I like the way J Street operates. Unlike other progressive Jewish groups which seem to sit back and wait for events to come to them, J Street takes it to the leadership of the American Jewry when they’re deserving of castigation. The group sets the agenda and does it in activist fashion.
Today’s target is Malcolm Hoenlein, director of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein, a former Soviet Jewish émigré with strong Likudist views, has run the group with a tight fist for decades, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be a partnership of all of the major national Jewish groups. Recently, the Forward and I noted that the Conference of Presidents was one of the few major groups which remained silent on the Hebron settler violence.
Now, J Street is taking the Conference and Hoenlein to task for this moral failure:
Despite public calls for a statement on the settlers’ actions, the Conference, and its leader Malcolm Hoenlein, have refused. It’s time to make our voices heard, particularly with other provocative settler actions and marches in the works.
Even more important, J Street is not restricting its critique to the Hebron assault. It is broadening its vision to encompass right-wing American Jewish financial support for the entire settlement movement as well:
American Jews have a[n]…obligation to speak out on settler extremism. Because…a large part of the money supporting the settlers’ presence in Hebron is coming from right here in America. The Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund, for instance, has raised at least $6.6 million since 2002 to support the extremist Jewish community in Hebron – and is actively undermining the possibility of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
…The settler movement and settlement construction poses an existential threat to Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state.
Too often, the American Jewish community turns a blind eye to the damage being done with funds and support raised here that propel the settlers and their destructive agenda.
That’s why the American Jewish community must send a strong and unified message on settler violence in the West Bank. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations should be silent no longer.
In other words, J Street is not just concerned about a single incident of settler violence, it is concerned with the very fabric of support for the settlers that is woven into the core of the American Jewish community.
While J Street mentions the Hebron Fund, the best known of the pro-settler funders, Phil Weiss has been doing terrific research on another right-oriented umbrella funder, the Central Fund of Israel, which funds all manner of settlement projects to the tune of $8 million in 2005 alone. While the Fund supports other Jewish philanthropy than settlements, that is where it places a strong emphasis. Among the things it does is funding settlement security programs, what Phil rightly calls the “settler militias” which terrorize neigboring Palestinian residents. It also funds Women in Green, one of the main extremist groups behind the Hebron riots.
Among the funders of CFI are a veritable Who’s Who of American Jewish philathrophy: Hollywood celebrity Kirk Douglas, telecom entrepreneur Howard Jonas, Forbes 400 member Neil Kadisha, James Tisch, Michael Milken, Ace Greenberg, and Hillary Clinton funder Alan Slifka among others.
The importance of J Street’s project is to put all these funders and Malcolm Hoenlein on notice that supporting settlements has now become treif. The latter have gone from being a project within the communal consensus to one that is, or should be, outside it. I hope you’ll add your name to the campaign against Jewish leadership silence in the face of settler terror.