Rachel Lerner, Associate Executive Director of the J Street Education Fund, issued the following statement today in response to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s “Breaking Down The Walls” report:
J Street is troubled by “Breaking Down The Walls,” a recent report from the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Middle East Study Committee. We were particularly surprised to find J Street’s name mentioned in the report’s “Letter to our American Jewish friends.” J Street was never approached by the Committee, nor have we had any conversations with PC (USA)’s leadership about this or any other study. We wish more groups, including J Street, were consulted on this document before its publication and that we had been able to relay our strong objections to many of its findings. We are dismayed at the attempt by the Committee to use J Street as political cover for this report. While we appreciate the Church’s stated desire to achieve peace in the region, and while we do agree with some parts of the study, we have serious disagreements with the Committee’s recommendations, particularly the call for the possible withholding of U.S. aid to Israel. J Street believes that American assistance to Israel, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, is an important anchor for a peace process based on providing Israel with the confidence and assurance to move forward on a solution based on land for peace. Moreover, the study document consistently downplays Israel’s very real security concerns, appears to shrug off any Palestinian responsibility for resolving the ongoing conflict, and underplays the Israeli narrative throughout. J Street firmly believes that both Israelis and Palestinians will have to do their part in taking the necessary steps toward achieving a two state solution. Finally, the letter wrongly lists J Street with other organizations as if we share views and agendas – when in reality what we have in common is that we’re Jewish organizations willing at times to criticize the policies of the government of Israel. To us that is unfair – a kind of stereotyping in its own right that we find distasteful. Had the Committee reached out to us, they might have better understood the important distinctions between us. For these reasons and others, we sincerely hope that this document is not adopted by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in its current form.