Alternative Israeli lobby group launches in the US


Are liberal Jewish voices in America being drowned out by powerful conservative lobbyists? A group of prominent left-leaning Jewish-Americans thinks so.

They have launched a new lobbying organisation, called J Street, which they hope will redress this perceived imbalance.

"The term 'pro-Israel' has been hijacked by those who hold views that a majority of Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, oppose," says executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

He says J Street will campaign for a two-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

Its political fundraising sister group - J Street PAC, for political action committee - will raise money and donate to sympathetic politicians.

The group is billing itself as a counterweight to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the most prominent Jewish lobbying organisation in the US.

J Street says Aipac does not reflect the liberal views of a large number of its existing donors, let alone the mainstream of Jewish-American opinion.

The role of the pro-Israeli lobby - and of Aipac itself - in American politics has been the subject of furious debate in recent years.

In 2006, academics Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago caused a storm when they published an article arguing that groups like Aipac had pushed US foreign policy in a pro-Israeli direction often against America's national interests.

Critics of the two academics countered that the pro-Israeli lobby should be allowed to make its case to government just like any other interest group, and that characterisations of Jewish lobbyists as "well-funded" and "powerful" were liable to play into the hands of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

The team behind J Street do not necessarily buy into the Walt-Mearsheimer analysis, but they do believe that America's current policy tilts too strongly towards Israeli right-wingers, and is in the long-term interests neither of Israel nor the US.

"The most pro-Israel thing any American politician or policy maker can do is help to bring about a two-state solution and a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and her neighbours," says Mr Ben-Ami.

They might not be able to counter the juggernaut that is AIPAC but it's nice to know that not all US supporters of Israel are horrible Netanyahu types.
Many would agree that if we could put the clock back to 1917 we would have preffered Balfour never to have made his declaration. What followed the declaration was a complete betrayal and disregard for the political rights of the Arabs and specifically those Arabs living in Palestine. However the Zionist state cannot be dis-invented. It is here to stay. I do not understand what strategic interest of the USA is served by its Pavlovian support of Israel. I wish the new lobbying organisation (see above) success.

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