Sunday, May 31, 2015

The J Street Challenge Part Three: The Peace Center J Street Connection

This is Part Three of a three part series on J Street written by Elinor Weiss and published in Buffalo Jewish Review.

The Buffalo premier showing of the documentary, The J Street Challenge, takes place at the Benderson Jewish Community Center on Tuesday, June 9 at 7 PM.  

The documentary shows why some people concerned about J Street, a Jewish organization, view its  “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” claim as deceptive.  

The last of the J Street series focuses on the Buffalo J Street connection.

Part 3

The Peace Center J Street Connection

For many years through the efforts of the now defunct Israel/Palestine committee, the Western New York Peace Center sponsored programs that not only disparaged Jews and Israel but also gave solace to those who apologize for terrorism.  This article describes the connection between the Western New York Peace Center and J Street.

Several years ago, along with a few friends, I attended a program that was promoted by the Western New York Peace Center.  A quasi-documentary that distorted the founding of the State of Israel was shown.  The film focused on Palestinians who wanted to return to their homes in cities such as Tel Aviv.  The audience, comprised mostly of young college age students, appeared deeply affected by what they heard and saw.  The students were reassured by one of the program moderators that the following school year students would be even more organized against Israel.

During the question and answer period, Adam Shapiro, one of the producers of the “documentary,” called Congress “occupied territory”, and told the audience that support for Israel would be changing in Washington, DC. Shapiro attributed part of the change due to J Street, a new organization that would be challenging AIPAC, a pro-Israel advocacy organization. It was unsettling to hear J Street being promoted positively during a program hostile towards the Jewish State.

Place this endorsement of J Street against the backdrop of the event. The moderator introduced the program by describing the “Zionist machinery that massacres Palestinian children.” Then there was Adam Shapiro, producer of the film, and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, a group dedicated to preventing Israel from protecting itself from terrorists in Gaza.  Shapiro encouraged those in attendance to boycott Israeli products in grocery stores.  And there was James Holstun, UB Professor and co-chair of the WNY Peace Center of the Israel /Palestinian Committee. One would assume that Holstun is for peaceful solutions to a tragic conflict yet he appeared with a panelist that excuses violence in the region. The UB professor endorsed a “documentary” produced explicitly for Palestinian children that was sure to fill them with hate. The film was infused with propaganda against Israel and Jews.

My friends and I were dismayed by what we saw and heard.  At the time we knew nothing about J Street and what it might mean for the Jewish community and Israel.

Now jump ahead a few years later.  J Street has attracted national attention.  It has strong views on what it thinks Israel needs to do for peace in the region.  These views have attracted supporters, many on the college campuses.  J Street wants to impose its views for peace on Israel.

Some think J Street has taken bold steps.  Others feel that J Street’s policies have made it difficult for Israel to defend itself.  And yet others wonder why those opposed to the Jewish State would donate to an organization that says it is pro-Israel.

What‘s the verdict? Do J Street’s policies undermine Israel’s security?

Come view the documentary, “The J Street Challenge,” Tuesday, June 9 at 7 PM at the Benderson JCC.  Meet Ilya Feoktistov, the producer of the documentary, “The J Street Challenge.”  Decide for yourself whether J Street helps or undermines Israel’s security.

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