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J Street
J Street Logo
Founders Jeremy Ben-Ami
Type 501(c)(4) charitable organization
Headquarters United States Washington, D.C.
Staff Jeremy Ben-Ami (Executive director)
Franklin Fisher (Advisor)
Daniel Levy (Advisor)
Debra DeLee (Advisor)
Marcia Freedman (Advisor)
Shlomo Ben-Ami (Advisor)
Samuel W. Lewis (Advisor)
Lincoln Chafee (Advisor)
Area served Template:Flag / Template:Flag
Focus Arab-Israeli conflict
Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Method Lobbying

J Street is a nonprofit advocacy group based in the United States whose stated aim is to promote American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israel conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. While primarily made up of Jews, J Street welcomes both Jewish and non-Jewish members. J Street states that it "supports a new direction for American policy in the Middle East - diplomatic solutions over military ones", "multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution"; and "dialogue over confrontation" with wider international support. According to J Street, its political action committee is "the first and only federal Political Action Committee whose goal is to demonstrate that there is meaningful political and financial support to candidates for federal office from large numbers of Americans who believe a new direction in American policy will advance U.S. interests in the Middle East and promote real peace and security for Israel and the region." [1]

Meaning of name

J Street, being an American lobby organisation aimed at Washington, derived its name from the alphabetically named street plan of Washington: the J Street is missing from the grid (the street naming jumps from I Street to K Street). Also, by association, J refers to Jewish as in multiple English abbreviations. Further, "K Street," a street in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C. with powerhouse lobbying firms located on it, has become synonymous for Washington’s formidable lobbying establishment. The absence of a J Street in Washington is for historical/orthographic reasons.[2] Thus, the choice of the name reflects the desire of J Street's founders and donors to bring a voice to Washington D.C. that, much like the missing "J Street" of the downtown grid, has been absent so far.[3] It may also suggest being slightly different from the usual lobbying concerns.

Political vision

According to the J Street website, the organization seeks "to change the direction of American policy in the Middle East" and to become "the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement."[1]

J Street supports Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own.[1] According to its executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street is neither pro- nor anti- any individual organization or other pro-Israel umbrella groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He says J Street is proud of AIPAC's many accomplishments and clarified that the two groups have different priorities rather than different views.[4][3][5]

Explaining the need for a new advocacy and lobbying group, Ben-Ami stated: "J Street has been started, however, because there has not been sufficient vocal and political advocacy on behalf of the view that Israel's interests will be best served when the United States makes it a major foreign policy priority to help Israel achieve a real and lasting peace not only with the Palestinians but with all its neighbors. ."[6]

Alan Solomont, one of the founders of J Street and a former national finance chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and currently a Democratic Party fundraiser, described the need for J Street in the following way: "We have heard the voices of neocons, and right-of-center Jewish leaders and Christian evangelicals, and the mainstream views of the American Jewish community have not been heard."[5] During its first conference, Ben-Ami said that "[t]he party and the viewpoint that we're closest to in Israeli politics is actually Kadima." Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit, who attended the conference, said, "They are more left than Kadima, but on this main issue, which is peace, I think we agree."[7]

J Street's official policy positions as of August 2009 are:

  • On Iran: J Street is "supportive of President Obama’s effort to engage Iran diplomatically." "J street does not, in principle, oppose the imposition of further sanctions on Iran as part of American policy designed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons." J Street references an US intelligence report that states that Iran isn't likely to gain nuclear capabilities prior to 2014.[8]
  • On the Israel-Palestinian conflict: "J Street believes that reaching a sustainable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is both a fundamental American interest and essential to the survival and security of Israel as a democracy and home for the Jewish people."[9]
  • On Jerusalem: "Jerusalem's ultimate status and borders should be negotiated and resolved as part of an agreement between official Israeli and Palestinian authorities and endorsed by both peoples." "J Street would support [...] a two-state solution under which the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem would fall under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighborhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty." "J Street does believe that Israel's capital is in Jerusalem and will be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution."[10]
  • On Israeli Settlements: "Israel's settlements in the occupied territories have, for over forty years, been an obstacle to peace. They have drained Israel's economy, military, and democracy and eroded the country's ability to uphold the rule of law."[11]
  • On Syria: "J Street believes that an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty would contribute significantly to stability and security in the region. The US should vigorously encourage and facilitate Israeli-Syrian peace talks, building on talks pursued previously under Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin, Netanyahu, Barak, and Olmert."[12]
  • On the Arab World: "J Street believes that the US should actively promote and facilitate reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world, as well as the establishment of diplomatic relations and relevant security guarantees - in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement." J Street references the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as a possible framework for a comprehensive Arab-Israel peace.[13]



