J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote the following blog post to mark the second anniversary of J Street’s founding:
J Street turned two this week.
As ever, there wasn’t a quiet moment. With fury to our right over President Obama’s more focused attention to resolving the conflict and fury to our left over divestment at Berkeley, J Street’s thesis that a powerful political movement can be built with its feet planted in the progressive mainstream of our community is being put to the test.
We at J Street remain convinced – as we were at our launch two years ago – that a large number of Americans – Jewish and not – are pro-Israel and pro-peace: uncomfortable with either extreme and supportive of a rational but urgent effort to end the occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution.
Our polling tells us that the largest number of Jewish Americans and other friends of Israel believe that Israel’s future and security depend on achieving a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that leads to two states living side by side in peace and security.
Yet, just in the past few weeks, the right wing has gone on the attack against President Obama for staking out a clear position on America’s interest in resolving the conflict and for demanding that both Israel and the Palestinians demonstrate seriousness of purpose in ending the conflict.
While the majority of the community stands with President Obama, communal leaders like World Jewish Congress head Ron Lauder take out full page ads to question his commitment to Israel and to argue for only unquestioning support of Israeli policy.
At the same time, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is looking to win a battle at Berkeley to end the University of California’s investment in two companies doing business in Israel whose products may play a role in supporting the occupation.
As we oppose the one-sided, punitive approach to Israel favored by the global BDS Movement, those to our left question our commitment to urgent action to end the occupation and to hasten the realization of the Palestinian people’s quest for a viable, independent state of their own.
Attacked from both sides with vigor and passion, the question for J Street is whether there is actually a moderate majority to represent on this issue. Those with the loudest voices and deepest passion seem to gravitate to the extremes and those of us with more nuanced arguments get drowned out.
The challenge for J Street in these coming two years is to rally our base with a campaign that says: not only does a progressive and moderate majority exist, but it is passionate enough to fight for a sensible two-state future for Israel and the Middle East.
Looking back ten to fifteen years to the early years of the peace process, I – probably like many in the mainstream – felt that time was on the side of the peacemakers. The vision of people like Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan would, I believed, inevitably win out. Right would inexorably triumph over might, peace over terror, and reason over ideology.
Yet, today, my strongest fear is that time has switched sides and now runs against those of us yearning for a reasonable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken eloquently this month about how demography, ideology and technology are all reasons why time is running out for those of us seeking to preserve a democratic state and Jewish home in the land of Israel, living alongside an independent, secure state of Palestine.
With hardened ideologies reaching larger numbers of people and improved rockets and weaponry capable of inflicting ever greater damage – it is only a matter of time before one spark sets off a conflagration that cannot be contained.
And with the number of non-Jews in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean likely to soon exceed the number of Jews, Israel will face some stark choices ahead as it seeks to maintain both a democratic and Jewish nature.
As we said in our own full-page ad just a few weeks ago, “The Time is Now” for action.
It is time for the President of the United States, together with our allies around the world, to step forward with a clear framework for ending the conflict in a way that puts a choice about the future squarely before the parties to the conflict. Do they want continued violence, terror and bloodshed as they fight for sole dominion over the land, or the peace and security to be gained through two states living side by side?
And it is time for us at J Street to put what we’ve built over two years to the test. We need to provide more than calls for action by someone else. We ourselves need to mobilize around a broad-based campaign that doesn’t simply support but also demands that our leaders here in the United States step responsibly to the forefront of leading the resolution of this conflict.
Now is not simply “the” time – it is our time. Our time to step forward and demonstrate that the center of our community can and will prevail over the louder voices on either side of us.
Happy second birthday!