Why We Need J Street

This is a guest post by Andrew Luger, a Partner at Greene Espel and Board Member of J Street Minnesota.

j street 263x300 Why We Need J StreetJ Street was founded in 2008 on the simple principle that Israel’s security and future as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people requires a two state solution. This simple founding principle – based in part on the pressing demographic reality facing Israel – is, in and of itself, relatively uncontroversial.

Because J Street’s founding principle seeks active United States involvement in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, J Street at times takes positions that are at odds with the current Israeli government’s positions.

I joined J Street last summer when my daughter served in the D.C. headquarters as an intern. Since then, I have been working closely with others in Minnesota to build a strong local presence.

As I posted recently, our first public event at Mt. Zion attracted over 400 people. Our supporters serve on synagogue boards, work for community organizations and take leadership roles in the Twin Cities Jewish community. In a short time, we have attracted a broad cross section of the community with our pro-Israel, pro-peace agenda.

In reaction, a small, but vocal, part of our community has attacked J Street with false accusations and slurs. These slurs include “questions” about J Street’s “motives” and “intent,” in short, a campaign to demonize J Street by calling into question its loyalty to Israel. Our community should have none of this. Challenging the loyalty of another instead of engaging in legitimate debate on the merits of policy is beneath the Twin Cities Jewish community.

Moreover, the very premise of the challenge – that American Jews should not voice their opinions, they should merely support whatever the government of Israel does – is faulty. Listening to the outcry from the right that we have no business making our opinions known raises the question: where was this indignation when American Jews challenged the peace process in prior years? Did these same voices rise up when American Jews fought Oslo and tried to undermine Rabin’s efforts to forge peace? No.

I value and respect the strongly held opinions of those who believe we should support all of the policies of Israel’s current government, whatever they may be.  And I respect the work of AIPAC in particular for ensuring that our government provides critical military and other assistance to Israel.  But we part ways when it comes to how we choose to advocate for Israel.  I choose the J Street approach, as do over 160,000 American Jews.

The question is, how do we, as a community, handle this new reality?  J Street Minnesota is growing, it is not going away.  Will friendships crater because some favor the traditional approach while others embrace the new one?  Many of us have known each other for years.  We believe in so many of the same things.  Will all of this come to an end?  I hope not, no one benefits from such division.  Instead, I would hope that the Twin Cities Jewish community would engage in a respectful and civil dialogue; this means avoiding the type of untoward attacks and accusations that have marked the first two years of J Street’s existence.  It means rejecting the false accusations that have been tossed around with no concern for the facts.  And, it means speaking to one another, not lecturing or demonizing.

But first, we have to clear up a number of false accusations about J Street.

Some of these have been thrown about so casually that, by now, they appear to be fact.  They are not.  Unfortunately, some are willing to believe anything about an organization with which they disagree.  For those who are wondering what all the fuss is about, I will try to address here, briefly, some of the falsehoods thrown at J Street and accepted without scrutiny by the group’s opponents.  A more complete explanation of “myths and facts” about J Street can be found on its web site.

Goldstone.

In a recent post, Elyse Rabinowitz repeats the accusation that J Street “sheparded” Judge Goldstone around Washington.  This is untrue, as is the implication that J Street somehow embraced the Goldstone Report.  J Street staff did not take Goldstone to meetings or walk him around D.C., and J Street did not support the Report.  To the contrary, J Street put out the following statement regarding Goldstone and the U.N:

As the Goldstone Report returns to the agenda of the United Nations, J Street remains opposed to one-sided and biased action at the United Nations based on the Report.  Specifically, we reiterate our position that the United States government should exercise its veto if the Security Council considers a resolution referring charges against Israel and Israelis to the International Criminal Court.

The United Nations and other international bodies such as the Human Rights Council have a demonstrable history of bias against Israel and have focused disproportionate attention on Israel at the expense of numerous other serious human rights crises around the globe.

We believe the best way for Israel to deal with the Report and to address charges of misconduct during Operation Cast Lead is to launch its own credible, independent investigation as it has at several critical points in its history. In this, we echo the position of many leading Israelis in and out of government, notably including Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak. We also share the sense of many in Israel that problems cited with the Report could have been better addressed had Israel cooperated with the Commission in the first place.