J Street PAC logo

J Street and J Street PAC, founded in April 2008, exist as separate legal entities with different political functions:

  • J Street - a nonprofit advocacy group registered as a 501(c)(4) social welfare group. J Street aims to encourage "support strong American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts peacefully and diplomatically."[1]
  • The J Street PAC - a political action committee capable of making direct political campaign donations. Thus, the J Street PAC will provide political and financial support to candidates who are seeking election or reelection and agree with J Street's goals.[14]


J Street's founding Executive Director is Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former domestic policy adviser in the Clinton Administration.[5] Ben-Ami has deep ties to Israel: His grandparents were among the founders of Tel Aviv, his parents were Israelis, his family suffered in the Holocaust, and he has lived in Israel, where he was almost blown up in a Jerusalem terror attack.[6] Ben-Ami has worked for many years with Jewish peace groups, including the Center for Middle East Peace and the Geneva Initiative-North America.[3][15]

The initial support of J Street came from multi-billionaire George Soros, who for a brief time was associated with the organization. Soros pulled out before the initial launch, so as not to negatively affect the group.[16]

J Street's advisory council consists of former public officials, policy experts, community leaders and academics, including Daniel Levy, a former high-ranking Israeli official who was the lead drafter of the groundbreaking Geneva Initiative, Franklin Fisher and Debra DeLee of Americans for Peace Now, Marcia Freedman of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Democratic Middle East foreign policy expert Robert Malley, former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Samuel W. Lewis and former US Senator Lincoln Chafee.[15][17]

In an apparent success for J Street, most recently Obama Administration nominated Hannah Rosenthal, a member of the advisory council of both J Street and J Street PAC, to be the head of the Office To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.[18]


J Street is active in two realms:

Political fund raising

The J Street PAC acts as a traditional political action committee raising funds to support a limited number of candidates for Senate and Congressional races.

For the 2008 Congressional elections, the J Street PAC hoped to raise around $300,000 to funnel into three to five swing districts.[19] Ultimately it raised $600,000 and, according to J Street, 33 of the 41 candidates it backed won their seats.[20]

According to Federal Election Commission filings, dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans and Iranian advocacy organizations donated tens of thousands of dollars to J Street, representing "a small fraction" of the group's fund-raising. Donors included Lebanese-American businessman Richard Abdoo, who is a board member of Amideast and a former board member of the Arab American Institute, and Genevieve Lynch, who is also a member of the National Iranian American Council board.[21]

Capitol Hill lobbying

J Street lobbies for and against Israel-related bills and legislation.

J Street's first-year budget for fiscal 2009 is $1.5 million.[15] This is a modest figure for a PAC, though Gary Kamiya writes that J Street hopes to raise significant money online, following the blueprint of MoveOn and the Barack Obama presidential campaign.[6]

Relationship with Israel

On October 22, 2009, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni sent a letter congratulating J Street on its inaugural event. She said she would not be able to attend but that Kadima would be "well-represented" by Meir Sheetrit, Shlomo Molla, and Haim Ramon.[22]

The Israeli Embassy stated that Ambassador Michael Oren would not attend J Street's first national conference because J Street supports positions that may "impair Israel's interest".[23] [24] Oren has continued his criticism since the conference, telling Conservative rabbis meeting in Philadelphia that J Street "is a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream."[25]

Hannah Rosenthal, head of the Office To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in the Obama Administration, criticized Oren, saying his comments were "most unfortunate".[26] After several American Jewish groups criticized Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department said that "Rosenthal has the complete support of the department."[27]

In February 2010 the Foreign Ministry refused to meet with visiting U.S. congressmembers being escorted by J Street on a visit to Israel unless the congressmembers attended the meeting without their J Street escorts.[28] Addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ayalon said, "The thing that troubles me is that they don't present themselves as to what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli."[29]

In Haaretz, columnist Bradley Burston wrote that the Foreign Ministry's refusal to meet with the U.S. congressmembers was "a gratuitous move breathtaking in its haughtiness, its ignorance of and disrespect for the United States and the American Jewish community". He said that the Foreign Ministry considered J Street "guilty of the crime of explicitly calling itself pro-Israel, while not agreeing wholeheartedly with everything the government of Israel says and does."[30]

