J Street is calling but are we really listening?

I’m on my way to the first J Street conference in Washington DC. Extreme Zionists in the US call the group “cranks“. Other so-called leading Jews in the US are equally spooked. What, some Jews meeting who don’t love the settlements and want to bomb every country in the Middle East? Lynch them!

Gideon Levy in Haaretz has his say:

Israel has been dealing one blow after another to the rest of the world. While China has still not recovered from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s absence from the reception at its Tel Aviv embassy – a serious punishment for China’s support for the Goldstone report – France is licking its wounds after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “vetoed” a visit by the French foreign minister to Gaza. And Israel has dealt another blow: Its ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, will boycott the conference next week of the new Israel lobby J Street.

China, France and J Street will somehow get by despite these boycotts, Turkey will also recover from the great vacationers’ revolt, and we can expect that even the Swedes and Norwegians will recover from Israel’s loud reprimands. But a country that attacks and boycotts everyone who does not exactly agree with its official positions will become isolated, forsaken and detestable: North Korea of today or Albania of yesterday. It’s actually quite strange for Israel to use this weapon, as it is about to turn into the victim of boycotts itself.

Israel strikes and strikes again. It strikes its enemies, and now it strikes out at its friends who dare not fall exactly in line with its official policies. The J Street case is a particularly serious example. This Jewish organization rose in America along with Barack Obama. Its members want a fair and peace-seeking Israel.

That’s their sin, and their punishment is a boycott.

The fact that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has endorsed the conference is hardly something to celebrate. The woman has a long history of starting wars against the Palestinian people.

It seems that anybody who has any hesitation about J Street – including me, for the record – must be smeared by the self-proclaimed spokespeople of the American Jewish community. That suggests insecurity, not strength. Open debate about Israel/Palestine requires an honest reckoning of every issue, no hesitations, and J Street is simply a place for many of us to gather and discuss. And plan.

Here’s Daniel Luban in IPS with the run-down of the fear:

The basic premise of J Street is that it is possible to be both liberal and pro-Israel. If the hardliners succeed in destroying J Street, and with it any viable outlet for liberal pro-Israel sentiment, they will force the younger generation of American Jews — who are overwhelmingly Obama Democrats — to choose between support for Israel and liberalism. No doubt some will choose Israel, but far more will choose liberalism. And in that case Israel will face a predicament far bleaker than whatever it fears from J Street.