NJDC sides/sided with J Street over ECI

Washington Jewish Week

SECOND UPDATE: NJDC’s David Harris calls me back to rescind his words about J Street’s bipartisan nature. See bottom of post.

UPDATED with response from J Street at bottom.

The controversial new pro-Israel outfit, Emergency Committee for Israel “is playing with fire,” says David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which recently released a “fact sheet” aimed at exposing what it says are ECI’s “dangerous” smear tactics.

ECI – founded earlier this month by neoconservatives and evangelical Christians – has been warring with J Street over the Pennsylvania Senate race, and both groups have sought to gain the upper hand by placing Israel front and center.

However, ECI, says Harris, has gone too far in its attacks on Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak.

“They’re using Israel solely as a partisan wedge issue and they’re employing tactics that have been decried by the organized Jewish community and the government of Israel – and those are the facts.”

But isn’t J Street also guilty of using Israel as a wedge issue in the race?

Harris disagrees.

“J Street and other groups are bi-partisan in their approach, first of all,” he explained. “This range of Jewish community organizations traffics in facts, and they represent the mainstream of views within the American Jewish community, although individual Jew are free to disagree with them.”

Some observers, however, thought the NJDC’s fact sheet went a bit too far. Similar criticism, they said, should be leveled against J Street — which hasn’t exactly been mum about its liberal trending political views.

Said one Jewish Democrat active in the pro-Israel community: “When I saw the fact sheet, I was struck by the fact that most of the attacks [NJDC] made against ECI were equally applicable to J Street. There’s no question J Street has politicized the issue of support for Israel in a way that’s unhelpful to the U.S.Israel relationship.”

The source, who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record, said the fact sheet was a blindly partisan document. “It’s striking that NJDC can only look to their right when waging this attack and not to the left. ECI and J Street are clearly both outside the mainstream Democratic party, and as a consensus organization, I’d think NJDC would find equal fault in these two groups when it comes [to politicizing] Israel.”

Michael Goldfarb, a spokesperson for ECI, said the NJDC is making itself look ridiculous as it seeks to score political points.

“I was puzzled to see what is explicitly a partisan organization coming after a non partisan pro-Israel group,” Goldfarb said. “If NJDC is concerned about the proliferation of pro-Israel groups than I don’t quite understand what their mission is. Maybe I’m confused.”

Goldfarb also took issue with a portion of the NJDC’s fact sheet that states: “Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren has expressed deep concern over the increasing use of support for Israel as a partisan issue in American domestic politics.”

Oren’s statement, Goldfarb maintains, actually came in response to J Street’s ongoing politicization of Israel, and was made before ECI even existed. (In December, Oren found himself in hot water after publicly calling J Street “a unique problem,” and saying the group is “significantly out of the mainstream.” He apologized, and has since been on better terms with the group.)

NJDC’s Harris says Goldfarb is wrong.

The fact sheet references a May 4 meeting in which Oren generally stated his concern that support for Israel is increasingly being used as a partisan weapon.

Misinformation, added Harris, is exactly why NJDC issued a fact sheet.

ECI’s “irresponsible tactics work,” he said. “taking out negative, patently false ads that threaten to shatter bi-partisan consensus on the U.S.-Israel relationship works. It’s effective.”

UPDATE: Jeremy Ben Ami, J Street’s founder, responded to this blog with a statement about his group’s “non-partisan” approach.

“J Street’s purpose is clear and non-partisan: to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that brings peace and security to Israel and its neighbors,” he said in a statement to me. “Attempts by Republican political operatives to shift elections toward candidates they support but who have poor records on Israel like Pat Toomey are transparent and bound to backfire.”

Upon Learning of Ben-Ami’s partisan pot shot, Harris immediately responded: “NJDC would not label a candidate like Pat Toomey as having ‘a poor record on Israel.’ We think it is destructive to the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship to tear down those who are Israel supporters, whether from the left or from the right.”

