blistering attack on pro-peace group J Street.
J Street representative Hadar Susskind was in the middle of an interview with Haaretz when Dershowitz let fly with a verbal onslaught against the group, which has openly criticized the Israeli government over its West Bank settlement policy.
Dershowitz accused J Street of dividing the Jewish community.
"I reject J Street because it spends more time criticizing Israel than supporting it," he said. "They shouldn't call themselves pro-Israel.
The combative Harvard law professor said that he too opposed settlements. But, he said, "I make the 80 percent case for Israel."
He added: "It's a shame that J Street has set itself up as an independent lobby."
The sort of supporters J Street was attracting to its conferences showed that the group was damaging to Israel, Dershowitz said.
"If you invite [former U.S. Secretary of State] Zbigniew Brzezinski you are not pro-Israel," Dershowitz told Susskind. "You should ask yourself why Norman Finkelstein loves you," he said, referring to the noted leftwing American political commentator.
Responding to the attack, Susskind told Haaretz:
"No single community speaks with one voice. There are differences - but you won't force other Jewish organizations to shut down just because of differences of opinion."
Susskind told Haaretz that some fellow conference delegates had raised eyebrows, asking him what is was doing there.
"I've met people here that took part in our conference too. They are all Israel supporters and it doesn't matter if they are at AIPAC or J Street," he said.
He added: "We have disagreements with AIPAC that I don't want to minimize. But we are all on the same side."
This article was corrected on March 23, 2010. A quote attributed to Prof. Dershowitz was amended from "I spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel" to "I make the 80 percent case for Israel."
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