Op-Ed: J Street's Spiritual Conceit
David M. WeinbergThe writer is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
The pious spiritual claptrap that characterizes J Street's conference in Washington this week is both a conceit and a new form of Jewish apostasy. Conference speakers earnestly broadcast their "profound" Jewish and "spiritual" identities in order to besmirch the mainstream Jewish community and engender a distancing in US-Israel
relations. This certainly does not fool the American Muslim leaders who are
speaking at the conference. They know and appreciate exactly what J Street
J Street is a new form of Jewish apostasy.
is up to.
It was the Buddhist seders that tipped me off to the real conceit behind J Street. The sensitive "progressive" types behind the new Washington lobby are deeply concerned, it seems, for the morality and soul of Israel.
A love for Buddhist seders, a penchant for avant garde poetry (including a ballad entitled The Queer Intifada), and an abiding concern for Israel's spiritual quintessence – all while being intermarried down to nearly the last Jewish soul
among them – is how The New York Times recently characterized the founders
and key staff members of J Street. They seek, you see, justice and holiness and
Jewish meaning in the world. Especially in the Arab-Israel conflict.
This explains the preponderance of numerous, vaporous spiritual types at this
week's big J Street hug-in in Washington. Rabbi Sharon, Rabbi Amy, Rabbi
Tirzah, Rabbi Jennie, Rabbi Julie, Rabbi Toba and Rabbi Melissa are among the
prominent speakers. They are "diversity facilitators," "spirituality counselors,"
and "interreligious leaders" at places called Neve Kodesh, Brit Tzedek, Dorshei
Tzedek and Just Vision.
So much "Tzedek" (Justice)! So much "Kodesh" (Holiness)! So much
overflowing of honey, holiness and justice! At a political lobby conference, no
less. Perhaps the organization should be renamed Spiritual Street.
You know that all this righteousness just needs to be exported – through tough
love, if necessary – to Israel. To repair the Middle East. To spiritually save
Israel in spite of itself. Or at least to salve the sacred American Jewish soul.
Well, enough, I say, of this misty, sentimental and self-serving gobbledygook.
All this soft spiritual urgency, supposedly on "behalf of" Israel, belies a triple
conceit; or should we say, a great deceit.
Firstly, J Street is peddling the nutty notion that spirituality has anything to do
with Mideast peace. The latent chutzpa is the insinuation that authentic
identification with the Jewish prophets and morality dovetails with the dovish
side of the political map. If only American Jews and Israelis were more
religiously dovish and in touch with the forgiving and compassionate side of
their Jewish souls – we would do the "left" thing and concede more generously
to the Palestinians. Then, lo and behold, peace would come to the Mideast.
The second conceit is that such J Street-peddled nonsense – along with J Street
support for talks with Hamas, opposition to military action against the Hamas,
and opposition to sanctions or military action against nuclear Iran – represents
the majority of American Jewry. Hogwash. Patently false.
The third conceit is that, if only Israel were to change – and it is J Street's job to
get America to force Israel to change – then peace would come to the Mideast.
As if Israel was the party unwilling to compromise. As if Israel hasn't already
offered the Palestinians at Oslo and Camp David and Taba and Annapolis just
about everything they want of post-67 Israel. As if the Palestinians have
compromised on their demands one wit since the great handshake on the
White House lawn. But it is Israel that needs to be pressured, say the J Street
J Street is a new form of Jewish apostasy. Its adherents hasten to embrace their
Jewishness (even if they don't really know much about authentic Jewish
tradition and morality) in order to besmirch Israel and the mainstream Jewish
community. They earnestly declare how "profoundly" Jewish they are, in order
to engender a distancing in US-Israel relations.
I guess that's why J Street has spent most of its resources bashing long-standing
supporters of Israel – calling them extremists and right-wingers and accusing
them of a "silencing" – and listing things that Israel must be made to do. All
this, instead of calling out the dangers of Iranian nuclear weapons or
Palestinian genocidal anti-Semitism. That's why they fret over the Jewish soul
instead of working to save and protect the physical Jewish State of Israel.
The only people clearly not fooled by all this spiritual mumbo-jumbo are Salam
al-Mayarati, Ziad Asali, Trita Parsi and other leaders of the American Muslim
Public Affairs Council, American Task Force on Palestine and the National
Iranian American Council – all of whom are speaking – surprise, surprise – at
the J Street Jewish soul jamboree this week. They undoubtedly see past the
pious claptrap, and know – and appreciate – exactly what J Street is up to.