The shocking and horrific Hamas attack on Israelis on October 7 – the mass murder, rape, abductions, torture, and mutilation – was a paradigm-shifting event. Israel's war in response is a starkly black-and-white conflict.
Yet J Street, the lobbying group that advertises itself as "pro-Israel" and "pro-peace," has not seen it that way. It recently opposed two pro-Israel House bills, arguing that they unduly ruffle Iran's feathers (J Street's view is that Iran must be appeased).
It also pressed House Democrats to oppose another resolution, this one condemning support for Hamas on college campuses.
J Street has been consistent in its approach since its founding in 2007: put zero onus on the Palestinian Arab leadership and fire all criticism toward the Jewish state.
As for Jewish fears about raging increases in antisemitism, J Street scoffs.
Per J Street's president Jeremy Ben-Ami, "We're debating whether or not a particular tweet or expression is anti-Semitic. The issues I'd like to see a focus on are the occupation, the settlements, and the question of whether we can end this conflict."
In J Street's view, Israel's government must be treated by the United States as a wayward child and the proper role for Americans living safely in the U.S. is to undercut support for Israel by relentlessly criticizing it while cloaked in a false flag of being "pro-Israel."
Consider this shocking truth: J Street is against penalizing the antisemitic BDS movement.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism includes the denial of Israel's right to exist and the equating of Israel with Nazi Germany. J Street pushed the Biden administration to exclude the IHRA's definition from its own definition of antisemitism.
After the signing of the Abraham Accords, which instituted landmark peace agreements between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Ben-Ami brought the argument right back to the Palestinian Arabs.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Ben-Ami minimized the Abraham Accords, calling them mere "business and security deals," not a resolution to the "actual conflict."
How to actually end the conflict? Why, end the "occupation". This, as always, confuses cause and effect. The so-called "occupation" is an effect of the conflict. The cause is and has always been violent Arab rejectionism toward any sovereign Jewish presence in the region.
Israel withdrew from the 'West Bank' and Gaza in the 1990s, only to be faced with the bloody Second Intifada. The Israel Defense Forces had to go back in. Israel then unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. We see the results today.
But pressuring Israel to end the "occupation" is the principal arrow in J Street's quiver. Israel's actual history of making sacrifices with the hope and expectation of peace is entirely ignored.
Ben-Ami, of course, does not even mention the destructive role of Iran, even though it has constructed a "ring of fire" around Israel consisting of terrorist proxies.
When it comes to Iran, J Street was and is a key backer of the Obama administration's nuclear deal. Until Obama begrudgingly supported sanctions on Iran, J Street opposed them.
The same year the Iran deal was passed, J Street sought to kill a bipartisan anti-BDS resolution. Chapters of J Street U, the group's campus organization, have provided cover for pro-BDS student groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
At the University of Maryland, when SJP promoted a BDS resolution, J Street tried to square the circle of supporting SJP without supporting the specific resolution: "We support the writers of this bill in their effort to protect human rights in Israel-Palestine through divestment of the settlements," but do "not support the bill in question."
This cowardly approach is typical.
J Street U has also sought to undercut Birthright, which sponsors free trips to Israel for young Jewish Americans, saying that it "serves the right-wing annexationist agenda." It even joined forces with the viciously antisemitic SJP to lambast Hillel for accepting funds from the Maccabee Task Force, a pro-Israel organization.
After the horrors of October 7, Israel's friends must stand with it shoulder-to-shoulder as it fights to destroy Hamas. J Street's history shows that it is anything but "pro-Israel."
Members of Congress, administration officials, and others should take note and steer clear.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum.