Opponents of J Street who purport to be pro-Israel, are so intent on attacking this liberal pro-Israel/pro-peace group that they even crow about the fact that the peace process for a two-state solution is stalled–surely a sad circumstance that is not in Israel’s interest. One frequent email critic of ours sent me this Washington Post blog post, “The demise of the left’s favorite not-pro-Israel group,” by that paper”s “Right Turn” conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin, who does exactly this, as well as promoting a counter-factual claim of J St.’s “demise.”
My response was the following:
In four years, J St. has grown by leaps & bounds, including its PAC that expends several million dollars on behalf of Congressional candidates, a large and growing national youth organization (J St. U) and a grassroots membership arm with about 40 chapters nationwide and several thousand activists. Maybe Jennifer Rubin sees this as a failing organization, but where’s the evidence?
Of course, it doesn’t compete with the strength and size of AIPAC, which has had a head-start of how many decades? March 24-26 marked J Street’s third national conference; attendance went from 1500 its first year, to 2,000 last time, and now 2500. At any rate, J St. does not define itself as the anti-AIPAC, and it’s become more accepted within the pro-Israel tent than ever. Jennifer Rubin is correct that
the peace process has been battered about for years—both by Palestinian extremism and Israeli moves to increase the takeover of Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But how is any of this good for Israel? Do you see much of a future for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state if the prospects for a two-state solution continue to fade?
J St. opposed the Palestinian gambit at the UN, battles BDS and the demonization of Israel, and rallies support among liberals for a negotiated two-state solution (as opposed to a majority-Arab single state). Maybe Jennifer Rubin sees this as anti-Israel, but I think you can agree with me that this agenda is anything but anti-Israel.
By way of response, my sometimes friendly, sometimes testy critic would only point to a mysterious non-Jewish contributor to J St., who lives in Hong Kong, as evidence of something sinister going on. While the circumstances of this gift are unusual, since I fully endorse J St.’s values and goals, I fail to see something troubling in it.
My own feeling about the recent Palestinian UN effort for statehood is more complicated than indicated above. One can in fact argue that J St. has gone too far in order to be embraced by the Jewish mainstream. But it’s still a powerful and growing address for rallying liberal Jewish support for Israel’s legitimate needs, and a reasonable alternative to AIPAC’s rigidly orthodox and shortsighted politics.