J Street Accuses Presbyterian Peacemakers of Downplaying Threats to Israel

The Middle East Study Committee created by the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly in 2008 has been rebuked by J Street for issuing a report that calls for a reduction in military aid to Israel. The report, J Street states, downplays threats to Israel. The statement reads in part, as follows:

J Street is troubled by “Breaking Down The Walls,” a recent report from the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Middle East Study Committee. We were particularly surprised to find J Street’s name mentioned in the report’s “Letter to our American Jewish friends.”
J Street was never approached by the Committee, nor have we had any conversations with PC (USA)’s leadership about this or any other study.
We wish more groups, including J Street, were consulted on this document before its publication and that we had been able to relay our strong objections to many of its findings. We are dismayed at the attempt by the Committee to use J Street as political cover for this report.
While we appreciate the Church’s stated desire to achieve peace in the region, and while we do agree with some parts of the study, we have serious disagreements with the Committee’s recommendations, particularly the call for the possible withholding of U.S. aid to Israel.
J Street believes that American assistance to Israel, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, is an important anchor for a peace process based on providing Israel with the confidence and assurance to move forward on a solution based on land for peace.
Moreover, the study document consistently downplays Israel’s very real security concerns, appears to shrug off any Palestinian responsibility for resolving the ongoing conflict, and underplays the Israeli narrative throughout. J Street firmly believes that both Israelis and Palestinians will have to do their part in taking the necessary steps toward achieving a two state solution.

J Street’s criticism is remarkable. The organization is regarded by many of its critics in the U.S. as being too dovish on issues related to Israel’s security. J Street is in short, leveling this charge at the PC(USA)’s Middle East Study Committee.

J Street’s criticism of the committee’s report is even more remarkable given that the committee lauded J Street in the text of its report, holding the organizing up as an example of what type of group American Jews should support. The report stated “we are hopeful as organizations like J-Street, B’Tselem, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others continue to raise the banner that being pro-Israel and being truly Jewish is not tantamount to complicity in the excesses of Israeli policy.”

This was too much for J Street, which responded by stating that the committee

wrongly lists J Street with other organizations as if we share views and agendas – when in reality what we have in common is that we’re Jewish organizations willing at times to criticize the policies of the government of Israel. To us that is unfair – a kind of stereotyping in its own right that we find distasteful. Had the Committee reached out to us, they might have better understood the important distinctions between us.

The full text of J Street’s statement is available here.

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