Monday, October 18, 2010

Just got back from a lecture by J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. After the talk, outside the theater where it was held, there were a lot of copies of the cartoon shown here, strewn about on tables by the entrance and also in the bathrooms.

His talk went through the usual liberal Zionist talking points. He did criticize the Israeli government, calling the so-called settlement freeze more of a "chill", and pointing out that when Netanyahu was prime minister from 1996 to 1999, he never demanded that the PLO recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But he argued against putting any conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel, because pressure on Israel would only strengthen the hard-liners (does this principle apply anywhere else, such as to Israel's enemies?), and said he is "a firm believer in the qualitative military edge for Israel." He showed his sophisticated level of mock ignorance by keeping a straight face while expressing concern "if a nuclear arms race begins in the Middle East, with other countries trying to match Iran." He spoke out again and again about how he and his organization want Israel to remain a Jewish state, and raised the issue of the "demographic threat" as a serious worry. However, at another time he quoted Rabbi Hillel: "Never treat others as we would not want to be treated ourselves."

Written questions were taken, and on my card I wrote this one:

J Street's slogan is "Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace." There are plenty of Americans who have ancestral ties to Israel but are not Jewish. How does J Street reach out to them?

The question was not chosen to be read.