The public debate that erupted surrounding attacks by the Im Tirtzu organization in Israel against the New Israel Fund has now ignited a secondary fire: J Street against Christians United for Israel, and vice versa.
On the sidelines of the NIF debate, J Street came out against funding provided by CUFI to Im Tirtzu. In fact, it was John Hagee Ministries that gave the $200,000 grant to the Israeli group, and CUFI distanced itself from the campaign against NIF, but facts did little to lower the flames.
CUFI, a source close to the group said, had enough and decided to fight back.
In an op-ed published February 12 in JTA, CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, argued that J Street is out to get his group., “J Street does not like CUFI and from the very beginning has sought to banish us from the pro-Israel camp,” Brog wrote.
CUFI’s grudge dates back to J Street’s early days, back in 2008, when one of the first public actions the group took was to collect signatures for a petition calling on Senator Joseph Lieberman not to attend CUFI’s national conference in Washington because of the group’s “apocalyptic quest to precipitate the biblical Battle of Armageddon, in which all Jews will either be killed or converted to Christianity in advance of Jesus’ return.”
Ari Morgenstern, spokesman for CUFI said this “is an example of the pattern of false Christian-Zionists stereotypes repeatedly advanced by J Street.”
Then came the Im Tirtzu funding issue that once again pitted the two groups, each of which represents opposite ends of the pro-Israel community.
In response, Hadar Susskind of J Street said that “David Brog is technically right that funding for Im Tirtzu came from Hagee Ministries and we should have made that clear in our statement.” And of course there is a but: “But that’s a distinction without a difference.”
Susskind added in a statement, “We look forward to speaking further with Mr. Brog about how best to secure Israel’s long-term future as a Jewish, democratic homeland.” Although based on the back and forth between the two groups, it is not really clear what shape such a dialogue will take.
Morgenstern of CUFI said that J Street’s actions speak louder than its words and that its support for diversity in the Zionist community “seems to end when the Zionists are Christian.”
Contact Nathan Guttman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.