In the Arena

The J Street Controversy

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Jeff Goldberg has a good interview with Jeremy Ben-Ami, the leader of J Street–which is a liberal Israel-advocacy group that has been under vicious assault from right-wing Jewish extremists (who’ve conducted a disgraceful campaign to discourage elected officials from attending J Street’s upcoming convention).

Ben-Ami seems perfectly mainstream reasonable to me. You wonder what the fuss has been all about. 

The bright line here, it seems to me, is between those, like Ben-Ami, who really want to see a successful two-state negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians–in other words, the majority of American Jews–and those who prefer the festering status quo, even though they pretend to favor negotiations (the Likudnik position). Those who have been demonizing J Street seem well outside the essential traditions of Judaism, as described by Senator Joe Lieberman, in a Daniel Pearl Memorial speech reprinted on the Commentary website:

Daniel Pearl’s legacy is a powerful one, precisely because he embodied so many of the best values and convictions of our country and of the Jewish faith and people, with which he courageously identified himself in the final moment of his life. They are the values that were taught to him by his parents—the values that animate this great university in which he was educated—and the values that informed his decision to pursue a career in journalism.

I am speaking of the values of freedom of thought and expression, of curiosity and tolerance; and the conviction that people from different backgrounds, cultures, and faiths can not only live together and work together in peace and prosperity but that our world is made a richer, more meaningful place by virtue of doing so. It is the belief that the things that bind all of us together as human beings—history, humor, music, love, and friendship—are capable of transcending whatever differences divide us.

It’s a message I’d love to see Lieberman deliver to J Street…but I’m sure he has no intention of showing up.