By: Morton A. Klein
March 28, 2011
ZOA Concerned: New Reform Judaism Head Rabbi Richard Jacobs Sits On Extremist, Soros-Funded J Street And New Israel Fund Boards
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Will these extremist groups influence Reform policy?
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed concern at the appointment of Rabbi Richard Jacobs as head of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). Included among our concerns is the fact that Rabbi Jacobs is a member of the Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street, the extremist, George Soros-funded lobby group that takes positions to the left of the Israeli Labor and far-left Meretz parties, recently opposed sanctions on Iran, and urged President Barack Obama not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning as “illegal” Jewish homes and communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Jacobs is also a long-time board member and advocate of the New Israel Fund (NIF), which is a leading promoter and funder of organizations that advocate boycotting, divesting from, and imposing sanctions upon, Israel (BDS) as well as other groups involved in delegitimizing Israel and mounting ‘lawfare’ suits against Israeli political and military officials, causing these officials to not visit certain European countries. The ZOA is concerned by Rabbi Jacobs’ close association with J Street and NIF and thus at the prospect of the Reform movement becoming a captive of the beliefs and actions of both organizations. We hope the Reform movement, under Jacob’s leadership, will not become an unnamed arm and political ally of these organizations.
We are not alone in our concerns. Commentary magazine’s Alana Goodman recently wrote, “Jacobs involvement with J Street and the New Israel Fund is a troubling sign,” adding “The Reform movement has always leaned toward the political left, but its decision to tap Rabbi Richard Jacobs as its new leader signals that it might be shifting its focus toward a slightly different form of political activism.”
The ZOA notes that while also politically leftwing, Jacob’s predecessor, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who steps down next year, has in contrast, criticized J Street for having “misread the issues and misjudged the views of American Jews.” Yoffie condemned J Street because it “has spoken out sharply against Israel’s actions in Gaza … I know a mistake when I see one, and this time J Street got it very wrong.” Yoffie criticized J Street’s “conclusion … that Israel made a mistake in attacking Hamas and that the United States and others must press for an immediate cease-fire … A second J Street statement was worse by far. It could find no moral difference between the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militants … and the long-delayed response of Israel, which finally lost patience and responded to the pleas of its battered citizens in the south … These words are deeply distressing because they are morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve.” Yoffie then pointed out that “that most politicians on the left support the offensive, as do more than 80% of all Israelis, according to polling data.” Yoffie also strongly condemned the Palestinian Authority’s promotion of hatred and violence against Jews and Israel in their media, schools and speeches.
In contrast, Rabbi Jacobs not only proudly sits on J Street’s board, but has also proudly participated in demonstrations of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which urges an end to Israel “occupation” and the liquidation or fundamental change of organizations that contribute to the “dispossession of Arabs,” including the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Lands Authority. Rabbi Jacobs also publicly agrees with leftwing, harsh critic of Israeli security actions Peter Beinart’s assertions that Israel is becoming undemocratic, theocratic and ill-treating its Arab minority. (The debate between ZOA’s Mort Klein and Peter Beinart on last year’s Gaza flotilla incident can be seen here). Rabbi Jacobs has also attended rallies vigorously supporting the Islamist Imam Feisal Rauf and his efforts to build a mosque adjacent to New York’s Ground Zero site, ignoring Rauf’s terrible record of refusing to condemn Hamas, a terrorist organization which has murdered hundreds of Israelis and whose Charter calls for murder of Jews and Israel’s destruction; his calling U.S. policies an “accessory” to Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 horror and stating that “in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA”; and his writing that “Israel will become one more Arab country, in our lifetime, with a Jewish minority.” Jacobs appeared on CNN in favor of Imam Rauf’s Ground Zero mosque.
J Street has taken positions to the extreme left of the Israeli political spectrum. Only this week, Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon described J Street as a pro-Palestinian organization. Similarly, Otniel Schneller of Israel’s left-wing Kadima party has said the question of J Street’s positions on various issues call into question its claims to be pro-Israel and justify Knesset hearings into the organization. Unlike even leading Israeli far leftists like former Meretz head, Yossi Sarid, J Street opposed imposing strong sanctions on Iran for most of the past two years. It refused to support Israel’s 2008-9 Gaza operation, saying nothing about Israel’s right and duty to defend its citizens under attack from Gaza, while referring only to the “humanitarian crisis” and the “crisis in Gaza” and declaring that “ultimately there must be a political rather than military solution to this conflict.” Israel’s Gaza operation was only launched after eight years and 8,000 rocket attacks upon Israeli civilians by Hamas and other terrorist groups, attempting to murder Jews and making their lives miserable.
