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Knesset J Street hearing inappropriate, some Jewish groups say

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two major American Jewish groups said Knesset hearings on J Street were inappropriate.

The Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs met Wednesday to debate whether the group is anti-Israel.

"In holding hearings on whether a voluntary American Jewish organization is indeed a pro-Israel lobby, the Knesset committee has interfered in an entirely inappropriate way in the internal affairs of the American Jewish community,” the American Jewish Committee said in its statement Thursday, a day after directors of the self-described "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby testified at the hearing in Jerusalem.

Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, also has slammed the hearings as undue Israeli interference in American Jewish organizational life.

"Do not reject the American Jews who support the state of Israel, just because they do not agree with the policy of this government or another," J Street chairman Davidi Gilo told the lawmakers. "Those who impose upon us tests and hurdles – who is sufficiently Jewish for them, who is sufficiently loyal and who is sufficiently pro-Israeli in their view — are endangering the unity of the Jewish people."

Other dovish Jewish-American groups have also condemed the hearings, including Americans for Peace Now and the Jewish Voice for Peace. 

Several Knesset members from both the Kadima and Labor parties attended J Street’s second annual conference in Washington, D.C. in February.

Othniel Schneller, a lawmaker with the opposition Kadima Party, said J Street was presumptuous in describing itself as pro-Israel.

"You are not Zionists and you do not care about Israel," he said. "Only here in Israel do we determine Israeli democracy, and you cannot determine what Israel’s interests are.”

Other lawmakers spoke in support of J Street. "These are serious people, people who care about Israel, not people who have abandoned Israel and it is important to engage in a dialogue with them, not to boycott them," said Rabbi Michael Melchior of the Labor Party.

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