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Letters the Week of April 10, 2014

April 9, 2014
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J Street Is Not the First to Try to Shape Policy

Charles Jacobs’ assertion in the Jewish Exponent (Letters, “J Street Can’t Buy Protection From Criticism,” March 27) that J Streets’ attempts to influence U.S. policy regarding Israel are unprecedented is simply either misinformed or deliberately untruthful.
 
Having served 35 years on the staff of the Jewish Community Relations Council, including as executive director, part of my responsibility was maintaining close relationships with the staffs of our U.S. congressmen and senators.
 
When the Israeli government was lead by dovish prime ministers, it was common for right-wing Jewish organizations to urge their members to write to our elected officials expressing their disagreements with various Israel governmental policies. Hill staffers would ask me if these letters and phone calls accurately reflected the thinking of their bosses’ Jewish constituents. 
 
Throughout the ’90s, right-wing groups would go to Capitol Hill to warn against steps being taken by Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak and even the withdrawal from Gaza under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
 
During such meetings, the elected officials were sometimes told that the JCRC did not honestly portray the opinions of Philadelphia’s Jewish community although JCRC was a fully consensus-driven body representing a wide spectrum of our community, certainly not the case of the ideologically driven organizations.
 
On at least one occasion, Hadassah, the highly regarded Jewish women’s Zionist organization, was described as being “out of touch” and not truly Zionist. 
 
When I raised my concerns with those leading such efforts, they frequently would deny that my accusations had any merit, but the information privately shared with me by congressional staff was clearly accurate and reliable.
 
I suppose, then, that the rule should be: “Thou shall not lobby against any Israel government policy, unless you agree with us.”
Burt Siegel | Elkins Park
 
J Street: Only Open to Its Own One-way Traffic? 
Professor Alan Dershowitz, the dynamic speaker for mainstream supporters of Israel, pointed out after his well-attended talk at Penn (Headlines, “Passions Run High at Anti-J Street Event,” April 3), that J Street never invites or even allows conflicting views to be expressed at their functions. I can confirm that in my own synagogue.
 
When Congregation Rodeph Shalom invited J Street (allegedly to inform the congregation about Israel-related issues), I was upset at the one-sided approach.
 
The congregation sponsors agreed to allow an opposing view to be presented. A prominent speaker made himself available, and J Street refused to share the podium with him!
Professor Dershowitz is correct when he says: “J Street only wants people to hear views to the anti-Israel hard left, its position. It categorically refuses to allow its members to hear views that are more centrist and more pro-Israel, such as my own.”
 
J Street’s idea of a big tent is one where the tent flaps are tightly closed to all ideas except their own!
Ed Rosen | Bryn Mawr
 

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