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!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • 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.