AJC criticizes “inappropriate” Knesset hearings on J Street

J Street still makes some major Jewish leaders nervous, but that doesn’t mean they like the idea of Israeli politicians mucking around in the internal affairs of the a diverse American Jewish community.

Today the American Jewish Committee criticized this week’s Knesset hearings into whether J Street is really the pro-Israel, pro-peace group it claims to be.

“In holding hearings on whether a voluntary American Jewish organization is indeed a pro-Israel lobby, the Knesset committee has interfered in an entirely inappropriate way in the internal affairs of the American Jewish community,” said Ed Rettig, director of AJC’s Jerusalem Office, in remarks originally intended for the hearing.

But Rettig’s testimony was scrubbed; could it be because anti-J Street Knesset members knew what he was going to say?

“We are a voluntary community in a democratic country and we settle our differences, of which there are many, in the only proper forum — the arena of open debate within the Jewish community,” he went on. “Israeli parliamentary committees have no proper role in such a discussion.”

In my story this week, the ADL’s Abe Foxman said the hearings were little more than a “simple political maneuver.”

I’ve talked to several other Jewish leaders who oppose many of J Street’s positions and actions – but who said the Knesset investigation was meant to have a chilling impact on the debate over key Middle East peace issues within the American Jewish community.

“It’s the big tent thing all over again,” said one prominent Jewish activist who asked not to be identified. “This hearing stands in clear opposition to what we’ve always advocated – that U.S.-Israel relations are best protected by having the broadest possible pro-Israel movement in this country. There are factions in the Knesset that just don’t get that.”

As I noted, even some staunch, highly public J Street opponents declined to defend the Knesset hearings in my story.

Will the fact J Street has been singled out by Israel’s parliament for scrutiny of its pro-Israel credentials have an impact on the group’s standing in Congress? In my story, several analysts said they thought it might.

But with prominent centrist groups like the AJC and the ADL calling the hearings inappropriate, I’m wondering if the impact will be minimal.

And I’ve talked to some seasoned analysts of Jewish politics who believe the hyperbolic excesses employed by some J Street opponents and the effort to drum it out of the world of pro-Israel activism  will ultimately backfire and actually boost the group’s standing with a Jewish electorate that remains fairly liberal on Middle East matters and resistant to litmus-test pro-Israel politics..


About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.