Wednesday, April 28, 2010

J-Street Europe to launch next week

Next Monday in Brussels, a European group modelling itself on J Street will be launched. The first action of 'J Call' (subtitle: 'European Jewish call for reason') will be to present a petition criticising Israeli government policy to the European Parliament.

You can read the document here. The statement itself does not seem terribly controversial; it calls for Europe to apply pressure to 'both parties' and it calls for an end to settlements in 'Arab districts of East Jerusalem' (presumably, then, they support building in Ramat Shlomo, with its 20,000 Jews?).

I do wonder, though, how the lawmakers presented with these statements will interpret them. I suspect they will jump on the elements critical of Israel and miss the balance.

Just what kind of effect this group will have remains to be seen. But it has enormous potential. First, a much larger percentage of European Jews than American Jews probably support J Street-type positions; there is a big gap in the market for Jews who do not want to support IJV, but are nonetheless left-of-centre and eager for some activism.

In addition, in the US, J Street was meant to counterbalance the powerful Aipac lobby, which is supportive of the Israeli government, and was always going to be the younger, smaller, less influential rival. In Europe, there is no similar lobby to Aipac, certainly not at the EU level, potentially giving J Call quite a lot of influence, quickly, if it is successful.

Will this be good for European Jewry? Presumably, many on the left will feel empowered, while many on the right will feel threatened. You can expect the tone of communal debate surrounding Israel to become even harsher than it currently is.

All eyes on Brussels on Monday then...

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