Jeremy Ben-Ami on Knesset hearing

Jeremy Ben-Ami on Knesset hearing

I thought this email from Jeremy Ben-Ami reporting on what happened in Israel regarding the Knesset Committee investigation of whether J Street was pro-Israel or not is important to any person interested in the future of Israel. The implications of this discussion are enormous for American Jews and Jews all over the world.–Lilly:
Table of Contents
I’m just off the plane from a whirlwind three days in Israel.
While I was there, terror struck in the heart of Jerusalem and missiles brought renewed fear to Israel’s south. J Street condemned the bombing, [1] which came on the heels of the vicious slaughter of a family on the West Bank and the heartbreaking death Monday of three Palestinian children as a result of errant Israeli mortar fire.
The cycle of violence just goes on and on…
We continue to call on Israelis and Palestinians to each take vital steps to advance peace and security, such as ending settlement expansion and stopping incitement.
I was in Israel for an unprecedented Knesset committee debate about J Street, focused on whether we deserve to call ourselves pro-Israel.
What a scene. Some on the farthest right of Israel’s politics railed at us, accusing us of being anti-Israel, undermining the state and worse. We and our friends mounted a spirited defense – and won the room! The majority of Knesset members who attended made the case that love for Israel can’t be contingent on supporting particular policies. 

I delivered 15,000 signatures on a petition to the Prime Minister asking him to meet with us, as well as hundreds of heartwarming personal notes from J Street members explaining the roots of their love for Israel and support for our work. Several MKs sat in the committee flipping through the book of letters – it was powerful!
Read full coverage here including our testimony, statements of support from other organizations and leaders, a sample of the letters we delivered, photos, video, and news clips.

Click here to read The New York Times‘ article, “U.S. Group Stirs Debate on What It Means to Be ‘Pro-Israel’,” and “share it” on With your help, we can push the article up into most emailed category.

Israeli officialdom would be making a tragic mistake if it takes its cue from the far right of the Knesset and excludes hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – of Jewish Americans from the pro-Israel tent based on their views.

This fight will define the nature of the relationship between the state of Israel and the Jewish people for the next generation. We haven’t seen anything like this since the early 1950s when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the President of the American Jewish Committee Jacob Blaustein agreed that Israel would not intervene in the affairs of Jewish communities in other countries. [2]
The leadership of today’s American Jewish Committee recognizes the dangerous road down which some in Israel are taking the country by opening up this conversation, and we thank them (and many others in established organizations with whom we don’t always see eye to eye) for strongly opposing the Knesset committee debate. [3]
Here in the States, American Jewish institutions are struggling with these questions too.
The Boston Jewish Community Relations Council, for instance, is in the process of deciding whether various member organizations still meet its membership criteria. [4] And nearly every day, Hillels, synagogues and Federations are assessing whether J Street, our allies in the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement and other like-minded voices should be granted a platform in their halls.
In the coming months, this hard and even contentious debate will take place all over the country. It’s a sign that we’re doing something right. We set out to challenge the status quo and that’s bound to make some waves.
As I said after a trip to Israel last year, we aren’t simply arguing over Israeli or American policy. We’re debating who we are as a people and how our people are defined collectively for ourselves and for others by the behavior of the country that is our national home. [5]
That’s a vital struggle – perhaps the central struggle for our people today and for the coming generation. Look for us to engage energetically – and to be asking for your help.
Of course, J Street’s core mission is to promote a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because Israel’s future, security and Jewish and democratic character depend on it.
We’re in a crucial period of change in the Middle East – with the Arab world in turmoil, old guard regimes under siege, and international forces now embroiled in Libya.
Sooner or later, the waves of change will reach Israel. This is the message that Defense Secretary Robert Gates brought to Israel yesterday. Gates’ aide told The Jerusalem Post that the Secretary would be urging the Israeli government to “[get] out in front of the wave of populism that’s sweeping the region…” and that “[showing] real progress on the peace track with the Palestinians would put them in a much better position for where the region’s likely to be in six months or a year from now.” [6]
Also looming on the horizon is the likely September UN vote on recognizing Palestinian statehood.
All this uncertainty makes it imperative that President Obama lead a new diplomatic initiative now, well before September. Palestinian statehood can and should be achieved through an international agreement that protects Israel’s security, recognizes its borders and reaches an agreed-upon and peaceful end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – rather than through a UN vote that will only deepen tensions and isolate Israel.
Look for J Street to call on President Obama next week to travel to Israel in the coming two to three months to present, with broad international support, the principles for achieving a two-state deal – principles that are widely known and accepted.
These are critical times for Israel, for the United States and for the American Jewish community. I am so grateful for your support and look forward to working with you in the months ahead,
– Jeremy
Jeremy Ben-Ami
President, J Street
March 25, 2011
[1] “J Street Statement on Jerusalem Bus Bombing.” March 23, 2011.
[2] “American Jewry and the State of Israel: How Intense the Bonds of Peoplehood?” by Steven Bayme. Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 2008.
[3] “AJC Criticizes “Inappropriate” Knesset Hearings on J Street,” by James Besser. The New York Jewish Week, March 24, 2011.
[4] “How Big is Boston’s Big Tent? JCRC Reviewing Member Groups,” by Leah Burrows. The Jewish Advocate, March 24, 2011.
[5] “The Choice We Face,” by Jeremy Ben-Ami. J Street, February 19, 2010.
[6] “Gates Calls for Bold Action to Reach Two State Solution,” by Reuters. The Jerusalem Post, March 24, 2011.
By | 2011-04-12T15:31:00-04:00 April 12th, 2011|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    I’m disappointed just to be reading a recycled J Street email. What’s the poster’s opinion about all this? Why is it important? Is it important?

    I support J Street, but I didn’t like this email. Fact is – barely anyone in Israel has ever heard of J Street, let alone this cockamamie committee. You’d think the whole country was talking about it.


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