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J Street issues media Fatwa against its toughest pro-Israel student opponent

J Street issues media Fatwa against its toughest pro-Israel student opponent

J Street demands that media “distance themselves” from Brandeis University student Daniel Mael

We have addressed J Street multiple times before.

J Street is the progressive lobbying and political action group created as an alternative to AIPAC and other mainstream pro-Israel groups. J Street was co-founded by Jeremy Ben-Ami, with major early funding from George Soros and a mysterious Hong Kong financier.  J Street initially denied the Soros funding, but that was exposed, as we wrote in 2010, Yup, Soros Is Behind J-Street.

J Street has grown rapidly, and is on the verge of being accepted into the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

J Street’s critics argue that J Street is nothing more than a Trojan horse, meant to weaken American support for Israel. The J Street Challenge, a movie being screened now, presents the case against J Street.

Under the guise of supporting Israel’s right to exist, J Street allegedly relentlessly criticizes Israel, and plays into the anti-Israel narrative behind the BDS and other movements, even if it doesn’t support such movements openly. Gullible liberals, particularly liberal students, it is argued, fall for the J Street line, and thereby legitimize the demonization and delegitimization of Israel.  J Street calls many of the accusations Myths.

Part of the drama between AIPAC and more traditional pro-Israel groups, on the one hand, and J Street, on the other hand, plays out on college campuses, where J Street U — the very active college division of J Street — routinely hosts anti-Israel speakers and fails to push back against anti-Israel agitation.

Brandeis University is one place where that tension has been sharp the past academic year, as Daniel Mael, a religious Jew who writes for pro-Israel websites like, has exposed and criticized J Street.

Mael has been a relentless critic of J Street and its college chapters, authoring at least the following articles (these were pulled from Mael’s Twitter feed, where he has been tweeting the links):

You get the idea.  Mael has wrapped his keyboard around J Street’s metaphorical political neck, and won’t let go.  (That should sound familiar to Legal Insurrection readers.)

One of Mael’s articles even is featured in the trailer for the J Street Challenge (see featured image).  Considering that The J Street Challenge is one of the biggest thorns in J Street’s side, it’s not much of a guess to believe that Mael’s affiliation with the movie is not popular at J Street.

Mael’s vigorous opposition to J Street has extended to Brandeis J Street U.  Mael penned an expose about anti-Israel actions by leaders of Brandeis J Street U for The Times of Israel, only to have the blog post taken down by The Times after the Brandeis J Street U students complained that mentioning their names would harm their employment prospects.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus at The Jewish Press detailed the incident in December 2013, Editor Deleted Post of J Street U Students’ Misconduct:

Last week The Jewish Press ran an op-ed,  “J Street Activists Defame Former Israeli Spokesperson.” It was written by a Brandeis junior, Daniel Mael.

That op-ed was an edited version of one which had briefly appeared as a blog post, but had been pulled by a Times of Israel editor. It was removed post-publication, even though the editor had read and approved the blog post before it was published. The reason it was removed, according to the editor, is that the subjects of the post complained that information in the article could hurt their chances for employment. Since when is that a justification for censorship? …

Mael wrote the op-ed in order to provide a fuller context, and to correct misrepresentations in an op-ed penned by two other Brandeis students about an event that took place on their campus this fall. Mael was present for the entire event. The op-ed to which Mael was responding was printed in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent (the two authors are from the Philadelphia region) and various J Street publications and sites.

In fact, as Mael pointed out, one of the op-ed’s authors, who is the current president of Brandeis J Street U, was indeed heavily criticized by many other Brandeis students.  But the criticism was not of his political views, it was of his hostile and disruptive verbal attacks on the event’s speaker, former spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, Capt. Barak Raz….

It’s okay for the students to disrupt a speaker brought to campus, it’s fine to publicly call a former IDF spokesperson a liar on social media, and it’s just dandy to pen and have published an op-ed that paints yourself as someone victimized because of unpopular political opinions (which are actually the mainstream political opinions on American campuses, so where’s the glory in that?) while omitting critical inculpatory details….

