Oznia, a blog of Israel things

~JStreet by ozniablog
October 16, 2009, 1:15 am
Filed under: opinion


What does it mean to be an Israel supporter?  In these turbulent times, it is a topic that many people struggle with.  There are those who back Israel subtly, and others who are more vocal in their approach; but is one more valid than the other?  From a political stance, is a person who supports each policy of the Israeli government more of an “Israel advocate” than a dedicated and concerned “Israel-phile” who questions the unconditional support of certain Zionist organizations?

This has been a recent topic of debate with regard to a new Israel Advocacy organization, J Street.  In an article entitled “The New Israel Lobby,” James Traub of the New York Times Magazine described the budding nonprofit as having “progressive views on Israel.”  J Street’s leaders and supporters query the absolute support given to Israel by organizations like AIPAC and the ADL, expressing that, in this era, such persistence and rigidity could be detrimental to the prospects of a peaceful advancement in the region.

In recent months, The J Street approach has proven appealing to American citizens and politicians alike: over the last year alone, its budget has doubled to $3 million.  Their mission appeals to the large number of American Jews that feel their support for dual loyalty is not represented in Washington DC (hence the organization’s name: J Street is missing from the city’s urban grid).  While their liberal policies better represent that percentage that falls to the far left on the political spectrum – J Street supports a shared Jerusalem, a two state solution with 1967 borders and land swaps, and intermediary talks with Hamas – it sheds light on the fact that not all American Jews back Israel unreservedly.  No matter how extreme you perceive their policies to be, J Street wants you to know this: their main concern is to engage diplomatically in the peace process while discouraging militaristic action in working toward compromising a solution.  According to Jeremy Ben Ami, J Street’s founder and executive director, the organization is “trying to redefine what it means to be pro-Israel.  You don’t have to be noncritical.  You don’t have to adopt the party line.  It’s not ‘Israel, right or wrong.’”

Hints of J Street’s approach began to sprout as early as the 1970s.  But maybe its coming into bloom in this age will succeed in inviting more opinions and voices to associate themselves with those that back Israel; perhaps J Street will invite people to rethink the inflexibility such an association previously implied, and broaden the discussion of what it means to be an Israel supporter.


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