While J Street made its criticism of the Report known, it also made clear its opposition to the campaign of personal demonization against Judge Goldstone.

Daniel Levy.

Right wing bloggers have asserted that one of J Street’s founders, Daniel Levy, stated that the founding of Israel was a “mistake” and was “wrong.”  Just the opposite is true.  Levy is a lifelong Zionist who served as a negotiator for different Israeli governments.  At a conference, he was explaining (to a generally anti-Israel audience) how Israel’s founding was necessary, and that this necessity excused one of the outcomes – the displacement of Palestinians.  Levy never said that Israel was a mistake and the accusation is an outrage that no one should repeat.

Soros.

When J Street was founded, right wing opponents stated that George Soros was a chief funder.  This was their way of delegitimizing J Street because, they argued, Soros was an enemy of Israel.  The facts are otherwise.  Soros chose not to be among J Street’s early supporters in part because he knew that this would be used against J Street.  And J Street stated publicly that he was not a founding source.  Once J Street was on its feet financially, Soros decided to donate.  He has done so, according to his written statements, because he believes in free and open debate of ideas and positions, and because he is sympathetic to the many Americans and Israelis who seek a two state solution.  While he himself does not identify as a Zionist, he has made clear his support and defense of Israel.  There is nothing nefarious or anti-Israel about the fact that Soros has donated to J Street.

J Street’s Pro-Israel Credentials.

Some have questioned whether J Street is really pro-Israel, insinuating I suppose that it has a hidden agenda that makes it an anti-Israel organization in disguise.  This grassy knoll approach is both bizarre and easily rejected.  Here are a few facts about J Street and its senior leadership.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s founder and president, has multi-generational ties to Israel.  His great grandparents were among the first to make Aliyah.  His grandparents were among the founders of Tel Aviv.  His father was in the Irgun.  Jeremy has worked and lived in Israel and has advocated for Israel throughout his life.

Hadar Susskind, the J Street policy director, has dual Israeli and American citizenship.  He served in the IDF and worked at the JCPA.  Susskind, like Ben-Ami, was voted one of the top 50 Jewish Americans by the Forward.

Other staffers similarly come to J Street from mainstream Jewish organizations, including local JCRCs and from political campaigns.  They have lived, studied and worked in Israel and joined J Street for their love of Israel and their desire to see it thrive.

Israeli Supporters.

When bloggers imply that J Street is secretly anti-Israel, the question remains:  why do so many prominent Israelis support J Street?  These include a long list of military leaders and current and former Knesset members, along with columnists, musicians, writers and others.  One such supporter is Ami Ayalon, the former Commander of the Navy and head of the Shin Bet.  Ayalon has dedicated his life to the defense of Israel.  Agree with them or not, no one can accuse these lifelong Israelis of being anti-Israel.  An abbreviated list of Israeli supporters can be found here and here.

Students, BDS and Anti-Israel Sentiment on College Campuses.

All of us are appalled at the growing, and vicious, anti-Israel movement on college campuses.  I was discouraged to see a picture of BDS supporters in an article about J Street on this site.  The picture should not have been part of the article.  J Street opposes the BDS movement and, in fact, is doing something about it, including promoting J Street U’s “Invest, Don’t Divest” campaign.  At J Street U, progressive pro-Israel students engage in a number of activities designed to change the conversation about Israel so that those who oppose some of Israel’s policies can engage in constructive dialogue, not destructive boycott campaigns.  By creating an explicitly pro-Israel space on campus for young Jewish students to grapple with the realities of the conflict and advocate for Israel in a way that is consonant with their values, J Street is ensuring a lasting base of support for Israel in the US.  I recently met three national J Street U leaders, college students who are fighting against anti-Israel sentiment on a daily basis.  These are community leaders of the future.

Presbyterian General Assembly.

