Liberal Jews have taken turns over the past few weeks whacking at the Emergency Committee for Israel’s advertisement alleging anti-Semitism at the Occupy Wall Street protests. Eliot Spitzer called the ad “despicable” on Slate; Richard Cohen called it “reprehensible” in his Washington Post column; and J Street said it “slandered” Occupy Wall Street.
A new wave of condemnations arrived in reporters’ inboxes yesterday with a press release headlined “Jewish Leaders Denounce Right-Wing Smears of Occupy Wall Street.” The release, signed by 15 prominent Jewish liberals, amounted to a renewed attack on ECI:
“It’s an old, discredited tactic: find a couple of unrepresentative people in a large movement and then conflate the oddity with the cause…One particularly vile example was a television ad…paid for by something called the Emergency Committee for Israel.”
Signatories included former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, Spitzer, and former SEIU president Andy Stern, among others.
But the organizational provenance of the release was unclear. No group’s name appeared in the header, and the email containing the release came from a generic Gmail account.
The statement adopts the pose that ECI is somehow unfamiliar to the drafters, referring to it as “something called the Emergency Committee for Israel.” But that posture stretches credulity, as the release was circulated by a top J Street staffer.
Carrine Luck, J Street’s Vice President of Grassroots and Field Programs, emailed the release and was listed on it as a press contact. But her affiliation was not noted.
J Street and ECI have long made no secret of their dislike for each other, but the rhetoric of their spat appears to have grown even more heated in recent weeks. On October 24, J Street’s blog ran a post calling ECI “bad for Israel.” The same day, an ECI spokesman told the Washington Jewish Week that J Street appeared to be “eager to leap to the defense of terrorists.”
But this attack on ECI orchestrated by a J Street spokesman ran without J Street’s name on the top. To be fair, J Street chief Ben-Ami was among one of the signatories.
Luck said that Mark Green had initiated the release, and that she had assisted him in an individual capacity. “This isn’t necessarily within the direct purview of J Street,” Luck said. “This is focused around anti-Semitism, and that’s not the mission of J Street.”
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.