An interview in which their executive director says that he’s meeting with the Israeli Foreign Ministry on “how to address” the movement adds to the confusion.
On their website, J Street explicitly says that it is “greatly concerned by the goals and tactics of the formal global BDS Movement” and that it opposes the BDS movement because “they fail explicitly to recognize Israel’s right to exist and they ignore or reject Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people.”
J Street was slammed by Palestine solidarity activists–including Israelis–for actively working with organizations such as the right-wing David Project, Stand With Us and the Jewish National Fund against the landmark divestment effort at the University of California, Berkeley. After that episode, Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s executive director, said that “J Street will not be signing on to letters with organizations like that in group settings again,” apparently conceding that J Street was wrong to do so. And last June, during a Jewish debate on the BDS movement, J Street board member Kathleen Peratis said she would support the boycotting of settlement products (although this is clearly not J Street’s position).
But in a just-published interview with Hadassah Magazine, Ben-Ami says that “this very afternoon I have a meeting with people from Israel’s Foreign Ministry on how to address the BDS [Boycott Divestment Sanctions] movement.”
What exactly is J Street doing meeting with the Israeli Foreign Ministry over how to “address” BDS?
The Israeli government has a very unconfused, clear policy on the BDS movement: it’s a threat to the State of Israel, part of a growing “delegitimization” campaign. And they’re actively working to neutralize it.
Last summer, the Israeli Knesset began steps to pass what Adalah, a group that works to protect the rights of Palestinian citizens living in Israel, describes as a bill “to outlaw any activities promoting any kind of boycott against Israeli organizations, individuals or products.” And the well-connected Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank, gave a presentation to the Israeli cabinet last winter on the need to “direct substantial resources to ‘attack’ and possibly engage in criminal ‘sabotage'” against the BDS movement, as Ali Abunimah reported.
In the most recent prominent move taken against the BDS movement, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched “a multimillion-dollar joint initiative to combat anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns,” according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Where does J Street stand on all of this? Does it support the undemocratic nature of the Israeli bill that seeks to criminalize boycotts against the state? Does it support throwing millions of dollars to undermine a campaign that seeks to ensure that the human rights of Palestinians are respected? And just what were they meeting with the Israeli Foreign Ministry about concerning the movement?