Shortly after we unveiled our new blog here at the Washington bureau, I got a panicked call from Jeremy Ben-Ami, who was in the midst of organizing a new, pro-Israel, pro-peace organization. The group had gone through a long branding process and come up with the name…J Street! Being strong believers in free culture we told him we thought Washington was big enough for two J streets.
Today J Street (the other one) got its official launch. J Street will consist of a 501(c)4 that will lobby congress and a PAC that will raise money and support candidates who share the organization’s viewpoint: that the only way to ensure a secure future for Israel is by reaching a negotiated, political solution with the Palestinians.
In my six months in Washington, I’ve come to view most issue battles here as essentially games of fusbol. Opposing forces wildly flap and spin their little figurines to try to keep the ball in the opponent’s part of the field, hoping for an error or a bit of luck to aid them in scoring a goal and getting a piece of legislation through. Like fusbol, it’s not even a necessarily highly skilled enterprise; it relies chiefly on energy and persistence. The worst policy and legislative outcomes — farm subsidies, the Cuba embargo, copyright extensions — are produced when only one side is working the handles.
Israel policy is, of course, the area in which this dynamic has been most destructively evident. It’s really remarkable that for the last two decades AIPAC has been allowed to arrogate to itself the role of speaking for American Jews on the topic of Israel, despite the fact its actual positions and staff are far, far to the right of your average Jewish American. Now J Street has, thankfully, joined the scene. As former NYC Corporate council Victor Kovner just put in on a press call introducing the organization, “It’s long overdue.”