J Street supports negotiating with the extremist, Nazi-like Hamas, whose Charter openly calls for the murder of Jews. J Street has criticized Israel on numerous occasions when the country was under one-sided pressure to make one-sided concessions. It has also provided a platform for proponents of BDS at its conferences such as Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of the extreme left Jewish Voice for Peace.
J Street repeatedly and openly lied about receiving funds from anti-Israel billionaire George Soros but, in reality, received $750,000 from him in the past three years. Soros has blamed the U.S. and Israel for the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe; claimed the U.S. removed Saddam Hussein for the sake of “oil and Israel”; advocated negotiations with Hamas; has said that the Nazis, Israel, Arab terrorists, and America after September 11 are all cases of “victims turning perpetrators” and openly said “I am not a Zionist.” Soros has spoken of his goal of bursting the “bubble of American supremacy.” Soros also wrote that, “these ten months [of the Nazi occupation in 1944] were the happiest times of my life” – a strange sentence, when hundreds of thousands of his fellow Hungarian Jews, along with millions of other Jews, were being murdered. Soros has also been a massive contributor to Human Rights Watch, to which he pledged $100 million last month and which international law authority Professor Anne Bayefsky has described thus, “Human Rights Watch defended the U.N.’s ‘anti-racism’ Durban Declaration despite its blatant discrimination against Israel and cast its lot with those who have painted the defenders of Jewish self-determination as racists. HRW supported the U.N.’s Goldstone report.” J Street has funded some of Israel’s harshest Congressional critics, including a number of those who were among the small minority (54 House Members) who signed the January 2010 letter, which ignored Hamas’s call for a genocide of the Jews and demanded Israel lift security measures protecting Israelis. J Street has also been found to have been significantly funded by pro-Saudi activists, Arab-American leaders, Muslim activists and State Department anti-Israel Arabists.
J Street’s urging of President Obama not to veto the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Jewish construction as “illegal” led liberal Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) to cut ties with J Street, saying, “I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated … The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the U.N. Security Council is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out … [Mahmoud Abbas has refused to make] unilateral gestures of good faith … But astonishingly, it is Israel that J-Street would put in the stocks in the public square.”
J Street’s Educational Fund has also cosponsored a congressional mission to Israel with the Churches for Peace in the Middle East, an organization whose affiliates support the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Regarding Rabbi Jacobs’ involvement with the New Israel Fund, it is relevant that, on the New Israel Fund’s website, the group admits that while it opposes ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ (BDS), “as a strategy or tactic … we will not reduce or eliminate our funding for grantees that differ with us on a tactical matter. NIF will not fund BDS activities nor support organizations for which BDS is a substantial element of their activities, but will support organizations that conform to our grant requirements if their support for BDS is incidental or subsidiary to their significant programs.” NIF has also funded groups like Adalah, granted $510,150 by NIF in 2008, which the previous year drafted a “Democratic Constitution” calling for the erasure of Israel’s Jewish character. It is troubling that Rabbi Jacobs has announced that, “I’m very proud of almost 20 years of work with NIF.”
While we are heartened by Rabbi Jacobs’ statement that ‘the connection to Israel is a vital part of Jewish life’ and while we strongly praise Rabbi Jacobs’ work to help victims of war, famine and massacres in places like Chad, Darfur and Haiti, we wonder if he has also taken a similar interest in the 10,000 Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria, whose lives were turned upside down and made miserable after being forcibly uprooted from their homes and had their thriving communities, established with Israeli government permission and support, dismantled. To this day, a large number of these Jews are unemployed, dislocated, living in temporary housing and continue to suffer from their uprooting. There has been a dramatic increase in the psychological problems, divorce and drug use among this population. We would hope that Rabbi Jacobs would utilize his extraordinary energies and truly impressive humanitarian concerns to involve himself with the organizations that are working to alleviate the plight of these Jewish people.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are concerned that the Union for Reform Judaism has selected as its leader someone who has strong associations with the extremist groups J Street and the New Israel Fund. We hope that our fears about his association with these groups will be proven wrong, that Rabbi Jacobs will unequivocally take a strong stand against those who delegitimize Israel and seek to pressure Israel into dangerous concessions and policies, and that his alliances with these groups will not be a factor in URJ policy decisions.”