Right of Reply: Tell me who your friends are...

J Street has increasingly become a useful tool for fringe groups working to delegitimize Israel.

In a recent op-ed, “Why J Street speaks to us” (March 22), student activists Jesse Rothman and Logan Bayroff claim they “love Israel unconditionally.”
It is just the policies of Israel’s current government that they feel they must criticize and that justify corrective “intervention.”
If only these apparently well-meaning students realized that the vast majority of J Street’s critics have absolutely no problem with American Jews shrugging off the outdated paradigm of unconditionally supporting Israeli policy. This is not the issue.
The issue is whether they are choosing the appropriate forum to express these dissenting views. Unfortunately, J Street is not such a forum. It has increasingly become a useful tool for fringe groups working to delegitimize Israel while claiming that “even the Jews agree with us.”
The issue is choosing partners and conference speakers who advocate economic war on Israel, and who do not support a solution that would preserve Israel’s Jewish character.
If, as the authors say, they love Israel, then they would enlarge the tent of support to include other true pro-Israel and Zionist actors, rather than enlarging it to embrace those who subtly but effectively call for its destruction.
REPORTS FROM participants at the recent J Street Conference state that those moderate speakers who spoke of a two-state solution received only weak applause, whereas the (many) speakers who called for BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) and lawfare received wildly enthusiastic responses.
The authors proudly write about the members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement with whom they collaborate.
This is a movement that questions the right of return of Jews to the State of Israel – the raison d’être of the country. In a recent quote in The Jerusalem Post, Avner Inbar, the spokesman for Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, said Israeli policy allowing Jews to immigrate freely while denying similar rights to Arabs and Palestinians clashed with his organization’s manifesto, and that he considered the Jewish Law of Return unacceptable.
Is this really who Rothman and Bayroff want to be associated with? Do they honestly believe that what is best for Israel is to engage with deniers of its right to exist as a Jewish homeland? Moreover, do the authors really think that those on the Right whom they accuse of attacking J Street don’t want Israel “to be both patriotic and democratic, to protect the security of the state and its Jewish character while honoring the rights of all peoples”? The more J Streeters demonize what they refer to as the Right for critiquing the organization, the more they marginalize themselves.
Finally, while wrapping themselves in the mantle of famous humanists such as Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel (who were social activists as well as strong supporters of the Jewish state) may give credence to their views, it cannot cover the unsavory and potentially dangerous elements they are associating with through J Street as it is currently constituted.
Fight for your particular vision of a democratic and just Israel by all means; just find a forum to do so with those who want essentially the same thing as you – a proudly Zionist country that can provide a secure homeland for the Jewish people.
The writer is chairman of Hadar-Israel’s Young Leadership Division.