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Confronting J Street in Chicago

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman--who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution--as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

That’s exactly the problem: J Street’s leaders don’t really care about peace. They don’t want to help bring both sides to the table. They blame Israel first--no matter what happens. And if you don’t share the same views, J Street casts you as part of the “Chorus of No.” They are trying to divide Americans by dividing us on Israel. They make no apology for it.

I have repeatedly told J Street that I will be happy to participate in a candidate forum if they host one for the 9th district. That is what Protect Our Heritage has done, by inviting me and my opponent to present our views on the Middle East at Congregation KINS on October 17th. I asked Ben-Ami if he would host an event. He refused. He would rather just support Jan Schakowsky, though her views are out of line with those of the district.

As for my opponent, she knows that many people in our district are furious with her for backing J Street. She knows they are angry that she invited antisemite Helen Thomas to headline her fundraiser. But she persists in her alliance with J Street, regardless. That is just one reason this election is so important. The people of the 9th district want their representative to lead the fight for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. "J Street Jan" won’t.