At a recently convened Los Angeles J Street meeting with one of the leading candidates running for Congressman Henry Waxman’s 33rd Congressional District seat, the candidate asked us “Why does J Street support BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel?” He was repeating a charge he had heard from leadership in the Jewish community.
We explained that this charge was wholly untrue and was being spread in order to discredit J Street’s pro-Israel bona fides and to limit debate within the American Jewish community about Israel’s settlement policies and the need for a two-states for two peoples resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The candidate was interested to know, as well, what the difference in approach is between J Street and AIPAC, the two leading pro-Israel lobbying organizations in the nation’s capital. He said he heard that J Street saw itself as the “anti-AIPAC lobby.”
We explained that J Street has never characterized itself as “anti-AIPAC.” That characterization comes from the media that seeks a simplified message in an essentially complex and nuanced Middle East policy debate. To the contrary, we at J Street respect AIPAC’s historically critical role in advocating for Israel’s security interests and have said so publicly.
We told him that J Street was created six years ago to address a significant void in Israel advocacy in Washington, D.C. Whereas AIPAC historically has advocated for whatever the current Israeli government’s policy positions have been, J Street advocates that the American administration do everything possible to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table and reach an agreement on a two-states for two peoples resolution of their conflict. J Street recognizes that the status quo is unsustainable, and that only by means of a two-state solution will Israel maintain its security, democracy and Jewish character. Consequently, J Street is at times openly critical of specific policy decisions taken by Israel’s government, arguably among the most right-wing governments in the history of the state of Israel.
We told the candidate as well that J Street’s positions and policy statements resonate with 70% of the American Jewish community and have inspired hundreds of thousands of pro-Israel American Jews and Jewish college students to get involved for the first time in Israel advocacy work. Hardly outside the mainstream of both American and Israeli opinion, J Street’s positions reflect those of Israeli middle-left political parties including Yesh Atid, Kadima, Avodah, and Meretz.
For the truth about J Street, we recommended that the candidate visit the J Street website and read its policy positions (www.jstreet.org) and in particular, to visit the “Myths and Facts” page where all the charges and criticisms of J Street are addressed fully. http://jstreet.org/page/mythsandfacts/home#policies .
The following includes organizational statements in support of J Street and in opposition to the Conference of Presidents’ vote issued after the vote. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox/145f15de01a4bfb1?projector=1
Here are eleven excellent and thoughtful news reports and opinion pieces published in the United States and Israel on the role of J Street in the American Jewish community and the vote of the Conference on Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations:
Who Speaks for Pro-Israel Americans? – NY Times, by Carol Giacomo, April 28, 2014 – http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/28/who-speaks-for-pro-israel-americans/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1&
Jewish Organization Acts in an Un-Jewish Fashion, Time Magazine, by Joe Klein, May 2, 2014 – http://time.com/85684/jewish-organization-acts-in-an-un-jewish-fashion/
American Jewry Is Doomed If It Can’t Embrace J Street, New Republic, by Yochai Benkler, May 2, 2014 – http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117628/j-streets-rejection-reveals-israels-dangerous-path
J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal, New Republic, by Leon Weiseltier, May 7, 2014 – http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117680/presidents-conference-j-street-rejection-disgrace
Jewish Americans ask: What does it mean to be ‘pro-Israel’? – Religion News, by Lauren Markoe, May 7, 2013 – http://www.religionnews.com/2014/05/07/jewish-americans-ask-mean-pro-israel/
Pull Back the Curtain – and Let J Street In – Editorial, The Forward, April 29, 2014 – http://forward.com/articles/197284/pull-back-the-curtain-and-let-j-street-in/
Those Who Reject J Street Are Blind – ‘They Still Don’t Hear Us,’ Says the Next Generation, The Forward, by Leonard Fein, May 3, 2014 – http://forward.com/articles/197545/those-who-reject-j-street-are-blind/
Blackballing J Street: Who Voted How, The Forward, by J.J. Goldberg, May 4, 2014 – http://blogs.forward.com/jj-goldberg/197563/blackballing-j-street-who-voted-how/
J Street is part of the American Jewish family, Haaretz, by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, April 28, 2014 – http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.587822
J Street’s rejection is a milestone in the growing polarization of American Jews, Haaretz, by Chemi Shalev, May 1, 2014 – http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/west-of-eden/.premium-1.588326
When Jews hate leftists for loving Israel – Haaretz, by Bradley Burston, May 7, 2014 – http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/a-special-place-in-hell/.premium-1.589381