J Street President:  Senators, Congressmen 'Live in Fear' of Pro-Israel Groups

Bill Kristol at CPAC FL in Orlando, Florida. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

J Street President: Senators, Congressmen 'Live in Fear' of Pro-Israel Groups

J Street founder and President Jeremy Ben-Ami stated that many congressmen and senators refuse to criticize Israel because they "live in fear" of retribution from pro-Israel groups, Haaretz reports.

Ben-Ami made the comments on Tuesday evening during a tepid debate between Ben-Ami and Bill Kristol, editor of Weekly Standard and a director of the pro-Israel Emergency Committee for Israel, on what it means to be pro-Israel in America in 2012

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Chemi Shalev writing in Haaretz' West of Eden blog:
J Street's Ben-Ami: 'U.S. Congressmen live in fear of pro-Israeli intimidation'

Many American senators and congressmen "keep quiet" and refrain from criticizing Israeli policies because they "live in fear" and are "intimidated" by pro-Israeli groups such as the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), according to J Street founder and President Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Ben-Ami's bald assertion came during a debate with Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, a director of ECI, held on Tuesday night at Manhattan's palatial B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue and moderated by Jane Eisner, the editor of the Forward. Ben Ami said that because of accusatory ECI ads in the New York Times and other media outlets, members of Congress are afraid of being branded as anti-Israel and are deterred by the "ramifications" of voicing open criticism of Israeli policies.

It was a rare moment of tension in an otherwise civil and even friendly debate, which pitted representatives of the two diametrically opposed poles of the current Jewish debate on Israel - the controversial lobby J Street on the left and the no-less contentious Emergency Committee on the right. The crowd of 700-800, mainly from Manhattan's Upper West Side, clearly favored Ben Ami's positions though they were obviously pleased by Kristol's agreement to debate him. [...]

Ben-Ami, who deals with the Israeli-Palestinian issue seven days a week, was clearly better informed on the details of the issues than Kristol, who is a major player in the overall Republican agenda. Kristol repeatedly cited his own ignorance in order to dodge open disagreements with Ben-Ami, conceding that he doesn't know much about the blockade of Gaza, that he is not aware of the details of Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and that he is incapable of judging whether Israeli democracy and the rule of law are indeed endangered by the government's refusal to carry out High Court orders to evacuate the settlements at Migron and at the Ulpana sector of Beit-El, as Ben-Ami asserted.

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