November 2, 2009

SHOULDN'T ANTI-ZIONIST JEWS HAVE A VOICE TOO?:

'Toy Jews' are the peaceniks of J Street: A new lobby group in Washington is taking money from Arabs and trying to turn US policy on Israel on its head (Chris McGreal, November 2, 2009, Sydney Morning Herald)

On the face of it, J Street stands for what the rest of the Israel lobby stands for: peace, a two-state solution and a secure Israel. The divide is in how to get there.

At the heart of the battle is who speaks for America's Jews and what it means to be pro-Israel.

For decades, groups from the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have claimed to be the voice of the largest Jewish community outside Israel, advocating unflinching support for the government in Jerusalem.

But in recent years AIPAC, the ZOA and other groups have drawn closer to the hard right in America, particularly the neocons and Christian evangelical organisations, as the conflict in Israel is framed largely in the context of terrorism while hardline governments pay little more than lip service to peace and a Palestinian state.

Levy says J Street was born out of a belief that many American Jews are now alienated from those who claim to speak in their name.

''A community that is very, very liberal, votes 78 per cent Obama, overall a community that prides itself in the role it played historically in the US in advancing civil rights, was suddenly being identified with the most illiberal, reactionary, regressive policies advocated by groups that claimed to be doing this in the name of American Jewry and the name of Israel, making alliances with these dreadful people on the far right of American politics,'' said Levy.

''What we had a hunch about, and was proven when J Street was launched, is that there is this very large constituency of Jewish Americans who do care about Israel and who are cool identifying themselves as pro-Israel. But their pro-Israelness is about the need for Israel to be at peace with its neighbours, to gain security not by being an ongoing expansionist presence. In fact, that endangers Israel.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 2, 2009 5:55 AM
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