J Street is a  group that calls itself  “pro-Israel.”  Yet “J Street’s critics argue that J Street is nothing more than a Trojan horse meant to weaken American support for Israel.” As we wrote in 2009:

J-Street is a ruse. We’ve seen this before. Only Israel is wrong. Only Israel is brought up on charges when it defends itself. Only the Jewish people’s millennial history in the Holy Land is illegitimate, while the Palestinians’ 40-year old national identity is sacrosanct.

After years of denials by J Street, in 2010 it was revealed that George Soros provided seed money to launch J Street as well as continued funding. Yet despite this history, the well-funded J Street has worked its way into the Democratic Party mainstream, backing Democratic candidates through its political action affiliate.

Yet has J Street really changed? If its recent national conference is any indication, J Street has become even more radical.

This year’s national conference was held at the Walter E. Convention Center located in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 27-29. Numerous Democratic presidential candidates and senior politicians attended.

A session about the “Impact of Identity” was doomed from the start when a J Street introductory speaker accused Jews of upholding “white supremacy quite often.”  Reflecting this position, the session name had been changed from discussing the “African-American Jews’ Relationships with Israel” to a more accusatory title, Black Jews are still systematically excluded from Jewish life, especially in the Palestine conversation in our Jewish communities.” 

https://jstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Final-Program.pdf

[The original description of the event was titled “Impact of Identity: African-American Jews’ Relationships With Israel” but was changed. ]

Thereafter, panelist April Baskin said that white supremacy is “woven into Jewish life in America.”  She also said there are things she “hates” about the Jewish community—including her belief that Jews have a “propensity” to “complain.”  

These claims regarding Jews and white supremacy from the J Street speakers, however, do not reflect the historical evidence. Jews were prolific activists against white supremacy and racial injustice, but there was no pushback from the audience on this claim by Baskin.

Later in the session, Baskin declared her support for the disgraced Tamika Mallory. Mallory’s downfall culminated in early 2019 when when it emerged that she maintained a close relationship with the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist and Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. Mallory, the ex-Women’s March leader, refused to condemn Farrakhan and even posted a picture calling the anti-Semite “the GOAT (greatest of all time).”

https://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/tamika-mallory-disciple-of-sharpton-and-farrakhan-and-it-shows/2019/02/13/

Tamika Mallory pictured with Louis Farrakhan whom she calls the GOAT (greatest of all time).

Then, Baskin went so far as to compare an affiliation with Farrakhan to an association with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. Baskin stated:

“Tamika Mallory being pictured with with Louis Farrakhan, honestly, isn’t that different to me than my former boss, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, being seated with prime minister NetanyahuIn both cases, they both largely don’t agree with their politics, but in both cases, those are leaders who are connected to a large body of people.”  [Emphasis added]

Baskin, who herself held a leadership position at the 2019 Women’s March, also said that the Jewish community’s outrage at the many examples of anti-Semitism from Women’s March leadership “betray[ed]” Jews of color: 

“I noticed at times when controversies around the Women’s March happened… people retreat back to their own communities, especially within the Jewish community. I implore you from a really personal place…like I could start crying but I won’t…Especially for those of us who are inherently a part of multiple communities who feel like we don’t have a choice when you retreat back it leaves us in the wind.  We know it’s not an intentional betrayal, but it is extremely isolating and terrifying to be alone in this [social justice] work.”

Radical left-wing activists compare their supposed struggle to a family bond within the various factions.  They even refer to themselves as “allies” who belong to a “community.” When controversy narrows on one member of an oppressed group and a negative public reaction ensues, no matter how warranted that response may be, the entire political block or community must rise to defend the attack.  All problems must be handled interpersonally, and in the “context of a relationship,” as Baskin said, just as a family would do.  

