To J Street: Defaming pro-Israel Voices Harms Jewish Unity

J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami has consistently refused to work together with pro-Israel voices of the center toward a two-state solution. Will he now at least give us a platform?

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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington Sunday, May 22, 2011.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington Sunday, May 22, 2011.Credit: AP
Alan M. Dershowitz
Alan M. Dershowitz

I accept the challenge posed by Jeremy Ben-Ami in his response to my column. I will continue to work, as I have diligently done since 1970, for a two-state solution. I will support Secretary of State John Kerry’s push to achieve it, as I have done since he first began his initiative. I will continue to push for open debate within the established Jewish community, which includes opening the tent to J Street and other organizations that claim to be pro-Israel, even if I disagree with some of its policies.

Now it is time to ask whether J Street will accept my challenge. Will they open their tent to speakers like me and others who fundamentally disagree with them on Iran and how best to defend Israel against threats to its national security?

To paraphrase Ben-Ami: “Is it right or smart [for J Street] to limit the right to speak in [J Street’s] communal spaces for those to whom you agree?” J Street complains about a “well-funded and energetic campaign to defame and delegitimize J Street.” Will J Street cease their well-funded and energetic campaign to defame and delegitimize me and others who share my critical views about J Street’s approach to Israel’s security? J Street can begin by taking down the video that has me moving my lips while a voiceover has me saying no to the two-state solution and associates me mendaciously with the very different views of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Will J Street cease its lashon hara [unfounded defamation] against mainstream Jewish supporters of Israel? 

When J Street first opened its doors, I offered to work together with Ben-Ami in trying to achieve a two-state solution. I urged him to work with me within the structure of AIPAC in order to try to present a unified view on this important issue. He refused, preferring instead to try to build a large organization by opening his tent to anti-Israel radicals of the hard-left. He and his organization have paid a heavy price for that mistake and for the mistake of accepting funding from anti-Israel sources such as George Soros. 

So here’s the bottom line, Mr. Ben-Ami: I accept your challenge. Will you accept mine and open the doors of J Street to opposing views by inviting me and others who share my centrist perspective to address your members at your national convention? 

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard, a practicing criminal and constitutional lawyer and the author, most recently, of “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law.”

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