Similarly, J Street played an important role, working with our local JCRC and others, to influence the direction of the recent Presbyterian General Assembly.  Far from supporting divestment, Rachel Lerner, a senior official with J Street, addressed the General Assembly and gave a passionate speech denouncing their draft report on behalf of J Street.  Lerner’s strong statement condemning the report and denouncing the report’s recommendation to boycott Israel has been credited by many as helping to influence the Presbyterian Assembly.  (See CAMERA’s report on Lerner’s strong condemnation of the Presbyterian draft report and the video of Lerner’s full speech here.  Anyone who takes the time to watch or read Lerner’s speech will quickly realize that the slurs about J Street being anti-Israel are simply nonsense.

In short, those who throw out the “anti-Israel” slur do not know the people at J Street or the passion they share for Israel.  I have met them and I work with them on a regular basis.  The caricature of them by the right bears no relation to who they are.

It is clear that J Street is not for everyone, and that some in the traditional pro-Israel community are having trouble accepting this new organization with a new approach.  This post is not designed to win them over.  Rather, my goal here is to explain why J Street exists, why it is and will be an important part of the pro-Israel movement, and to address the false assumptions and unwarranted attacks that threaten to divide our vibrant Twin Cities Jewish community.  Since I became involved in J Street, countless lawyers, business people and community leaders have asked how they too can get involved.  These are good-hearted, passionately pro-Israel members of our community who have not felt at home in the traditional organizations advocating for Israel.  J Street offers them an opportunity to become involved in supporting Israel.

For the health of our community, I ask those who disagree with J Street to give up the grassy knoll, to stop the spread of falsehoods and to engage in a constructive discussion about how we can work together going forward.  We should be working together, and we can.

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15 comments

  1. This article isn’t about “Why we need J Street.” It doesn’t describe what J Street offers that isn’t available without it.

    Instead, a more descriptive title would have been “J Street Isn’t as Bad as You Think It Is” or “Refuting Charges Against J Street” or something like that.

    I don’t think this discrpancy aids J Street’s claim to be up front about their motives.

  2. For what it’s worth, this article was originally titled “The Need for J Street: A Progressive Zionist Choice for American Jews,” but as the editor, I took the liberty of tweaking it and shortening it a bit for our site. I think the original title would still have concerned you, Susan, but perhaps it would have been a bit more in tune with your concerns.

  3. Thanks for the clarification on the title. You’re right, though, I still think it would have been more descriptive if the title had been more along the lines of what I wrote above, though.

    Even “Setting the Record Straight about J Street” would be a positive title that would better convey the content.

  4. Mr. Luger, thank you for an honest statement of J Street’s purpose. J Street’s slogans — “pro-Israel, pro-peace” — are laudable. J Street’s actual purpose is more specific — to advocate for a two-state solution. Sooner rather than later. With the “involvement” of the U.S. government.

    Folks, Mr. Luger is right. We should not call J Street evil. I do believe that those Israeli supporters are well-intentioned, as are the American ones. I do believe that J Street does not wish Israel harm.

    That’s why it’s wrong to call J Street anti-Israel. It’s insulting, too. In their intentions, J Street and its supporters are pro-Israel.

    (An aside on George Soros saying he’s not a Zionist. Let’s be clear what that means. If one says that one is not a Zionist, that person does not believe that Jews have a right to a state of their own in their historic homeland.
    But let’s not play “guilt by association.” Like any large organization, J Street deserves to be judged on its own merits.)

    So, J Street is not anti-Israel. But when we separate general intentions from specific policies, we see that neither is J Street pro-Israel all the way. J Street is pro-Israel as long as Israel pursues the policies J Street think Israel should pursue.

    That’s legitimate.
    Well, almost. If J Street were an Israeli organization (like Peace Now), I would say that it’d be wrong to even question how pro-Israel it is. To question the patriotism of people you disagree with is demeaning. But J Street (named as a pun on Washington’s K Street, of lobbyist headquarters’ fame) is an American organization. It lobbies the American government to “involve” itself in Israel’s peacemaking. Sadly, such involvement can devolve and lately has devolved into outright pressure. That, I think, is unhelpful, to say the least.

    I think that’s where the acrimony comes from. Some see so clearly that J Street’s results are bad for Israel, that they might be forgetting about J Street’s good intentions.

    So, Mr. Luger is right. Let’s stop the name-calling. Let’s agree that J Street is pro-Israel at heart, and pro-peace-the-J-street-way in practice.

