Breaking with the cautious attitude of major Jewish institutions, a prominent pro-Israel group in the U.S. has launched a scathing verbal attack on J Street, the left-leaning U.S. lobby for Israel, ahead of its inaugural conference which begins Sunday.
In a recent statement, StandWithUs - a nonprofit working to counter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic phenomena on campuses - asserted that since its foundation last April, J Street has "echoed" the position of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who argue the "Israel lobby" is too powerful in Washington.
"One of the most dangerous things that can be said about Jews is that they control the world, or America, or American foreign policy," said Roz Rothstein from Los Angeles, who founded StandWithUs in 2001.
Rothstein, who visited Israel this week for the Presidential Conference, argued J Street "contributes to this way of thinking" with statements like the one made on June 9 by J Street 's executive director Jeremy Ben Ami, who wrote that "for decades, established pro-Israel groups have enforced right-wing message discipline on Israel in Congress."
Not worth a reaction
A spokesperson for the self-described "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby, Amy Spitalnick, told Anglo File on Monday that her organization had no comment on this and other accusations by StandWithUs "because they do not merit a reaction." One J Street supporter called the advocacy group's letter a "lie-filled dossier" and "smear sheet".
StandWithUs wrote its protest letter to the J Street conference's 160-person congressional host committee, which includes John Kerry, Henry Waxman and Dianne Feinstein. Israel 's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, said he will not attend the J Street conference, set to take place next week in Washington D.C.
In a 2,000-word response to the 800-word letter by StandWithUs, Richard Silverstein, a writer known for his critical approach to Israel who will lead a discussion on blogging during the J Street Conference, wrote that the Walt and Mearsheimer reference was "so patently false it isn't even worth engaging [which]."
StandWithUs, which has an annual budget of roughly $4 million, also wrote that J Street , whose annual budget is $3 million, drew "a moral equivalence" between Israel and Hamas when the lobby group said during Israel's recent campaign in Gaza that "it could not identify who was right or who was wrong."
This claim, Silverstein argued, should be examined against J Street's full statement, which he says "bears no resemblance whatsoever" to what StandWithUs said. Referring to Israel's conflict with Hamas, J Street - which calls on U.S. and Israeli politicians to "find ways to engage Hamas" - went on to write in the petition that "there are many who recognize elements of truth on both sides."
According to Rothstein, StandWithUs will send a delegation of observers - whose makeup and identity she would not disclose - to the J Street conference next week.
"Though it's probably made up of fine people, J Street's message can be dangerous," said Rothstein. "It has a very attractive-looking pitch that speaks of peace and love, which we all want, but that world view only works with those who share it. Hamas doesn't, Iran doesn't and many others don't share it either."
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