[A]t a time when the vast majority of Israelis and American Jews support what Israel is doing, J Street steps out of the shadows as the voice of communal dissent, joined by the likes of the United Nations and the Guardian editorial board (even the Arab League tacitly supports what Israel is doing, seeing that Hamas is an Iranian front). J Street has the right to its extreme leftist, capitulationist opinions, but it does not have the right to claim, as Ben-Ami once did, that it represents the “broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews.”
An article in the Jewish Forward, written by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism – a liberal Jewish organization, no doubt – proves that Kirchick was right: J Street can’t claim that it represents the view of the American Jewish majority. More so: It can’t even claim to represent the view of a liberal Jewish majority. Yoffie, a liberal, writes this:
It is not easy for me to write these words. I welcomed the founding of J Street and know many of those involved in its leadership. Furthermore, I am a dove myself. I support a two-state solution, believe that military action by Israel should be a last resort and welcome an active American role in promoting peace between Israel and her neighbors. But I know a mistake when I see one, and this time J Street got it very wrong.
J Street’s first statement expressed “understanding” for Israel’s motivations, and called – as I do – for a political rather than a military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nonetheless, its conclusion was that Israel made a mistake in attacking Hamas and that the United States and others must press for an immediate cease-fire.
A second J Street statement was worse by far. It could find no moral difference between the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militants, who have launched more than 5,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilians in the past three years, and the long-delayed response of Israel, which finally lost patience and responded to the pleas of its battered citizens in the south. “Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong,” it said, and it suggested that there was no reason and no way to judge between them: “While there is nothing ‘right’ in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing ‘right’ in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.”
The folks at J Street didn’t like Yoffie’s article, to put it mildly:
It is hard for us to understand how the leading reform rabbi in North America could call our effort to articulate a nuanced view on these difficult issues “morally deficient.” If our views are “naïve” and “morally deficient”, then so are the views of scores of Israeli journalists, security analysts, distinguished authors, and retired IDF officers who have posed the same questions about the Gaza attack as we have.
They provide very little evidence that such “analysts” and “authors” exist. In fact, when the operation started, most dovish Israelis, among them left-wing authors Amos Oz and A.B Yehushua supported the operation. A growing camp within the Israeli left now supports a cease-fire – but very few opposed the operation in its initial stages. As I’ve shown here, even the left-wing Meretz Party supported the operation when it started:
“The time has to act without compromise and without narrow political considerations, to protect the citizens of the Gaza periphery and Sderot,” the statement said. “There is no choice but to hit Hamas in a precise way and to act for a renewed ceasefire,” the party said.
And even assuming that Meretz’s position is now more in sync with the one espoused by J Street, it is still not the position of Israel’s “left” – not even by a stretch. Meretz – according to most polls – represents barely 5% of Israel’s population. If J Street argue that a similar percentage – or even double that percentage – or even five times that percentage of American Jews agree with them – it is still far from the “broad mainstream” they claim to represent.