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Honest Abe

ADL head menschily criticizes Knesset’s J Street hearings

Marc Tracy
March 17, 2011
Abraham Foxman.(JTA)
Abraham Foxman.(JTA)

When assorted left-wing Jewish groups as well as J Street itself denounced a Knesset subcommittee’s plans to hold hearings into the American “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group, it barely registered, because, well, of course they did. But now here comes Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League to tell Israel’s parliament that, frankly, this is none of its business. “I would hope that the Israeli Knesset had better things to do than hold hearings on American Jewish organizations,” he said. “It’s inappropriate, it’s counterproductive—it’s beyond their purview and jurisdiction.”

Unlike the notorious Knesset probes into various left-wing groups accused of delegitimizing the IDF, which seek to uncover their sources of funding, the J Street investigation is about determining whether J Street really is pro-Israel. “If they don’t love and support Israel, then they should not present themselves as pro-Israel,” said one MK. That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

Foxman is an American Jew who cares about Israel, and so he recognizes this investigation for what it is: An attempt by the Jewish state to dictate the terms of debate for all Jews and strip the diaspora of any right to have a say—much like the push to give a small coterie of ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbis the power to define who is Jewish and who isn’t. Critics who see the ADL as too right-wing or too beholden to the Israeli government—and I’ve been one of them—may laugh at this notion, but I would bet that Foxman sees, correctly, that while today it is the Knesset investigating J Street, tomorrow it will be the Knesset investigating the ADL. He is acting, at least in part, out of self-interest. Concerned progressive Jews should be pleased nonetheless.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.