Most Americans perceive Donald Trump as a talking car-crash. You don’t like what you hear or see, but you’re unable to look away. This was certainly true last month as almost 19,000 supporters of Israel assembled at our nation’s capital for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference.
Trump’s appearance at the largest gathering of pro-Israel activists was laden with “The Donald’s” baggage. The GOP frontrunner’s previous remarks about Muslims, Mexicans, and immigration have not endeared him to a Jewish community that proudly teaches our children about the role Jews played during the civil rights movement.
But AIPAC is about bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Regardless of where you stand on the political, economic, or social spectrum, supporting Israel’s right to exist as a safe and secure Jewish state transcends party loyalties. And that is why the overwhelming majority of policy conference attendees were respectful to Trump and the threatened walkout or boycott of his speech was as noticeable as an individual blade of grass on a golf course.
Leading up to the AIPAC conference, the progressive “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J Street was hard at work to undermine the event, particularly where Trump was concerned.
To be clear, J Street wields about as much power in the pro-Israel community as I do among the ranks of Hamas. What J Street does offer is cover for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic individuals, organizations, politicians, and pundits who capitalize on the affiliation to demonize the Jewish state. History reminds Jews that they should never ignore any voice or movement that undermines their safety, security, or existence — especially the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — the Iran deal — which J Street supported even before reading it, provided what seemed like an opportunity to grab some of AIPAC’s turf on Capitol Hill last year because its passage was considered a big defeat for AIPAC and a sign of its declining influence. With the policy conference’s record-breaking attendance of over 18,000 and a speakers list that included leading presidential candidates, the Speaker of the House, and the U.S. Vice President, AIPAC obviously hasn’t skipped a beat, and J Street’s wishful thinking was just that.
J Street, in fact, no longer holds an annual conference. Having attended last year’s J Street big event, I can tell you that the tumbleweeds rolling in the halls spoke to its attendance numbers. The progressive ideologues of the Left having elevated social justice and class warfare to the level of a religion in place of their Judaism, J Street hoped to fundraise and increase support by opposing Trump’s AIPAC appearance.
But J Street forgot to mention that hate and violence represent the core of who they are.
As AIPAC attendees packed their bags and boarded planes back to every corner of the country and planet, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami sent an email that opened with:
Yesterday, thousands of delegates to the AIPAC Policy Conference stood and applauded the speech of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump — shocking so many of us who have been appalled at Trump’s racist and hateful campaign.
The fact that Ben-Ami insulted the AIPAC attendees is to be expected. But his selective condemnation of bigotry and hateful rhetoric reveals the hypocrisy of J Street’s pro-progressive, not pro-Israel agenda.
A year ago at this time, Ben-Ami was welcoming chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to address the J Street conference.
While it’s true that Donald Trump has singled out Mexicans and Muslims when voicing his immigration concerns, Erekat has compared Israel to ISIS and defended the murder of Jews at the hands of Hamas. During the recent wave of knifings by Palestinians, many of them children, Erekat defended the violence against civilians as an act of self-defense.
Erekat is such an appalling individual that Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut, who is regarded by many in the pro-Israel community as being too far to the political Left, canceled his appearance at J Street, refusing to give legitimacy to Erekat.
At the same conference, J Street’s keynote speaker was former Secretary of State James Baker. You know, the guy who once said, “F**k the Jews, they didn’t vote for us anyway.”
The list of abhorrent individuals speaking at J Street events is mind-boggling. After attending their last conference, I literally curled up in bed for a week, distraught over the vile individuals who were invited to spew their venom, prompting my children to ask why Daddy was so sad.
J Street and truth go together like a baked ham and a Passover Seder.
After the 2014 midterm elections, J Street, desperate to save face with donors and supporters, claimed victory even though they lost just about every major race they had invested in.
I wrote for the NY Observer at the time:
The organization’s boast that “90% of J StreetPAC-endorsed incumbents are leading or have won” is misleading at best and dishonest at worst.
J Street darling Democrat Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) faced a Republican challenger who is allegedly mentally unstable. Even the Illinois GOP refused to recognize and endorse Schakowsky’s challenger due to her state of mind. Not exactly a victory worth bragging about.
Democrat John Conyers (MI-13), who serves a district that regards the Republican Party as an extension of the Ku Klux Klan, won his 26th consecutive term in Congress. Way to go out on a limb, guys.
More recently, J Street sold the public a lie about the Iran deal. Claiming that 60 percent of American Jews supported the deal, they failed to tell the public that the poll they cited never asked respondents whether they supported the deal. Notwithstanding the aphorism about “two Jews, three opinions,” in the case of the Iran deal, most surveys reveal a community solidly against.
As much as J Street wants to claim to take the higher road, their actions speak just the opposite. But to be fair, they told us back in 2009, “Our No. 1 agenda item is to do whatever we can in Congress to act as the president’s blocking back.” Those may be the last believable words Jeremy Ben-Ami ever spoke — indeed a fitting epitaph for J Street.