J Street, the left-wing Jewish advocacy group, has elected a new student division president; Amna Farooqi, a Pakistani Muslim American, who is outspoken and creating waves. On campuses where Jewish students feel threatened and exposed by raging political issues, many question the wisdom of her appointment.
Farooqi is a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, studying political science and Israel studies and was raised in a “fairly religious Muslim home”, considering her work for J Street as “the best expression of Islam”. She has studied abroad in Jerusalem and traveled throughout Israel and the West Bank.
J Street has been accused of being anti-Israel but they counter that, claiming to be intensely pro-Israel. They insist that the only hope for Israel’s future lies in a two-state political solution, even if it means painful concessions that many think threaten Israel’s security.
Farooqi’s selection might be high minded and politically correct, but choosing her to advocate for Israel is a questionable move. When speaking about her function and goals, she said, “We are not here to talk about the pro-Israel conversation on campus. We are here to talk about the occupation.”
As president of a purportedly Zionist student organization, her definition of Zionism may not be the standard one taught in Hebrew school. In an interview with Haaretz, she defined it as, “the Jewish people taking control of their future after a history of being trampled on. I fell in love with Zionism, because Zionism became about taking ownership over the story of one’s people. If Zionism is about owning your future, how can I not respect that?”
Her definition of Judaism is also unconventional. In her address at the J Street conference in March, she quipped, “I am a Pakistani Muslim American, but I’m from Potomac Maryland. So I guess that means I’m culturally Jewish.”
It might be thought that the head of a Jewish student organization would be concerned about the rising tide of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) on American campuses, a movement that often takes on disturbing anti-Semitic overtones, but Farooqi has called the movement “charming”.
Probably the most disturbing claim by Ms. Farooqi concerned her motives for taking the position. One would have hoped that her intention would have at least been similar to the stated goals of J Street; for the good of Israel. But she openly admits that her only goal is to help the Palestinian people, and J Street is the most effective way she sees to achieve that. In a Washington Post interview, she stated that her initial interest in J Street was for “Palestinian solidarity and Palestinian suffering.”
“I got involved in this because I want to make change and I think the American Jewish community has more agency. If I thought moving the American Muslim community would move this – they just don’t have the role in it.”
As an interesting side note, her political views may need some refinement. She once tweeted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a “douche-bag”.
It should be noted that J Street has engaged in a heavily financed campaign supporting President Barack Obama’s negotiated deal with Iran, countering American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) campaign against the deal.