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.