Response to Announcement of Knesset Debate on J Street

March 11, 2011

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami issued the following statement upon news that the Knesset Immigration, Absorption, and Public Diplomacy Committee will hold a debate on J Street later this month:

As an American Jewish organization founded to promote Israel’s long-term future as a Jewish, democratic home, J Street was surprised and disappointed to learn Thursday that a committee of Israel’s Knesset will be convening to discuss J Street and our views on policy and politics. It appears from press reports that certain members of the Knesset are hoping to ascertain whether, by their political litmus test, our views are sufficiently “pro-Israel.” We believe such a Knesset discussion is unprecedented in the history of Israel. It appears to be one more regrettable step by a small but growing group of anti-democratic forces in Israeli politics to limit debate and to intimidate those with whom they disagree. J Street represents over 170,000 Americans who support the State of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to a national home of their own. We speak for a very large number of American Jews when we advocate strongly for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing that it is an existential necessity if Israel hopes to remain both Jewish and democratic. We are at times critical of some policies of the government of Israel, but our support for the state and its people is unwavering. J Street is very proud to have become, in less than three years, a home for a large number of American Jews who for too long have felt unrepresented in the American political debate and Jewish communal discussion on Israel. Our supporters have been searching for a way to maintain their connection to Israel that matches their values, and to engage in a meaningful dialogue on Israel that reflects the breadth of opinions in our community. We are particularly excited that so many younger American Jews have embraced J Street as a home where they can express a love of Israel that comports with their values. Our recently-concluded national conference was a statement of our emerging strength, as over 2000 people attended including over 500 college students. In our advocacy, we adhere to the vision of the founders of Israel, as articulated in the country’s Declaration of Independence, that the national home of the Jewish people should be “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel” and “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” We support a vibrant democracy in Israel that brings the values of the Jewish people to life. The fact that the Knesset should be debating the acceptability of J Street’s views at all does and should concern many who care about the state of Israel’s democracy. We, however, will engage proudly in this committee meeting and take this as a welcome opportunity to introduce J Street in Israel, and to call Israeli public attention to the risk posed to relations with American Jews by the growing strength of extreme and anti-democratic forces in Israeli politics and their efforts to stifle debate.