J Street and Sheldon Adelson are polar opposites when it comes to Middle East peace, and the leftist pro-Israel lobby group would like to ride that difference to the bank.
The casino mogul spent tens of millions of his own dollars last year in a failed effort to defeat Barack Obama and other Democrats who want to see the United States do more to help Israel and the Palestinians make peace.
Adelson makes no secret of his hostility toward Palestinians, and J Street wants to turn the right wing billionaire's words on him to help it raise money.
It's common for political groups to quote their opponents in order to bring in votes and funds, but J Street is doing it with a special twist. It is asking supporters to send in $7 to help pay to bring "more Palestinian pro-peace voices" to its national conference in Washington at the end of September.
J Street is pegging its plea to a New York Times story this week quoting Adelson saying the Palestinians "teach their children that Jews are descended from swine and apes, pigs and monkeys" and his asking, “How do you recognize a partner for peace when all they want to do is kill you and your people?”
An appeal that repeatedly emphasizes the advocacy group's desire to sponsor "Palestinian voices" will fall flat on the audience J Street needs most if it is to have influence and credibility where its need is the greatest – the mainstream of the Jewish community. Most American Jews want to see the peace process revived and succeed, and they support the two-state approach, but that doesn't mean they're ready to pay for pro-Palestinian speakers, as J Street is asking them to do. If anything, an appeal for funds for that purpose plays into the hands of the group's critics who challenge its pro-Israel bonafides.
If J Street wants to influence more than a handful of leftist lawmakers it needs to understand that most Members of Congress look to their Jewish constituents and supporters for guidance on Israel.
That means that J Street needs to show Israel's strongest, most influential supporters on Capitol Hill that it speaks for the Jewish mainstream, not a leftist fringe, and it won't do that by raising money to give pro-Palestinian speakers a platform.
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