J Street member and former Knesset Speaker Avrum Burg
A controversial lobby group accused of working against Israel will be hosted by a Jewish organization at the University of Pennsylvania as part of an initiative to make the group known in local venues across the U.S.
J Street’s inaugural university event Feb. 4 will be broadcast live from the university to 24 U.S. college campuses.
The event features a professor who accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, a supporter of a recent U.N. report charging Israel with war crimes and a host of personalities involved with a “Fast for Gaza” initiative that demands Israel negotiate with the Hamas terrorist organization.
J Street brands itself as pro-Israel. It states on its website it seeks to “promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.”
But the group also supports talks with Hamas, a terrorist group whose charter seeks the destruction of Israel. The group opposes sanctions against Iran and is harshly critical of Israel’s anti-terror military offensives.
Next week, J Street is renting space from the Hillel Jewish student organization at the University of Pennsylvania. J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami will broadcast a speech during the event, which will be simultaneously broadcast at other U.S. universities and a local sites throughout the country, including synagogues and Jewish community centers.
Hillel promotes itself as the largest Jewish campus organization in the world and is known as the center of mainstream Jewish life on campuses across the U.S.
J Street’s event at Penn is being hosted by characters with controversial views on Israel, including:
- Rebecca Alpert, chair of the Department of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. In a sermon on the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, Alpert compared Israel’s anti-terror activities in the Gaza Strip to genocide in Darfur.
Alpert also announced she personally undertook a month-long fast for the Gaza population as part of a protest movement that calls for Israel to talk with Hamas and lift a blockade in Gaza. Israel daily allows humanitarian goods into Gaza but bans certain materials that can be used to manufacture weapons or aid Hamas’s military wing.
- Elliot Ratzman, a visiting professor of religion at Swarthmore University. And article in the student-run magazine American Foreign Policy accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing – creating such harrowing conditions for Palestinians that they will be forced to move from their property to Palestinian-controlled enclaves or, preferably for the Israeli right wing, away from the region altogether.”
Ratzman particularly took issue with Israel’s demolishing of Palestinian homes. However, he did not mention the demolished homes were mostly built illegally on Jewish-owned land. He also failed to mention Israel also routinely bulldozes Jewish homes built without proper municipal permits.
- Arthur Waskow, an author and far-left political activist. Waskow is highly critical of Israeli policies in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In a recent posting at the website for the leftist Shalom Center Waskow strongly defended a U.N. report penned by South African judge Richard Goldstone that claimed both Hamas and Israel were guilty of war crimes.
Goldstone’s report claimed Israel deliberately targeted civilians during the Gaza conflict. The terrorist group instead launched a rocket offensive against Israeli population centers. The U.N. report equated Israel, which worked to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, to Hamas, which utilized civilians as human shields and fired rockets at Jewish cities from Palestinian hospitals and apartment buildings.
During the Gaza war, Israel sent hundreds of thousands of text messages and placed tens of thousands of calls warning local Palestinians of incoming attacks against Hamas’ military infrastructure in Gaza.
As WND reported, Goldstone’s investigation may have relied on false witnesses and Palestinian misinformation.
Just last weekend, it was reported Israel found multiple crucial factual errors in the Goldstone report.
- Leaders of the Fast for Gaza movement.
J Street’s event at the University of Pennsylvania is opposed by a new pro-Israel activist organization calling itself Z Street, which is planning a protest event to coincide with J Street’s outreach day.
“It is a shame that there will be any connection between Hillel and J Street,” Z Street co-founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus told WND. “J Street does not deserve to be considered a mainstream pro-Israel organization as it has demonstrated repeatedly that it is ‘pro-Ishmael’ and not ‘pro-Israel.'”
Howard Alpert, director of Penn’s Hillel group, told WND today he agreed to rent space to J Street on the condition the group “does not advocate actions that will materially harm Israel or its representatives such as boycotts, sanctions or judicial action; and that they present their views with civility.”
“Consistent with its academic orientation and location on the university campus, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia provides a platform for speakers with different points of view on Israel,” Alpert said.
Meanwhile, even the Israeli government has been distancing itself from J Street, with its ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, refusing to attend its annual dinner in October. Israeli Embassy spokesman Yoni Peled told the Jerusalem Post his government has some “concern over certain [J Street] policies that could impair Israel’s interests.”
The Powerline blog previously documented how far-leftist Israelis are influential in J Street leadership, including former Knesset Speaker Avrum Burg, who generated controversy when he stated, “To define the state of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end.”
Another key J Street member, Mideast expert Henry Siegman, has compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.