Mitz-Vote

Did Joe Sestak Cave In?

By Nathan Guttman

  • Print
  • Share Share

Pundits on the right were quick to celebrate the first casualty of the war between the dovish J Street and the hawkish Emergency Committee for Israel, but it is not clear that Joe Sestak did indeed retract his support for J Street’s congressional letter calling for easing the Gaza blockade.

Sestak has been the prime target of the Emergency Committee for Israel, a recently formed conservative group that is putting out ads depicting candidates who signed the letter as not being supportive of Israel. The group has already made major media purchases in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Sestak, a Democrat running for the Pennsylvania Senate seat currently held by Arlen Specter, who will be retiring, has been under attack for signing the Gaza letter. He has also been criticized for refusing to join a letter regarding Iran sanctions and for his addressing an event sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which some critics charge is linked to terrorism—a charge the group strongly denies. So far the Sestak campaign, assisted by ads put out by the dovish lobby J Street, has been fighting back and refusing to backtrack on his signing of the letter.

The letter, originally signed by 54 members of Congress called for loosening the Israeli siege on the Hama-controlled Gaza Strip in order to allow more freedom in movements of goods and people. It was supported, although not sponsored, by J Street.

But on Thursday, Sestak seemed to change his tone during a meeting with members of the Orthodox Union. According to an O.U. press release, Sestak said in the meeting that he had second thoughts about signing the letter. “The one Israel related action he [Sestak] regretted was signing on to the infamous “Gaza 54” letter and if he had to do it over he would have sent an individual letter,” the press release stated.

Did Sestak really change?

J Street, which has endorsed Sestak through its sister-organization J StreetPAC, claims there is no change. Sestak, said Hadar Susskind, did not change his views on Gaza, only the way they were delivered.

“We urge members of Congress all the time to send their own letters on the complex, nuanced issues that come up related to Israel and the Middle East,” Suskind said. “Our focus is on the policy, not the vehicle.”

The O.U. seems to agree. Howie Beigelman, the group’s deputy director of public policy said he did not understand Sestak’s remarks as a retraction. “He spoke about the way it was done, not about his policy,” Beigelman said.

Sestak’s campaign did not return calls for comments on this issue.

The Emergency Committee has not yet reacted to Sestak’s remarks. An official with the group said they are waiting to view the video recording of Sestak’s speech in full before commenting.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Orthodox Union, Emergency Committee for Israel, Joe Sestak, Gaza, J Street

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.