In Defense of J Street

I received an angry e-mail (now there's a first!) from a friend who argues that I'm too naive about J Street, the liberal pro-Israel group. An excerpt:

I watched your debate with Jeremy Ben-Ami the other night and it seemed like you agreed with nearly everything the guy had to say. You should understand that J Street is not a Zionist group at all. It supports congressional candidates who are hostile to Israel, and, in its own statements it says it's opposed even to the threat of military action against Iran, something that Obama does regularly. Why don't you understand that J Street is a wolf in sheep's clothing? It is designed to separate Israel from the Democratic Party. It is not interested in supporting Israel, it is interested in providing cover for Jews who dislike Israel but need a Jewish cover to say so.

I told my friend that I respectfully disagree, and furthermore, I'm troubled that he finds J Street such an existential threat (you'll pardon the expression). I don't agree with everything J Street stands for, certainly, but I find it, in the various brief encounters I've had with its leaders and members, to be filled with American Jews who a) love Israel, and b) wish it would end its policy of settlement of the West Bank, and, if possible, the occupation of the West Bank as well. Since I'm for an end to the settlements myself, I find it hard to believe that J Street is anti-Israel, since I am certainly not anti-Israel. One can be pro-Israel and anti-settlement. There has to be room in American Jewry for people who disagree with the policies of Israeli governments but want Israel to survive as a Jewish democracy.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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