Sometimes it’s not the anti-Semitic incident that provokes the most fury — it’s the reaction from far-left activists and lobbyists like J Street.
Last month, the controversy over the anti-Israel smears uttered by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) reached an apex, prompting her disingenuous apologies for insinuations that American Jews pledge allegiance to a foreign government. Days later, the House took up a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. Now, Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the self-described "pro-Israel" lobbying group J Street, claims there is a lack of consensus on the definition of anti-Semitism in America. In his recent appearance on MSNBC, Ben-Ami rejected outright the notion that Omar is an anti-Semite: "Let’s have the a discussion about the xenophobia and the racism that’s coming from the other side of the aisle and let’s stop using the discussion of anti-Semitism as a way of avoiding a real discussion about policy towards Israel and Palestine and the issues that are actually on the table about occupation and the treatment of Palestinians."
Ben-Ami wants the American people to believe that the Jewish community is faking it — that the fear of anti-Semitism reverberating in the halls of Congress is just a ruse. It would be hard to imagine the leader of a civil rights group — the Southern Poverty Law Center, for example — giving short shrift to complaints of racism.
But J Street’s raison d’être is gaslighting America about the security threats posed by anti-Semitism.
As Jewish students are increasingly singled out for harassment and violence on U.S. college campuses, J Street’s response is to spend $700,000 on lobbying to attack policies that seek to level the playing field for students. In 2018, the bipartisan "Anti-Semitism Awareness Act" was proposed in the House to empower school administrators who investigate incidents of potential anti-Semitic bias. The bill would direct the Department of Education to apply the State Department’s widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism, providing Jewish students with the same anti-discrimination protections currently afforded other groups such as Sikhs or Muslims. But according to J Street, codifying the definition of anti-Semitism on campus "would actually harm, not help, Jewish and pro-Israel students."
J Street has made the same slippery-slope argument while lobbying against every resolution opposing the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the grounds that the measure might silence debate about Israel — never mind that the goal of the BDS movement is, quite simply, to demonize Jews.
Get the pattern? Measures to define anti-Semitism, and to acknowledge the threat it poses to America’s security, are harmful.
The real reason behind J Street’s kabuki dance should be of serious concern to all Americans. The effort to rejoin the disastrous Iran nuclear deal is picking up steam in the Democratic Party ahead of 2020. The Democratic National Committee last month passed a resolution calling on the United States to re-enter the deal. Right on cue, J Street joined a statement signaling their intent to shill for the Iran deal — again.
In the lead-up to the first Iran deal, key cogs of the Obama Administration admitted that they created a covert "echo chamber" made up of left-wing media and Soros-linked groups — all funded by Ploughshares Fund. The largest beneficiary of funds to manufacture consent for the Iran deal was J Street, who raked in $576,000. The group leaned heavily on their "Jewish" status, using rabbis to sell the American public on the "virtue" of a nuclear Iran. J Street’s "kashering" of the Iran deal for senators like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) partially inoculated them against backlash from the Jewish voting bloc within the Democratic Party. Then J Street was able to besmirch Israel’s defenders because anyone arguing in the presence of a purportedly "Jewish" group — complete with a confab of rabbis — is an idiot, or a racist.
After seeing the liberal establishment pull the alarm over an increasingly hostile climate for Jews, it is easy to understand why J Street is panicking. Soon after Omar’s latest smear, even the Anti-Defamation League, historically relied upon to defang incidents of left-wing anti-Semitism, came out swinging in a statement of condemnation. Even Democrat standard-bearer Nancy Pelosi had to admit that demonizing Israel and championing anti-Zionist causes like BDS are anti-Semitic.
As the security risk posed by anti-Semitism becomes more visceral for Americans, expect to see Jeremy Ben-Ami and J Street operatives become more strident, for they know that selling the Iran nuclear deal the second time around will be a heavy lift while Tehran advocates for "wiping Israel off the political map."
Sloan Rachmuth is director of research and special projects for the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.