    Mr. Luger is right in one more way. J Street is not for everyone. If you can only go along with Israel as long as you agree with the way it pursues peace with its historic enemies, J Street is for you.

    If you prefer an organization that defends whatever policies the people of Israel democratically choose for their own country, and is pro-Israel in that comprehensive way, then the organization for you is AIPAC.

    Because, while intentions matter, good results matter even more.

  5. Interesting process reflections. What about the merits of the content of this piece?

  6. It is disheartening to see such normally progressive people to get stuck in such a rut. I am thankful every day for the J Street staff and their supporters for the courage they need to take on such hate within their own community. It is beyond me how someone can call J Street not completely pro-Israel.

    Just as Mr. Luger pointed out, not only are two top men of J Street of Israeli descent and also J Street enjoys support from many Israeli government and military officials, but many of the J Street staff members have studied and spent significant time living in Israel, as have I.

    I interned at J Street this past summer before embarking on a 5 month undergraduate program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I have now been here for 4 and a half months and have had an eye-opening experience. I think it is most important for all sides to understand that the issues you debate are extremely complicated on the ground and seeing the places and the people in person is a humbling experience.

    Everyone should remember that whether you are talking about Israelis or Palestinians these are real people. They have good intentions and they truly want this conflict to end. They want to live in peace and they are tired of the threats and the fighting. In light of the day Mr. Luger’s article was posted, December 10th also known as International Human Rights Day, I think we should also keep in mind that all of these people have rights and we need to make sure everyone is enjoying these rights. I have seen with my own eyes that this is not the case.

    Whether you agree with J Street or not, we should stay true to Mr. Luger’s point and recognize that we all are in the business of helping to solve this conflict and we all want to see an amicable solution. So why don’t we begin by agreeing that the conflict must end both in the region and within our own community?

  7. Stephanie,

    Nobody hates you. We just disagree with you. We have a different definition of what it means to be pro-Israel. Your position doesn’t make you “progressive” while those who disagree with you are stuck in a rut.

    I respect your views and those of your father. I will stand up to defend your right to express them and to be free from personal insults and invective. And I’m certainly willing to acknowledge that you’re a person of good will. At the same time, I can disagree with you and I can do so vigorously. It doesn’t mean I hate you. It’s nothing personal.

    I think it’s sad for you and J Street to constantly whine about community atmospherics (“taking on such hate within our own community”) — like stating we should end the conflict “within our own community.” I guess the only way to end this conflict is by agreeing with you and J Street?

    In the history of our people there has never been unanimity. The conflict to which you refer is grounded in a fundamental disagreement. Those who disagree with you believe that your idea of the end of the conflict (and the process to get there) will simply prolong the conflict and increase the risk to Israel. We believe that your emphasis and focus on Israel’s positions and actions are misplaced. Nothing personal. Nothing hateful. Just deep disagreement.

    I think it’s great that you had a terrific internship and that you had an eye opening experience. I’m glad that you’re beginning to recognize the complexities with which many of us who’ve been engaged in this topics for decades are deeply familiar.

    Let’s all pledge to respect each other. At the same time, let’s stop parading around as victims of hate, when all there is, by and large, is vigorous debate and deep disagreement.

  8. Mr. Mizrahi, well said!

    Ms. Luger,

    You (and J Street) should stop demonizing debate.

    J Street elsewhere has complained that what’s going on is an attempt to silence its voice. But in reality, it is J Street that is trying to stop any and all debate about J Street.

    You even try to put on the same rhetorical level the Arab-Israeli conflict and this internal Jewish American debate (“the conflict must end both in the region and within our own community”). That’s unworthy.

    And it’s not “hate” to “call J Street not completely pro-Israel” — as Mr. Mizrahi says, it’s just simply debate.

    Now, in my book, no organization is so sacred that it’s beyond debate — and neither is J Street beyond debate. J Street needs to compete in the marketplace of ideas; it’s wrong to claim for it, or any other organization, a special status beyond debate. As a relatively new organization on the scene, why shouldn’t J Street be evaluated?

    I, for one, evaluate organizations on how much they match my beliefs and how effective they are. So I compare J Street to AIPAC and see that AIPAC better matches my pro-Israel beliefs and that its actions have better results.

