The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday criticized J Street for its “inflammatory and repugnant” campaign urging Jews to declare "Bibi doesn't speak for me."
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"At the height of the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress, J Street’s petition campaign that attempts to distance itself and American Jews from Israel’s duly elected prime minister is inflammatory and repugnant and exacerbates an already heated and politicized moment for U.S. Israel relations at a critical juncture in the West’s negotiations with Iran," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, in a statement.
"Let’s remember what is at stake: Preventing extremist Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel’s very existence," Foxman continued. "In that goal, Mr. Netanyahu surely does represent not only Israelis but American Jews as well."
Netanyahu's speech before the United States Congress, which he plans to use to warn against the threat of a nuclear Iran, has sparked a backlash among some U.S. lawmakers and divided American Jews into camps that support or oppose the move.
Netanyahu has said that he is going to Washington as the representative of the Jewish people. However, Jewish leaders and Congressmen have urged Netanyahu to cancel his trip to Washington, or at the very least reschedule it until after Israel's elections on March 17.
J Street responded to Foxman's remarks on Wednesday, saying it was "astonished and taken aback by today’s intemperate statement" that "attacks our organization for challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent assertion that he speaks for all Jews in his hardline position on Iran."
"J Street has not mobilized American Jews 'to reject the Prime Minister of Israel’s sense of duty and responsibility to world Jewry,' as Foxman states. We have called for a postponement of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress until after the Israeli election on March 17 – just as Foxman has," the statement from J Street continued. "And we have provided a mechanism for the many American Jews who do not feel that Netanyahu speaks for them to express that sentiment.There is nothing inflammatory or repugnant in either the form or content of our actions."
Foxman last week said Netanyahu should call off his speech, telling the Forward that the whole episode had turned into a circus.
“One needs to restart, and it needs a mature adult statement that this was not what we intended,” Foxman told the Forward. “It has been hijacked by politics,” Foxman said of the speech. “Now is a time to recalibrate, restart and find a new platform and new timing to take away the distractions.”
Foxman suggested Netanyahu could come to Washington only for the AIPAC conference, postpone his address until after the March 17 elections in Israel or address the Iranian threat in conversations with U.S. lawmakers.