Jerusalem Bureau Chief Pits 'J Street' Doves vs. Hawks of 'Extreme Right'

Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner on Friday filed a story on a heated debate at the Israeli Parliament over the advocacy group J Street, a flock of pro-peace doves who want to "end the occupation" of Palestinian land by Israel, "U.S. Group Stirs Debate on What It Means to Be 'Pro-Israel.'"

The Times has been pushing the "moderate" (actually left-wing) group J Street
since its 2008 founding, to little result so far. But the paper keeps trying, usually by tarring pro-Israel Jewish groups as "slavish," stubborn, unreasonable, or "extreme." The text box implied supporters were knee-jerk: "Questioning whether support must be unconditional."

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.

For an electric two hours on Wednesday, the sides fought bitterly inside a parliamentary hearing room. As they spoke, tensions on the Gaza border rose and turmoil spread across the Middle East; hours later a bomb went off in Jerusalem, killing one person and wounding dozens. Israelis are feeling increasingly insecure about any criticism they believe could help their enemies.

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.

Bronner described J Street chairman's David Gilo's belief "that the contract that had long existed between Israel and Jews abroad - one of unconditional support - was expiring and a new one was being drafted."

Bronner then threw around some harsh labels at J Street opponents:

[Professor Shlomo Avineri] added that the extreme right in Israel had always insisted that criticism of Israeli policy was unpatriotic. Now, the extreme right has more power than ever in the country's history, he said, giving its views a greater platform.

Mr. Danon, the Likud chairman of the committee holding the hearing, said he would put to a vote in the coming two weeks a resolution calling J Street pro-Palestinian, asking it to "purge from its ranks" anti-Zionist elements and urging Israeli government officials to refrain from contact with it.