Jewish Right To Israel

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For Now, J Street Is Just Not-AIPAC, And It Shows (Updated)

Could it be that the power and influence of J Street is limited to sabotaging anti-Ahmadinejad rallies?

When a dozen senators and congressmen said they would not be coming to the J Street Conference after all, that was merely a clue of things to come. The fact that the J Street university arm changed their slogan from Pro-Israel to Pro-Peace, was not encouraging either.

It may reflect deeper issues in how J Street identifies itself. Marissa Brostoff of The Tablet writes:

J Street has devoted much of its young life to trying to convince the conservative segments of the Jewish community that it’s not a left-wing organization. And indeed, nowhere at the left-leaning Israel lobby’s first conference this week did J Street organizers give an indication of being anything but staunch supporters and lovers of Israel—though ones who see that country’s political future darkening without a two-state solution. But it also seemed that the liberal blogger Richard Silverstein was onto something when he told Tablet Magazine, “The impression that a lot of us are getting is that the rank and file of attendees of the conference are to the left of J Street.” [emphasis added]

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rubin writes about the stands that J Street is taking at its conference--all one of them:

The “J Street Lobby Day Participant” instructions are being circulated around. The guide is remarkable on a number of counts. First, the only “ask,” as the guidelines put it, is for the participants to ask lawmakers “to make a clear and unequivocal public statement in support of U.S. leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by the end of the year.” Wow. You think they could “achieve” that aim? It reminds me of a gay-rights protest organized in my freshman year at U.C. Berkeley in which students were asked to show support by wearing jeans. Gosh, they had about 90 percent participation. Likewise, J Street’s “ask” is pabulum, undifferentiated from what every other Jewish group would ask and what virtually every lawmaker would do with no prompt at all.

Where is the “ask” for no sanctions against Iran? Where is the “ask” for a total settlement freeze? Seems like the J Street crowd has wimped out. [emphasis added]

On the flip side, Rubin notes that AIPAC supports the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act which has been passed by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee's on a voice vote. The bill gives Obama the authority to impose sanctions on any entity that either provides Iran with refined-petroleum resources or engages in any activity that could contributing to its ability to import such resources. In addition, the bill urges the president to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and any other financial institution engaged in proliferation activities or in support of terrorist groups.

Comparing the actions of these 2 groups, Rubin asks:

So is J Street influential? Not with Congress, which seems to favor measures that J Street despises. It’s wise perhaps then for them to stick to the plain-wrap ”ask” for support for a two-state solution.

J Street's influence on Jewish opinion--and to what degree it reflects that opinion--is also somewhat doubtful. James Kirchick writes that as opposed to AIPAC, J Street opposes sanctions on Iran--

at least for the foreseeable future--one of the many examples of how it is out of step with the views of the mainstream Jewish and pro-Israel communities it claims to represent; a Washington Post poll released last week found that 78% of Americans support sanctions and a clear majority of American Jews support either the United States or Israel attacking Iran's nuclear sites if sanctions don't work.

In other words, for the time being, J Street is identifying itself as not-AIPAC.
They're going to have to do better than that.

UPDATE: Martin Peretz also sees J Street's identity crisis:

J Street is having an identity crisis right in front of the cameras. For a year and a half it's been trumpeting that it's both "pro-Israel" and "pro-peace."

...But in a very palpable sense it was not pro-Israel in that it favored every cockamamie strategy and tactic, personality and group (and grouplet), slogan and world-view that put the Jewish homeland in peril. In the end, almost everyone came to realize that J Street would not and maybe could not be supportive of a Jewish homeland until every last Palestinian was satisfied.

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