Mapping out J Street


James Kirchick of the New Republic takes aim at J Street, the new outfit that has been described in some circles as a fledgling AIPAC alternative aimed at securing a more aggressive U.S. role in pushing the peace process:

A perusal of J Street’s list of supporters further undermines its pretensions to mainstream credibility. One of the most prominent Israelis involved with the group is Avrum Burg, former speaker of the Knesset. A member of a distinguished Israeli political family, he set off a political scandal last year when, in an interview with Ha’aretz, he claimed that “to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end”; he has also compared contemporary Israel to pre-Nazi Germany. Naomi Chazan is a former Knesset member from the left-wing Meretz Party, which has just five seats (out of 120) in the Knesset. Henry Siegman, a former Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has compared Israel to apartheid South Africa, accused Israeli leaders of having the U.S. government “in their pockets,” and claimed (absurdly) that the 2000 intifada “was not planned by Arafat, but a spontaneous eruption of Palestinian anger.”

Moreover, J Street’s depiction of the pro-Israel establishment–read, AIPAC– as wildly hawkish is more than a bit of a stretch.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founding executive director of J Street, responds in an interview with Shmuel Rosner of Ha’aretz:

Determining where J Street sits relative to the ‘mainstream’ of the American Jewish community depends on how you define the term. I don’t claim that the entire community agrees with J Street’s view of the world, the Middle East or Israel. Neither should Kirchik claim the community is
with the New Republic.

A large number of American Jews do hold right-of-center views. But a large number don’t. Many of us believe in a smart, tough foreign policy for America that both defends its vital interests and provides a path to peace and security for Israel. This may put us squarely in opposition with Marty Peretz and Mort Klein, but it also puts us squarely within the range of views held by large numbers of American Jews.

In the “ooops” department… Yesterday we supplied the wrong link to Rosner’s interview with Pastor John Hagee’s Jewish adviser. Click here to read the full exchange (we hope).

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