Jaywalking On J-Street
J-Street, the liberal Jewish answer to AIPAC has burst onto the scene!
Well, sort of. Despite the friendly name (AIPAC sounds stodgy by comparison), J-Street seems wary about showing itself.
If you do a search of the jstreet.org, you’ll find that the domain name is protected by DomainsByProxy.com, unlike AIPAC–doing a whois on their URL gives their address and phone number.
MoveOn financier George Soros, an initial backer of the concept for the group, pulled out of it, [executive director of J Street, Jeremy] Ben Ami explains, because he thought his presence might ultimately be unhelpful, given his reputation as a bankroller for liberal groups.
Ben Ami is being generous. Actually
Planners remain secretive in large part to avoid a repetition of last yearís controversy. Early reports about an AIPAC competitor that would amalgamate the efforts of the major pro-peace process groups, with possible funding by mega-philanthropist and progressive activist George Soros, produced a storm of unwanted publicity and scared off some potential participants.
All you need to do is look at Soros’ previous work:
A study that claimed 650,000 people were killed as a result of the invasion of Iraq was partly funded by the antiwar billionaire George Soros.
Soros, 77, provided almost half the nearly $100,000 cost of the research, which appeared in The Lancet, the medical journal. Its claim was 10 times higher than consensus estimates of the number of war dead.
The study, published in 2006, was hailed by antiwar campaigners as evidence of the scale of the disaster caused by the invasion, but Downing Street and President George Bush challenged its methodology.
New research published by The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 151,000 people – less than a quarter of The Lancet estimate – have died since the invasion in 2003. [emphasis added]
But that doesn’t mean that J-Street eschews all leftists–just that they will play down their positions on Israel. Noah Pollak, who participated in a journalists conference with J-Street notes:
J Street places near the top of its list of supporters someone named Avram Burg, who may not ring a bell to many Americans, but who is notorious in Israel. Burg advocates, among other things, the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state; recommends that Israeli parents secure foreign passports for their children; and compares Israel today to late 1930ís Germany. When asked during the call why someone like Burg is affiliated with J Street, the groupís proprietors downplayed and misrepresented the manís radicalism. It is difficult to imagine how the J Streeters believe their organization will be taken seriously as a pro-Israel lobby at the same time they advertise the endorsement of a figure like Avram Burg. [emphasis added]
J-Street itself is not quite as wary about its goals. According to the Washington Post, J Street is going to try something new:
The group is planning to channel political contributions to favored candidates in perhaps a half-dozen campaigns this fall, the first time an organization focused on Israel has tried to play such a direct role in the political process, according to its organizers.
No word yet from Mearsheimer and Walt.
More importantly, while the new group claims to be filling the wide gap left by the ‘right wing’ AIPAC, and representing the majority of American Jews, there are indications that it is J-Street that is need of a reality check:
Some veteran Middle East experts said the new group faces the political reality that many American Jews have become disillusioned over the years with the peace process and what they consider to be the intransigence, hostility and–in some cases–terrorism of would-be Palestinian partners. While Bush early on in his administration grew skeptical of the peacemaking efforts of President Clinton, he received very little push-back from organized American Jewry.
Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said the group “has a very steep hill to climb because peacemaking has acquired a bad reputation over the years in the Jewish community, and there is a widespread fear that U.S. intervention on behalf of peace will lead to pressure on Israel.” [emphasis added]
Thus Democratic fundraiser Alan Solomont’s claim that
the definition of what it means to be pro-Israel has come to diverge from pursuing a peace settlement
could be more accurately be expressed as:
the definition of what it means to be pro-Israel has come to diverge from guaranteeing Israel’s security from terrorism.
Eric Trager has challenged the assumptions underlying J Street on two levels:
Firstly, the claim that the majority of American Jews is contradicted by the fact that support for a Palestinian state cuts across Democratic/Republican lines. On the other hand, 58% of American Jews oppose compromise on Jerusalem–the step required by Abbas in order to ‘make peace.’
Secondly, the avenue for change in Israeli policy in terms of settlements is in addressing the Israeli government and the Israeli voting public directly–not through lobbying the US to apply pressure on Israel. Along those lines, it should be noted that the group claims:
20 prominent Israelis, including former top officials of the Shin Bet, Mossad and the foreign ministry, have signed a letter supporting J Street.
So with such support in Israel, why go after the US politicians–is the goal of J Street to back the Israeli public–or bypass it altogether?
Bottom line, nothing should be taken for granted when it comes to J-Street.
Starting with its relevance.
Crossposted on Daled Amos