Commentary Magazine


The Increasing Marginality of J Street

When the progressive “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street emerged last spring, I wrote an article showing how its pretensions to mainstream credibility, as well as its characterization of already existing Jewish organizations as uniformly “neoconservative,” “right-wing” and “Likudnik” etc., were demonstrably false.

A brief look at last year’s American Jewish Committee annual survey of American Jewish opinion found overwhelming opposition among American Jews to the extreme left-wing policies articulated by J Street. And the latest AJC poll shows that over the past year, J Street has become even more marginal among American Jews, and roughly represents the views of the anti-Zionist Israeli Avrum Burg, the aforementioned Daniel Levy, and a handful of Jewish writers at obscure left-wing publications like Tikkun, the American Prospect and The Nation: While 44% of American Jews describe themselves as either “extremely liberal,” “liberal” or “slightly” liberal (and only 24% describe themselves as some variant of “conservative”), a whopping 68% of American Jews believe that Israel “cannot achieve peace with an Hamas-led Palestinian government.” Yet J Street constantly counsels for negotiation and settlement with the terrorist organization.

As Noah mentioned earlier today, it really is in times like these that the hard Left’s true colors shine. For the political reality in Israel today is that the entire nation, from its Left to its Right, is united in support of the current IDF operation against Hamas. How could it not be, given the almost year-and-a-half of unrelenting rocket attacks  from Gaza into Israel? Rarely does such unity of opinion manifest, even in embattled Israel, a country frequently at war. A few days ago, David Hazony pointed out that even Me’eretz, “Israel’s far-left party, home to its most peace-advocating, dovish, universalist, end-the-occupation elites, its most consistent voice for military restraint” issued a call in support of the air-strikes.

What is J Street’s response? In a statement posted on the organization’s website, Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami condemned Israeli actions, saying “that escalating the conflict will prove counterproductive,” asserted “that there is no military solution to what is fundamentally a political conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples,” and recycled the old chestnut that Israeli self-defense will “deepen the cycle of violence in the region.”

So, during the first major Israeli military operation since the 2006 Hezbollah War, at 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.” J Street doesn’t even represent the views of left-wing Israelis. (The only relevant group with which J Street’s views may jibe are Israeli Arabs, who aren’t even Zionist and thus don’t share J Street’s ostensible support for a Jewish State).

In an email sent out to its supporters earlier today, J Street’s online director Isaac Luria writes, “At this moment of extreme crisis, J Street wants to demonstrate that, among those who care about Israel and its security, there is a constituency for sanity and moderation.” With its latest salvo, J Street and its supporters suggest that they’re not constituents of that community.

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