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J Street Students a Little Confused

The Jerusalem Post reported that the student section of the J Street U national conference voted to remove the words “pro-Israel” from their self-description while keeping the words “pro-peace.” In the original article, the Jerusalem Post sources stated that the words “pro-Israel” might turn off students who might otherwise be interested in J Street.

Today the Jerusalem Post reports:

…Student board president Sophia Manuel putting out a statement Wednesday that, “The national board of J Street U neither discussed nor voted on any action to remove the term ‘pro-Israel’ from our platform, policy or the way we describe ourselves at J Street U’s national conference.”

The J Post then explains that in actuality this was already presented and decided upon previously but was only disseminated to attendees at this conference. It seems the broader J Street movement does use “pro-Israel” in their motto, and only J Street U, the student section, has eliminated it from their motto.

All well and good and not so surprising. However, what was surprising was another board member’s assertions to the J Post in explaining the reasoning of the J Street student activists:

Another member of the student board, Yonatan Schechter, said Sunday the students “decided that we would use the ‘pro-peace’ terminology [because] it was more conducive to discussion. With our generation, it seems that if you use ‘pro-Israel,’ people really want to say ‘anti-Palestine.'”

I am positive that nobody at J Street U will mind if I put my response to this in a form that students understand well.

F.

8 Comments

  1. larry

    10/29/2009 at 9:20 am

    W\iIth great respect, I disagree. I was there. They are not confused. The Jerusalem Post picked up on a tiny non issue and tried to turn it into a story to create a controversy. There were over 200 college and university students from dozens of campuses. I am not a member of J Street and just observed it.

    What I observed is that J Street is progressive, pro pease and pro Israel. They believe in opening the debate in the community on what i pro Israel and they had several sessions that discussed this topic from both sides. They do not believe in squaelching debates and allow all people to state their views.

    While some groups would censor anyone who questioned whether a group is pro Israel and not even allow a debate to occur, it is not a crime for someone to raise a question as to how to define the group and the ramifications of any chosen definition. It is a reality that when some people say Pro Israel, that other people assume it means anti Palestinian. But what I heard among J Street conference attendees was that one can be pro Israel and still support viable secure justice for Palestinian people.

    So, I personally applaud the university students for allowing for open debate, discussing, questioning, and then determining that they are pro peace and pro israel and pro social justice and progressive.

    I would love to see how open the GA 2009 will be to such debates and ideas

  2. themicah

    10/29/2009 at 9:44 am

    I’m with you in spirit, larry, and I personally believe that J Street really is pro-Israel, as I argued in the comments of a Rabbi Yonah anti-J Street screed on this site that was subsequently deleted.

    But unless JPost is just making this stuff up (which seems unlikely given the quote from Jeremy Ben Ami himself in the article), this struggle is emblematic of the enormous battle liberal Zionism faces to reclaim its rightful place between the Hamasniks and the Kachniks. I disagree with a big chunk of the policies J Street advocates, but heartily applaud them for trying to push forward the idea that “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace” are not mutually exclusive. It’s a serious blow to that mission, however, if their own student movement can’t even reconcile being “pro-Israel” with being “pro-peace.”

    J Street describes itself as “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.” I hope it doesn’t get hijacked by a bunch of misguided lefties who lose sight of those values.

  3. themiddle

    10/29/2009 at 10:18 am

    Wow, themicah is defending my position! Larry, first of all, you owe us a BIG post about the conference. Second, I purposely limited the scope of this post to just one item:

    With our generation, it seems that if you use ‘pro-Israel,’ people really want to say ‘anti-Palestine.

    Pure, unadulterated bullshit.

    The problem is not only that the student who said this believes it, but that J Street U has acted on this belief by eliminating “Israel” entirely from its slogan.