Here’s a catchy shorthand version of the lesson: “if you can’t do the time, don’t commit the crime.”

It was Mael’s defense of opposition to the alleged smears of the Israeli soldier that, according to Mael, most directly led to his conflict with Brandeis J Street U.

The tensions between Mael and Brandeis J. Street U appear to have come to a head last Friday night, when Mael alleges that a Brandeis J Street U. student verbally attacked him.  The Washington Free Beacon reported:

A top J Street leader at Brandeis University harassed a pro-Israel student activist early Saturday morning, calling the student a “shit bag” and telling him that “Jews hate you,” according to those who witnessed the incident.

Daniel Mael was walking to his dorm room on the university’s campus late Friday night when he encountered Talia Lepson, a J Street U Brandeis board member, who purportedly referred to Mael as a “shit bag” and angrily told him “Jews hate you.”

“I don’t feel comfortable on campus knowing people will lob verbal insults at me simply because we disagree,” said Mael, who has filed an incident report with the Brandeis police over what he described at the “uncivil environment that is developing on campus and the attempts to isolate students with differing opinions.”

The incident is just one of several at Brandeis lately in which pro-Israel students have come under fire for their attempts to defend the Jewish state on campus from groups such as J Street.

A student who accompanied Mael, Moshe Yaghoubian, has issued a statement on Facebook backing up Mael’s account.

I spoke with Yaghoubian, who did not wish to issue any additional public statements, but indicated he already filed a statement with the campus police the night of the incident that was consistent with Mael’s account of what happened.  While Yaghoubian didn’t speak on the record, he seemed genuine and straight-forward in our conversation.

In response to the defense of Mael by Yaghoubian and others on the internet, Brandeis J Street U. has posted a statement by friends of Lepson denying that any incident took place at all, but Mael is not backing down:

I don’t know who is wrong and who is right.

Someone’s not telling the truth.  There appear to be witnesses on each side.  Mael would not speak with me on the record, and Lepson did not respond to my request for comment.  Hopefully we will receive the police complaints and reports, and surveillance video if there was any.

This is the sort of dispute between students that unfortunately can take place.  As in the Great Oberlin Racism Hoax of 2013, bloggers, journalists and campus police will get to the bottom of what happened.  It’s important that that happen, both because it reflects on the campus tensions, but also because the innocent student deserves to be exonerated.

But then a funny thing happened.

J Street’s national headquarters threw its muscle behind Lepson and against Mael.  J Street issued the equivalent of a media Fatwa against Mael, not only accusing him of a pattern of harassment but also requesting that other media “distance themselves” from Mael, J Street and J Street U Have Zero Tolerance for Harassment of Student Leaders (emphasis added):

J Street and its student program J Street U will take all necessary steps – legal and otherwise – when we confront a pattern of harassment of our student leaders by our political opponents.

It is one thing to engage in a strong and vibrant argument over the difficult issues at stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are deeply committed to an open and engaging dialogue when it is grounded in the substance of our disagreements.

It is another to conduct a campaign of personal intimidation and harassment, which is the pattern of behavior that Daniel Mael, a student blogger at Brandeis, has established in relating to J Street U student leaders.

In a new episode this weekend, a story was fabricated concerning one of the leaders of J Street U Brandeis. That student has now filed a report with the campus police over the incident that Mael invented and his ongoing pattern of harassment at Brandeis. The matter is now in the hands of campus police and we hope the authorities will take action to address our serious concerns.

In the meantime, we ask that others in the Jewish community and media – even those who don’t agree with us politically – will distance themselves from this blogger and others with a history of conduct driven by malice and deceit.

While J Street and J Street U remain deeply committed to a vibrant and respectful campus conversation, there is a line that cannot be crossed. Unfortunately, some questionable bloggers and campus figures have consistently and consciously crossed that line. We will not tolerate harassment of our student leaders, and we see no reason for us to have any further interaction — on the Brandeis campus, online or in other venues — with those peddling in slander. We hope others will make the same determination.

