J Street

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Group.png J Street
Founder(s) Jeremy Ben-Ami
Type 501(c)(4) charitable organization
Website http://www.jstreet.org/
Interests Israel
Wikipedia page J Street

J Street describes itself as "the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement". Their foundation is based on the following principle:

J Street was founded to change the dynamics of American politics and policy on Israel and the Middle East. We believe the security and future of Israel as the democratic home of the Jewish people depend on rapidly achieving a two-state solution and regional comprehensive peace. Our mission is to promote meaningful American leadership to achieve peace and security in the Middle East and to broaden the debate on these issues nationally and in the Jewish community[1].

"What we're responding to," wrote J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami at the groups launch in 2008, "is that for too long there's been an alliance between the neo-cons, the radical right ofthe Christian Zionist movement and the far-right portions of the Jewish community that has really locked up what it means to be pro-Israel. In 2008 Ben-Ami denounced conservatives "who, through the use of fear and intimidation, have cut off reasonable debate on the topic." Here, J Street has borrowed heavily from Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who argued that "the Lobby" controls the U.S. foreign policy debate in part by silencing critics. (J Street adviser Daniel Levy described the Walt-Mearsheimer book as a "wake-up call.")[2].


The group had tried to model itself on being a "progressive alternative to AIPAC", however the group has been heavily criticised for not being pro-Israel. Michael Goldfarb wrote the following critique in the Weekly Standard:

What would you call a group that opposes sanctions on Iran, questions Israel's right to defend itself from terrorist groups firing rockets from Gaza, seeks to pressure Israel into making major concessions without regard to the views of the elected government in Jerusalem, and supports a U.N.-commissioned report accusing Israel of committing war crimes in the course of self-defense? That group is J Street, the new advocacy organization that calls itself "pro-Israel, pro-peace."[3].

Eli Lieber had the following criticism of the group:

In fact, J Street's policies are more extreme than even their radical Israeli counterparts. During the conflict with Hamas, which was endorsed by all Jewish political parties in the Knesset, J Street proclaimed that Israel's "escalation in Gaza would be counterproductive" and was "disproportionate." It also alluded to a moral equivalency between the policies of Israel and Hamas, stating that it found difficulty in distinguishing "between who is right and who is wrong" and "picking a side."[4].
J Street also "opposes the role of force by Israel or the United States" against Iran and even canvassed Congress to block a bipartisan resolution calling for tougher sanctions. It also urges the US and Israel to negotiate with Hamas. Despite President Barack Obama having done so, J Street chief Ben-Ami refused to endorse Israel as a "Jewish state" relating to it as a "Jewish democratic home in the State of Israel[5].

Lieber went on to say that:

No one seeks to deny Israeli bashers freedom of expression. But there is a need to make the public aware that J Street represents an insignificant group of uncommitted Jews. It must be exposed as hostile to Israel and marginalized from the Jewish community. If Americans understand this, J Street's ability to undermine Israel will largely be neutralized[6].

Harvey Schwartz of the Jerusalem Post delivered the following analysis:

J Street calls itself a "Washington-based Israel lobby group." However, it has not disclosed its client. Is it the State of Israel, which to date has - correctly - not identified itself with J Street? Hardly. Is it the Americans living in Israel? Ridiculous. Is it the knowledgeable American Jews who are vitally interested in the security and growth of Israel? Certainly not.

IN AN interview in this newspaper a number of months ago, Ben-Ami made numerous highly questionable assertions. For example, he stated:

  • 1. That a State of Israel "accepted both internationally and in the [Middle East]" does not yet exist.
  • 2. "The single most important thing that can be done to guarantee Israel's long-term survival" is to grant the Palestinian demands.
  • 3. The Arab rejection of the 1947-48 partition plan and prime minister Ehud Barak's overly magnanimous offer in 2002 to Yasser Arafat of 97 percent of Judea and Samaria - each of which would have given the Palestinians the land they now claim to covet - are merely old history which is not relevant to solving today's "problems."
  • 4. Although the Palestinian leadership is "corrupt" and has "squandered" the billions of dollars, euros and shekels in aid that has been poured into it, the PA is "not a democracy" and "the West Bank and Gaza are, in effect, like two warring states," Israel should nevertheless grant all of the Palestinian demands (while getting nothing in return).
  • 5. J Street is foursquare against Israel taking any military action against Iran's nuclear threat - "even if it were effective" - on the ground that to do so would "give Iran [an] incentive to restart the program."

