Rabbi Bruce Warshal’s recent op-ed “Intolerance is a Grievous Stain on Jewish History,” specifically mischaracterizes the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest pro-Israel organization in the country, dedicated to Israel advocacy and the safety and security of Israel. ZOA is non-partisan: ZOA members, officials, staff, speakers, and honorees come from all streams of Judaism and a wide range of political parties. We unite in our defense of Israel and the Jewish people, and our insistence on speaking the truth.
ZOA directs its educational work on college campuses and runs a Student Leadership Mission to Israel in which students experience private meetings with Knesset members, visit Israel’s border regions, hear from journalists and Middle East analysts, all in order to be more knowledgeable advocates and to better defeat anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions efforts. ZOA’s Government Relations Department educates the public and Congress about various issues – including that the real obstacles to peace are the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s incitement, media, and education system that teaches Palestinian-Arab children to hate and attack Jews, and the PA’s heinous “pay to slay” payments to terrorists to murder Jews.
ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice provides free legal services to students who experience anti-Semitism on campus. ZOA’s legal arm led successful legal battles to obtain federal regulations and action by college administrators to protect Jewish students.
Warshal’s main complaint is that mainstream Jewish organizations don’t accept J Street. A major problem on college campuses is that J Street is a deceptive group that brings leaders of the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel BDS movement and other Israel haters to speak on campuses and conventions.
In fact, J Street is excluded because its own profile, “pro-Israel, pro-peace” has been proven to be a lie. Under Jewish law, Jews are forbidden from giving falsehoods and gossip (r’chilus) to even a single person, but J Street lies before large audiences. Judaism does not believe all speech is beneficial. Rather, Judaism believes that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Mishlai 18:21). Falsehoods such as J Street’s have enormous power to do harm – and have in fact done harm.
J Street engages in numerous deceptive practices, including lobbying for the catastrophic Iran deal and repeatedly lobbying against sanctioning Iran. J Street falsely claimed that Israel’s security establishment favored the deal, when in fact Israel’s democratically elected government, along with its most leftist parties strongly opposed the deal.
J Street raised funds to defeat strong Israel supporters in Congress who opposed the Iran deal. When six Senators (including Florida’s Marco Rubio) proposed a mere one percent increase in aid to Israel to offset the Islamic Iranian regime’s post-deal increases in the funding of its terror proxies’ rockets pointed at Israel, J Street opposed this aid to Israel and targeted those pro-Israel Senators for defeat.
Rather than choosing Israel’s side, J Street collaborated with the lobbying group – the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which represents the interests of the Iranian regime that calls for “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”
J Street also repeatedly lobbied for the U.S. to support the passage of anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations– including the horrendous U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which denies Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest places, including the site of the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, describing them as “occupied Arab land.”
Warshal incredulously takes issue with Hillel International that will not partner with those who “delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel, support boycotts, divestment or sanctions against Israel, or foster an atmosphere of incivility.” These terms – “delegitimization, demonizing, and applying a double standard to Israel” are part of the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. Should Hillel International be expected to partner or even host speakers who spew anti-Semitism? Of course not. Just like the NAACP would not be expected to partner with a member of the KKK, and would certainly not be accused of placing a “grievous stain on history” for rejecting such racists. But J Street mind-bogglingly brings the leaders of the anti-Semitic Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement to its conferences and college campuses.
So, while Warshal claims that intolerance is a stain on Jewish history, it is J Street that stains Jewish history and Jewish values and that is why its voice is not accepted in the fold of mainstream Jewish organizations.
Sharona Whisler is the executive director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Florida Chapter. She has been with ZOA for more than 10 years, beginning as a campus coordinator and then as the director of ZOA’s Campus Department.
This article was published by the Sun-Sentinel and may be found here.