Myths & Facts:
Our relationship with the Jewish community

MYTH: J Street is out of touch with the majority of American Jews.

Polling shows that J Street’s positions are in step with those of the vast majority of American Jews.

Like J Street, 80 percent of American Jews support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a 2014 election night survey by GBA Strategies and commissioned by J Street. Similarly, in the 2013 Pew survey–the most extensive poll of American Jews to-date—61 percent agreed that “there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully.” Like J Street, 85 percent of American Jews support US leadership to help Israel and the Palestinians, according to GBA Strategies.

Like J Street, the majority of American Jews also supported the JCPOA nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1. Polling commissioned by J Street and conducted by GBA strategies in July found that American Jews supported the agreement by a 20 percent margin. That tracks closely with the results of a poll commissioned by the LA Jewish Journal which found that American Jews supported the agreement by an 18 percent margin.

J Street’s willingness to publicly engage with supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement indicates that the organization itself supports BDS.

J Street very clearly opposes the global BDS movement and believes that actions that target the state of Israel or its people are incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state resolution of the conflict. Our full policy position is available here.

We believe that it serves the long-term health and vibrancy of our community to engage in discussions of the substance of these issues, even – and especially – when we have fundamental disagreements with some of the individuals or organizations we debate. Closing the door to an open, robust conversation only drives away many of those our community seeks to engage, especially when it comes to younger Jews.

MYTH: J Street U co-sponsored a pro-BDS panel at Smith College.

J Street and J Street U have stated their clear opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and J Street U has played a central role on campuses across the country in opposing BDS.

In March, 2014, J Street U at Smith College was asked to co-sponsor a panel on BDS with Students for Justice in Palestine. The panel was originally set to include Miri Talmon, a professor of Israel Studies and Israeli consulate-recommended speaker who has argued strongly against BDS. J Street U agreed to cosponsor the event, believing that it provided a good opportunity for the campus to air different perspectives regarding the boycott movement.

Unfortunately, Talmon decided to withdraw less than 24 hours before the event, and J Street U was not notified of the change in program. As a result, the panel only featured pro-BDS speakers–a missed opportunity for the pro-Israel community to publicly refute the case for boycotting Israel.

What happened at Smith underscores why its not enough to simply “boycott the boycotters.” The only way to defeat BDS is to bring to light the case against it, to prove that it’s a dead-end for both Israel and the Palestinians.

MYTH: J Street hosted an “anti-Israel” UNRWA representative.

J Street is proud to have sponsored a speaking tour featuring John Ging, the Gaza Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Ging’s commitment to peace and human rights should be an example for all of us working to resolve the conflict.

During that tour, Ging was interviewed by the New York Jewish Week and reiterated his opposition to boycotts of Israel.
A recording of Ging’s remarks in Washington, DC is available here.

MYTH: J Street asked the IRS to cancel the non-profit status of American charities that support Israeli entities located beyond the Green Line.

Following an investigative report in the New York Times, J Street members urged Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to launch an investigation into allegations that some organizations funding settlement activities on the West Bank had broken US laws regarding terrorist financing and tax evasion. We did not raise question as to whether these groups have the legal right to raise funds for causes they believe in or whether donations benefiting settlements should be tax-deductible, but rather whether these funds were handled in accordance with US law.

MYTH: J Street U was rejected at UC Berkeley because it supports BDS.

J Street very clearly opposes BDS. J Street U at the University of California Berkeley was excluded from the school’s Jewish Student Union on the grounds that it hosted an event with Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli combat veterans who are critical of Israeli policy in the West Bank. Considering that J Street U is the school’s fastest growing Jewish organization, and membership in the Jewish Student Union is intended to be representative of the Jewish community on campus, this was a disappointing outcome. However, J Street U Berkeley continues to have a vibrant and growing presence on campus and fosters close relations with the campus Hillel.

MYTH: J Street featured an anti-Birthright panel at its national conference.

At its 2013 national conference, J Street featured a panel discussion entitled “Unpacking Birthright,” which focused on the challenges and opportunities for the Birthright program in helping young American Jews to form meaningful relationships with Israel. What ensued was a thoughtful and civil conversation, featuring current college students, as well as the director of a campus Hillel and a professor of Jewish studies at Brandeis University. To refer to it as an “anti-Birthright” panel is absurd.

MYTH: J Street U leaders wore t-shirts glorifying terrorism.

This is a false allegation based on pictures from 2013 of two Washington University in St. Louis students who are not and have never been J Street U leaders. J Street U condemned the t-shirts as being hateful and inimical to J Street’s fundamental commitment to a non-violent, negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

MYTH: J Street declined to be interviewed for the J Street Challenge smear film

In December of 2012, while on the way to Boston for a speaking engagement, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami received the following email:

Dear Mr. Ben-Ami,

We are a small new film production company, in the process of producing a documentary about the Israel/Palestine issue within the American Jewish community.

We are interested in interviewing you while you are visiting Boston in connection with your Dec. 17th presentation at Temple Israel. The interview would be about 30 minutes. We hope to get J Street’s position on the Middle East conflict and the role of the American Jewish community in helping to solve it.

Thank you for consideration,

Senam Kumahia

Field Producer

As Jeremy was not familiar with Mr. Kumahia and had no background on his project, this request was forwarded to the J Street Communications department, which followed up on it. Jeremy’s schedule was full on the proposed date, and when Mr. Kumahia provided no alternative options for dates and no further background on the project, we let the matter drop.

That was the extent of communication between the film’s production team with J Street. Never were we asked to participate in a film about J Street, nor were we told the identity of the film’s producers or the project’s purpose and scope.

The deception involved in approaching us this way and then claiming that “we declined to be interviewed for the project” is sadly in keeping with the pattern and practice of lies and deceit that follow this film, those associated with it, and the larger effort to discredit and defame J Street and its work.

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