The left-leaning Israel lobby J Street will have accomplished something simply by holding a large national conference in Washington this month, Nation columnist Eric Alterman argues in a New York Times op-ed today. “Given the reluctance of any American Jewish organization to disagree in public with Israel in the past, the meeting can only be viewed as uncharted territory for organized American Jewry,” Alterman writes. That’s a bit of an overstatement—groups from the vibrant Peace Now of the 1980s to today’s Progressive Jewish Alliance have been doing just that—but J Street may indeed be the first to position its mix of support for and criticism of Israel as representing the mainstream American Jewish view. If President Barack Obama succeeds in pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt settlement expansion and negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, Alterman concludes, the victory will be partly J Street’s.
Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.