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J Street attends rightwing anti-BDS summit– and gets called ‘anti-Semitic’

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In an era of polarization, there is very little middle ground; and yesterday the liberal Zionist group J Street offered an object lesson about this reality. Early yesterday morning the group’s student arm, J Street U, proudly tweeted that they would be attending a global summit against BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign aimed at Israel) at the United Nations that day. There was a photo of the young delegates, eager beavers at 6 in the morning.

J Street U members before anti-BDS summit

To be sure, J Street opposes the Israeli occupation and the Israeli rightwing government. The students were affixing their own special message to their chests:

J Street U attends anti-BDS event at United Nations

They were certainly taking a risk. The sponsors of the summit were rightwing pro-Israel groups who love the occupation. They included the feverish groups StandWithUs, the Zionist Organization of America, Camera, the Israel Project, and ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice).

Ambassadors Against BDS sponsors included many rightwing groups

And sure enough, yesterday afternoon, when J Street reps said they were against the occupation, South Carolina State Rep. Alan Clemmons, a longtime opponent of BDS, called out from the stage, “You’re anti-Semitic.”

State Rep Alan Clemons of South Carolina, at UN anti-boycott event

This accusation elicited a stream of protest from J Street U and its parent organization. The head of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, called the treatment of the student group “shocking“. He writes today:

Every day, estab Jew ldrs tell me J Street shd do more re BDS. When attends UN Summit, gets called anti Semitic, where’s estab?

And he points out the sorry political company:

Seems @RepAlanClemmons who called @jstreetu “anti-Semitic” at UN claim to fame is limiting voting in SC. He’s Jewish estab choice as ally?

Brooke Davies of J Street U wrote a post for J Street with the title that the summit empowered “fringe voices,” calling on Hillel and the Jewish Federations and other sponsors of the summit to “condemn the smear of J Street and J Street U.” She said why she went:

I was part of a delegation of J Street U student leaders who attended today’s anti-BDS Summit at the United Nations to engage with fellow pro-Israel advocates and to talk about effective strategies for countering the Global BDS Movement…

While we appreciated many of the perspectives that were shared at the summit, we were alarmed to see a platform given to a Republican state legislator who leveled a hateful attack on J Street, accusing J Street U’s pro-Israel, pro-peace students like us of supporting an “anti-Semitic” organization. At the same time, we were alarmed to see other speakers with long records of hateful rhetoric directed at Palestinians, Muslims and liberal American Jews given prominent roles at the summit.

These voices from the political fringes are the worst possible “Ambassadors Against BDS,” virtually guaranteed to alienate anyone with progressive values or real concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…

The only result of such an approach will be more and more young people giving up on Israel’s future.

What is fascinating to me is that if you watch the webcast of the morning plenary yesterday– hours before J Street was smeared to such outrage– Arab human rights leaders were smeared (as Davies acknowledges).

Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, calls Rima Khalaf an “anti-Semite.” Khalaf is a a former minister in the Jordanian government, and former head of a UN agency who resigned after submitting a report documenting an Israeli “apartheid regime.”

The great human rights activist Bassem Tamimi of Nabi Saleh, was denounced by Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ as a “terrorist” who encourages his children to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers.

Tamimi lives in a village whose lands and spring have been stolen by a Jewish settlement, Halamish. Tamimi is the hero of the wonderful new book on the Palestinian resistance to occupation, The Way to the Spring, by Ben Ehrenreich. Tamimi has toured the U.S. as a guest of Jewish Voice for Peace and Amnesty International. From JVP’s report:

Mr. Tamimi, who has been recognized as a human rights defender by the European Union in 2011, and declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 2012…

He relayed that despite everything he has endured – prison, paralysis, deaths of family members, and continuing brutal occupation – he believes and teaches his children that all people must love each other in order to bring about a world where there is peace and safety for all people.

