In a busy week, not much attention was paid to a letter organized by Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) and Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio) calling on President Obama to take stern steps to halt Palestinian incitement to violence in the wake of the Itamar massacre. It read in part:

We are sure that you share our disappointment in President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to withdraw from peace talks in October of last year and his stubborn refusal to reengage as a willing partner for peace with Israel. The continued intransigence of the Palestinian leadership is both hurtful to the prospect for a two-state solution and to a final resolution of the conflict that still plagues the Israeli and Palestinian people. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades will rush to take credit for the horrific, inhuman, and brutal attack in Itamar against the Fogel family, including three of their children, an 11-year-old, 4-year-old, and 3-month-old. This must serve as a wakeup call that the current state of affairs is dangerous and unacceptable. In that regard, we respectfully request that you do everything possible to urge President Abbas to root out terrorism, return to negotiations without preconditions, earnestly work toward peace with Israel, and slam the door on any effort to deal with final status issues at the United Nations. As part of that, President Abbas must fully renounce any and all Palestinian incitement against Israel and the Jewish people. On March 8, 2009, a number of us sent President Abbas a letter calling on him “to truly end anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement,” but clearly there needs to be further pressure. However, Palestinian incitement continues and there is almost no effort by them to promote coexistence and peace. We would like to bring to your attention a report recently released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office entitled “Culture of Peace and Incitement Index,” that unfortunately shows that Palestinian incitement continues. Television programs run by the Palestinian Authority and textbooks in government schools continue to praise martyrdom and terrorists and call for an armed struggle against the Israelis. Incitement,especially by official institutions, damages the prospects of reaching a peace agreement between the Palestinians and America’s strategic partner and indispensable ally, the Jewish State of Israel,and only encourages terrorism

That seems a rather straightforward articulation of the position of past administrations and pro-Israel lawmakers. And, indeed, one might quibble with mentioning the massacre in the same sentence in which the congressmen urge a return to the peace table. (How the latter would prevent the former is far from clear.) The congressmen are soliciting signatures from members on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee.

So what does the Soros-funded J Street do? It organizes opposition to the letter. In fact it puts out a detailed letter explaining why it is a bad idea for Congress to oppose Palestinian incitement. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Right Turn, was sent to congressional offices. It includes these comments:

J Street opposes the letter currently being circulated by Representatives Rothman and Austria on incitement and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is entirely appropriate for Members of Congress to speak out — as J Street consistently does — against instances of incitement by Palestinians against the State of Israel and its citizens. Such incitement hampers the prospects for peace by further degrading trust between the parties and promoting hatred between peoples who have suffered far too much and far too long.

In our view, it is preferable for Congressional statements on the conflict to address the actions and words of both parties that hamper the chances to achieve peace and to urge both sides to face up to the difficult choices and compromises necessary in order to achieve a two-state solution.

You see, balance is what is needed, say the J Streeters. But there aren’t Jewish terrorists breaking into homes to stab toddlers. And the Israelis don’t celebrate terrorism. That doesn’t stop J Street from playing defense for the Palestinian Authority:

There is an Israel-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, which not only promotes business opportunities and commerce, just like any other bi-national chamber of commerce, but also creates strong business and social networks as well as mutual trust between the two peoples. All told, there are more than 60 other people-to-people organizations dedicated to promoting coexistence and peace through cooperation on matters such as civil society, environmentalism and education— the existence of which this letter ignores.

Contrary to the letter’s accusations, the current Palestinian Authority leadership has taken great political risks and shown real willingness to end the conflict. The public release of the “Palestine Papers” demonstrated the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to make unprecedented concessions for peace and a state of their own, including relinquishing their claim of a general right of return to Israel for Palestinians and recognizing a border that includes within Israel nearly all Israeli settlements in and around East Jerusalem, which are home to nearly three-quarters of all Israeli settlers.

While J Street wholeheartedly supports the letter’s stated “hope that an independent Palestinian state can be realized, living in peace alongside the Jewish State of Israel” and joins in condemnation of incitement, the many omissions and misrepresentations of material fact render this letter beneath reasonable standards of accuracy and objectivity. Its transmission with more than a handful of signatures would compromise U.S. standing to serve as an honest broker in bringing about the two-state resolution, which is the only way to secure Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.

Of course, as I have reported, a condemnation had to be dragged out of Abbas over a 48-hour period. Moreover, J Street doesn’t let on that Palestinian incitement (e.g. naming a square after a terrorist) remains an integral part of the PA’s operation. J Street concludes by giving its blessing to individual letters of condemnation by members of Congress. (“J Street therefore urges Members of Congress not to sign this letter, but instead to issue their own statements against any incitement which hinders the prospects for peace via a two-state resolution to the conflict.”) That’s what’s called a fig leaf, albeit an unconvincing one.

Now, consider the time and effort it took J Street to pull together such a letter. (How many conference calls and drafts did it take?) Consider also the priorities of this group ( an organization that also helped Richard Goldstone mount a defense of his noxious report). This is not what any actual pro-Israel group spends its time and energy doing.

If nothing else, one has to marvel at the incompetent political tactics. Rothman, a liberal congressmen devoted to the “peace process,” would normally be precisely the sort of ally J Street would cultivate. But it seems the name of the game is to raise a rumpus over any remotely pro-Israel organized response in order to cement J Street’s bona fides with the not-at-all-pro-Israel left.

Finally, as if that were not bizarre enough, J Street is giving a free pass to a Senate version of the letter generated by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) which is a more robust condemnation of the PA’s conduct. That letter reads in part:

In the wake of last week’s brutal terrorist murders of a Jewish family in Itamar, we are writing with serious concern over continuing incitement directed against Jews and Israel within the Palestinian media, mosques and schools, and even by individuals or institutions affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA). We would like to know what specific steps you are taking to press for an end this dangerous incitement. Palestinian incitement includes the glorification of terrorists and jihad, and anti-Semitic stereotypes in the Palestinian media. There are a number of examples of Palestinian incitement over the last year listed in an index established by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office.

Gillibrand and Kirk then go on to recount numerous examples of Palestinian incitement. Rather than suggest that a return to the peace table would be the solution, the senators conclude: “The Itamar massacre was a sobering reminder that words matter, and that Palestinian incitement against Jews and Israel can lead to violence and terror. We urge you to redouble your efforts to impress upon the Palestinian leadership that continuing to condone incitement is not tolerable. We also urge you to consider focusing adequate training and educational programs in the West Bank and Gaza that promote peaceful coexistence with Israel.”

Not a peep from J Street on this one. Maybe this is a political favor to Gillibrand, but if so, what happened to a principled position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

In any case, the J Street defense of the PA seems to have backfired. A Capitol Hill staffer tells me that “J Street’s opposition to the letter has only increased the willingness of most members to sign on.” I suppose J Street has discarded its goal of becoming an influential player on the Hill in favor of becoming the chief tosser of red meat to the anti-Israel jackals on the left.