J Street Embraces Mahmoud Abbas; How Will US Jews Respond?
J Street’s decision to feature Mahmoud Abbas at its “first-ever virtual national conference” earlier this week, demonstrates just how far J Street is from it being the firmly pro-Israel, Zionist group it wants American Jews to believe it is.
Just three years ago this month — on April 30, 2018 — Abbas stood before the Palestine National Council’s opening session (PNC) and delivered a blatantly antisemitic speech.
Abbas stated that Jews have “no historical ties” to the Land of Israel, because they are actually descendants of the Turkish Khazar tribe (a bizarre and long-discredited conspiracy theory).
Abbas also said there has never been an antisemitic incident against Jews in Arab countries — “Not even once,” he declared. “Do you think I’m exaggerating? I challenge you [to find] even one incident against Jews in over 1,400 years.”
Then, Abbas insinuated that the Holocaust was caused by the Jews’ own “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”
Abbas’ previous claims about the Holocaust — described in detail in his 1982 doctoral dissertation and subsequent book — include that only a few hundred thousand, not six million, Jews were killed by the Nazis; and that David Ben-Gurion collaborated with the Nazis to kill Jews, to garner world sympathy for creating a Jewish state.
What did J Street — which now speaks of “moderate Palestinian leaders” — say about Abbas’ speech?
In a May 1, 2018, press release, J Street said that it “strongly condemns remarks made by President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday that featured absurd antisemitic tropes and deeply offensive comments on the history of the Jewish people and Israel.” J Street called Abbas’ speech “incendiary,” and argued that “there is absolutely no excuse” for what he said.
If less than three years ago, Abbas was — according to J Street — an antisemite, how is he now acceptable as a featured speaker at their national conference? Does antisemitism have a shelf life and an expiration date? Or does J Street simply think it is now acceptable to partner with Abbas to advance his radical, antisemitic agenda?
And is J Street simply hoping that the rest of us will not notice that under Abbas, antisemitism still fills both the Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled media and its school textbooks?
Or does J Street acknowledge that Abbas is still an antisemite? And if so, why was he invited to speak? And what about the fact that Abbas’ PA continues to pay salaries to imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead terrorists? Is the PA’s policy of naming parks, streets, and other venues after terrorists something that J Street endorses?
J Street’s May 2018 condemnation of Abbas was a rare and impressive criticism of a figure whom J Street had almost never previously criticized. For J Street, though, that honest perspective seemingly lasted just for a moment.
Recently, J Street has tried to take advantage of the Jewish community’s desire to have a big tent, and gain legitimacy in the eyes of the independent organizations that govern much of Jewish establishment life in America.
But J Street should not be offered safe harbors within our federations and councils. J Street’s giving a platform to Abbas is all of the evidence for this that we need.
No one is demanding that other far left groups such as Americans for Peace Now, a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations for decades, be put outside the tent. J Street, however, through its embrace of Abbas, and its other actions, has put itself in a far different category — much closer to extremists like Jewish Voice for Peace, Neturei Karta, and IfNotNow. American Jews who support Israel’s security must have red lines, and J Street has violated them.
I hope that American Jewish individuals and organizations who are blessed with morality and common sense will soon find their voice and speak out forcefully against J Street, and put them outside the tent.
Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s US division. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and its US website is https://herutna.org.