In short, Tamimi is a John Lewis of the nonviolent resistance movement to occupation in Palestine. J Street’s friends are calling him a terrorist. Is this really the side they want to be on?

J Streets wants to fight BDS its own way. But this is what it means to fight BDS these days: going to an event with CAMERA and the Israel Project and Nikki Haley, heroine of AIPAC. Who else will they find for their coalition? Jeremy Ben-Ami warns the anti-BDS folks that if they don’t acknowledge the occupation, they’re going to lose. But those groups have defiantly made their choice on that question, and so has the Israeli government.

We have been saying that the polarization of the discourse in the Trump era has put the crunch on liberal Zionists. The rightwing Israeli government is more committed to the settlement project than ever, the 50th anniversary of the occupation is upon us, the U.S. government is only encouraging Israel; and meantime the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at Israel has been gaining strength; and Israeli leaders are crying out against it. There is less and less middle ground. There is a feeling that you’re either with Israel or against it.

P.S. I must say I was encouraged watching the Webcast. Advertised as Ambassadors against BDS, there were only two ambassadors there, Nikki Haley and Danon, and the whole event had a Soviet Politburo officialese alternative-fact feeling to it. We are alienated from world opinion but we’re gonna just keep carrying on. I imagine events in South Africa and the Jim Crow South had a similar atmosphere.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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21 Responses

  1. pabelmont on March 30, 2017, 12:29 pm

    Those who protect (unearned but traditional or long-standing) privilege do not give up that privilege without a fight, and they persuade themselves that those who ask them to are enemies-to-the-death.

    Recall civil war, begun because North tried to limit the geographical spread of slavery, a system that enriched the super-rich in the south w/o helping the poor whites (or the black slaves, of course). The southern planters were not ready to be content just within the borders of the original slave states. And poor whites fought for slavery — just like poor whites voting for Trump today.

    Poor J-Street, trying to square the circle, but backing contradictory positions as if to do so was (what? “good for the Jews?”) sensible.

    J-Street, listen up: [1] Oppose Occupation; [2] Support BDS; [3] Oppose Apartheid within any territory that Israel has controlled since (or before) 1967

  2. eljay on March 30, 2017, 12:46 pm

    Poor “liberal Zionists”: Just because they prefer to “hold their noses” while their hardier co-collectivists do the dirty work doesn’t mean their pro-“Jewish State” cred (even if it is “supremacism lite”) should be disrespected.

  3. JLewisDickerson on March 30, 2017, 2:46 pm

    RE: [W]hen J Street reps said they were against the occupation, South Carolina State Rep. Alan Clemmons, a longtime opponent of BDS, called out from the stage, “You’re anti-Semitic.” ~ Weiss

    I can’t help but recall the time recently when a couple of Republican county chairmen in the great state of South Carolina wrote in a newspaper op-ed:

    “There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves.”**

    ** SEE: “2 South Carolina Republicans Apologize for Reference to Jews”


    James Moore (South Carolina politician)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –

    [EXCERPTS] James Moore (c. 1650 – 1706) was the English governor of colonial Carolina between 1700 and 1703. He is best known for leading several invasions of Spanish Florida during Queen Anne’s War, including attacks in 1704 and 1706 which wiped out most of the Spanish missions in Florida.[1] . . .

    . . . Moore was the grandfather of American Revolutionary War Brigadier General James Moore, and great-grandfather of Major General Robert Howe.
    The Moore family imported over 4,000 slaves into the Carolinas, mostly for its own extensive plantations and farms in and around the Cape Fear area of what later became North Carolina. James Moore also had a house in Charleston and another in the Goose Creek area near Charleston. . .

  4. Ossinev on March 30, 2017, 3:37 pm

    Absolutely hilarious. The creature who opened the “show” was the stuff sick buckets were invented for. As for Danon – seriously creepy.

    Great to see that the Zios are seriously crapping themselves over BDS. Perhaps even the most brain dead amongst them are beginning to realize that there is no such thing as bad publicity and this theatrical farce is excellent publicity for the BDS cause.

