J Street suffered a potentially mortal blow against its attempts to regain its shattered credibility as the Conference of Major Jewish Organizations overwhelmingly refused to extend membership to the organization on Wednesday. Of the 39 members voting, only 17 voted to admit J Street into the prestigious Conference–far short of the two-thirds majority required.
Since its founding shortly after the emergence of the modern Jewish state, the Conference, consisting of the 51 most influential Jewish organizations within the United States, has played several important roles, including warning of the threats posed by a nuclear armed Iran and countering attempts at delegitimization of Israel.
Since J Street’s 2008 inception, the organization’s activities have often run counter to the Conference’s stated mission. J Street has, for example, refused to condemn the biased Goldstone Report, supported a U.N. resolution labelling “settlements” as “dangerous and illegal,” and opposed strong sanctions on Iran.
As an umbrella organization, the Conference provides a gauge of the opinions within the broader Jewish community. Within the Conference, diversity of opinions is tolerated and open discussion of the issues is encouraged, as long as all members remain committed to the mission. The refusal to include J street in the Conference suggests that Jewish leadership is recognizing J Street’s inherent opposition to this mission.
The intensity of the J Street membership rejection may be related to Secretary John Kerry’s offensive and inaccurate opine this week. Kerry warned that absent a two-state solution, Israel “winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens–or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.” Rather than condemn this disturbing language, J Street offered a strong defense of Secretary Kerry. The organization declared that “those who are upset with the Secretary’s use of the term [apartheid] should put their energy into opposing and changing the policies that are leading Israel down this road.”
Perhaps Conference members are recognizing the necessity of delegitimizing the delegitimizers. Denying J Street’s application served also as a denial of any credibility of J Street’s radically biased perspective. The Conference deserves applause for tacitly acknowledging the danger J Street presents to the security of Israel.
Numerous politicians from across the political spectrum have severed ties with J Street. Sensible Jewish organizations should refuse to replace those ties. Yesterday’s resounding J Street defeat should encourage all dedicated to a just, lasting peace in the Middle East.