J Street Becomes Issue in IL Race

New video complicates Democratic candidate's attempt to distance himself from group

Brad Schneider / Wikipedia
October 16, 2012

After months of trying to strike a moderate tone on the issue of Israel, Democratic Illinois congressional candidate Brad Schneider is facing criticism for expressing support for the liberal fringe group J Street.

During a debate Sunday against his Republican challenger Rep. Robert Dold (R., Ill.), Schneider aimed for the middle ground, stating that he merely "supports J Street's right to be heard," according to the Chicago Tribune.

"It’s J Street, AIPAC’s right to communicate their vision and be heard," Schneider stated during the debate.

However, Schneider fully endorsed J Street earlier this year and stated that he hopes to "stand in the well of the Congress speaking on behalf of the Palestinians," according to a previously unreleased video of the Democratic candidate.

Schneider’s re-calibrated statements are an indication that the Democrat is trying to stake out more moderate ground as Election Day approaches.

"Do you support the efforts of [the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee] for Israel or J Street for Israel?" an unseen questioner asked Schneider during a February campaign event, according to previously unreleased video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"I think both organizations have the same goals," Schneider replied, attempting to compare two groups that often find themselves on opposite ends of the pro-Israel spectrum. "I am a member of AIPAC," he said. "I am an active member of AIPAC."

The questioner follows up: "They go about it differently, if you have to choose one?"

"I don’t think you have to choose one," Schneider responds. "I was a key contact. I support AIPAC. I support J Street. I believe in a two state solution. I hope to have the chance to stand in the well of the Congress speaking on behalf of the Palestinians who have finally recognized Israel as a Jewish state and achieved their aspirations of their own state."

Political insiders maintain that Schneider is obscuring his views on Israel in an effort to defeat Dold.

"It’s really sad," said one Illinois Jewish official who requested anonymity. "You’d think somebody running in the Tenth [Congressional District of Illinois] would be comfortable brandishing pro-Israel credentials."

"But here we have a Democratic candidate who clearly is afraid of the fringe left that brought him through the Democratic primary," said the Jewish source. "He is even willing to throw Israel under the bus to get elected."