    And boy Zios seriously “do not like it up em”

  5. JeffB on March 30, 2017, 3:50 pm

    Well I was there. I actually talked to the girl on the far right of your picture as well as several others who aren’t pictured from J-StreetU. I was damn impressed by them. Extremely knowledgeable and well versed. They often made far more sense policywise often than their elders in J-Street often do. I’d say in terms of liberal grown ups that were knowledgeable the Israel Policy Forum offered the best discussion, kind of like J-Street without the boy crush on Obama.

    I’d agree with their comments regarding many speakers alienating students with progressive values. The event felt very much like a meeting for Republican Jews (though there were some gentile supporters of Israel, and those are often further to the right). The range of opinion I saw ran from JDL (whom I also talked to there) to J-Street. I suspect I was about the leftmost 10% at that event.

    There were speakers who came from more center left organizations and they had approaches that were more likely to succeed. I’d say mostly on the hard right you were dealing with people with little experience with BDS at all, it wasn’t just they were rightwing they were often quite fantastical. I certainly did meet a lot of people who had been victims of SJP / Palestine solidarity protests and traumatized by the event. For example a Jewish library manager whose event had been disrupted, in a way that the library had never experienced.

    So J-Street is center left. A lot of the crowd though is very right. There are definitely large number of people in that crowd who would consider any Democrat a traitorous socialist. The criticism of J-Street needs to be taken as coming from a Republican context. I wouldn’t make too much of it. Republicans don’t agree with Democrats across the board, and that isn’t much different in the Jewish community.

    As far as J-StreetU being in the middle they are quite happy there and didn’t seem to be under any pressure. To the right they had people who simply would not acknowledge the facts on the ground or were openly racist (in their opinion). To the left they had people who refuse to engage Israel from a place and love and engage this issue from a place of hate.

    The J-Streeters wanted to oppose both extremes. Deal with reality, try and come up with policy alternatives that respect everyone’s viewpoint. Dialogue not confrontation as a strategy for resolving problems (lots of success cases were mentioned incidentally). Try and see things from the other person’s point of view as much as possible ….

    In short the J-Streeters are with Israel 100% yet feel free to critique Likud’s policies the same way they would critique American Republican policies without having to hate America.

    • annie on March 30, 2017, 7:48 pm

      To the right they had people who simply would not acknowledge the facts on the ground or were openly racist (in their opinion). To the left they had people who refuse to engage Israel from a place and love and engage this issue from a place of hate.

      more accusations of hatred directed at the left. how very typically hasbrat of you jeffb.

      As far as J-StreetU being in the middle….

      The J-Streeters wanted to oppose both extremes…. the J-Streeters are with Israel 100%

      as phil says there’s very little “middle ground” left between two polarized sides. what does jstreet have to gain by hanging their hat in the anti bds/anti occupation corner? well it sets up the 2 sides as pro occupation and pro bds. the only thing is, that leaves one side as actively supporting an apartheid system that actively imprisons and kills people in a system w/a 99.7 conviction rate vs an actively non violent form of resistance employing a time tested routine form of expressing dissatisfaction w/regimes you disagree with, a boycott.

      and then you call both sides extreme? only one side of that equation is extreme. there’s no parity or equivalence between supporting a decades long occupation and supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions. none. it’s akin to saying “i support killing you” and “i support not funding you” as equally extreme. only if one buys into the concept these are equally extreme positions could jstreet’s position as anti defunding be seen as “middle ground”.

      when in reality the most extreme position on the left spectrum is supporting violent resistance against the occupation (which is legal under international law, unlike aparthied which is inherently violent).

      and the middle ground between supporting violent occupation and violent resistance against it, is bds.

      bds has literally hogged the middle ground, it’s essentially the moderate position given all the alternatives. that’s why there’s less and less room for zionists to try to stand in it. that middle ground is crammed with scholars, university professors, plenty of normal people and human rights activists. there’s a fight going on for that middle ground and jstreet has defined itself as “anti” bds.

