Is J Street, AIPAC’s Trojan horse for disarming the American Jewish left?

After meeting last week with J Street‘s executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the Jerusalem Post‘s Shmuel Rosner mused that J Street may have a complimentary role to the one performed by AIPAC.

Maybe as a separate organization with more credibility on the left J Street can help Israel more by way of helping curb the wacky initiatives of the far left (like divestment in Berkeley).

Richard Silverstein responds to that suggestion by saying:

I’d never quite thought of the fact that J Street either intentionally or unintentionally may serve to co-opt the political energy of the American Jewish peace movement. Progressives funnel their energy into the organization which transmutes it in turn into faintly liberal pro-Israel substance that bears only a slight resemblance to the actual political values of many of those progressives. In this way, J Street contributes to the dumbing down of progressive Jewish politics.

“Dumbing down” might be a charitable way of characterizing what J Street is doing. What J Street itself might claim to be a moderating influence in its efforts to occupy the supposedly all-powerful political center, can also be seen as classic Israeli divide-and-rule politics.

Where does Israel face some of its most serious political challenges coming from? The Goldstone Report, the embryonic but significant BDS movement, and the broad political trend that with increasing vigor and fearlessness is questioning Israel’s legitimacy. On all counts, J Street stands resolutely on Israel’s side. Yet even as it does so, it attempts to appeal to American Jews who already have a critical view of the Jewish state. It says, we hear you, we embrace you, and now you can quiet down.

To call J Street, AIPAC’s Trojan horse does not have to imply some kind of nefarious conspiracy behind the scenes but simply suggests that J Street by design or accident is on the way to becoming an integral part of the Israel lobby.

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4 thoughts on “Is J Street, AIPAC’s Trojan horse for disarming the American Jewish left?

  1. delia ruhe

    Thank you for this, Paul Woodward. I knew we were in trouble when the opening event of J Street’s conference was a “who loves Israel more” contest. I think you have lined up perfectly the three most important issues: “The Goldstone Report, the embryonic but significant BDS movement, and the broad political trend that with increasing vigor and fearlessness is questioning Israel’s legitimacy.”

    The most difficult of these is, I think, the legitimacy issue. So far, I’ve heard too few come out and say that it’s perfectly legitimate to question the legitimacy of ANY state that practices apartheid — not to mention violates almost every other international law on the books. So far, one hears a lot of denials.

    More people MUST speak out on this issue of Israel’s questionable legitimacy because it’s the one issue on which Israel has no real self-defense. “Antisemite!” no longer works. “Self-hating Jew!” no longer works. Critics are wearing these accusations as a badge of honour — indeed, if you haven’t been called an antisemite by now, you’re not doing enough on behalf of justice and the rule of international law in the Middle East.

    Which is why the Reut Institute has changed the subject — has been so active in constructing a propaganda campaign around the notion of “Israel’s delegitimizers”, i.e, if you can’t defend yourself against a given charge, project it back on to the person doing the charging — and reconstruct the charge as some kind of evil, unforgivable sin perpetrated against the world’s most innocent, most long-suffering, most persecuted victims.

    Israel insists on being known as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Fine. Let’s see how Israel measures up to its own definition of itself — because this is where the debate about Israel’s legitimacy legitimately begins. It’s the only issue on which Israel can’t say “pick on somebody else” because by it’s own logic, there is no other Middle Eastern democracy to pick on.

    We need an XYZ Street willing to take on this issue of legitimacy head-on, not cower defensively before this latest, trumped-up term of abuse: “delegitimizer!”

  2. Enzo

    Good on you for making these observations, Paul. I withdrew support and unsubscribed from their mailing list last year, as soon as I discovered that they were almost as good at dissembling as Obama.

  3. Christopher Hoare

    There appears to be a common thread to the beliefs of all these Zionist activists and apologizers — that the main purpose of the US is to benefit and ward the state of Israel. Since the American people are waking up to the fact that they also have their own interests which do not always coincide with this lobby, one can expect more desperate arguments supporting it to arise.
    The battle ground could become nastier if the only attitude is that which says ‘to quit is to lose’. It seemed J Street offered prospects of finding an alternate stance — is that why the hard-line attempts to co-opt it?

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