July 31, 2010 | 6 Comments »

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6 Comments / 6 Comments

  1. I hear ya. I think the North American Jew is putting too much faith into the Christians – thinking they will do right by them – but they wont, not unless the Jew becomes a Christian. I quite frankly don’t think that their Jesus would even approve of what their doing.

  2. I wish more American Jews would be Jewish Americans rather than Americans who happen to be Jewish.

    Well the reasons for this Jewish anomaly are The Jewish Establishment groups – The AJ Committee, the Congress, the B’nai Brith, the federations, ALL the spokesmen for the American Jewish community – the ruling clique, uniformly marched down the American road with a melting pot under their arms, beating it over and over again and shouting forth the Eleventh Commandment to the American Jew: Thou shalt melt!

    Thou shalt melt, thou shalt integrate, thou shalt amalgamate, thou shalt be an American as all others. They beat the drums for interfaith, exchanging pulpits with ministers enthusiastically, in a frantic effort to prove to Christian and Jew alike that there is essentially no difference between them. They were partially successful – the Christians were not convinced but the Jews were.

    Thou shalt melt, thou shalt integrate, thou shalt Americanize thyself! So the Jews did.

  3. David Harris is a traitorous Kapo Jew!!! The Democratic Party has ceased being a party supportive of Israel. Last polling I read had only about 25% solid support among democrats. Most of the Jews in the Democratic congress are on the fence. They all still love and support Hussein. By attacking them it shows them up for who and what they are. Vile mostly and no fucking loss to Israel if they’re pissed off. For my money the more pissed off and embarrassed they are they better. The whole facade of bipartisan Israel support has always been a sham in any event.

  4. ECI is making all the right enemies. The ADL is making some good enemies, too. I see the lefties are crying because the ADL opposes the Hamas Terror Mosque in NYC, especially the Jewish lefties. The Blues Bros. hated Chicago Nazis, Shebrew hates Jewish libbies.

    Good news! Israeli airstrike kills Hamas commander http://www.upi.com/Top_News/International/2010/07/31/Israel-airstrike-kills-Hamas-commander/UPI-96571280594094/

    Please, sir. May Shebrew have more?

  5. Soccar Dad writes

    First of all J-Street is indeed bipartisan. Lincoln Chaffee is on their advisory board, so they do have Republican representation.


    More substantively though, Harris is correct about Amb. Oren. Still I wouldn’t read too much into it. It’s the ambassador’s job to promote the idea that support for Israel is bipartisan and to avoid any further points of contention with the administration. What makes NJDC’s job harder is that support for Israel is much stronger among Republicans than among Democrats. NJDC makes matters worse by refusing to acknowledge this. So they take the approach of blasting Republicans for promoting their pro-Israel bonafides at the expense of Democrats but spend no time trying to convince more Democrats (especially Jewish Democrats) to be more pro-Israel. If being pro-Israel were really important to NJDC, they’d be trying to narrow the partisan gap rather than bemoaning it. I know that Ira Forman (as part of the Solomon Project) brought a number of leftwing bloggers to Israel a few years ago; I have no idea if any of them are more pro-Israel now than they were then. Still there is no sustained effort on the part of the NJDC to evangelize (bad word for this context, I know) on behalf of Israel.

    When the President invited pro-Israel groups to the White House and included J-Street but excluded ZOA, it would have been a perfect time for NJDC to say something. And time after time when the administration has singled out Israel the NJDC has been silent or been trying desperately to find the silver linings. Really the NJDC may not be anti-Israel like J-Street, but I’d hardly consider it to be pro-Israel in any real way.

    (To illustrate their pro-Israel consensus meme, the NJDC shows a picture of Carter and Begin and Clinton and Netanyahu. To me the ad is stupid. Neither President was known for being particularly fond of the Likud Prime Ministers they served opposite. These are hardly illustration of bipartisan support of Israel. Carter’s Jewish problem, of course, runs much deeper than his relationship with Begin.)