      that’s a position akin to defining liberal zionists as extremists and then defining that position as “middle ground”.

      j street needs to choose their battles wisely. setting up bds as the polar opposite of occupation is not smart logic nor smart positioning. and one can be non supportive of bds without being “anti” bds — just like i can be a non supporter of jstreet without being “anti” jstreet. but if you want to make space for yourself in the middle ground, which is what it appears they are trying to do, quit trying to curry favor with the extreme right wing of the spectrum while slandering those on left of you as having an equivalence of extremism. there’s no equivalence between apartheid supporters and supporters of a non violent movement.

      • JeffB on March 30, 2017, 9:38 pm


        more accusations of hatred directed at the left. how very typically hasbrat of you jeffb.

        That wasn’t me that was them. “I don’t feel like JVP is coming from a place of love” is a little girly for me to think up. I really really liked it, and I may use it. But I wouldn’t have thought of that phrasing on my own.

        what does jstreet have to gain by hanging their hat in the anti bds/anti occupation corner?

        They get to be the AIPAC for Democrats. They get to be the AIPAC for non-hawks. Jews are 80% Democrats. Many American Jews, like myself, believe in the foreign policy realist school (Bush-41, Obama) and thus disagree with AIPAC’s hawkishness.

        AIPAC is finding it very difficult to remain a general non-controversial lobby which Jews of all political affiliations can support. There probably needs to be a pro-Israel lobby to their left. J-Street seems to be fitting the bill quite well.

        99.7 conviction rate vs an actively non violent form of resistance

        FWIW that issue did come up yesterday specifically. And among the Democrats there was pretty much universal consensus for the military court system not being appropriate for Palestinian civilians in Area-C. So I can tell you directly the kids you are talking about don’t support that system. I’m not sure where their elders stand because of course applying civilian law to all of Area-C is a huge step towards annexation. But at least from the (admittedly small) sample of JStreetU I talked to at that event they don’t support that system.

        As for the extreme I’ll stand by it. To characterize Israel the way you did in that paragraph is exactly the point. Israel isn’t just about occupation. It is also about a vibrant happy society with strong contributions to the arts, to technology, to engineering …. Your unwillingness to see the positives even if one objects to the occupation is what makes it extreme. All societies have problems. Talking only about the problems and then only in the most harsh and uncharitable ways is extreme.

        and one can be non supportive of bds without being “anti” bds

        That’s correct they could be J-Street’s position. But it is not. They are firmly anti-BDS. Remember this conversation happened at an anti-BDS conference after all. What they (and some other liberal groups who attended) were advocating was that BDSers could be addressed through constructive engagement, that they were not simply criminals or fanatical anti-Semites. But rather BDSers were people who had legitimate grievances they were expressing through inappropriate means. J-Steet’s argument is that engagement rather than counter attack is a better methods of countering BDS, they aren’t questioning that BDS needs to be countered. That is to say they were the side advocating “constructive engagement” with BDSers. The opposition was advocating force to various degrees: counter BDS, legal changes, judicial attacks… No one there thought BDS was anything other than a pernicious evil. The political range was over how best to respond to it.

        quit trying to curry favor with the extreme right wing of the spectrum while slandering those on left of you as having an equivalence of extremism there’s no equivalence between apartheid supporters and supporters of a non violent movement.

        They don’t agree. They also are willing to engage with the right and understand their are nuances on the right. There is a range between advocates for outright and immediate genocide and people who want to impose a 2 state solution without an end of conflict resolution. There is a range between people who simply deny reality out of ignorance and those who deny reality out of fear and those who deny reality out of anti-muslim sentiment. They don’t group them all together. In short they want to actually talk to Jews not talk at Jews.

