J Street and the Battle for the Jewish Soul

By Ross, Jack | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2010 | Go to article overview

J Street and the Battle for the Jewish Soul


Ross, Jack, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


THE INAUGURAL conference of J Street, held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC from Oct. 25 to 28, lived up to the media fanfare which led up to it. The self-styled "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby, launched in 2008, has been at the center of controversy since it opposed the Israeli war in Gaza. Expecting an attendance of around 1,000, the conference ultimately exceeded capacity at 1,500-a sure sign that large numbers of Americans are looking to J Street with hope for extrication from, if not the resolution of, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the same time, the controversies which raged going into the conference are no less ferocious coming out of it.

Unlike past likeminded Jewish organizations, J Street has typically avoided any talk of "Zionism" or "the Jewish people." This line appeared to break down in the opening plenary of the conference, however, most strikingly with a film prepared by the leftist New Israel Fund featuring several American rabbis speaking effervescently of their love for Israel as their ostensible homeland.

But overall, as the conference wore on, this avowed progressive Zionism demonstrated itself to be mere "crossdressing," as David Brooks called it in the context of the Democratic and Republican conventions, projecting a markedly different image to the public than would be evident on the floor and in breakout sessions. The marked absence of progressive Zionist platitudes from all of the breakout sessions attended by this writer may be exactly analogous to the contrast reported on by bloggers such as Philip Weiss at recent AIPAC conferences: between the warm regard for the Obama administration expressed in their public program and the frank neoconservatism dominating the breakout sessions.

Notable in this connection was the postscript for the conference written by The Forward's J.J. Goldberg, who in multiple breakout sessions eagerly held the line for steadfastness to Zionist ideology, even to the point of invoking such antique platitudes as that "the Jews"-as opposed to mere Israelis-were entitled to national self-determination "just like the French." Writing after the conference, Goldberg rued that "[b]y calling for unfettered debate, J Street essentially invited the un-Zionists to come and participate. Objecting to their presence would undercut its declared commitment to open discussion. But embracing them would undermine its credibility as a pro-Israel organization advocating compromise as a means to strengthen Israel's security, not weaken it."

Permeating the conference throughout, and perhaps especially in the "crossdressing" main program, was the theme that we are rapidly approaching the point of no return with respect to saving the two-state solution. There was probably no one more alarmist about the rapidly closing window than Eric Yoffie, leader of the Union for Reform Judaism. Yoffie had issued a highly publicized attack on J Street last January over its opposition to Israel's war on Gaza, and while many observers had expected him to make some effort to be conciliatory in his highly anticipated address to the conference, he came out forcefully with no apologies for his positions on Gaza. Indeed, he began by lecturing about what it means to be a "pro-Israel organization," that this required no less than to "recognize that Jewish life cannot be sustained without Israel at its core."

Most notably, however, Yoffie was roundly booed by the audience for declaring that "Richard Goldstone should be ashamed of himself," referring to the recent U.N. report finding that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity in Gaza. This was followed with a polite questioning from the floor by Ellen Lippmann, a co-chair of Rabbis for Human Rights, speaking candidly about the devastation to Gaza's civilian population and infrastructure in repeating her organization's endorsement of the Goldstone Report-only to receive the cold shoulder from her rabbinic colleagues.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

J Street and the Battle for the Jewish Soul
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.