IPT Examines J Street’s Unusual “Support” for Israel

Investigative Project on Terrorism

March 9, 2017


J Street, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, has an unusual way of showing it "is the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans."

It has called for direct negotiations with Hamas, a designated terrorist group committed to the Jewish state's destruction. It partners with aggressively anti-Israel groups which advocate an economic, political and academic boycott of Israel. And it partners with rabidly anti-Israel speakers and groups in the name of "open debate."

The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) examines J Street's record in a new dossier. Read the full report here. J Street was formed in 2008 as a liberal counterpart to the American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC).

Most recently, J Street rallied behind U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison after the IPT unearthed a 2010 recording in which Ellison described what he saw as Israel's disproportionate influence over U.S. foreign policy, calling it illogical and not right.

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami came to Ellison's defense during a speech at a New York synagogue: "I think that there's nothing troubling about his record. I think that the witch hunt that is going on on Keith Ellison is reminiscent of the witch hunt that goes on every single time somebody who has dared to criticize the policies of the government of Israel steps forward and has a potential to hold position in this country."

He reiterated his support a few days later on MSNBC, describing Ellison, who also voted against funding additional Iron Dome defense for Israel in 2014 as Hamas rockets rained down on Israeli civilian communities. Ellison also voted "present" in 2009 rather than support a resolution recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, as "one of the most tolerant and open minded people that many of us know."

In other cases, J Street tries to have it both ways. Regarding Hamas, a J Street policy paper notes that the group "has consistently condemned Hamas for calling for Israel's destruction," but in the next paragraph makes the case for why Hamas must be engaged.

"[O]ne makes peace with one's enemies not one's friends," the paper says.

"There has to be a channel of dialogue with Hamas," Ben-Ami said during a 2010 Georgetown University program that J Street co-sponsored with the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC).

J Street maintains that it opposes the global BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement, but it repeatedly partnered with the movement's advocates. At the same time, J Street's policy statement on BDS says it will not oppose the movement if it "explicitly support[s] a two-state solution..."

Its 2012 J Street Conference, for example, featured a panel discussion with leading BDS advocate Mustafa Barghouti. He was not challenged about BDS, and his insistence that any future peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians include a "right of return," which could end Israel's Jewish majority, also went unchallenged.

In another discussion at the same conference, Barghouti described Israel as an apartheid state. He also made brief references to BDS, which also drew no pushback.

In general, J Street's "pro-Israel" agenda places the blame for the ongoing conflict on Israel's shoulders and demands more of it than of Palestinians. When it brings itself to condemn Palestinian incitement, it engages in moral equivalence, also mentioning rare instances of Israeli violence against Palestinians.

The dossier also studies J Street's financial support, political activity and more. To read the full dossier, click here.