        What you are calling the “extreme right” is the mainstream Jewish community. Hillel, JCRC, B’nai Brith, WJC.. were the sponsors. Those are mainstream. I get that you don’t agree with their position on Israel. I get that you want to pretend they aren’t mainstream. The Jewish community that actual exists is the community J-Street is trying to engage. They aren’t willing to denounce the rightmost 90% of Jews as “extremists” and only talk to the remaining 10%. JVP is conversely not willing to talk to mainstream Jews, which is why J-Street gets to go to mainstream Jewish political events while JVP does not get to go.

        I was watching a multi way conversation with the headmistress (not clear if that was her actual title) of Yeshiva University Girl’s High School, some students from the school and J-StreetU. Yishiva HS explicitly endorses religious Zionism (the state of Israel is the fulfillment of the Jewish religious Zionist quest) and loyalty to Eretz Yisrael. Those girls in 30 years, unless J-Street convinces them otherwise, are the board of AIPAC and leaders for Republican Jews. What they think matters a great deal for what US policy towards the middle east in 2050 will be. You can just wash your hands of them and complain about how rightwing they are, but J-Street is doing the hard work of engaging with them and getting them to believe their personal safety does not depend on oppressing Palestinians.

        You might call that extremists. Most of them yesterday supported apartheid or worse. But that’s the one of the most distinguished Jewish day schools in the United States. You have to start reconciling your political spectrum with the political spectrum that actually exists and not the one you wished did exist.

      • oldgeezer on March 30, 2017, 9:39 pm


        Jeff is lying regardless. The left accepted Israel’s concerns for o er 30 years. It resulted in the racist state being emboldened and increasing the rate of dispossession and severity of oppression.

        Of course zionists have no agency and are only victims according to zionists.

      • Mooser on March 31, 2017, 12:33 pm

        “Jeff is lying regardless.”

        Maybe not. Many people insist that a man has to know what the truth is before he can lie about it.

        With “JeffB” you get the hole cloth: He’s a Zionist Pangloss with a big “Jew sui generis” button.

      • talknic on March 31, 2017, 8:42 pm

        @ Mooser March 31, 2017, 12:33 pm

        //“Jeff is lying regardless.”//

        “Maybe not. Many people insist that a man has to know what the truth is before he can lie about it.”

        JeffB has been shown irrefutable evidence of Israel’s intransigence. Like all ZioBots he either doesn’t read it, thereby showing he isn’t interested in honest conversation or he ignores it. Either way he’s dishonest.

      • Mooser on April 1, 2017, 1:31 pm

        “JeffB has been shown irrefutable evidence of Israel’s intransigence”

        No, I disagree a little. “JeffB” and the herd of ilk don’t deny Zionist intransigence, hell, they glory in Israel’s intransigence!

        What they deny is the possibility of any consequences. Zionism and Israel is, according to them, (as I keep repeating) sui generis and has complete immunity, and unlimited power. Nothing can touch it. This time, we are going to win history, instead of being an also-ran, I guess.

        It’s one of those defensive reactions to historical trauma. Retreating into fantasy.

  6. Elizabeth Block on March 31, 2017, 8:51 am

    This morning I went to do a volunteer gig where some of my fellow volunteers are Jewish too. I wore my “JNF: 100% Israeli Apartheid” t-shirt, and was told that it made some people feel uncomfortable. I’m glad. I hate to think what kind of people they would be if it did NOT make them feel uncomfortable.
    Last week I was told it made people feel “unsafe.” Unsafe? A senior citizen in a t-shirt?
    Five years ago these people would have been hard Zionists. Now they are softening.

  7. RoHa on April 1, 2017, 3:02 am

    A bit OT, but worth noticing.

    Stuart Littlewood tells us that the official UK Govt. definition of anti-Semitism has been criticised by a couple of legal experts.

