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Why I broke with J Street

by Doug Pike

Months ago—after a lot of reading, briefings and reflection—I clearly stated my support for Israel in a position paper. Yet my convictions as a candidate for Congress have not gotten through. The reason for this confusion is my endorsement by J Street’s political action committee. When I accepted it, I didn’t realize how different J Street’s approach is from mine on some key points.

One example is the 2009 Goldstone Report on the war in Gaza. This deeply flawed report to the United Nations Human Rights Council was absurdly critical of the Israeli Defense Forces, and unbelievably soft on the Palestinian militants.

Among its unfair aspects, the Goldstone Report gave short shrift to the militants’ routine use of innocent civilians as human shields. The report also failed to put the fighting in the appropriate context of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza—a withdrawal followed by relentless missile attacks from Gaza against innocent civilians in Israel.

I strongly agree with a resolution that the House of Representatives passed by a 344-to-36 vote last November, calling the Goldstone Report “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.” So I was troubled to learn that J Street was slow to reject the biased report—and that the group worked to soften the resolution that Congress passed overwhelmingly.

I am also troubled by J Street’s position that Israel needs to end construction of any new housing units in East Jerusalem—an issue inflamed by the recent ill-timed announcement of a go-head for a 1600-unit project there. While this might seem an acceptable price for getting the Palestinians back to the bargaining table, underlying it is the Palestianians’ unrealistic hope of retaking control of East Jerusalem. Because I see Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, I do not like to hear loud voices in Washington—including top administration officials and J Street’s leadership—demanding an end to all housing construction in East Jerusalem.

I do not intend to get into a debate with J Street. But as a candidate for high office, I need to be judged on my own positions. So I have asked J Street to remove me from its list of endorsed candidates for Congress. I am also refunding the contributions that our campaign received through this group.

Let me summarize my views on Israel’s security. Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East. The United States should encourage a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but ultimately, this must come from negotiations between the two sides. I agree with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Negotiations should begin as soon as possible without preconditions. The pending, indirect talks would be better than no talks.

Of course, the imminent threat to Israel’s security and its very existence is Iran’s drive to develop nuclear weapons. While I support strong diplomatic efforts to turn the Iranian leadership away from this reckless course, the United States and other nations must intensify their efforts by squeezing Iran economically because Iran must not be allowed to “run out the clock.” Israel has a legal and moral right to self-defense. If diplomatic and economic efforts fail, all other options must be on the table.

Israel’s survival and well-being are extremely important to me. I have visited the Jewish State twice to learn about it firsthand—and to visit my cousin and her family in Jerusalem. I intend to better communicate my commitment to Israel as a candidate—and to demonstrate it by my words and deeds as a member of the next Congress.

The writer, a former editorial board member at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is a Democratic candidate for Congress in the 6th District.

See also: J Street responds

March 26, 2010 at 6:30 am

--Doug Pike

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comments [13] | post a comment

  1. East Jerusalem

    Mar 26th, 2010

    has never been part of Israel. Top administration officials is now a euphemism for president of the united states.

  2. David Diano

    Mar 26th, 2010

    Doug-
    What did you think of Israel’s use of cluster bombs in civilian areas against Lebanon?

    Thanks for clarifying your positions and demonstrating why we need a different Democrat that you dealing with these issues in Congress.

  3. Alloptionsonthetable

    Mar 26th, 2010

    Mr. Pike caved. Mr. Pike asserts, peace must ultimately come from “negotiations between the two sides” and that “negotiations should begin as soon as possible without preconditions”, and that “the pending, indirect talks would be better than no talk”. I ask him: how can the 2-sides negotiate in good faith when the one side with State power, continues to assert that power by breaking international laws vis a vis illegal settlement construction and collective punishment inflicted on citizens of Gaza? In building more illegal settlements, Israel is affecting one of the main topics for negotiation. How is it possible to negotiate on final status of Jerusalem, borders, etc. when Israel uses its defacto State power to change the current status of these crucial topics? These will be the essence of any negotiated peace. Israel disrespects the process as it continues to perpetuate it by creating excuse after excuse. This is why negotiations are stalled. That is how Israel likes it. It is to Israel’s advantage as time allows it to build more illegal “facts on the ground” that it can use as leverage to negotiate against other negotiating points. This is rubbish. I don’t know your background, but if I lived in your district I would never vote for you. Congress has been hi-jacked by Israel and US foreign policy, vital interests, and our people are troops are weakened, put at risk, or worse by this unconditional support. If Israel wants to be a pluralistic, democratic, modern nation state as it claims, it should act like one. Start by ending this destructive violation of international law on several fronts. Defining your borders would be a good move as well. It is amazing that the international community and other Nation States let this pass. But as an American Citizen, it is outrageous to me that we support this. It is time to treat Israel as any other nation state. Doing so is in our and Israel’s best interest. J Street offers hope that this hijacking and the gridlock and suffering will end. After 60 years, it’s time to stop looking backward in fear and start looking forward with hope and trust.

