J Street Leader Supports Two-State Solution

J Street Leader Supports Two-State Solution

National president of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, was the featured speaker at J Street Georgia fundraiser on Nov. 7.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, was the featured speaker at their Atlanta fundraiser.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, was the featured speaker at their Atlanta fundraiser.

The president of J Street, the liberal American political organization that bills itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace, and pro-democracy,” held its annual meeting and fundraising event at The Temple on Nov. 7.

The event, which was described as the largest ever for the J Street chapter in Georgia, attracted more than 200 persons. The gathering, which honored the longtime community activist and fundraiser, Judith Taylor, was said to have raised more than $60,000, which was also a local record for the organization.

Taylor has, over the years, compiled an enviable record of support and charitable giving for several of the most important community initiatives. Her work to create a non-partisan voter guide, particularly, was cited as one of her most enduring contributions to Atlanta life.

The event, which has been planned for many months, came just 30 days after Hamas terrorists swept across the border from Gaza and killed approximately 1,200 people, three-quarters of which, according to the official Israel count, were unarmed and defenseless civilians.

The keynote speaker for the event was Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder and president of the Washington-based organization who reiterated the group’s strong support for the Israeli government’s military response to the terrorist massacres.

“The goals of this operation are to reestablish security along its borders, to hold the perpetrators to account, and to remove Hamas from operational control of Gaza. All of these goals are within Israel’s rights under international law, and we stand squarely behind Israel in seeking to accomplish these goals.”

But Ben-Ami, whose family traces its roots in Israel to the 1880s and whose grandfather was a founder of the city of Tel Aviv almost 125 years ago, coupled his defense of Israel’s military with a reminder. He reiterated that J Street has departed, at times, from other decisions made by the Israeli government in recent weeks. The organization was an early supporter, for example, of humanitarian pauses in the offensive to allow for the delivery of aid for refugees from the fighting in Gaza, including fuel deliveries and water supplies.

Judith Taylor, seen here with her son, Chuck, was the honoree at the J Street annual fundraiser.

The group also criticized the actions by Israel that it said was partially responsible for those “strategic decisions” for what the J Street president termed “this government’s commitment to exclusive Jewish sovereignty over all the land, to its denial of rights and freedoms of Palestinians living under its control.” Israel’s continued existence as both a Jewish state and a democratic nation could only be assured, according to Ben-Ami, with the official recognition of the need for a separate Palestinian state.

“Our argument is that the only way for Israel to truly achieve its goals, to be secure, to be Jewish, to be democratic, is with a state of Palestine alongside. Without that, we’re condemning ourselves and both peoples to this never-ending nightmare of violence and bloodshed.”

The organization has long been at odds with many in the more conservative elements of the Jewish establishment in America. Nearly a decade ago, the group, by a narrow margin, was denied membership in the influential Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

Earlier this fall, AIPAC, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, launched a full-throated attack on the organization. In a letter to its supporters, it criticized the group’s support for making the nearly $4 billion in US military aid to Israel conditional.

J Street was said to have supported attempts to restrict the aid so that it could not be used to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank or other attempts to expand the occupation of Palestinian territory there.

“Today, one of the gravest threats to American support for Israel’s security,” AIPAC said in the letter, “comes from an organization that outrageously calls itself pro-Israel.”

J Street has been a strong supporter of a two-state solution for peace between Israel and Palestine.

Both AIPAC and J Street are expected to play a significant role in next year’s national elections through their respective political action committees.

Ben-Ami’s appearance at the Atlanta fundraiser was in place of Yossi Beilin, the veteran Israel peace activist and former Justice Minister who co-founded the Geneva Initiative that drafted a model peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians 20 years ago. He was unable to travel from Israel for the event at The Temple.

The president of J Street concluded his remarks by quoting from a recent Op-ed in the Washington Post, by Beilin, who described the elimination of Hamas in Gaza as crucial.

“As long as it continues to take and hold hostages,” Beilin wrote earlier this month, “not only of the 240 Israelis, but also all of the Gaza Strip inhabitants, it will do whatever it can to thwart any peace plan based on a two-state solution.”

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