Haviv Rettig Gur, writing in The Jerusalem Post, said that "J Street won a small victory" in the incident. "If American legislators with pro-Israel records say J Street is kosher," Gur wrote, "that creates a new political reality with which the Israeli Right must contend."[31]

The Foreign Ministry said J Street's assertions that Ayalon refused to meet with the U.S. congressmembers and that he later apologized were untrue, and that they were a fund-raising publicity stunt and a "premeditated public relations circus". Barukh Binah, Foreign Ministry deputy director-general and head of its North America Division said that Ayalon did not prevent any meetings between the J Street group and Israeli high officials and that Ayalon was never on the delegation's schedule. J Street said its information was based on news reports in Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv.[32]

Public response

Israeli-American writer and analyst Gershom Gorenberg wrote in the American Prospect that J Street "might change not only the political map in Washington but the actual map in the Middle East."[33] Noah Pollak at Commentary Magazine predicted that the effort would fall flat and show there are no "great battalions of American Jewish doves languishing in voicelessness."[34]

Ken Wald, a political scientist at University of Florida, predicted the group would be attacked by the "Jewish right." According to BBC News, Wald warned that J Street "will get hammered and accused of being anti-Israel. A lot will have to do with the way they actually frame their arguments."[3][15]

James Kirchick, writing in the The New Republic, called J Street's labeling of AIPAC as "right wing" "ridiculous"; Kirchik says that AIPAC's former president told him that AIPAC was the first American Jewish organization to support Oslo and supports a two-state solution. Kirchick further asserts that some of J Street's positions, such as advocating negotiations with Hamas, are not popular with most American Jews[35] According to a March 2008 Haaretz-Dialog poll the majority of Israelis do support direct talks with Hamas,[36] although this referred solely to the issue of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.[37] Jeremy Ben-Ami responded to Kirchick's charges during a May 26 2008 interview published in Haaretz Magazine.[38] Kirchik also has reacted against J Streets endorsement of the play Seven Jewish Children, which many critics consider antisemitic.[39][40][41][42][43] "To J Street, the inflammatory message of Seven Jewish Children is precisely what makes it worthy of production," he charges.[39]

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, called J Street's reaction[44] to the Israeli invasion of Gaza "morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve."[45] J Street responded stating, "It is hard for us to understand how the leading reform rabbi in North America could call our effort to articulate a nuanced view on these difficult issues "morally deficient." If our views are "naive" and "morally deficient", then so are the views of scores of Israeli journalists, security analysts, distinguished authors, and retired IDF officers who have posed the same questions about the Gaza attack as we have."[46]

In April 2009, the Washington Post called J Street "Washington's leading pro-Israel PAC," citing the group's impressive fund raising efforts in its first year and its record of electoral success, including 33 victories by J Street-supported candidates for Congress.[47]

According to Caroline Glick, deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post, J Street is anything but pro-Israel: "Through their actions, J Street and its allies have made clear that their institutional interests are served by weakening Israel. Their mission is to harm Israel's standing in Washington and weaken the influence of the mainstream American Jewish community that supports Israel."[48]

In August 2009, J Street released its fundraising figures for its PAC division. It showed that "at most 3 percent of the organization's thousands of contributors" were Arab and Muslim donors.[21] Lenny Ben-David, a former Israeli diplomat and current lobbyist for AIPAC, criticized J Street for accepting such donations: "It raises questions as to their banner that they're a pro-Israel organization. Why would people who are not known to be pro-Israel give money to this organization?"[21] J Street President Ben-Ami said that such supporters show the broad appeal of J Street's message and its commitment to coexistence: "I think it is a terrific thing for Israel for us to be able to expand the tent of people who are willing to be considered pro-Israel and willing to support Israel through J Street. One of the ways that we're trying to redefine what it means to be pro-Israel is that you actually don't need to be anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian to be pro-Israel."[21]

