Their statement on his essay:

Peter Beinart has written what I hope will be a powerful wake-up call to the leadership of the American Jewish establishment.

J Street shares Beinart’s deep concern over the consequences of the course that leadership has chosen: blind support of Israel ‘right-or-wrong’ and demonization and black-listing of those who disagree with Israeli policy. Beinart – with his impeccable pro-Israel credentials – is hopefully an effective messenger to convince the American Jewish establishment that it is not simply enabling self-destructive Israeli behavior that is damaging American interests, it is sowing the seeds for the end of the American Jewish community as we know it.

Over the course of the last several years, we’ve seen that there’s no such thing as “impeccable pro-Israel credentials” when it comes to making critiques like Peter’s. J Street’s entire existence is dedicated to the proposition that you can in fact be a liberal Zionist, devoted to peacemaking in the name of Jewish democracy. If the Foxmans of the world stopped to think for a moment about the crisis of a younger Jewish generation’s sentiments toward Israel, then they would see J Street as a godsend. Instead, they attack J Street as inauthentically Jewish. If J Street actually believes that arguments — let alone smears — get preempted by presenting a series of credentials, then it hasn’t thought sufficiently about the campaign waged against it within the Shtetl for the past two years.

A deeper problem is the associative reasoning that infects us within the Shtetl. J Street embraces Peter, and so that’ll be enough for some readers to marginalize Peter’s piece. After all, how many times have you read a Jewish author writing that someone’s views about this-or-that are “Walt/Mearsheimer-esque” or some other evasion? It’s a technique to preemptively discredit something as opposed to dealing with it, but it only discredits the author. Sadly, you see Jeffrey Goldberg writing not a word of substance over Peter’s piece, but instead lamenting that Peter published it in the presumably-anti-Israel crowd at the New York Review of Books! Goldberg says that he’ll follow up with Peter and get into the guts of the actual critique, and I hope he will. But we should all stop ourselves if we notice that we use an association to describe an argument as opposed to the argument-itself.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman