Commentary Magazine


It’s Not the “Right Wing” That Did in J Street

As I observed on Sunday, all but a select few among the hard-core left have abandoned any hope of rescuing J Street from its self-inflicted wounds. This is not, as Jeremy Ben-Ami would have us believe, a plot by the right to do him in just when the peace talks are at a critical point. (It truly is delusional to imagine that talks are at a critical point, and even more delusional to imagine that he is critical to the fate of the Middle East peace process.)

David Harris of the AJC is no right-winger. He does, however, represent mainstream American Jewish leadership:

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said on Friday that J Street’s contact with Goldstone, coupled with last week’s revelation that it received funds from billionaire George Soros, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies on a number of occasions, undermined its stated mission of supporting the Jewish state.

“J Street has every right, of course, to express its viewpoint and lobby in Washington,” Harris wrote in an email. “But it arrogates to itself the right, from thousands of miles away, to determine what’s best for democratic Israel.

“In doing so, it espouses positions — e.g., ambiguity on the toxic Goldstone Report or prolonged hesitation to support legislative sanctions against a nuclear-aspiring Iran which seeks a world without Israel — that can only make one wonder what exactly it means, beyond the glib tag line, to be ‘pro- Israel.’”

Ben-Ami and his few defenders are incensed at having been exposed as marginal figures in American Jewry. They hid their connections and most egregious behavior (drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense and easing his way around Capitol Hill) because, at some level, they understood how toxic it all was. Now their worst fears have come true, and their lies have been revealed.

It is true that prominent conservatives at the Emergency Committee for Israel have made life miserable for J Street and the recipients of their campaign loot. But the J Streeters have merely proved what their critics have maintained from the get-go: that the premise of their organization — that there was a market for an alternative to the pro-Israel alliance that spanned from the AJC to AIPAC to CUFI — was fundamentally flawed. That alliance is not a “right-wing” phenomenon, any more than the avalanche of criticism falling on J Street is a right-wing plot.

It turns out that, as troublesome as the Obama era has been for American Jewry (not to mention Israel), a president as hostile as the current one and an organization as noxious as J Street have helped forge a degree of consensus in the Jewish community. American Jewish organizations may not agree on tone. They may have different levels of enthusiasm about the peace talks. But they agree on this: Israel is a democratic country entitled to make its own national-security decisions; efforts to delegitimize Israel, whether by Richard Goldstone or the UN Human Rights Council, should be roundly condemned; the U.S. does harm to itself and to its democratic ally Israel by distancing itself from the Jewish state; peace depends on putting an end to Palestinian rejectionism and terror; and the greatest threat to the Middle East and to the U.S. is a nuclear-armed Iran. That J Street stands outside this uncontroversial statement of common principles tells us why its run is over. And, of course, all that lying didn’t help.