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J Street Con: Group Seems More Anti Israel than Pro-Peace

January 28, 2010 By:
Michael Bronstein
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JStreet claims to speak for the majority of American Jews. With its baseless criticism of Israel, short-sighted policy prescriptions and the company they keep, how could this possibly be the case?

I believe that J Street's public relations have misled the public by marketing the organization as something that it isn't. Many of my friends who were initially attracted to the group have left, disappointed because they felt that it was more anti-Israel than pro-peace.

Still, it is hard to dismiss J Street because the group is trying to manipulate the political landscape.

Part of the problem is that they are so public. J Street members like the attention, they seek out the headlines, and they want to be the story.

I am still not sure if the founders are malicious or just plain naive about the political process. Last summer, for example, the Obama administration seemingly used J Street as cover to question Israel's domestic policy on the settlement issue.

While I do not support the expansion of settlements, the mere presence of J Street forced Israel to concede a bargaining chip -- by putting a temporary freeze on settlements -- even before the Palestinians were at the table. J Street became part of the story, and thereby undermined the message of unity that other Jewish organizations were poised to deliver.

Then in October, as J Street boosters gathered for the organization's first annual conference, attendees jeered when one speaker criticized the Goldstone report, which accused Israel of war crimes during its operation in the Gaza Strip last winter. This was a report that Israel itself called "anti-Semitic."

Just a few months later, J Street made news when it publicly lobbied Congress against a resolution intended to condemn Goldstone's findings. Doesn't this make anyone else with pro-Israel sympathies a tad uneasy?

Whatever one's political tendencies when it comes to Israel, I don't think that we have a lot of latitude to maneuver on the national political stage.

While J Street argues that the American pro-Israel movement is beyond the mainstream, this is not the real issue. The problem is that J Street claims to be a pro-Israel organization even as it refuses to take into account Israel's own opinions.

The situation has gotten so significant, in fact, that Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has weighed in, calling J Street a "unique problem."

I don't have political sympathies for the right, nor do I want to forward a leftist agenda on this issue. Some in the media are too eager to frame this as a left vs. right issue.

But when J Street takes sides in electoral politics -- publicly endorsing one candidate over another -- then we fail to make being pro-Israel a bipartisan issue.

I have seen staunch conservatives support Democrats and the most liberal people support Republicans because protecting Israel is not about American political ideology. Our community should try to agree on that -- this said by someone who spends a good portion of the day devising strategies to get Democrats elected.

By playing what can be a very risky -- and damaging -- political game, this young organization is forcing the rest of us in the pro-Israel community to take sides and play partisan politics to even the balance that J Street is so feverishly working to upset.

J Street may just prove to be the flavor of the day, but the stakes are too high to take that chance. With such fierce opposition to the Jewish state, coupled with relentless external threats to the country's security, we don't have the luxury to divide ourselves into factions, and there is certainly no room for grandstanding.

The group seems not to understand this point. In my opinion, it should stop being so pro-J Street and start being a little more pro-Israel.

Michael Bronstein is president of his own local Democratic political strategy firm. He was recently named one of Pennsylvania's "Top Ten Political Consultants" by PA2010.com.

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