Will J Street be the new gateway drug?

Will J Street be the new gateway drug? The thought has been running through my head ever since I heard Alana Alpert talking at a panel in the J Street conference examining the divide between the Jewish social justice activism and Israel/Palestine work. The panel dealt with the difficulties that organizations such as the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Jews United for Justice have in moving beyond a domestic social justice agenda and addressing the Israeli occupation. Facing the gap between Jewish activism on domestic issues versus Israel/Palestine, Alana asked whether Jewish social justice organizing was the gateway drug to deal with the Middle East.

The thought has been dancing in my head throughout the whole day, only now taking it one step forward: Will J Street be the new gateway drug that will move liberal Jewish activists who are pro-Israel pro-peace into being progressive Jewish activists fully pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian?

This is not just an academic play of words. We are talking about having an agenda that focuses on what’s good for both sides, not just for the love of Israel.

I confess that the J Street’s conference urgency to reach a two-state solution — although I am yet to hear the word viable attached to the Palestinian state — seems to be motivated more by the upcoming facts on the ground (demographic changes that put in peril the concept of a Jewish majority) than by the current facts on the ground (settlements and the rest of the occupation infrastructure).

Will J Street be the gateway drug that moves activists from the demographic head-count into the field of universal justice and human rights? Only time will tell. But the conference certainly offered some signs for hope. Every item that was not in the agenda — BDS, Zionism, Jewish state — came up for discussion one way or another because it was brought up from the floor. These questions have no easy answers, but time and again they will pop up until they are considered with the seriousness they deserve.

– Sydney Levy

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