J Street calls on papers to vet RJC ads

A dovish pro-Israel group launched a campaign to get Jewish newspapers not to run some Republican Jewish Coalition ads. 

J Street revealed the campaign after a number of U.S. Jewish newspapers were blasted Tuesday with letters urging them not to run the ads attacking the Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)  The vast majority of the papers had not run such ads.

A listserve of Jewish journalists revealed that J Street was behind the campaign and mistakenly had provided software to its members that blasted all the newspapers instead of a select few that had run the ads.

In a letter Tuesday, J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami apologized for the blast but not for the content of the campaign. He said J Street had garnered 15,000 signatures to stop the ads.

“There is a deep well of anger in the broader Jewish community over the questionable tactics used by the RJC and the lies and distortions they and others have circulated during this campaign,” he said in the letter. 

In an interview with JTA, Ben-Ami said he was not targeting all the RJC ads, but asking newspapers to vet those he thought crossed the line into libel – for instance in describing advisers and associates of Obama as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.

Matt Brooks, the RJC executive director, derided what he said was J Street’s “amateurish” attempt at intimidation and censorship.

“It’s wildly offensive that they would engage in intimidation on newspapers not to run ads,” he said. “It’s misguided and offends people’s sensitivities.”

Brooks said he was ready to meet Ben-Ami to debate the content of the ads.

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