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Gaza, Skepticism And J Street

Juan Cole surveys the American debate over the week-long Israeli war in Gaza and finds something surprising:

The Israeli propaganda blitz around their attack on Gaza has been greeted with uncharacteristic skepticism by the American public and even by some of the mainstream US press.

Juan attributes that to a couple of things, first among them is the uneasiness of a lot of the American Jewish community over the attack, but he spends most of his post wondering whether the debacles of the Bush administration have made the public less eager, on the whole, to accept blithe assertions that the war is necessary. I think, though, he is right on the former point.

Unlike in previous Israeli conflicts, liberal American Jewry has an emerging institutional apparatus, led principally by J Street, the progressive Jewish lobby. True to its initial purpose, J Street has been out in front for the past nine days, in the press and in its online pressure efforts for an immediate ceasefire, ensuring that the American debate over the war doesn’t get hijacked by right-wingers who pass along the canard that support for war is support for Israel. For that effort, they and their allies have been criticized in rather harsh terms within the Jewish community, but there’s little sign of backing down. That’s given non-Jewish American progressives some breathing room to argue for a saner approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without having to fend off charges of being somehow anti-Israel. These things are kind of hard to quantify, but so far it looks as if J Street isn’t doing so badly during its first test.

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