    • MHughes976 on April 1, 2017, 10:46 am

      The definition seems to be ‘perception of Jews such that it is capable of being expressed in hatred towards some individuals, Jewish or not, or towards Jewish community or religious institutions’. There’s an ambiguity: are we to read ‘some Jews’ or ‘all Jews’?
      Let’s assume that hatred is always recognisable or near recognisable.
      Let’s now define ‘phobia against Christians or Muslims’ in parallel terms and see if Zionism qualifies. It certainly embodies a perception of Cs and Ms which means that their interests and sentiments can well be limited to an important degree for the security of those who
      are Jewish, often conveying this meaning in an atmosphere of intense (maybe indeed often justified) disparagement of their anti-Judaism.. If they resist this idea they become rightly open to measures, such as exclusion from long-established homes or the paraphernalia of ‘occupation’, that radiate at least a good imitation of hatred, something very near instant recognition as such. Note that cultural and religious institutions are not immune.
      So under a definition in the required style Zionism is a form of phobia. There’s no reason to use that style for one side in the dispute and not for the other.

      • echinococcus on April 1, 2017, 5:53 pm


        I simply love the way you have treated “anti-semitism” in its anti-religious manifestation, i.e. when it is the equivalent of opposition (to use a neutral term) to the specific religion.

        If “antisemitism” were that, it would exclude all the non-religious.

        It would also be directed at some individuals for their adherence to a given religious belief or to rituals.

        I simply cannot see anything objectionable in that. Belief systems (to again use a neutral term) are open to criticism. Of which we need more of, in my humble opinion that you obviously don’t share. Let’s not confuse that with some kind of racism.

      • MHughes976 on April 2, 2017, 3:00 am

        I too think that critique of religions is entirely permissible, even cartoons mocking the Church of England, which is having a rough old time in Berkshire these days.
        I was looking at the definition of anti-S favoured by ‘my’ government, which is partly in terms of the effect on people of Jewish religion, and suggesting that Zionism, considering its effects (remarkably serious effects) on many people actually of non-Jewish religion, can be defined in just the same style, implying that Z and anti-S have quite a lot in common. Theresa May might not like the outcome of thinking logically about what ‘her’ definition amounts to.

      • echinococcus on April 3, 2017, 8:21 pm


        The Americanization of the UK is not just an empty phrase –confirmed yet again.

  8. iResistDe4iAm on April 1, 2017, 8:14 am

    More proof that the Israel/Palestine conflict is just SO COMPLICATED — you go to an Israel love-fest hoping to unanimously smear your opponents as anti-Semites, but you get singled out, picked on and then smeared as anti-Semites as well.

    That’s just not fair!

  9. just on April 1, 2017, 9:33 am

    Well worth listening to and watching:

    “Ilan Pappe: The Myth of Israel (1/2)

    Journalist Max Blumenthal sits down with renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappe to talk about the first of his forthcoming book, Ten Myths About Israel…”

  10. Mayhem on April 4, 2017, 9:28 pm

    “The great human rights activist Bassem Tamimi of Nabi Saleh”

    You really have to be kidding.

    Tamimi is both cousin and uncle to Ahlam Tamimi, the murderer of innocent children (Sbarro restaurant bombing 2001 in Jerusalem) and to her husband, Nizar Tamimi. (There is a strong preference for cosanguinity and marrying cousins in the Tamimi clan. Ahlam Tamimi is married to her first cousin.)

    Amnesty took Bassem Tamimi around America on a “human rights” roadshow in 2015, and he obliged them by delivering a hate-Israel, understand-terrorism message. He has now been banned from entering the US for falsifying his visa application.

    He has been trying to get into Australia to spread his message of hate and violence via a petition that should have failed given Bassem Tamimi’s criminal record but has not. This is not the end of this matter.

    Bassem Tamimi is the stage manager and producer of the weekly violent confrontations in the Tamimi clan’s home base, Nabi Saleh. In addition, he’s the father of Ahed Tamimi, a young girl better known as Surly Temple or Shirley Temper who is disgustingly used as a child weapon for propaganda purposes.

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