Jeremy Ben Ami did an interview with the Jerusalem Post in which he had the equivalent of Sigmund Freud’s “what does woman want” moment. The reporter also managed to use me as a foil for the whole rather sordid exercise:
Some of the group’s former supporters on the far-left of the American Jewish spectrum are growing disenchanted by the organization’s positions.
“I often defend J Street from my readers who accuse it of being ‘AIPAC lite,’” blogger Richard Silverstein wrote this week. However, in the wake of an interview in which Ben-Ami praised AIPAC’s role in strengthening the US-Israel relationship, “I find it harder and harder to do this.”
Such statements from J Street “make clear that there is less and less daylight between J Street and AIPAC,” Silverstein concluded.
Ben-Ami was unmoved.
“I don’t know what they thought we were and what it is that they want,” he said of the disappointed activists…
It should go without saying that I am not a “former supporter” of J Street nor am I on the “far left” except in the mind of a reporter for a far-right Israeli newspaper. All this the journalist would’ve learned had he bothered to do his job and ask me what my views were on the subject. This now makes three times at least the Post has written articles in whole or part about my political views and never once has anyone bothered to confirm their characterization before publishing it.
I consider myself agnostic about J Street. When it does the right thing I will support and praise it. When it does the wrong thing I will criticize it. And I’ve done both (though more of the latter lately).
It does seem to me though that when the Jerusalem Post praises your organization for joining the pro-Israel consensus within the American Jewish community, that there’s something wrong. While for Ben-Ami, this is a development that appears to be most welcome.
I asked Ben-Ami to clarify his remarks in this interview especially as they pertain to me. Apparently, he’s done so many interviews during his current visit there he can’t remember what he said on the subject and whether he was specifically criticizing my own views about J Street. An altogether unsatisfactory answer.
So let’s address Ben-Ami’s closing sentence in the passage above: what did Jewish progressives think J Street was? We thought it would provide a real alternative to Aipac. We thought it would work in favor of a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and push the Obama administration in the right direction when it backed down or lost faith in its own resolve. We thought J Street would have the strength of its convictions and refuse to cave to the prejudices of the Israel lobby in such matters as Iran, the Gaza war, and BDS. But most of all we didn’t want J Street to be a liberal version of Aipac or Aipac lite as some of my readers disparagingly refer to it.
Just as Freud has driven feminists to distraction with the cluelessness of his “what does Woman want” statement, so has Ben-Ami proven J Street is drifting farther and farther from progressive discourse with his “I don’t know what they thought we were” statement. At the present rate, it is beginning to drift perilously close to irrelevance to progressive discourse.
Thank God we still have Americans for Peace Now and Jewish Voice for Peace, who are much truer to what I believe a progressive Jewish perspective should be on the conflict.
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