You’ve Had Enough of AIPAC? … Here Comes J Street

The world is pretty awful today, but it is far
better than yesterday.

Noam Chomsky

An interesting article was published yesterday on the New York based Jewish newspaper, The Forward, titled “For Israel’s Sake, Moderate American Jews Must Find Their Voice” by Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of the newly formed Jewish lobby group, J Street.

According to, the movement, allegedly aimed at counterbalancing the influence of AIPAC as the major representative of Jewish-Americans, has already been joined by some prominent Jewish figures.

The author states that…

For the sake of Israel, the United States and the world, it is time for American political discourse to re-engage with reality. Voices of reason need to reclaim what it means to be pro-Israel and to establish in American political discourse that Israel’s core security interest is to achieve a negotiated two-state solution and to define once and for all permanent, internationally-recognized borders.

Ben-Ami goes on to explain his personal history and how his disillusions with what he calls “the extreme right” of the Jewish political spectrum came about, calling for a rupture.

Somehow, for American politicians or activists to express opposition to settlement expansion — or support for active American diplomacy, dialogue with Syria or engagement with Iran — has become subversive and radical, inviting vile, hateful emails and a place on public lists of Israel-haters and antisemites. For the particularly unlucky, it leads to public, personal attacks on one’s family and heritage. Enough. In early 21st-century America, the rules of politics are being rewritten, and conventional political orthodoxy is clearly open to once-inconceivable challenges. It is time for the broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews and their allies to challenge those on the extreme right who claim to speak for all American Jews in the national debate about Israel and the Middle East — and who, through the use of fear and intimidation, have cut off reasonable debate on the topic.

The author continues denouncing the incestuous alliances and strong ties that AIPAC has cultivated with right-wing Christian Zionists, such as John Hagee.

In our name, PACs and other political associations have embraced the most radically right-wing figures on the American political scene […] all in the guise of being “pro-Israel.” In Washington today, these voices are seen to speak for the entire American Jewish community. But they don’t speak for me. And I don’t believe they speak for the majority of the American Jews with whom I have lived and worked.

All this sounds fair enough to me but I can’t help being doubtful about the extent to which such initiative might lead or the real motives behind such a move, because throughout the article it is only a question really of who deserves to be considered pro-Israel. At times, the article sounds circumvallating around core issues like the notion of Justice, of negotiating with Hamas, the legitimate representative of the Palestinians, the question of the right of return, the question of Jerusalem… Sometimes the author who claims to be “moderate” (whatever the term might mean) refers with nostalgia to members of the Irgun (a terrorist Zionist organisation which helped form the first battalions of the Israel “Defence” Force) like Z. Jabotinsky, a notorious murderer.

But the author finally hints at an aspect of Israel’s position, rarely evoked.

I also know in my heart that this is not just a matter of survival. What will it say of us as a people if at a rare moment in our communal history when we have achieved success, acceptance and power, we fail to act according to the values and ideals passed down to us over thousands of years when we were the outcasts, the minority and the powerless?

I might be doubtful about such initiatives but something that should bring comfort to many Justice and Peace activists is the fact that the lobby is definitely weakening by the day!

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