Don't Call J Street `Anti-Israel'
03/22/2012 - 20:46
Gary Rosenblatt
    I was saddened to see that Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, has come out with a statement entitled “J Street is Anti-Israel, Not Simply Extremist Leftwing.” I have serious concerns about the lobby that calls itself “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” which is holding its national conference in Washington this weekend. When the group speaks out on issues, it sometimes seems far more focused on criticizing Israel than supporting it. And I’ve disagreed when J  Street initially opposed Israel’s 2008 Operation Cast Lead to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel on an almost daily basis; did not condemn the Goldstone Report, a deeply flawed report on the Gaza operation; and opposed Washington’s veto of a UN resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy. That said, I think it’s a very big step to call a Jewish group that claims to support Israel “anti-Israel” and I’m not prepared to make that call with J  Street. We as a community tend to complain about our small numbers and lack of allies. But then we try to make our small circle even smaller, marginalizing would-be advocates who are out of step with us. Tens of millions of Evangelical Christians who love and support and visit Israel because it’s a Christian mitzvah to love Israel? We don’t trust their motives. Jews to the right or the left of us? We don’t like their politics. By my definition, if you support the right of the Jewish people to have a democratic state of their own, as J Street does, you’re inside the tent. After that, let the political and ideological wrangling begin. Leaders of the ZOA should recognize the value of J  Street in persuading, as it has, colleagues on the left against participating in the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel. Many college students and Jewish men and women in their 20s who are progressive in their politics are not going to be drawn to groups on the right like ZOA. Better they should be engaged with J  Street than not at all. Using labels to exclude each other is distracting and self-defeating.    

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Calling J Street "anti-Israel" for its criticizing policies of the Israeli government which are ill conceived, poorly executed, and generally repugnant to anyone who subscribes to the ideals of democracy or Judaism, is like calling parents "abusers" for taking their drug addicted child to a detox facility! It's utter nonsense. Just pathetic!

We really have this tendency to say we are anti this and we are pro that. We stick to much to our subgroups, without realizing that we are just part of one world.

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My impression is that for gyonuer Jews, Israel just doesn't pop up on their radar screens. See the statistics cited by Norman Finkelstein in his most recent book, This Time We Went Too Far . Here's a true story: in the late 1970 s I went to the theater to see Woody Allen's 1977 movie Annie Hall .There's a joke in the movie: Did you hear that Dissent and Commentary have merged? The new magazine is called Dysentary! I laughed, but nobody else in the theater did. They just didn't get it.My date, a young college-educated Jewish woman, had never heard of either magazine. And I can't say that I blame her.

Thanks for posting this on your blog, Mr. Rosenblatt. The definition of support for Israel must be widened, not narrowed. As an ardent Zionist and a supporter of J Street, I believe that being pro-Israel means doing everything I can to ensure Israel's continued survival as a Jewish and democratic state. If that's not good enough for the ZOA, I don't know what is.

I'm saddened that ZOA's Mort Klein would after all the time he's had to get to know J Street still mischaractrize the organization as being "anti-Israel". What a misguided, uneducated thing to say. Thank you Gary Rosenblatt for recognizing the value of J Street as part of the Jewish community which speaks for Israel, and contributes constructively to the conversation over Israel's future. At this week's J Street conference, which I am proud to attend, not everyone will be speaking with the same voice, but all will be speaking out of love for Israel and sincere hope that its future will be secured as a Jewish state beside an independent state of Palestine.

Obviously, Mr. Klein seems to think its "my way or the highway," and short of that he resorts to name-calling rather than deal with ideas he doesn't agree with. Mr. Klein is old enough to know better.

I support J Street in its efforts to bring peace to the region and I support Israel. I may not always agree with the Israeli government's approach to a two-state resolution of the Israel-Palestine impasse. Members of Knesset often don't agree with their government either. Are they anti-Israel, too, Mr. Klein?

Dear Mr. Al Rosenblatt, I would deeply appreciate a position paper from The Jewish Week regarding the Hamas. If zero tolerance is one way to approach a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestine why not start with a total blockade of the tunnels from Egypt? Respectfully yours, Abraham Alan Weber, MD

Thanks for this sane and balanced perspective. J Street doesn't support all of the current Israeli government's policies but it unequivocally supports Israel and its right to exist. The pro-Israel community shouldn't shut out genuine supporters.

It pains me GREATLY to say this: I believe that M.Klein is right and G.Rosenblatt is wrong

Any organization that did the following is anti-Israel (as Gary does include in his piece):
-- Supported the Goldstone report
-- Called on the US Administration to veto a UN resolution condemning Israel
-- Not tell the truth about financial support from G.Soros and others of his ilk
-- Constantly and publicly criticize Israel
-- Slander Israel (Gaza - Israel killing civilians) - even if they later backed off the statement
-- The list goes on and on....

Gary makes the following argument: "Many college students and Jewish men and women in their 20s who are progressive in their politics are not going to be drawn to groups on the right like ZOA. Better they should be engaged with J Street than not at all."

There are other options than those two (i.e., Birthright, etc.) - and our community should increase support of these programs rather than give students and others only two options.

Gary Rosenblatt is to be commended for placing J Street within the "tent" and for answering Morton Klein's smear of that organization as "anti-Israel." But if one wants to use that term, I would apply it instead to Klein and his ZOA: it is they who support settlements, occupation, and the vitiation of Israel's character as a Jewish state.