Commentary Magazine


Is J Street More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

J Street is backing Joe Sestak, providing both an endorsement and funding. He is their ideal candidate — willing to keynote at a CAIR fundraiser, unbothered by Obama’s Israel-bashing, happy to sign on to J Street’s letter on lifting the Gaza blockade, and left-leaning on everything else. This, of course, has raised concerns within the Jewish community. During the primary, Sen. Arlen Specter went after his opponent:

When addressing them at the May 2 forum, [Specter] went into great detail, describing his Jewish upbringing and choosing to focus much of his presentation on the issue of Israel. Responding to a question from the audience, he attacked his rival’s decision to participate at a meeting sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that critics have accused of accommodating antisemitic views. “Sestak showed a lack of experience and sensitivity,” Specter said accusingly, later adding that “in the DNA” of the Jewish people, “we have memory of the pogroms.”

In May the contrast between Sestak and Specter, an ardent Israel supporter, was quite evident in an interview with the Jewish Exponent:

Do you believe a unified Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel? If not, should Israel freeze all its building in eastern Jerusalem?

Specter: Jerusalem is the rightful capital of Israel. In 1983, I joined Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) in introducing legislation to require the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I continue to support legislation requiring such a move.

Sestak: Both issues are ones that should be worked out between Israel and the Palestinians with the United States “in the room”; nothing should be mandated — by the administration or by Congress — upon the two parties as a condition for peace or at the beginning of the peace process.

Hmm, doesn’t exactly sound like Sestak is solid on the issue. (Sestak’s office did not respond to an inquiry as to his position on this and other issues relating to Israel.)

Now, candidates are sometimes willing to take flack over their support from a politically controversial group in exchange for handsome financing. Many a Democrat, for example, has taken his lumps for “being in the pocket of labor bosses”; the consolation is the robust funds they receive from organized labor. So has the J Street endorsement been worth the trouble it has caused Sestak?

It sure doesn’t look that way: “GOP U.S. Senate nominee Pat Toomey raised roughly $1 million more than Democratic opponent Joe Sestak in the latest fundraising quarter, according to numbers provided by each campaign Tuesday, another indication the Republican could posses a significant financial advantage in the general election race.” It seems that the J Street endorsement really isn’t paying off. It may be that pro-Israel voters in Pennsylvania are already voting — with their checkbooks — against Sestak. Unfortunately for Sestak, J Street hasn’t begun to make up the difference.

We’ll see how this plays out in Pennsylvania and in races around the country in which J Street has bestowed its endorsement, but perhaps not sufficient funds, on leftist Democrats. One lesson of this election may well be that a J Street endorsement is the kiss of political death for those foolish enough to adhere to its extreme agenda with the expectation that J Street can provide ample financial support.

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