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J Street - Two Years after its Formation

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J Street statement:
"This BDS movement is spreading to campuses across the country, but we should be investing not divesting in our campus debate, in our communities and in the people who will bring about change in the region."

J Street's principal goal is "The creation of a viable Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution, based on the 1967 borders with agreed reciprocal land swaps." The lobby adds that "The future Palestinian state will require unprecedented levels of international economic and political support to succeed, including a resolution of the refugee issue within the new Palestinian state and in current host countries."

Note the vagueness of the goals (viable Palestinian state) and the lack of any demands on Israel for achieving the goals. Negotiations? What type? Solution based on 1967 borders "with agreed reciprocal land swaps." Why not just 1967 borders? Refugee issue resolved by the Palestinians and host countries? What about the nation which created the refugees?

If J Street represents a progressive and just wing of the Jewish community, why doesn't it exercise its duty to that community? Why is it engaged in telling both sides and the U.S. what to do? Why doesn't it have as its main thrust proposals for redefining a new Israel that is not virulently nationalist, not militarist, not racist and not a democracy for only its Jewish citizens?

The new Jewish Lobby received much publicity from its recent voyage to the Middle East with House Representatives (Reps. Lois Capps (CA-23), William Delahunt (MA-10), Bob Filner (CA-51), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15), and Donald Payne (NJ-10). Weren't all the congressionals already familiar with the Middle East crisis? Did they need the trip as much as those who had little familiarity with the crisis and were vehement supporters of Israel? Why invite the converted and not those who need to be converted? From its identification with the congressional critics of Israel, J Street gained credibility with those favoring the two state solution for peace. Could that be the reason?

Nor did the trip seem sufficiently meaningful for benefiting the peace process. The delegation met with present and ex-politicians in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman, talked with Israeli settlers, families in Sderot, human rights activists, Gilad Shalit's father, and descendants of Palestinian refugees. No visits to West Bank refugee camps or troubled areas. No visit to Gaza. Was the trip designed for U.S. legislators to convince Israel of its wrongs or for Israel to convince the legislators of their wrongs?

Compare that mission with Rep. Brian Baird's (D-WA) visit to the Gaza Strip at the same time. The retiring congressman stated that "Israel is squeezing the life out of Gaza with the embargo," and declared that "the Israeli army visited indiscriminate destruction on the area during last year's Gaza war." Baird urged President Barack Obama to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. He said, "We ought to bring roll-on, roll-off ships and roll them right to the beach and bring the relief supplies in, in our version of the Berlin airlift."

Criticism by Jewish groups of AIPAC's extremist policies is welcoming, not only because AIPAC is able to skew American foreign policy but also because its actions reflect poorly on the Jewish community and arouse anti-Jewish sentiments. Heard in the land is the oft repeated phrase: "The Jews are trying to control the government for their own benefit."

If J Street didn't lobby, but behaved similarly to Great Britain's Independent Jewish Voices in combating one-sided expressions and their harmful effects on the Jewish people, and also spoke out more aggressively against Israel's oppressive policies and their clash with Jewish ideals, then J Street would contribute to an improved understanding of the Middle East crisis and smother the anti-Jewish feeling arising from AIPAC lobbying and Israel's actions.

However J Street's lobbying activities tend to reinforce AIPAC's mischief.

AIPAC brings on its boat the extremist Jews who, allied with the Christian Right, an organization reviled by all Jews, profess "An Israel first" philosophy. J Street throws a grappling hook to the disaffected Jews who are straying from identification with Israel and its virulently nationalist, militarist and oppressive policies. There might be a shift in the ranks, but J Street, knowingly or unknowingly, essentially caters to another clientele. This clientele is more considerate and less dogmatic, but
J Street still must prove that it does not, in effect, complement AIPAC.

Can any lobby group, which is chauvinist and dedicated to the support of a foreign nation, be welcome in American politics and be permitted to exercise tremendous influence?

J Street doesn't need to be a lobby. It needs to be a spokesperson for the progressive Jewish population, who are sensitive to the plight of the Palestinians, who are feeling the effects of anti-Jewish sentiment due to perception of Israel's policies as being militaristic and ultra-nationalist, and who don't want history to brand the Jewish community as the perpetrators of Palestinian destruction.

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Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. His website articles have been read in more than 150 nations, while articles written for other websites have appeared in online journals throughout the world(B 92, (more...)
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