That’s a strange request.  I wrote early this morning to Ben Ami (J Street’s leader) and also J Street’s communications director, requesting explanation:

I saw the blog post at J Street accusing Daniel Mael of “a campaign of personal intimidation and harassment” and urging others to shun him.

I will be writing about J Street’s involvement in this incident, and hope that you can provide me with the following information so that I can present J Street’s side of the story as part of the article:

1. What are the specific facts upon which J Street makes these very serious accusations against Mael?

2. J Street alleges that “[i]n a new episode this weekend, a story was fabricated concerning one of the leaders of J Street U Brandeis.” Are you aware that another student has stepped forward to confirm Mael’s account of what happened? (See attachment) Why does J Street believe the incident as reported to campus police by Mael was fabricated?

3. There seems to be an implicit threat that J Street will take action against Mael (“We will not tolerate harassment of our student leaders”). Is J Street threatening legal or other action, and if so, what type of action?

4. Has J Street or its representatives (legal or otherwise) counseled Ms. Lepson, directly or indirectly, in this matter, including her filing of a complaint with campus police? Is J Street offering Ms. Lepson any form of assistance in this matter? If so, what type of counseling and/or assistance has J Street provided?

I am writing about this this morning, so your prompt response would be appreciated.

I also would like to interview Ms. Lepson, so if you would provide me with her email address, or alternatively forward this email to her with a request to contact me, that too would be appreciated.

Very truly yours,

William A. Jacobson
Legal Insurrection Blog

As of this writing, I have received no response from J Street.

J Street is well-funded, and has increasing power.

It appears that J Street intends to use that wealth and power to try to ostracize and isolate its toughest pro-Israel student opponent.

The question is, will J Street get away with it?


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Isn’t it about time we (the creative souls in the conservative blogosphere) start caricaturing Soros as a James Bond-type villain, in the Austin Powers-type genre? The more we make fun of him the better, imho. He so badly needs to be ridiculed!

Thanks for posting this very thoughtful analysis of the situation.

From what I can gleen about Talia Lepson, Mael’s account seems in character.

This is not to say I say one way or the other, but Mael seems unlikely to burn down his credibility over a story like this. And, being on the side he is, he would not be forgiven if he lies.

Lepson…??? Not a bump in her road.

rant mode on.

you know what would work best in all schools?
dump all these quasi governmental student groups/associations/etc. all of them.
people in school should not have student leaders.
you want to vote on stuff leave school, get a job and start voting like normal.
you want an education you go to school, study, pass your exams and shut up.
I don’t see that happening though, hard to create victim groups without the support infrastructure these college programs provide and foment.

/rant mode off

the subjects of the post complained that information in the article could hurt their chances for employment.

Boo Hoo!
Too bad, so sad.

Hypocrisy is rampant.
If they think their “cause” is so just, then what’s the problem? How’s that going to stop them from finding employment?
Are they afraid the whole world can see what they really are: promoters of antisemitic hatred?

    Kozak in reply to Exiliado. | April 29, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    The ironic part, of course, is that these same people will actively try to damage the “employment prospects” of anybody against gay marriage, for example.

Captain Keogh | April 28, 2014 at 9:48 pm

“Fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian people” – well the aspirations of the Palestinian people is genocide so J Street wants Israel to commit suicide.

Anybody else notice that J Street, who claims not to be part of the BDS movement, basically just called for a boycott of this guy? 🙂

Anyone who takes a Soros dollar is trash.

“after the Brandeis J Street U students complained that mentioning their names would harm their employment prospects”

I sure as hell hope is does!

HarrietHT – Glen Beck does this.

[…] Street has called upon media outlets to distance themselves from pro-Israel student Daniel Mael. Mael, a Brandeis junior, […]

It is long past the time that we use the names of the people engaging in uncivil behavior and telling historical lies on campus. “Who” is part of the story.

Turn on the light, the cockroaches scatter.

“The question is, will J Street get away with it?”
Only if we let them…