J Street-NIF Conference: A Platform for Lawfare and BDS
On February 26 – March 1, 2011, J Street will hold its second conference entitled “Giving Voice to Our Values.” This follows a year of devastating controversies for the organization, including public and harsh repudiation by a leading Democratic Representative; a failed lobbying campaign opposing a U.S. veto of a one-sided UN Security Council resolution; the revelation that J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami was very misleading regarding funding from George Soros; and support for the notorious “Goldstone Report” in Congress.
As a result, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has referred to J Street as a group “so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”
J Street has invited leading BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions) and “lawfare” advocates to promote their anti-Israel agendas at the conference, including Rebecca Vilkomerson, Mustafa Barghouti, and Michael Sfard (quotes and activities detailed below). Sarah Benninga will be honored by J Street for giving “voice to the values that we hold dear and who have inspired us with [her] courageous stories, [her] heroic actions and [her] bold words.” Benninga is among the leaders of the “Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement,” which, among other activities, announced that it is targeting the Jewish Agency and the JNF for sanctions (a central element of the global BDS campaign). The group’s manifesto calls for the “liquidation or fundamental change of organizations that contribute to the dispossession of Arabs, including the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, and the Israel Lands Authority.”
As at the first J Street conference in October 2009, the New Israel Fund (NIF) will play the central role at the event. The conference is advertised prominently on NIF’s website, and NIF sent emails offering discounts to NIF supporters. Although the NIF leadership officially claims to oppose BDS and lawfare, it is closely affiliated with this conference. In addition to founding J Street, Ben-Ami is a co-founder of Ben-Or Consulting, which coordinates many of the NIF-related political advocacy groups.
Prominent NIF-related participants
- Kathleen Peratis, a major defender of the anti-Israel agenda of Human Rights Watch; NIF donor, former VP, and member of NIF’s International Council. Being honored at the Gala Dinner.
- NIF President Naomi Chazan — keynote speaker at the Gala.
- Daniel Sokatch — CEO of NIF
- Participating Organizations (logos featured on conference website) include NIF and NIF grantees: B’Tselem, Yesh Din, Rabbis for Human Rights, Gisha, Ir Amim, Breaking the Silence.
- Speakers at the conference include: Hagai El-Ad (Association of Civil Rights in Israel – ACRI), Tania Hary (Gisha), Jessica Montell and Uri Zaki (B’Tselem), Oded Na’aman and Assaf Sharon (Breaking the Silence), Danny Seidemann (Terrestrial Jerusalem, founder of Ir Amim), Michael Sfard (Yesh Din and others).
- CEO, Jewish Voice for Peace
- One of the most visible proponents of the immoral and antisemitic BDS movement.
- Has argued the pro-BDS side in debates against J Street representatives.
- Former candidate for the presidency of the PA; founded the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.
- Barghouti takes part in BDS activities, stating, “We are now in the early stages of a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions directed at this Israeli government for its refusal to abide by international law. Such action successfully overturned Jim Crow laws in the American South and apartheid in South Africa, and we are slowly applying it to Israeli occupation and apartheid.”
- Has called for an arms embargo against Israel: European countries must end military purchases from Israel because it is “a war criminal country.”
- Barghouti said that “the problem of Israel is that it is a colonial state, but we refuse to be people that live under occupation and a colonial regime.” Barghouti also uses “ethnic cleansing” and “ghettos” rhetoric.
- Participant in the “Free Gaza” flotillas.
- Legal representative of Yesh Din, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence and many more Israeli NGOs.
- Leading Israeli figure in the “lawfare movement.” Represented Al-Haq in a lawsuit filed in Canada seeking judicial declaration that Israel is guilty of committing “war crimes” and that the security barrier is illegal. The case was dismissed with partial costs. Sfard was prominently featured in the Al Jazeera documentary, Courtroom Intifada, where Sfard admitted that this case was filed in order to “keep it in the news.” Sfard has stated, “Our targeted killings policy approaching a crime against humanity…International law obligates all states in the world to investigate them and prosecute them if there is enough evidence. If not Israel, then England. If not the Supreme Court, then the House of Lords.”
- Sfard testified as a paid expert witness on behalf of the PLO in a lawsuit brought in US Federal Court in Miami by victims of terror attacks perpetrated by the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades (Saperstein v. Palestinian Authority, PLO).
- Sfard is a member of the “Support Committee” and also appeared as a “witness” for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, an anti-Israel kangaroo court established to put Israel “on trial” and to promote BDS.