    The alternative to differentiating organizations that seem to have similar slogans is to blindly support all of them, or none at all. Instead, I evaluate and make choices. Because (in case it’s not obvious) resources, including time and attention, aren’t infinite.

    Now, once I’ve made my evaluation and my choice, I share it. What’s wrong with that?

  9. Mike and Peter: I think we agree. Debate, even vigorous debate, is healthy and welcome. I have been doing it, one way or the other, most of my life. Some will agree with J Street, some with other organizations, and some will be in the middle. Indeed, I engage in constructive debate on the topic of Israel all the time. My point, and, I believe, Stephanie’s is that there is a difference between debating the issues and calling names. Why do we care? Because questioning someone’s loyalty is the oldest trick in the book. And a dangerous one. It brands someone as unworthy of inclusion because their views render them disloyal. Therefore, rather than debate the merits of their positions, you simply call them a name and avoid them altogether. That is what is so disturbing about pieces that question the “motives” or “intent” of J Street — these are code words for anti-Israel and disloyalty to the Jewish community. When a person who opposes J Street’s positions calls into question their motives, they are demonizing not debating. This is what I find offensive. And it is not whining to call out those who engage in this type of behavior. Jews, of all people, should avoid attempts to marginalize or demonize others based on their opinions and beliefs.

    So, disagree with J Street and debate with us. Argue your position and tell us why you disagree. And we will argue right back. But when a blogger writes that we are anti-Israel in an attempt to avoid honest debate and to keep us out of the discussion, that is out of bounds, offensive and destructive. And I will say so every time.

  10. Now here’s for that substantive debate we’ve been trying to get to.

    Ms. Luger,

    I’d like to take on specially something you said that may have been a throwaway line, but is, in my view, much of the substance of the debate. You wrote: “we should recognize that we all are in the business of helping to solve this conflict.”

    I profoundly disagree. We, as Americans, have no moral authority to be “in the business of helping to solve this conflict.” Oh, it sounds innocuous enough — just “helping.” But what has it meant in practice? American “involvement” in solving the conflict turns on a dime into pressure.

    How does it work on the ground? We see a global superpower dictating construction permit policies. When Israel was pressed into a “freeze on settlement-building,” home improvement projects were stopped midstream. Last month in Israel I was told of someone in Jerusalem who may not shore up his apartment’s balcony from falling. Others had started a project by knocking down a wall, and now had a hole in their house (for months) because they were forbidden from putting up a wall. There many such cases.

    But why am I giving these nitty-gritty examples? Because I’m trying to show what happens when local democratic decision-making is replaced by diktat from a capital half-a-world away. What else happens? Before the US insisted on the freeze, Israelis and Palestinians would negotiate directly, meeting face to face. Now Palestinians refuse to be in the same room with Israelis, and, absent a freeze, refuse to negotiate at all. All because of a demand that the _American_ government made.

    Is this J Street’s fault? No, mostly not. But it illustrates the consequences of a major distinguishing feature of J Street policies.

    What is different about J Street? Is it that, unlike AIPAC, which is assiduously nonpartisan, J Street promotes left-of-center candidates? That’s not so striking. There are other Jewish organizations that promote right-of-center candidates.

    What’s really different about J Street is that it’s an American organization that lobbies the American government to change Israel’s policies. J Street doesn’t limit itself to supporting the American-Israeli alliance. J Street presumes to decide which Israeli policies are best for Israel. And then persuades Washington to pressure Israel into adopting those policies.

    This evinces a profound disregard for democratic principles. What moral right do Americans have to tell Israelis how to deal with its problems?

    Are Americans the ones who have to live with the consequences of life-and-death decisions in Israel — the IDF service, the terror attacks, the evacuations, the rocket attacks? No.

    That means that Americans have no moral right to tell Israel how and when to make peace with their enemies and how to safeguard their country.

    And that applies to J Street.

  11. Mike: Stephanie and I look forward to carrying on this debate upon our return from Israel in two weeks.

  12. I wish to trouble the notion that J Street’s policies and actions can be construed as pro-Israel and that the definitive path to peace can be so readily determined by those who sleep comfortably eight time zones away.

