J Street alters message of Seattle’s Pro Israel “Vigil” and then pulls out.
By The Mike Report:
A young girl struggled to keep her flame lit against the determined gusts of wind and sporadic bursts of rainfall at the Federal Building Plaza in downtown Seattle on Tuesday, November 20th. Gathered around her in the late afternoon darkness stood, by estimates of the Seattle Police Department, four hundred individuals representing a broad swath of Seattle’s famously diverse Jewish community.
Only 48 hours earlier local Israel advocacy organizations such as The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and StandWithUs began sending out notifications for a planned “Stand With Israel Community Candlelight Solidarity Vigil”. In the days prior to the event, Israel was enduring a near continuous onslaught of rockets from Hamas run Gaza, terrorizing nearly fifty percent of the Jewish state’s population.
Initial e-mails and announcements declared the purpose of the deliberately apolitical rally being “to demonstrate our Solidarity with Israel” and listed as sponsors the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, StandWithUs Northwest, the American Jewish Committee, and J Street.
Standing out within the list of the standard Jewish establishment organizations was J Street, the controversial George Soros funded advocacy organization. Although J Street describes itself as “pro-Israel and pro-peace”, prominent Israel supporting liberals like Alan Dershowitz maintain that the organization’s positions bring to question the pro-Israel half of that description. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said that J Street “not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments.” Which is why many were surprised to see J Street’s name associated with Seattle’s Israel solidarity vigil.
Some, such as this writer, wondered why an organization that has close ties to the Arab American Institute and has received funding from the director of the National Iranian American Council would allow its name to be associated with a rally sponsored by mainstream pro-Israel organizations like StandWithUs and the American Jewish Committee.
On the flip side one might question why mainstream establishment organizations would allow their names to be listed alongside the disputatious J Street.
Reliable sources have informed The Mike Report that certain local establishment organizations did indeed balk at the notion of including J Street, an organization many consider hostile to Israel, alongside the names of their own organizations. But when the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle made it clear that their endorsement of the Israel Solidarity Rally was contingent upon J Street’s inclusion, they backed off. The Jewish Federation of greater Seattle is the umbrella organization of Seattle’s Jewish community and a major philanthropic source of funding for many local non profit institutions. The Federation’s endorsement often provides the much needed seal of approval that can mean the difference between the success or failure of any number of community endeavors. One organizer shared on the condition of anonymity that the “Federation invited J Street into the planning meetings. The Federation wouldn’t stay in if we tried to push J Street out. To get a large enough crowd [at the vigil], we needed the Federation.”
“The Federation wouldn’t stay in if we tried to push J Street out. To get a large enough crowd, we needed the Federation.”
While some of the vigil’s invited speakers may have struggled with the notion of taking a public platform with J Street, their discomfort did not last long. Within a few hours of the initial release of the names of the Solidarity Vigil’s official sponsors , an updated e-mail alert about the rally was sent out from the American Jewish Committee. J Street’s name was notably absent amongst the sponsors.
Sources informed The Mike Report that Gordon Gladstone, J Street’s Regional Director for the Northwest and Northern California did not wish for the group to be associated with the Seattle Pro-Israel vigil. Although Gladstone’s specific motivation for pulling J Street from the vigil is unclear, second hand sources suggest it was because the Pro-Israel Solidarity Vigil ” did not focus sufficiently on the need for peace and a cessation of hostilities, nor was sufficient emphasis placed on civilian victims on the Palestinian side of the conflict.”
Responding to questions regarding their in and out participation in the vigil, J Street Seattle Program Chair, Ranier Waldman Adkins issued a terse statement on November 19th which said in part that “J Street was mistakenly listed as a sponsor. J Street Seattle is not a sponsor of that event.” Waldman Adkins elaborated in a Facebook post that “J Street did not pull out of the rally, because it was never a sponsor. StandWithUs, a rally co-
sponsor, made the mistake of sending out an email listing J Street as a sponsor when that had not been confirmed by J Street, and there was not enough time- a day or so- for J Street and other groups to come to a clear understanding about the tone and content of the rally.”
In fact J Street representatives were full participants from the earliest planning stages of the Israel solidarity event and joined in all of the phone calls and meetings leading up to the event. Organizers wanted the rally to be under as wide a community umbrella as possible and made several concessions to J Street to maintain their involvement. Acting and treated as full members of the sponsoring committee, J Street representatives were assertive throughout regarding the precise language to be used in promotion of the event. It was solely as a concession to J Street that the solidarity event was billed as a vigil rather than a rally.
“We never had a roll call of those who planned the event to see if they were cosponsors. It was assumed if you were planning the event, you were cosponsoring the event.”
It was presumed by those in the planning group that all of the involved organizations were participating as sponsors. “We never had a roll call of those who planned the event to see if they were cosponsors. It was assumed if you were planning the event, you were cosponsoring the event.” One participant in the planning group acknowledged that had they known J Street did not intend to be a sponsor they would not have made so many concessions to the group.
The Solidarity Vigil itself was a uniquely multi-denominational event for the Seattle Jewish community. Rabbinical representatives from the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements shared the microphone and all spoke of support for Israel and the desire for peace for the sake of all in the region. The several hundred assembled waved Israeli and US flags and joined in singing the Hatikvah and well worn Hebrew standards such as Hine Ma Tov (How goodly it is to see brothers united), and Oseh Shalom, the eternal Jewish song of peace.
Whether this communal plea for peace and the safety of their brethren in Israel was too radical for J Street, or J Street’s inability to join in a communal show of support for an Israel under attack is too radical for the pro Israel community is for the reader to decide.