Anti-Zionists and the J Street Conference

Bernard Avishai, the prominent author and an important member of J Street, is teed off at me for calling him an anti-Zionist. He writes on TPMCafe:

I am just about to board a plane for the US, so I am unable to answer this remarkably ill-informed (and, under the circumstances, vicious) shot from Jefferey (sic) Goldberg: the idea that he cannot go to the J Street conference because "some of [its] most important supporters -- Bernard Avishai comes to mind -- don't even believe in the idea of a Jewish state." I would simply ask readers to consider this post, or this, or this interview. Or just watch this lecture on You Tube. Goldberg has, alas, started to speak about "the idea of a Jewish state" a little like the way FOX News celebs talk about "America." Complexity is for sissies. Very sad. When he was at the New Yorker, his work on the settlers was the best there was.

First, I should thank him for the compliment. Thank you, Bernie. Second, I never stated that I "cannot go to the J Street conference because some its most important supporters.... don't even believe in the idea of a Jewish state." What I wrote was this, in a separate post: "I'm sorry I'm going to miss this conference." That's it. I can't imagine how Avishai came up with this fevered claim that I am boycotting J Street. In fact, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of J Street, asked me to speak at the conference, and I told him I would if I could, but I'm supposed to be out of town on a reporting trip. I'd be very happy to go. In fact, and I'm trying to change my schedule around so that I could at least attend the meeting and see what's going on.

On the more important question of Zionism and anti-Zionism, all I think I need to say is this: Avishai, the author of a book called "The Tragedy of Zionism," believes that Israel's Law of Return should be repealed. This is the law that grants Jews anywhere in the world to claim citizenship in the newly-reconstituted Jewish state, which was meant to be a refuge for persecuted Jews. The law is the raison d'etre of Zionism, and of Israel's existence. I don't think I was being "vicious" in pointing out that Avishai's conception of what Israel should be is very different from the mainstream Zionist position. By the way, J Street's position, as officially enunciated by its head flack to me, is that the group's core mission is to preserve Israel as a "Jewish democracy." Though maybe I should ask J Street if it believes the Law of Return as currently written and implemented is undemocratic.