This sounds like Orwell-speak. Iran's nuclear activities pose a serious existential threat to Israel and much serious and realistic thought must be put into finding the correct Israeli response. Many in our community recognize that J Street's flippant response to Israel's most critical current issue belies its claim of true friendship with Israel.

We cannot imagine any friend of the US suggesting that it agree to negotiate with al-Qaida. Similarly, they cannot imagine how J Street can have the chutzpah to claim that it is "pro-Israel" by advocating that Israel surrender to terrorists.

IF J STREET were truly pro-Israel, it would, at the very least:

  • 1. Support the positions and policies of the duly- elected Israeli government, rather than work to undermine them;
  • 2. Consult closely with Americans living in Israel;
  • 3. Call for the international recognition of an undivided Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital;
  • 4. Call on the international community to more directly and forcefully confront Iran and its nuclear threat;
  • 5. Call for all Arab nations to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state without preconditions;
  • 6. Call for the adoption of democracy by all of the countries within the Arab world;
  • 7. Call on the Arab world to itself solve the "Palestinian problem";
  • 8. Call on the international community to condemn all terrorist organizations and activities, and undertake to do everything within its power to eliminate the scourge of terrorism;
  • 9. Call on the international community to specifically designate Hizbullah and Hamas as outlaw terrorist groups;
  • 10. Call on the international community to take the strongest possible action against the rising tide of anti- Semitism in the world.

Unfortunately, J Street has failed to do any of the above[7].

Clash with Neoconservatives

According to a report in IPS:

Neoconservatives and other members of the far-right came into direct conflict with J Street in May 2008 when J Street issued a statement calling on Republican presidential candidate John McCain to, "renounce John Hagee once and for all."
Many Jews took offense with Hagee's characterisation of Hitler as doing God's work by helping to bring Jews to Israel, and AIPAC found itself in the difficult position of fighting to keep its pro-Israel credentials while not severing its valuable ties to the Christian-Zionist movement and the Christian Right.
The divide between moderate Jews and neoconservatives - many of whom see the alliance with Christian Zionists such as Hagee as a valuable relationship - has proven to be a fault line for organisations seeking to characterise themselves as pro-Israel[8].

Muslim Funds Controversy

J Street were criticised by Right Wing groups for accepting funding from Muslims, IPS Reported:

Right-wing blogs and evening news broadcasts have been reporting the finding that Muslims and Arabs are among the donors to the J Street political action committee (PAC) which lobbies American policymakers to work for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and helps raise campaign funds for candidates who share the views of J Street on promoting American leadership in the peace process.
"Arab and Muslim donors are extremely rare for other organisations that describe themselves as supporters of Israel as J Street does," wrote the Jerusalem Post's Hilary Leila Krieger in an article entitled 'Muslims, Arabs among J Street Donors.'
While the Jerusalem Post took care to present these statistics without crossing the line into making explicit allegations against J Street, far-right pundits quoted in the article and bloggers didn't feel compelled to hold back suggesting that J Street's willingness to take money from Arabs and Muslims undermines their pro-Israel credentials[9].


  1. J Street, About Us, J Street, Accessed 17-December-2009
  2. Jonathan Chait, Tough Love, The New Republic, 4-February-2009, Accessed via Nexis UK 17-December-2009
  3. Michael Goldfarb, When Pro-Israel Is Not Very Pro-Israel; Meet the J Street gang, The Weekly Standard, 9-November-2009, Accessed 17-December-2009
  4. Eli Lieber, Why make a fuss about J Street?, The Jerusalem Post, 22-October-2009, Accessed 17-December-2009
  5. Eli Lieber, Why make a fuss about J Street?, The Jerusalem Post, 22-October-2009, Accessed 17-December-2009
  6. Eli Lieber, Why make a fuss about J Street?, The Jerusalem Post, 22-October-2009, Accessed 17-December-2009
  7. Harry Schwartz, 'Pro-Israel,' my foot! J Street is an anti-Israel lobby, The Jerusalem Post, 29-October-2009, Accessed 17-December-2009 bia Nexis UK
  8. Eli Clifton, POLITICS-US: PEACE GROUP ATTACKED FOR TAKING MUSLIM FUNDS, IPS, 14-August-2009, Accessed 17-December-2009
  9. Eli Clifton, POLITICS-US: PEACE GROUP ATTACKED FOR TAKING MUSLIM FUNDS, IPS, 14-August-2009, Accessed 17-December-2009