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Friday, May 21, 2010

Joel Pollak for Congress in IL-9

Joel Pollak is a Republican running for Congress in Illinois' 9th district against J Street-backed Jan Schakowsky.
J Street's leaders argue that they are providing greater space for debate on Israel in Washington and within the Jewish community. That is perhaps a noble goal, but in my experience J Street has yet to prove its commitment to it. Each time I have met J Street members, I have told them I would be happy to address their group if they would invite Rep. Jan Schakowsky as well, so that we could have a real debate about the issues.

Each time, they have declined. That has left me with the feeling that J Street is more interested in creating an impression of debate than in actually debating. Specifically, J Street wants to show that the American Jewish community does not speak with one voice on Israel. That was already true--there have always been diverse opinions--but J Street wants to advertise that point, apparently to blunt the prevailing pro-Israel view.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky has developed a close alliance--perhaps a dependence--on J Street. She is one of J Street PAC's top money recipients in the 2010 election cycle. In February, Rep. Schakowsky helped open the Chicago chapter of J Street, declaring in a recorded message to the gathering: "I've been a supporter of J Street since its inception, and I'm proud to be among J Street's first round of endorsed candidates."

Last October, Rep. Schakowsky also co-hosted J Street's first gala dinner and spoke on a panel at its conference in Washington. She proudly told the audience that she ignored those in her district who had warned her not to attend the conference ("It was never under consideration for me to pull out," she declared). She did not protest when other panelists lamented the allegedly distorting role of Jewish money in American politics.

Perhaps it is only a coincidence that Rep. Schakowsky's new campaign website shares J Street's teal color scheme. Yet it is not a coincidence that several J Street members were seen at Rep. Schakowsky's Chicago fundraiser last week, which featured Helen Thomas, whose anti-Israel views are well documented. Rep. Schakowsky has not taken the trouble to distance herself from Thomas's views on Israel. Nor has J Street.

I'd like to renew my offer to J Street, formally and publicly, to participate in a debate or panel discussion anywhere in the 9th congressional district, focusing on issues related to Israel and featuring each of the candidates, including Rep. Schakowsky. There are several bipartisan pro-Israel groups in the Chicago area that host candidate forums. That is what pro-Israel groups do, in the interest of open debate. How about J Street?"
How about it indeed.

Read the whole thing.


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