OU in J Week on J Street

Posted on April 20, 2009 In Blog

The New York Jewish Week recently editorialized that it finds many of the criticisms of J Street, the pro-peace-process group, of concern.

But as we wrote in a letter published by the New York Jewish Week, we think that J Street is justly criticized for the tactics they resort to in pursuing longstanding liberal-left policy preferences.

Here is our full letter (with a headline crafted by the paper’s editors):

J Street Goes Too Far

By: Nathan Diament
Director of Public Policy, Orthodox Union, Washington, D.C.

After stating “we disagree with many of the positions of J Street, the year-old pro-peace process lobby,” you go on to “also see something disturbing in the attacks on the new group by many in our community — attacks that imply that criticism of Israeli policy is akin to treason” and assert many of J Street’s critics “hide behind claims that J Street destroys pro-Israel unity when what they really mean is that J Street doesn’t agree with their own Middle East ideologies” (“J Street And Democracy,” Editorial, April 3).

Like many other pro-Israel organizations, the Orthodox Union does, indeed, have fundamental differences with J Street’s policy positions. But we have such differences with other organizations, too, and their advocacy for those different views has not provoked the concern that J Street has. This is because concerns over J Street are not, as you state, because “J Street’s ideas about what Israel needs are not the same as ours.” J Street’s ideas are not novel; they are like those advocated by others in the pro-peace process camp. It is because the tactics by which J Street promotes those ideas are radically different.

An excellent example of this is a Web video and campaign launched by J Street the same day your editorial was published. The video features footage of newly named Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his provocative statements. It then goes on to say that any American Jewish leaders who do anything other than repudiate Lieberman are “whitewashing” what he stands for, and it is J Street and those who stand with it who “know the truth.”

So, yes, as your editorial concludes: “Debate within our community is a healthy sign of passion and vibrancy. Let’s focus on the issues at hand, like how best Israel can achieve its goals of peace and security, rather than branding those who disagree with our position as traitors.” It is by that very measure that people should assess J Street’s activities and draw their conclusions.