Larry Gellman
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Alan Dershowitz, stop whining and come to J Street as my guest

A strong objection to the Harvard law professor's accusations that the leftwing group is anti-Israel

For American Jews and Israel it is clearly the best of times. We have never enjoyed the kind of prosperity, respect, security, and opportunities that the 90 percent of world Jewry who live in Israel and the U.S. enjoy today.  In addition, there has never been an American president who has provided more financial aid, military equipment, support in the U.N. and commitment to the safety of Israeli civilians than Barack Obama provides to Israel.

So why are smart, otherwise intelligent, and very accomplished people like Alan Dershowitz speaking so much nasty nonsense to justify their seemingly insatiable need to pretend it is the worst of times?

That is not a rhetorical question. I really don’t even begin to understand it.

Dershowitz, whom I met 20 years ago when I was chairing the Federation and Israel Bonds campaigns in Milwaukee, is a legal genius and has a long and distinguished career fighting for human rights and Judaism’s commitment to fairness and justice.

But, like so many of my best and most admired friends, in recent years his love for Israel has apparently caused him to go completely crazy.

In a recent interview, Dershowitz — now 76 years old — ratcheted up his long-standing criticism of J Street — an organization he has lambasted almost since its inception several years ago, with the following wave of distortions in Tablet Magazine:

I think J Street has been the most damaging organization in American history against Israel. It has been the most damaging, more damaging than Students for Justice in Palestine [and] more damaging than the early anti-Zionist Council for Judaism. J Street has done more to turn young people against Israel than any organization in the whole of history. It will go down in history as one of the most virulent, anti-Israel organizations in the history of Zionism and Judaism. It has given cover to anti-Israel attitudes on campus and particularly its approach to Israel’s self defense…when it comes to Israel’s war against Hamas, and when it supports the Goldstone report, and when it accepts money from anti-Zionists, and when it puts all its support and money behind this deal, it becomes very hard to describe it as anything but anti-Israel. I used to say J Street can’t call itself pro-Israel. I’ve now changed my mind and say that J Street has to reveal itself as a major anti-Israel organization.

Alan, as an accomplished attorney you should know better than to make multiple serious accusations without providing a shred of evidence. To make things worse, every single one of your slanderous accusations is either an outright lie or a gross distortion.

You never mention the fact that J Street’s supporters and people who have appeared at conferences and promotional meetings include former Israeli prime ministers, former heads of all Israeli security organizations including the Shin Bet, Mossad, and the IDF, former Israeli Supreme Court justices, and current and former Members and Speakers of Knesset.

Alan, how do you reconcile your vicious and false claims with the fact that all of these Israeli leaders and security experts have endorsed J Street and believe it is an important pro-Israel voice? Why at this point in your storied and distinguished career are you choosing to publicly humiliate yourself in your unfair efforts to smear others with whom you simply disagree?

You then go on to repeat your childish complaint that J Street has never invited you to speak at a J Street Conference so you can tell the thousands of its enthusiastic supporters how naive, foolish, and anti-Israel they are. Have you ever heard of any group inviting a person to speak at a major conference with that kind of message?

If you want to come to J Street and fill the huge gap in your knowledge about the organization, then you have a standing invitation to come as my guest. You will be able to attend every session and learn what J Street is all about. You will be able to make whatever statements you want and to ask questions at every session.

So quit your whining. You are now invited to J Street.

Finally, in your interview, you also complain that it is wrong for anyone to accuse American Jews of having dual loyalties to both the U.S. and Israel.

I’m as patriotic and as American as Obama or any member of his administration….If Jews in America are considered to be first class citizens — and I insist that we are first class citizens — [then] we have the right to express any views without being accused of having dual loyalties.

Alan, give me a break.

You and I and the tens of thousands of American Jews who have strongly supported Israel for years have always proudly advertised our dual loyalty. We all say proudly that we are patriotic American citizens and are at the same time deeply committed to the safety and security of the State of Israel. Dual loyalty has been the whole point of Federations, AIPAC, J Street and every pro-Israel Jewish group for decades.

Why else do so many Jewish meetings begin with the proud singing of Hatikvah along with our own national anthem? Why else would we give and raise hundreds of millions of dollars to support Israel? Why would we lobby our government representatives to support Israel?

So why do you call what we proudly proclaim ourselves an “accusation” when it comes from others?

In my experience, most non-Jews — including President Obama — actually admire our commitment and the success we have enjoyed supporting Israel.

Alan, as I said, I have admired you for most of my adult life and am in awe of what you have accomplished and the causes you have championed. That is why I am so confused and saddened by what you and other respected Jewish leaders and organizations are doing and saying these days in the name of love for Israel.

Please don’t continue to destroy the amazing legacy you have built during your long and distinguished career with more of these nasty and false accusations against J Street and others with whom you simply disagree.

Or at the very least, hold off until we have attended a J Street conference together, and you get a chance to see how wrong and unfair you have been.

About the Author
Larry Gellman is a retired Managing Director--Wealth Management at a private worldwide investment firm. He has studied and lectured on Jewish wisdom and ethics in Israel and the U.S. . He has spent 40 years as a major Jewish philanthropist and a current National Board Member of organizations including J Street, Americans for Peace Now, and CLAL and a past chairman and former board member of Israel Bonds, Jewish Federations, AIPAC and Jewish Day Schools in Tucson and Milwaukee. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN MY WRITINGS ARE MINE AND MINE ALONE. IDO NOT SPEAK ON BEHALF OF ANY OF THE ORGANIZATIONS WHERE I SERVE AS A BOARD MEMBER OR VOLUNTEER.
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