In the U.K., Learning from J Street’s Mistakes
While the question of who is funding J Street appears to have not created lasting damage, the collateral effect may be different in London.
from The Jewish Chronicle (London):
It was miserable timing. Two weeks ago, the JC revealed that a number of activists in the UK were trying to establish a left-leaning Israel group, which would support Israel but not shy away from criticising its government. The initiative, which is being spearheaded by Hannah Weisfeld, formerly of the Jewish Community Centre for London, was directly inspired by the liberal American lobby group, J Street, which, since it was founded in 2008, has increasingly challenged the more conservative Jewish establishment.
… A couple of weeks ago, our own local doveish activists were hoping that some of J Street’s magic would rub off on them. Now, they must learn the lessons of its downfall.
… I have no doubt that the organisers of the UK version of J Street are genuine friends of Israel. But they must know that any liberal Israel group here will be subject to the same accusations of disloyalty. It is also inevitable that it will attract supporters who do not genuinely have Israel’s interests at heart. This was certainly the case with J Call, a continental group that explicitly modelled itself on J Street last year.
The founders need to accept that they may not have full control over who backs them, and that not all these individuals will be Zionists. As a result, the group may evolve in unexpected and unwanted directions. If its founders are uncomfortable with this, they ought not to set up the group.
If they go ahead anyway, they must be absolutely honest and unapologetic about the group’s political beliefs and funding sources. This risks its being pushed beyond the mainstream community’s boundaries, but this is the real lesson of J Street. A liberal Israel lobby can please its more radical constituents, or stay relevant to the wider community – but not both.