Shmuel Rosner has questioned whether J Street actually represents U.S. Jewry.[49] Noah Pollak has questioned the veracity of their polling.[50] Barry Rubin has suggested that J Street is an anti-Israel front for Iranian interests, masquerading as a Zionist organization.[51]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "About J Street". J Street. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  2. "No 'J' Street in Washington, DC". Snopes. 2007-05-27. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Besser, James (2008-03-26). "New PAC To Offer Pols A Dovish Mideast View". The Jewish Week. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  4. Rosner's Guest: Jeremy Ben-Ami
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Abramowitz, Michael (2008-04-15). "Jewish Liberals to Launch A Counterpoint to AIPAC". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Kamiya, Gary (2008-04-29). "Taking Back the Debate Over Israel". Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  7. Hilary Leila Kreiger (Oct 28, 2009). "J Street's Ben-Ami: Our stance is like Kadima's". The Jerusalem Post. 
  14. "About the J Street PAC". J Street Political Action Committee. Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Deveson, Max (2008-04-16). "Jewish lobby gains new voice". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  16. Turning on to J Street, The American Conservative, May 2008.
  17. "The J Street Advisory Council". J Street. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  18. Obama's type of anti-Semitism fighter, American Thinker, November 11, 2009.
  19. Silverstein, Richard (2008-04-17). "J Street, New Israel Peace Lobby, Launches". Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  20. The Daily Telegraph, 18 April 2009, US Jewish lobby challenged by 'pro-peace' rival
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Krieger, Hilary Leila (August 14, 2009). "J Street Donors include Muslims, Arabs". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved August 15, 2009. 
  22. [1]
  23. "Livni letter backs J Street". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. October 22, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2009. 
  26. Ravid, Barak (December 31, 2009). "U.S. official blasts Israel envoy's 'unfortunate' J-Street remarks". Haaretz. Retrieved January 22, 2010. 
  27. "State Dept. backs its anti-Semitism envoy". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. January 4, 2010. Retrieved January 22, 2010. 
  28. J Street congressional group snubbed, blocked from Gaza, February 17, 2010, JTA [2]
  29. Deputy FM Ayalon addresses Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, February 16, 2010, MFA[3]
  30. Burston, Bradley (February 19, 2010). "I envy the people who hate Israel". Haaretz. Retrieved February 19, 2010. 
  31. Rettig Gur, Haviv (February 19, 2010). "Diaspora Affairs: J Street 1 : Ayalon 0". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 19, 2010. 
  32. Rettig Gur, Haviv; Keinon, Herb (February 22, 2010). "'J Street lied about supposed Ayalon boycott, apology'". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 22, 2010. 
  33. Gorenberg, Gershom (2008-04-15). "J Street on the Map". American Prospect. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  34. Pollak, Noah (2008-04-15). "Taking It to the (J) Street". Commentary Magazine. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  35. Street Cred? Who does the new Israel lobby really represent?
  36. Israelis Want to Talk to Hamas | Newsweek International Edition |
  37. Yossi Verter, "Poll: Most Israelis back direct talks with Hamas on Shalit", Haaretz, February 27, 2008
  38. Rosner, Shmuel (2008-05-26). "Rosner's Guest: Jeremy Ben-Ami". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-05-26. 
  39. 39.0 39.1 James Kirchik, Self-loathing on J Street Jerusalem Post, April 12, 2009.
  40. Monica Hesse, 'Jewish Children' Comes to D.C. Already Upstaged by Controversy, The Washington Post, March 17, 2009.
  41. Allison Hoffman, 'Seven Jewish Children' provokes US debate - among Jews, The Jerusalem Post, March 29, 2009.
  42. Jan Ravensbergen, Packed house for provocative play, The Gazette, May 4, 2009.
  43. Cnaan Liphshiz, Liverpool cuts funding for festival that includes 'anti-Semitic' play, Haaretz, May 17, 2009.
  44. Statement in Response to Israeli Airstrikes in Gaza
  45. On Gaza, sense, and Centrism | The Forward
  46. Statement in Response to Rabbi Eric Yoffie's Comments in the Forward
  48. Carline Glick: The Lonely Israeli Left Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2009.
  49. Shmuel Rosner, "Do US Jews really support 'necessary compromises' for peace?", Haaretz, July 17, 2008.
  50. Noah Pollak, "Poll me once, Poll me twice", Commentary blog, August 7, 2009. "Much skepticism of J Street’s polls has accompanied their release, and many have pointed out their clever, results-oriented phrasing. But this hasn’t diminished their ability, when people accuse them of advocating an agenda that has little support among American Jews, to point to their own polling and declare themselves the true representatives of Jewish opinion."
  51. Barry Rubin, "Exposing the J Street Fraud: Why is a 'pro-Israel' Lobby Closely Cooperating with an Iranian Regime Front Group?", August 24, 2009. "Lenny Ben David has written a wonderful article on the J Street fraud, the anti-Israel lobby with the thinnest guise of being a pro-Israel lobby. ... Why should a National Iranian American Council board member give at least $10,000 to J Street PAC? Perhaps it is because of the very close relationship between the two organizations. ... In other words, J Street is getting money and working with the group which supports President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the world's most powerful antisemite who seeks to wipe Israel off the map."

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