Over 5000 years of history, we Jews have demonstrated a remarkable talent for survival, the promulgation of morality and justice, tolerance of others, terrible cuisine and an almost protozoan genius for subdividing ourselves. Thus, there is an organization that is actually called the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations. It has 51 members, some of whom are not all that major–but ok, a diversity of voices, that’s good!
Except not this week. The Conference of Presidents Etc Etc…rejected the attempt of a liberal group called J Street to become a member. The vote was close, but despicable. Indeed, you might wonder what sort of barbarities did J Street commit to be denied entry? After all, there are antique socialist organizations like the Workman’s Circle in the COPOMJAO; there are organizations representing peaceniks, like Americans for Peace Now. J Street must be really extreme, right? Actually, no. It pretty much supports the Obama Administration line on a Middle East peace settlement and nuclear negotiations with Iran. Thereby, it represents a majority of American Jews, who voted for Obama in droves twice.
J Street does not, however, represent the views of AIPAC–the American Israel Public Affairs Committee–the heart of the so-called Israel Lobby. And AIPAC represents the views of Benjamin Netanyahu. It opposes United States foreign policy on the West Bank and the Iran negotiations–not always frontally, but reliably. COPOMJAO has traditionally followed a Likudnik line as well…and it appears that Jewish Neo-Conservatives have gotten a bit touchy about the possibility that a new group like J Street, which actually represents the views of a significant number of Jews, will grow into a real rival to the current out-of-touch Jewish establishment.
This is a decidedly un-Jewish development. Where I come from–the outer boroughs of New York City–Jews were known for, and entertained ourselves by, arguing about everything. Nothing was ever off the table. But I’ve noticed a tendency of the neo-conservative Jews to denigrate those who disagree with their extreme right-wing positions. They bully. They refuse to engage in a serious debate. They have a cult-like devotion to the party line. They call groups like J Street “anti-Israel,” when it’s possible, perhaps even probable, that COPOMJAO’s hard line will compromise Israel’s ability to thrive in the future.
The CPOMJAO rejection will work well for J Street. It will be “good” publicity, especially among those Jews who have been dismayed by those who claim to Judaism’s official leaders in America. COPOMJAO, meanwhile, seems as silly as its name. It needs reform, including a new identity: I would suggest The Jew Crew as a replacement, but that would imply a lack of self-righteousness and openness to diverse opinions that COPOMJAO doesn’t seem to have.