The 10th annual J Street conference was a great success. You can measure that success by one metric. It is here. It’s membership is exploding. And Democrats (not Republicans who, natural warmongers, are happily ensconced at AIPAC).
The most impressive thing about the conference was the huge number of young people. These are not like the kids who show up at AIPAC, children of AIPAC members and donors, who follow their parents into the lobby as naturally as they do to the suburbs. No, the J Street kids are, by definition, first generation. Their parents and Hebrew school teachers didn’t choose this path for them. They chose it for themselves.
They are also well to the left of the people who created J Street and run it. While the J Street managers tend to hug the Jewish organizational mainstream, eager not to offend the organizational machers too much, the kids could not care less what AIPAC, AJC, ADL and the others think. They are openly and assertively against the Old Guard while Jeremy Ben Ami seeks acceptance from it.
That is why, during Israel’s onslaughts against the people of Gaza, J Street issues milquetoast statements kind of opposing Israel’s assault while also putting out the usual organizational boilerplate about Israel’s right to defend itself blah blah blah. Some J Street chapters actually joined marches to support Israel during the wars while avoiding contact with more radical groups which unambiguously oppose wars designed to preserve the blockade of Gaza. Or the occupation in general.
In my opinion, J Street will not long survive if it continues that approach the next time Israel starts killing civilians. The Stoneman-Douglas type kids (of whom J Street kids are very much a part) will not tolerate mealy mouthism whether from Members of Congress or J Street machers.
After all, they have other alternatives. Americans for Peace Now and If Not Now (not to mention Jewish Voice For Peace) all oppose military action to preserve the occupation, and don’t look over their shoulder at AIPAC. In fact, they welcome the hatred of the likes of the pro-Israel right. J Street needs to follow their example. It should no more seek areas of agreement with the Jewish Right than with the alt-right.
We’ll see (no doubt soon) if J Street finally understands that. If not, there are alternatives to it, also growing by leaps and bounds.