  4. James Warren

    Mar 26th, 2010

    Mr. Pike

    I am very sorry to learn that you have given in in this fashion. The two-state solution promoted by the Obama administration with the support of J Street is the only possible solution to the tragic conflict and should have the support of all right thinking people.

    Israel cannot have it all ways. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the past, Israel is today, and has been for 43 years, an occupying power. By seeking to expand settlements, cleanse East Jerusalem of its Arab inhabitants and expand the 500,000 “settlers” who live in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, Israel is moving towards an apartheid state. It cannot ultimately occupy all of this territory with ceasing to be majority-Jewish and democratic, unless that is, and I fear it is so, the long term plan is to expel most or all of the Palestinians altogether. There will never be peace on that basis.

    Once again, I believe you have made a grave mistake and lent your weight to the forces that do not want to solve the problem.

  5. PA-6 Dem

    Mar 26th, 2010

    Pike did not merely “accept” the JStreet endorsement; he actively sought it. If Pike does not have the backbone to withstand arm-twisting in the Democratic primary, how will he hold up in the general election or in Congress?

  6. Brian Kline

    Mar 26th, 2010

    I find it astounding that Doug Pike is willing to walk in lockstep with a right-wing Israeli government determined to scuttle any peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. This blind unconditional support not only threatens U.S. security, but also Israel’s security.

  7. I'm curious

    Mar 27th, 2010

    I’m curious to know if Mr. Pike has changed his views on Israel since when he was an editorial writer – since when did he become such a hawk?

    Does anyone have a recollection of his Israel beliefs prior to running for Congress? I’ll bet they can be looked up on Lexus/Nexus searches – just curious. I’m not saying that someone can’t change their mind as dynamics of the world change, but I wonder whether he took this stance because he wanted J-street’s endorsement and money?

    I always love the old adage, “three Jews, four opinions…” but Mr. Pike’s switch makes me believe he never really understood his stand on settlements and East Jerusalem and the path to Middle East peace. Let’s get someone in office who will better represent the 6th distict on this and other issues.

  8. Trande

    Mar 28th, 2010

    so the trivedi campaign didn’t have much to do today i see….go job boys.

  9. [...] Doug Pike, pa2010.com, [...]

  10. Chet

    Mar 29th, 2010

    As a former editorial writer, Pike should be used to exploring all sides of a question. When he writes “The United States should encourage a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,” I wonder how he thinks the US could conceivably do that while giving $3,000,000,000 a year in military aid to one of the two parties?

  11. Danny

    Mar 30th, 2010

    To Mr. Pike – I am glad to hear the Obama Administration’s animus toward the Jewish State has not fully infected the Democratic Party. Congratulations for standing firm in your understanding of the threats facing the Jewish state, and how to best move forward with a peace process. Ignore all the contemptuous comments on this site, these people simply do not understand the history and realities on the ground.

  12. A Jewish Person

    Mar 31st, 2010

    It’s so obvious that he has been threatened and has shown himself to be just another weakling afraid of AIPAC, an organization which is like the Wizard of Oz; an entity which has scared everyone by it’s loudspeaker into not realizing that there is only a small man behind the curtain.

  13. Margie

    Mar 31st, 2010

    The famous 1,600 housing units are not planned for eastern Jerusalem but rather for a northern Jerusalem suburb called Ramat Shlomo. This is what led to Ban ki Moon saying that Israel should not build ‘near’ E. Jerusalem.

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