StandWithUs and J Street Clash on Parameters of American Criticism of Israel
How far should American Jews go in their criticism of Israeli policies they disagree with?
LOS ANGELES – How far should American Jews go in their criticism of Israeli policies they disagree with?
According to the core principles listed on the website of J Street, the self-labeled “political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans,” Israel’s supporters “have not only the right but the obligation to speak out when we think the policies or actions of the Israeli government are hurting Israel’s and the Jewish people’s long-term interests.”
J Street’s emphasis on the “obligation” aspect in the above statement was at the center of a debate Monday night between the organization’s executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, and Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel education group StandWithUs.
“You feel you know better than the Israelis when to make peace with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas or Hamas,” Rothstein told Ben-Ami. “I feel that position is presumptuous and I’m sorry to say, it’s insulting to the Israeli people.”
At Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, Ben-Ami and Rothstein didn’t find much common ground—at least according to Ben-Ami, who said as much in his concluding remarks.
Rothstein noted that J Street specifically opposed a 2011 congressional letter asking President Barack Obama to urge Abbas to return to peace negotiations and to end anti-Israel incitement following the “horrific, inhuman, and brutal attack in Itamar against the Fogel family,” in which two Palestinian men murdered Israeli parents and their three children ages 11, 4, and three months in Itamar. She criticized J Street for putting pressure only on Israel to take steps to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians, and for having a mission that falls short of calling for criticism of Abbas’s “promotion of hate, incitement, and terrorism.”
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