U.S. Group Stirs Debate on Being ‘Pro-Israel’
(The New York Times) -- by ETHAN BRONNER --
JERUSALEM — On one side were members of the Israeli Parliament and advocates who argued that there was only one legitimate way to support Israel from abroad — unconditionally. On the other were those who insisted that love and devotion did not mean withholding criticism...
At the center of the parliamentary debate was a three-year-old American advocacy group, J Street, which calls itself pro-Israel and pro-peace, a left-leaning alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, the pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States. J Street opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank and urged President Obama not to veto an antisettlement resolution in the United Nations Security Council recently.
The conveners of Wednesday’s hearing, a hawkish Likud legislator named Danny Danon and a conservative colleague from the centrist Kadima party, Otniel Schneller, wanted to expose J Street for what they believed it to be — a group of self-doubting American Jews more worried about what their neighbors say than what is good for the state of Israel.
“This is a dispute between those who care what non-Jews will say and those who believe in being a light unto nations, between the mentality of exile and that of redemption,” Mr. Schneller said. “J Street is not a Zionist organization. It offers love with strings attached. They say, ‘We love you only if you behave the way we like.’ ”
Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s founder, came from Washington to defend his group, which claims about 170,000 supporters.
“We should work through our differences with respect, vibrant discussion and open dialogue,” he told the legislators. “It only weakens Israel and the Jewish people to make differences of opinion into something greater and to accuse those who criticize Israeli policy of being anti-Israel or worse.”
The committee meeting, which drew a crowd and often descended into shouting matches, was unprecedented, according to many Israelis. No one could recall a debate inside Israel’s Parliament examining whether an American group calling itself pro-Israel was living up to the name...MORE...LINK
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