A number of Goldblog readers have called me naive for writing the other day that "J Street grew organically, and continues to grow organically." Their argument is that J Street is essentially a project of a few wealthy donors to the Democratic Party. I disagree. Yes, it's true that J Street is funded by wealthy people, but so is AIPAC, and I wouldn't call AIPAC an astro-turf lobby. If you've ever been to an AIPAC convention, you'd know that the organization is fueled by the genuine excitement of its grass-roots membership. The same, I think, holds true for J Street. Rich donors can't buy grass-roots enthusiasm. J Street fills an obvious gap on the spectrum of pro-Israel activism, among people who are tired of the anti-intellectual defensiveness of some of the "mainstream" pro-Israel organizations.
On the other hand -- and there's always another hand -- the group runs the risk of being hijacked by haters of Israel. I don't doubt that most people who join J Street are motivated by love for the Jewish state, as a Jewish state, and anguish over its government's decisions. But there are those who would like to use J Street to weaken the bonds between the U.S. and Israel. The challenge to Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder of J Street, over the next year, is to keep the group pro-Israel in the face of concerted efforts to move it in the direction of the hardcore anti-Zionist left.