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The self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” liberal advocacy group J Street is soliciting funds for congressional candidates who are openly hostile to Israel while simultaneously targeting for defeat explicitly pro-Israel lawmakers who do not agree with its radical Middle East agenda, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis of J Street’s election year strategy.
Among the more than 50 candidates endorsed by J Street is a sizable delegation of lawmakers who have expressed hostility towards the Jewish state.
At least six of J Street’s candidates have failed to affirm the U.S.-Israel alliance on the House floor, rejected Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorists, and backed a congressional missive demanding that Israel end its siege of the Gaza Strip. All of these positions place the candidates outside the mainstream pro-Israel community.
J Street’s attraction to such fringe candidates—as well as its public efforts to remove Israel’s allies from Congress—has led insiders to question its commitment to both the Jewish state and the core tenets of pro-Israel activism.
“They’re showing their true colors,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who currently runs his own political action committee. “You can forget about what they’re saying, but look at who they’re supporting—it’s people most observers would consider to not be friendly to Israel.”
“They sort of help the bad guys on this issue,” Amitay added.
Enemy number one on J Street’s political hit list is Rep. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.), a first-term legislator who has been among Israel’s chief defenders during his two-year tenure in the House.
Walsh attracted J Street’s ire earlier this month when he referred to the two-state solution as a sham and advocated for “one contiguous Israeli state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”
His call led J Street to issue a red alert to its supporters calling for Walsh’s ouster from Congress this November.
“The policies endorsed by Representative Walsh are not pro-Israel and are not endorsed by the Israeli mainstream,” the group wrote in a press release. “It is time for the American Jewish community to call him out and make clear that he does not speak for us or for Israel’s democratic, Jewish future.”
Walsh bristled at J Street’s attacks in a recent interview with the Free Beacon.
“For a group like J Street who only claims to be pro-Israel to go after me for being pro-Israel makes no sense,” Walsh said. “They hide under the cover of ‘pro-peace, pro-Israel,’ but they’re pro-Palestinian.”
Walsh went on to deem the group politically irrelevant.
“No one from the middle to the right takes them seriously,” he said. “They’re almost a joke. They’re extremely toxic and so loudly in your face to anyone who takes even a little bit of a pro-Israel stance.”
In a video that has since been scrubbed from the Internet, J Street’s vice president for campaigns admitted that the group has a small political constituency and explained that its ultimate goal is to “move Jews” farther to the left in order to place them more in line with J Street’s own views.
In addition to Walsh, J Street has targeted New Hampshire Reps. Charlie Bass (R) and Frank Guinta (R), who both possess stellar pro-Israel credentials.
Bass, for instance, co-sponsored the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, a bill passed by the House earlier this month despite the objections of several lawmakers affiliated with J Street.
His challenger, Ann McLane Kuster, who J Street has termed “a progressive hero,” has virtually no public record regarding Israel and is touted by J Street not as a pro-Israel stalwart, but as a “community activist, author, public policy advocate, and attorney.”
“They’re obviously just endorsing the candidate most likely to defeat Bass,” who has staunchly backed Iran sanctions and supported Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism, said one pro-Israel insider familiar with the race.
“It is ironic that J Street turns out to want American Jews to be one issue voters,” said Elliott Abrams, a senior official in the George W. Bush administration who tracks opinion in the Jewish community. “J Street supports candidates critical of Israel and opposes candidates who are very pro-Israel. Doesn’t much matter where they stand on anything else.”
“Maybe,” Abrams added, “we should salute J Street’s bipartisanship: They barely care what party you’re in as long as you think undermining the Government of Israel is a good idea.”
As it works to defeat these expressly pro-Israel lawmakers, J Street is raising money for members and candidates who have run counter to the mainstream pro-Israel community’s agenda.
“J Street is much more concerned with pushing their far left agenda on Israel policy than supporting candidates who by all measure actually are pro-Israel,” said one pro-Israel political operative who is familiar with the group’s strategy.
Some of those endorsed by J Street hold positions at odds with J Street’s own principles, which stipulate that, among other things, a candidate must demonstrate “support for the special relationship between the United States and Israel.”
Endorsed Rep. Lois Capps (D., Calif), for instance, refused to sign a 2009 resolution that both affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and also condemned the Goldstone Report, a highly flawed United Nations report that wrongly accused Israel of committing war crimes—a claim that report’s author, Richard Goldstone, later retracted as false.
Capps then declined to join 327 of her colleagues later that year in expressing support for a bi-partisan letter “reaffirming the U.S.-Israel alliance.”
In 2010, Capps become one of the “Gaza 54” when she signed onto a J Street-orchestrated letter that asked President Obama to pressure the Israeli government to ease up on its so-called siege of the Gaza Strip.
Later in 2010, Capps again bucked the majority of Congress when she refused to back a letter reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” incident, in which Israeli soldiers were attacked and beaten by a delegation of pro-Palestinian terrorists.
J Street has also thrown its support behind Capps’ Californian colleague, Rep. George Miller (D), a fellow “Gaza 54” signer who would not support a congressional missive voicing “solidarity” with Israel. Miller also would not vote in favor of a letter that reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel and recognized Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian attacks.
Another J Street endorsee who appears to run counter to the group’s own mission is Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.), a “Gaza 54” backer who voted against a 2009 Iran sanctions bill and condemned Israel defending against armed militants aboard the “Freedom Flotilla.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) has also been endorsed by J Street; he declined to join a bipartisan cadre of 76 senators who expressed the commitment of the U.S. government’s alliance with the Israeli government regardless of disagreements over the peace process.
J Street has also endorsed Reps. David Price (D., N.C.) and Peter Welch (D., Vt.), both of whom endorsed the “Gaza 54” letter and spearheaded a letter asking President Obama to continue sending U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority despite its attempts to establish statehood at the United Nations.
“It’s clear from the candidates J Street chooses to support they are not interested in standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel and value those who seek to drive a wedge between the Israeli government and the American government,” said the pro-Israel political operative.
Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, said J Street’s election year tactics fit in with its ongoing campaign to undermine the Israeli government.
“I’m surprised J Street didn’t think of doing this sooner because it fits so nicely with the group’s broader program of attacking Israel and her supporters, and promoting her detractors,” Pollak said. “Members of Congress who are singled out by J Street should wear it as a badge of honor.”