A New Voice for Israel: Fight­ing for the Sur­vival of the Jew­ish Nation

Jere­my Ben-Ami
  • Review
By – August 30, 2011
Jere­my Ben-Ami, founder of the dovish Israel lob­by J Street, sets out his beliefs and goals in this part man­i­festo, part auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal work. He is con­vinced that if things don’t change pret­ty soon, chances are that the two-state solu­tion to the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict will slip through our fin­gers.” The author tells the sto­ry of his fam­i­ly and its ties to Israel. His par­ents and grand­par­ents were pio­neers, builders and ulti­mate­ly fight­ers for the cause, for their fam­i­ly and for their peo­ple.” Ben-Ami was born in the U.S. in 1962 and has had a life-long inter­est in the Jew­ish state. As a pro­fes­sion­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic cam­paign strate­gist he details how the issue of Israel has become a polit­i­cal foot­ball in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. He asks, how did it come to pass that major nation­al orga­ni­za­tions of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty had come to present only right-of-cen­ter views on Israel to can­di­dates for pres­i­dent and oth­er fed­er­al offices?”

Ben-Ami claims that those Amer­i­can Jews for whom sup­port for Israel is the most impor­tant issue to vote on rep­re­sent only 8% of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and yet their voic­es dom­i­nate the pub­lic debate and the per­cep­tion of where the com­mu­ni­ty stands.” The nar­ra­tive details how young Amer­i­can Jews are becom­ing alien­at­ed from Israel and that only vibrant dis­sent and crit­i­cism will help bring back Amer­i­can Jews to Israel and also encour­age Amer­i­ca to put pres­sure on Israel to end the con­flict.

The author’s prog­no­sis is not orig­i­nal. Oth­ers, such as Peter Beinart, have been mak­ing sim­i­lar argu­ments recent­ly. His cas­ti­gat­ing of pro-Israel lob­by­ing groups for shut­ting down the debate sets up a straw man that he then eas­i­ly breaks down by claim­ing that his group is offer­ing a new voice. Ben-Ami claims these crit­i­cal voic­es are black­list­ed” or sub­ject­ed to pol­i­tics per­fect­ed by Joe McCarthy.” Yet his book pro­vides evi­dence to the con­trary, includ­ing how J Street has expand­ed to include 600 rab­bis, 170,000 sup­port­ers, and a $7 mil­lion bud­get. While it presents con­vinc­ing evi­dence that young Amer­i­can Jews are alien­at­ed from Israeli poli­cies, the author doesn’t explain how J Street will achieve any­thing but cement­ing their crit­i­cism of Israel. Notes.
Abra­ham J. Edel­heit is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Kings­bor­ough Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege (CUNY) and the author, co-author, or edi­tor of eleven books on the Holo­caust, Zion­ism, Jew­ish and Euro­pean his­to­ry, and Mil­i­tary affairs. His most recent pub­li­ca­tion appeared in Armor mag­a­zine, the offi­cial jour­nal of the US Army Armor and Cav­al­ry Command.

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