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.
March 26, 2010 at 6:30 am
Tags: Doug Pike