Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, I developed a fairly clear set of political views; I am a liberal. I am pro-Peace, pro-Human Rights, and pro-Democracy. I believe that robust and vibrant debate is the key to ensure the continued existence of democracies. The very act of questioning authority is important in the quest to build and maintain democratic institutions. So, it is only natural that I often critique and question government policies throughout the Middle East, including those of the only democratic state in the region, Israel.
It is for this reason that I oppose J Street in Boston University’s (BU) Hillel. The BU Hillel governing body is comprised of an elected student board that works to foster a healthy environment for Jewish students to feel at home on campus. This elected board rejected J Street’s request to join BU Hillel for several reasons, including the fact that our Hillel wants to remain “politics-free”. But perhaps most crucially was the fact that J Street erodes the quality of the desired healthy environment for Jewish students. Indeed, its often unfair and inaccurate critique of Israeli policies frequently crosses over from what is considered reasonable analysis into demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state.
J Street’s tagline is: “The Political Home for Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Americans”. While this may sound catchy, actions speak far louder than words. The organization frequently hosts anti-Semitic critics of Israel, who substitute for slanderous libel, like the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement. By opening up the floor to such individuals and organizations, blame for the nuances and even major issues is placed solely on the Israeli government, without consideration for the bigger picture and mistakes committed by other parties. For example, J Street frequently sponsors (as does Students for Justice in Palestine) Breaking the Silence (BtS), an organization that demonizes the Israeli Defense Forces, spreads unsubstantiated anti-Israel claims, and bullies pro-Israel advocates. A BtS leader told a Jewish woman at Boston College recently that she “means nothing to my country [Israel].” This is not something I want inside my Hillel.
J Street also sponsors pro-BDS speakers and those who call for the destruction of the Jewish state. For example, the organization has hosted Sam Bahour, a staunch BDS advocate, as well as Husam Zomlot, a Fatah official who calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. These are the kinds of messages that J Street sponsors on campuses. This is not something I want inside my Hillel.
J Street U at BU started this semester and has hosted events typical for J Street, such as screening the highly sensationalist and controversial film “The Gatekeepers.” What is more troubling is who leads the J Street U club at BU. The current president of the club has stated on numerous occasions to others in BU Hillel that her views “are further ‘left’ than J Street.”
Her self-proclaimed “idol” is Noam Chomsky, an outspoken anti-Semite. In fact, she helped plan an event that featured him on a panel with the event being titled “Ending the Occupation and Moving Forward”. She planned the event with various groups, including Jewish Voices for Peace, an organization that openly supports BDS. She stated her board (of J Street U at BU) thought the event was a “cool idea” and said the other clubs hosted it because “we found out from J Street that we couldn’t do that.” This shows the true colors of BU’s J Street U club.
BU’s J Street U club and their parent organization, J Street, seem to misunderstand the concept of following one’s own values. J Street prides itself on “opening up our community” by calling for more openness and debate within the Jewish community. The organization does not, however, respond in kind because it will not listen to criticism of its own group, making the “open” nature of their existence preach and no practice.
The BU J Street U club agreed to participate in an event with JUMP (previously known as UP), a pro-Peace group at BU that I am fortunate enough to be the founder of. I planned a screening of the J Street Challenge and then a panel discussion on the movie and the difference between the J Street and JUMP organizations. Unfortunately, less than two weeks before the event, the president of BU’s J Street U informed me they had to pull out of the event.
Being raised as a liberal with a strong belief in equal rights, justice, and the perpetuation and support of democracy means I cannot in good faith support J Street. It also means I cannot support their endeavors on my campus or inside my Hillel. Why? They simply don’t mesh. J Street is neither pro-Peace, pro-Human Rights, pro-Democracy, nor even pro-Israel.