Weaponization and Oversimplification of Israel Debate Must End

February 11, 2019

J Street is dismayed and frustrated by the ongoing war of words that has taken place between lawmakers including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and others on the subjects of Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and anti-Semitism. This pattern of overheated, ill-considered and reductive attacks, playing out on social media and in the press, has failed to address these issues with the nuance, sensitivity and seriousness that they deserve. It does nothing to advance the true interests and needs of Israelis or Palestinians, nor those of the American Jewish community.

Elected officials should be particularly sensitive and careful on the question of the role played by campaign contributions in influencing US policies toward Israel and the Middle East. There is no doubt that money often plays a major role in our political system. At the same time, elected officials must be extremely aware that tropes about Jewish money and political influence have been used for centuries to target and stigmatize our community. Indeed, such tropes featured alarmingly in the campaign ads of Republican candidates during the 2018 election cycle. This kind of rhetoric and imagery has never been the exclusive province of left or right, and both Democrats and Republicans should be hyper-vigilant to ensure that it has no place in our political discourse.

Elected officials should also refrain from labeling all criticism of Israeli actions or policies as “anti-Semitic,” in a transparent effort to silence legitimate discussion and debate. Such attacks only undermine the vital effort to counter the actual scourge of anti-Semitism in the United States and around the world.

J Street is committed to ending the weaponization and dangerous oversimplification of issues that are so complex and deeply important. We continue to call on our elected officials to focus their energies on policies and discussions that can actually yield a positive outcome for Israelis, Palestinians and the American people.

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