  4. larry

    10/29/2009 at 10:29 am

    ah yes yes

    J Street is a big tent at the first conference, and now what they must do, in my opnion is make sure they define themselves and exclude those who cannot consider themselves pro Israel. They cannot be all things to all people, or they are nothing

    Here is the statement from the U leader

    =======================

    For Immediate Release
    October 28, 2009

    Today, J Street U Student Board President Sophia Manuel released the following statement:

    The national board of J Street U neither discussed nor voted on any action to remove the term “pro-Israel” from our platform, policy or the way we describe ourselves at J Street U’s national conference.

    We are building this movement because we care about Israel, its future and the future of the entire Middle East. To us being pro-Israel is intertwined with being pro-Palestine, and recognizing this is a vital step in the pursuit of a lasting peace.

    Our goal is to engage with our communities on this issue, in order to create room for an open conversation on campus. For too long there has been no space that welcomed those with questions. We believe that when students are given a chance to explore their ideas and come to their own conclusions, we build stronger support for our positions and for Israel.

  5. themiddle

    10/29/2009 at 10:39 am

    First of all, the statement

    To us being pro-Israel is intertwined with being pro-Palestine, and recognizing this is a vital step in the pursuit of a lasting peace.

    Our goal is to engage with our communities on this issue, in order to create room for an open conversation on campus. For too long there has been no space that welcomed those with questions.

    is also bullshit.

    There is plenty of space on campus to be pro-Israel and pro-Palestine today. Many Hillels for example. Most supporters of Israel support a two state solution and most have supported such a solution since Oslo in ’93.

    This is true of many campuses.

    If anything, it has become very difficult to find those who are pro-Palestine and who are also pro-Israel.

    Also, please read my post and the links again. The Jerusalem Post states that the decision to remove “pro-Israel” from the J Street U slogan happened before the conference where they informed their attendees about the decision. This is confirmed by the student who makes the claim about pro-Israel = anti-Palestine.

  6. Kung Fu Jew 18

    10/29/2009 at 5:20 pm

    themiddle, when were you last on a campus? Respectfully, I think you have no clue.

  7. themiddle

    10/29/2009 at 7:26 pm

    You mean on campus interacting with students? Probably last time was just before the summer and maybe two or three other times last year, whenever there was an interesting speaker (about Middle East topics, of course).

    If you mean, when was the last time I was on campus taking classes and hanging out with the students, then that was a long time ago. That doesn’t change the fact that neither on these campuses that I visited nor others that I talk to people about, the general atmosphere is not one where pro-Israel equals anti-Palestine. On the other hand, the pro-Palestinian students I meet or hear in these talks tend to seek “solutions” that eliminate the “Jewish” in Jewish state.

    The sad thing for me is that it’s obvious that most Jewish students seek to avoid this debate entirely and identification with Jewishness or with Israel tends to be low on their list of priorities because it’s so hard. They face a lot of pressure on campuses and the Left and Muslim groups are winning the fight because of their numbers and stridency.

    That’s one of the reasons I don’t buy J Street U’s reasoning on this issue. If they’re scared of identifying as Jews who are pro-Israel precisely because the atmosphere on campus is so hostile, then aren’t they aware that they are exarcebating the problem with this approach? That they actually are going to be helping those who make the atmposphere so hostile?

    How can a lobbying group that claims to be interested in Israel’s welfare throw out the “pro-Israel” from their identity? If the the J Street students can’t bring themselves to put “pro-Israel” in their slogan, it raises many questions about what they want and what they represent. At the very least, if this is their approach, J Street as an organization needs to figure out where they stand and whether calling themselves “pro-Israel” is just marketing and has little to do with the facts.

  8. Joseph Kutzman

    10/30/2009 at 12:39 pm

    It is nice to have a discussion and get the warm feel goodies of open communication however, the thought of that discussion taking place trying to find a two state solution for a one state reality is ludicrous and an exercise in denial. There is no Palestine never was nor will there ever be a Palestine. You have to know who you are dealing with. If you don’t after repeated breaches of trust and countless casualties then you are living in a dream world. The Arab states want Israel gone period. Okay now that they are there the next best tactic is chipping away little by little until voila good bye Israel. Israel needs to consolidate all gains take over Jerusalem completely and the rest of the disputed territories including the gaza strip.

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