Accordingly Baskin said:

“If you are if you get close enough to someone and you know, their story what they’re doing makes sense… Still reach out to that person as if they were your cousin or your uncle because they are my cousins and uncles!  So I am not leaving them! I am not! I’m not leaving Tamika Mallory when she posted a picture of [herself with Farrakhan]… I’m not leaving her because I get it.”  [emphasis added]

[April Baskin pictured with Tamika Mallory at the November 2018 Pow(h)er Award Dinner.  “I will always have your back @tamikadmallory. We’re in this for the long haul. We may need to take breaks from time to time to rest and heal, but we’re driven by a depend abiding sense of purpose… You’re… inspirational on every front.”]

During the heat of controversy with the Women’s March over Mallory’s association with Farrakhan, Baskin called articles that brought up anti-Semitism  “poor journalism at best.” At the J Street conference, however, Baskin admitted that Mallory’s public display of association with Farrakhan was, in retrospect, not a smart thing to post.  

 

[April Baskin replies to Holly Rosen-Fink on Twitter (2019). Here she defends both Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory]

At the conference, Baskin went on the offensive against the downfall of the Women’s March leader.  She said that skin color was behind the  damage done to Mallory’s career.  The proof of this, she said without verifiable evidence, was the when Trump supposedly send out anti-Semitic robocalls he got away with it because he is a “white man.”

“[Trump] sent out robocalls to part of the country that [were] explicitly anti-Semitic, and the Jewish community, by and large almost said nothing.  And, yeah, when Tamika Mallory, a woman of color, with markedly less power…got torn to shreds and her career may never recover. I get that it’s terrifying to face someone who has a lot of power [and a] white man who’s vengeful, and I want us to think about how—what we’re directing at whom and notice patterns around gender and race and reconsider how we might show up.”

Indeed, there was a surge of racist robocalls against some gubernatorial candidates in 2018 but they came from an avowedly neo-Nazi group, not from Trump.  At the time of this writing, we could not find any evidence to support Baskin’s statements that anti-Semitic or racist robocalls originated from the Trump campaign. 

In the past, Baskin has said that it is “white supremacy” to tell people of color what to do, such as who they should or should not engage with.

“[Change] won’t come from white people telling POC leaders what to do, because, whether you realize it or not, that is a manifestation of white supremacy…. Everyone across the board needs to stop blaming Black people/POC and Jews… and refocus on the actual source and threats… target white nationalism/white supremacy” [emphasis added]

It surprised some in the audience when Baskin, a self-identified person of color, seemed to accuse J Street of being unwelcoming to people of color, despite the fact that they invited her to speak, because the speaker bio in the program manual mentioned Baskin’s “African-American father.” Baskin held back tears and said she didn’t understand why J Street would mention this at all and added that her father converted to Judaism.

April Baskin is the Racial Justice Director of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable… Raised in Sacramento, CA by a Jewish mother and an African-American father, Baskin was immersed in Reform Judaism from an early age…

Note what was not included within the intrusively thorough bio provided on Baskin. J Street did not mention a full description of Baskin’s leadership position at this year’s Women’s March.  

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=imgres&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwir-LyKutPlAhXJmeAKHRNfAQsQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.c-span.org%2Fvideo%2F%3F456942-1%2F2019-womens-march-washington&psig=AOvVaw3QM-SDe4Qc7hABi7MgDOAM&ust=1573056452788428
April Baskin speaks at the Women’s March 2019. Screenshot from C-Span video, November 2019

 J Street also did not mention Baskin’s activism with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ).  JFREJ is a BDS-friendly group that has honored notorious figures such as Linda Sarsour. Their work over the years has helped to shield the BDS movement by offering a Jewish veneer to anti-Semitism.  Additionally, JFREJ members are often dual members who co-organize with Jewish Voice for Peace.

Though J Street tries to present itself as a moderate voice, inviting radical speakers such as Baskin, and even Emily Mayer from IfNotNow, indicates how radical J Street has become. We will be following up on this post with more investigative journalism on J Street.  So stay tuned. 

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In the meantime, The J Street Challenge, a documentary film about the group, presents the case against J Street. You can see the film in its entirety below. 

 
 
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