I’ve just got around to reading James Traub’s approving piece on the liberal Jewish lobby J Street in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, and am struck by the contrast with the Christian lobbies that have come to the fore in the Obama era. The latter–Catholics in Alliance, Sojourners, etc.–represent an effort to reassure conservative religious folks that Democrats feel their faith, and policy concerns. J-Street doesn’t have to reach out to the Jewish rank and file, which voted overwhelming for Obama. It’s to provide an alternative to the Likudnik line of the mainstream Jewish communal organizations.
The challenge is to avoid missteps–such as occurred last summer, when it treated Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel as morally equivalent to Israel’s retaliatory attack on Gaza. Not to argue the point here, if you hold yourself out to be a pro-Israel organization that represents pro-Israel people, you’ve got to be very careful on the moral equivalence front. The current battle the battle on that front concerns the Goldstone human rights report on the Gaza incursion–criticized by the U.S. but insufficiently so for the likes of Abe Foxman of the ADL. As flawed as the parameters of the report were, it did uncover bona fide evidence of bad behavior by Israeli forces. Will J Street have anything to say about that?