J Street, I Almost Loved You

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In The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz devotes two chapters to people who he refers to as “More Israeli than Israelis” and “More Palestinian than Palestinians.”

He, of course, is referring to people in North America who only add to the flame war by making statements and policies that only create animosity between the two sides while having zero effect on actual policy. After attending rally after rally and hearing the same schtick every time, I became somewhat jaded as to the point of Israel advocacy in Canada and the United States.

Than along came JStreet. JStreet seemed different. It wasn’t adding to the flame war, rather, it seemed as though they were creating a venue for people who had moderate views on Israel but were still highly supportive of the state and proud to be Zionist. In their own words:

J Street represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own – two states living side-by-side in peace and security. We believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians, and the region as a whole.

My love for JStreet officially grew when they started an online petition that (they claim) had a major role in the disinvitation of Sarah Palin to the Anti-Iran Rally in September, an event which I blogged about.

Then, on December 28th, I got an email from JStreet, and all has changed.

Titled, “Gaza: Stop the Violence,” the first paragraph went as follows:

Twenty-four hours ago, Israeli Defense Forces struck the Gaza Strip, leaving hundreds dead and wounded – pushing the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict further down a path of never-ending violence.

I have no issues with someone being opposed to the Gaza incursion. You can very much be pro-Israel and think that this current operation is not in Israel’s best interests. But even with that, I think that JStreet dropped the ball on this one.

I just can’t believe that the people who JStreet claim to represent–moderate, North American Pro-Israel Jews–as a majority, actually believe this. I’m not the only one who has said this either. New Republic Editor, James Kirchick, wrote in Haaretz, that JStreet cannot claim to be pro-Israel if their official policy is opposed to the policy that 80% of Israelis support.

On a larger scale, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, a known Peacenik, called out JStreet in the Forward this week as “appallingly naive” on how they see American Jewish opinion.

No one likes war. No one likes violence. But JStreet has to realize that they aren’t representing Jewish opinion when they send emails and press releases like the ones they did. Sadly, today, I’m a little embarressed to be a JStreet member.

Posted on January 9, 2009

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6 thoughts on “J Street, I Almost Loved You

  1. Jnas08

    I’m glad you’re finally realizing that JStreet doesn’t represent Jewish opinion. JStreet claims to be a moderate group, but in reality they support an agenda that people love to dream about, but few really believe in.

    In AJC’s 2007 Annual Survey of Jewish Opinion they found that 82% of respondents agreed with the following statement: “The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel.” The survey has several other findings: 58% of respondents oppose dividing Jerusalem even in the context of a peace deal (only 36% support it), 55% believe that there will not come a time when Israel and her Arab neighbors will come to live in peace (37% believe they will). Clearly, one survey cannot tell the whole story, but it shows a tremendous amount about how American Jews view the peace process.

    In 1993, the Oslo Accords seemed to have ushered in the final path to peace. Over 15 years later we see how wrong that thinking was. In 2005, Israel disengaged from Gaza, uprooting thousands of its own citizens and giving the Palestinians sovereignty. What was the response? A terror war against Israel’s Southern citizens that has left thousands of people traumatized (including children), most likely for the rest of their lives.

    Of course no one likes war. Of course no one likes violence. However, we need to wake up and realize that this conflict is not about land. Both Hamas and Fatah have charters that explicitly call for the destruction of Israel. J Street’s model of forcefully supporting the failed ideals of the past may be new and different, but it also seriously misunderstands what Israel is fighting against. I’m glad that the past few weeks have exposed just how out of touch their thinking is.

  2. David79

    Can someone recommend places to turn for well-informed, thoughtful discussion of this topic (the conflict, its history, and possible solutions) written from a Jewish point of view? Also, is there a link to the survey you mention, Jnas? Thanks.

  3. Jeremy Moses Post author

    I’m not 100% sure what you are asking for. If you are looking for a Jewish source, JTA has provided pretty good coverage of Gaza.

    If you want Op-Eds, opinions, etc. from a well-balanced, informed view, I actually think the best place to look is outside the Jewish community. Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a great piece for the NY Times today. But in the online world, what I have enjoyed reading the most is Slate and New Republic. Neither are hard line, and I haven’t necessarily agreed with everything being said. But overall, the writers (especially at NR) seem to know what they are talking about.

  4. David79

    Thanks to you both! These should get me started. Does it appear to anyone else that radical groups such as Hamas get some emotional traction here in America?

  5. Jnas08

    Here is a link to the survey: http://www.ajc.org/site/c.ijITI2PHKoG/b.3642849/

    AJC put out a survey in 2008 as well, but it was primarily focused on the US Presidential election, and only asked a couple of questions related to Israel.

    As for places to go for information, here are a few recommendations:

    1. Myths & Facts by Mitchell Bard is a good place to start for some very basic information on the typical questions related to the conflict. You can find it easily by just googling Myths & Facts.
    2. For in depth issue briefs, I personally recommend Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. They are a think tank in Jerusalem, founded by former Israeli Ambassador to the UN: Dore Gold. They have a lot of excellent policy papers dealing with Iran, Gaza, Hezbollah, Jerusalem, etc. They are at http://www.jcpa.org.
    3. As for solutions, it’s a 2 Jews, 3 Opinions situation. Here’s one to get you started, written by Moshe Ya’alon, former Chief of Staff of the IDF, and a candidate for the Knesset: http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=474.

  6. David79

    New Republic and JCPA are quite helpful with my questions. Great resources. Just finished reading an excellent article in JCPA on the development of arab anti-semitism, interview with Meir Litvak. Thanks again for the resource suggestions.

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