PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — Is J Street a pro-Israel group? The lobbying organization never tires of claiming it is.
Yet what pro-Israel group would invite a man to speak at its forthcoming conference who has called for Israel’s destruction, stating that “the establishment by force, violence and terrorism of a Jewish state in Palestine in 1948” was “unjust” and “a crime,” and vowed to “work to overturn the injustice"?
The man who signed this Sept. 17, 1993 statement by the Muslim Public Affairs Council was its executive director, Salam Al-Marayati, who will be speaking next month at J Street’s Oct. 25-28 conference.
Marayati and MPAC have made numerous other hateful anti-Israel and anti-American statements:
* A few hours after the 9/11 attacks, Marayati said on a radio show in Los Angeles, “We should put the State of Israel on the suspect list” of possible 9/11 perpetrators.
* After a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem pizzeria on Aug. 8, 2001, his organization issued a statement calling the attack “the expected bitter result of the reckless policy of Israeli assassination that did not spare children and political figures.”
* Marayati’s group condemned the U.S. strikes against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Sudan following the bombings in 1998 of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as “illegal, immoral and illogical.”
* He has likened Israel’s supporters to Hitler.
Marayati also has condemned France’s fining of Roger Garaudy for Holocaust denial as “persecution of his right to express an opinion” and in 1997 gave a chilling, anticipatory justification for anti-American terrorism, saying, “Where Israel goes, our government follows. … What is important is whether the American people are aware of and ready for the consequences.”
Some of these statements caused Marayati’s 1999 appointment to a U.S. congressional committee on terrorism to be rescinded.
J Street’s invitation to Marayati makes one wonder whose side the organization is on.
J Street pressures Israel to make concessions, yet says virtually nothing specifically about the 16-year failure of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority to dismantle terrorist groups. The lobby group also said nothing about Fatah’s recent conference, which proclaimed the legitimacy of terrorism against Israel and honored, by name, killers of Jews as heroes.
Additionally, J Street showed its animus toward Israel by citing polls inaccurately to bolster its claim that Israelis and American Jews want greater Israeli concessions and agree with President Obama’s pressure on Israel to stop Jews building in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria — the land known as the West Bank.
In June, J Street’s campaign director, Isaac Luria, misleadingly claimed that “Israelis want the president to stand up to the settlers.”
Luria said, “A poll recently showed that 52 percent of Israelis want a freeze on settlement construction and 56 percent want Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to President Obama’s call for an end to settlement construction.”
In fact, the Dahaf Institute poll to which Luria referred actually showed that Israelis favor continued natural growth of Jewish communities by 54 percent to 42 percent, and that they believe that Obama’s policies are not good for Israel by a margin of 53 percent to 26 percent.
J Street simply buried the evidence of actual support for natural growth and cited only a contradictory general finding of support for a construction freeze. More damning still, the only other partial truth in J Street’s claim — that 56 percent of respondents said they wanted Netanyahu to agree to Obama’s demands — left out the major point that they favored this only if the alternative meant U.S. sanctions.
J Street misrepresents polling data and ignores other polls that show majority Israeli and American Jewish opposition to Obama’s demands. For instance, a recent Smith Research Institute poll shows that Israelis, by a decisive 69 percent to 27 percent margin, oppose freezing construction within large Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and that only 4 percent of Israelis favor Obama’s policies.
Additionally, a July Global Marketing Services poll of American Jews who are Democrats shows 55 percent believe that Obama is naive in thinking Palestinians want peace. Only 27 percent supported Obama’s promoting of a Palestinian state and 52 percent said Israel should be allowed to build in existing settlements.
While the poll also showed that 58 percent of Jewish Democrats believe Obama is “doing a good job promoting peace in the Middle East,” the question isn’t specific to Israel and may include Obama’s policies on Iraq, Iran, Egypt, etc. The poll also showed 55 percent of respondents believe Obama is not “too tough on Israel” — but they disagree with Obama’s specific policies on Israel, as other answers in the poll indicate.
Most disturbing, despite strong support by most Israeli and American Jews for Israel’s campaign last January to stop Hamas’ rockets from Gaza, J Street opposed the operation. It even has challenged the adoption of more robust sanctions against Iran right now.
All these issues have enhanced relevance in view of the fact that J Street receives tens of thousands of dollars in donations from dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans, according to the Federal Election Commission filings cited by the Jerusalem Post, as well as money from individuals connected to Palestinian and pro-Iranian advocacy groups.
J Street continues to relentlessly display its support for the Palestinian cause. We urge the group to start doing the right thing by rescinding its invitation to Salam Al-Marayati and ceasing to accept donations from those hostile to Israel.
(Morton Klein is the president of the Zionist Organization of America.)