    There is a world of difference between engaging in the serious discourse of Israel-Zionist education and expressing of our varied opinions in classrooms and living rooms versus the line of thinking that we, as American Jews possess the right answers, advising Israel on matters of borders and security, and then naively promoting and politicizing solutions before the US Congress that may be detrimental to Israel.

    Certainly, American Jews and J Street have every right to democratically dissent from Israeli policy and use the American political system as means to lobby and influence Israel. But I suggest we need to re-examine the moral distinction and boundary between American Jews and organizations that represent us, and that of Israelis, those of us on this side of the pond and those in Israel who live with the inherent risks and consequences of their decisions.

    I have been to Israel 15 times and counting. It seems to me that there is a difference between me and my sister who has lived there nearly 30 years and is now in Hezbollah’s missile range. It seems to me that there is a difference between my kids going to Israel on a 6-week summer program in comparison to her kids going to the IDF for 2-3 years. It seems to me there is a difference between my daughter spending an academic year in Israel and my nephew serving in the reserves for two decades after college. As the saying goes Israelis have “skin” in the game.

    I have yet to hear a moral argument justifying why J Street follows a different boundary. I do not draw this distinction for the sake of a philosophical debate here in the comfort of South Minneapolis – there are real world implications. Though in reality, pursuing peace and security is not likely to be left to the self-appointed few at J Street, this has not stopped J Street from defining the terms of an imposed deal for a sovereign country they claim to support. Fortunately, the far left position staked-out by J Street is losing practical and political relevance.

    Just this week J Street failed to support a voice vote passed by the US House of Representatives, H.R. 1734. The House resolution supports a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while discouraging efforts to circumvent that process, including a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians. It is perplexing that J Street cannot come around even far enough to support this pro-peace and pro-Israel resolution.

    Boycott Divestment and Sanctions: It is a positive development that J Street has addressed BDS issues. The problem is that J Street’ policy as stated on its website stops short of rebuking the BDS movement as a whole. Wishing to applaud BDS as non-violent and to segment the BDS movement, the website states, “We note positively that some promoting BDS tactics are trying to narrow the scope of boycotts or divestment initiatives to oppose simply the occupation and not Israel itself.” A more careful examination of BDS would say that undermining the existence of the state of Israel is this movement’s raison d’etre.

    Controversy around J Street’s relationship to George Soros and to Judge Richard Goldstone is not unwarranted. The contradictory explanations and lack of transparency is puzzling. J Street’s lying about funding from Soros and mounting a defense of Goldstone leads one to question whose agenda matters at J Street – liberal Zionists, non-Zionists or anti-Zionists?

    Soros donated vast sums of money to J Street, despite repeated denial over 3 years by the organization. In September, a spokeswoman for George Soros’ Open Society Foundation also said no donations were made to J Street. But the Washington Post revealed this past September that tax forms from Soros and his two children show they contributed $245,000 to J Street in 2008. J Street’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami later admitted the family contributed over a quarter of a million dollars per year over the past three years. Until September, under a section headed “Myths and Facts”, J Street’s website said: “George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization.” The site has now been amended.

    It is relevant to note what J Street’s Director, Jeremy Ben Ami has said regarding these events:

    “I accept responsibility for being less than clear about Mr. Soros’s support once he did become a donor. I said Mr. Soros did not help launch J Street or provide its initial funding, and that is true. I also said we would be happy to take his support. But I did not take the extra step to add that he did in fact start providing support in the fall of 2008, six months after our launch. My answers regarding Mr. Soros were misleading. I apologize for that and for any distraction from J Street’s important work created by my actions and decisions.” (Hadassah Magazine)

    As for Soros’ acknowledgment that he does not identify with Zionism and the state of Israel as a Jewish state, let the reader decide why his worldview, why his support of J Street, and J Street’s dishonesty over funding might be problematic.

    Regarding Judge Richard Goldstone and J Street’s assistance on a visit to Capitol Hill; in a September 2010 Washington Times story, Ben-Ami denied that his group assisted Goldstone in his visit in any way: “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.” Then, in the same response, he contradicted himself, acknowledging that J Street assisted Judge Goldstone in his efforts to meet members of Congress: “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.” Shepherding Judge Goldstone need not mean physically escorting him through the halls of Congress.

    Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton Halperin — one of five senior officers at J Street according to its federal tax returns, “He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

    Regarding the Goldstone Report itself, Ben Ami remarked, “We didn’t take a position on the report…. The Israelis didn’t provide the evidence, so you have a biased report projecting only one side of the story. We didn’t criticize the report, we didn’t support the report, it’s not our place to do either. (Hadassah Magazine). It is ironic that J Street, under a pro-Israel banner, reserves and often exercises the right to criticize Israel, but has lost its voice when it comes time to defend her against actions of bias taken by the UN and its representatives.

    J Street’s embrace of those who do not have Israel’s best interests at hand is disconcerting; its stance this week against the House resolution, its leaving the window ajar for the BDS movement, its association with Soros and its defense of Goldstone are indicative of a problematic agenda. Is this the J Street that American Jews and Israel need?

  13. C’mon Andy. You say no questioning intent and motives and yet you do exactly that with those who oppose you. Maybe the blogger that calls you anti-Israel believes that in the context of their definition of what it means to be pro-Israel, J Street’s policies are not aligned.

    Why impugn their motives with accusations (“to avoid honest debate and to keep us out of the discussion”)? As if a blogger determines which ideas are or aren’t considered in the marketplace.

    This is nonsense. The marketplace of ideas isn’t an easy one. Besides, J Streets crows all the time about hits following and attendance at events. It makes it look like J Street’s whining and taking offense etc is just a tactic to try suppress questions about J Street’s policies.

    Have a safe and successful trip to Israel. While you’re there, consider this: if Israel had no army, there would no Israel and no Jewish self determination. Meanwhile, the only way to get a Palestinian state is to not have a Palestinian army. What this says is that the path toward two states for two peoples goes through Gaza and Nablus and Ramallah, not through Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Tiberias. When the Palestinian people and their leaders want a state of their own more than they want to destroy Israel, then two states will happen. It’s not the settlements or it’s not the checkpoints.

  14. Surely there are many progressive, liberal Zionists in the Twin Cities, J Street members among them, who have the best of intentions in their support and love for Israel. As others have noted, good intentions among Diaspora Jews are simply not enough, particularly when dealing with Israel’s safety, security and borders. Furthermore, local J Street members may or may not be in sync or have influence with J Street national policy decisions.

    J Street’s reserves and exercises the right to criticize Israel. In doing so MN J Street needs to demonstrate consistency and be open to inquiry regarding positions and actions taken by its national leadership. The reaction to legitimate opposition or questioning of J Street’s policy and transparency is to suggest that this debate is not civil, maligns J Street supporters and has not been based on fact. I respectfully disagree. We are not in need of a legal defense on these pages, but rather a policy debate.

    Fundamental questions remain – why did J Street oppose a pro-Israel Congressional resolution? Why is J Street promoting a strategy of an imposed settlement on a democratic sovereign country it claims to support? Why does J Street believe it has the moral authority over Israeli citizens to do so?

  15. I rarely see J Street clearly state their highest profile and most controversial position that there must be a two-state Middle East solution where Israel’s border will be based on the 1967 lines, creating a Palestinian state on the equivalent of 100 percent of the land beyond the 1967 Green Line with one-to-one, agreed-upon land swaps which must also meet Israeli security needs. I am incredulous that a group comprised of mostly left-wing US citizens has the hubris to encourage the United States government through pressure on its elected officials to impose this final solution. J Street does not even bother pretending that the two parties should negotiate all terms of a peace agreement. J Street knows what the solution should be and the parties will only have the freedom to negotiate one-to-one land swaps.
    Does J Street have preconditions regarding Jerusalem? Perhaps someone else could tell me.
    I believe J Street has adopted this strategy because the democratically elected Israeli government does not agree with their policies and the Peace Now movement in Israel is politically weak. J Street’s position is to substitute their will on the only democracy in the Middle East.
    Wars have consequences. UAR attacked Israel in 1967 and lost territory. They attacked again in 1973 and have been supporting terrorists attacks since then. The Israeli people have always supported peace, but they understand they need security, not words on a piece of paper: a land buffer, strategic high ground, a security fence, a missile shield etc.