AJC Criticizes Knesset for Holding Hearings on J Street

March 24, 2011 – Jerusalem – AJC has criticized an Israeli parliamentary committee for interfering in the internal affairs of the organized American Jewish community. The Knesset Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee held hearings yesterday on the J Street organization to determine if it is “pro Israel,” as its tagline asserts.

“In holding hearings on whether a voluntary American Jewish organization is indeed a pro-Israel lobby, the Knesset committee has interfered in an entirely inappropriate way in the internal affairs of the American Jewish community,” Ed Rettig, director of AJC’s Jerusalem Office, said in prepared remarks on behalf of the global organization. Although Rettig was scheduled to speak at the hearing, AJC was advised that time was too limited.

“We are a voluntary community in a democratic country and we settle our differences, of which there are many, in the only proper forum -- the arena of open debate within the Jewish community. Israeli parliamentary committees have no proper role in such a discussion,” Rettig said.

AJC’s disappointment with the hearings is unrelated to whether “we agree or not with J Street in its views or its tactics,” said Rettig. “We do this solely because of our understanding of the nature of Israeli and American democracy, and to protect the Israeli – American link that is so crucial to the success of the global Jewish community.”

AJC has been a steadfast advocate for Israel’s quest for peace and security around the world and was the first American Jewish group, five decades ago, to open an office in Jerusalem.

Shortly after Israel’s independence, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and then AJC President Jacob Blaustein signed an historic agreement that established the foundation and understanding of the relationship between the sovereign state of Israel and the American Jewish community. The very holding of the hearings on J Street “violate the Ben Gurion-Blaustein understandings,” said Rettig.