A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation

Overview

Many Americans who care about Israel’s future are questioning whether the hard-line, uncritical stances adopted by many traditional pro-Israel advocates really serve the country’s best interests over the long-term. Moderate Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of J Street, the new pro-Israel, pro-peace political movement, punctures many of the myths that have long guided our understanding of the politics of the American Jewish community and have been fundamental to how pro-Israel advocates have pursued their work. These myths...

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Overview

Many Americans who care about Israel’s future are questioning whether the hard-line, uncritical stances adopted by many traditional pro-Israel advocates really serve the country’s best interests over the long-term. Moderate Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of J Street, the new pro-Israel, pro-peace political movement, punctures many of the myths that have long guided our understanding of the politics of the American Jewish community and have been fundamental to how pro-Israel advocates have pursued their work. These myths include:

• that leaders of established Jewish organizations speak for all

  Jewish Americans when it comes to Israel

• that being pro-Israel means you cannot support creation of

   a Palestinian state

• that American Jews vote for candidates based largely on

   their support of Israel

• that talking peace with your enemies demonstrates

   weakness

• that allying with neoconservatives and evangelical

   Christians is good for Israel and good for the Jewish community.

Ben-Ami, whose grandparents were first-generation Zionists and founders of Tel Aviv, tells the story of his own evolution toward a more moderate viewpoint. He sketches a new direction for both American policy and the conduct of the debate over Israel in the American Jewish community.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A powerful argument for the importance of a new approach to solving the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Ben-Ami, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton and founder of the lobby group J Street, calls for a more open dialogue on Israel, claiming that the Jewish community is on a dangerous path that could lead to the destruction of the country. Beginning with the historical background on the creation of Israel and the important role played in it by members of his family, the author convincingly establishes his case that a two-state solution may be the only way to preserve Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jews. He recounts the failure of his father and others to persuade the international community to allow Jews to emigrate from Europe ahead of the Holocaust, and seems determined not to meet a similar fate in his mission to bring about a successful outcome to the Middle East peace process. Turning his attention to the country in which he grew up, the United States, Ben-Ami takes issue with the idea that any deviation from unwavering support for Israel's government is tantamount to betrayal, insisting that "voices of dissent... may also have a critical message to convey—a message that can save lives and change history." The author points to the historic liberalism of American Jews, questioning why their major organizations are unanimously right-wing when it comes to Israel, and attempting to show how a politically conservative and religiously orthodox minority has come to speak for a liberal, secular majority. Ben-Ami says he wants "nothing less than to rewrite the rules of American politics," and of the American Jewish community's conversation on Israel. His arguments, while controversial, are set forth in a passionate and articulate manner, and backed up by facts and clear-headed analysis—though the book's single-minded focus leads to some repetition.

Certain to provoke strong reactions from supporters and detractors, this is a must-read for anyone with a stake—or even an interest—in this difficult issue.

From the Publisher
“Provides an arsenal of logistical and moral arguments stressing that not only is Israel’s occupation over another people a threat to the Zionist dream and American interests in the region, but that it also runs counter to rabbinic values…Ben-Ami’s analysis of the American Jewish vote and his fervent plea for a new voice reads like a compelling last call.”—The Washington Post

“A clarion call for American reasonableness in the Middle East…With the Arab Spring, the United States has a chance for a new beginning in the region. But that will require Washington to adopt a more balanced policy. Maybe, just maybe, J Street will help create the political space to enable that to happen.”—Nick Kristof, The New York Times

"A New Voice for Israel is a gripping family story, a shrewd analysis of American and Mideast politics and a rousing call to action. Most of all it is a book animated by deep love of Israel. I defy anyone to read it with an open mind and believe otherwise."—Peter Beinart, Senior Political Writer, The Daily Beast

“The author convincingly establishes his case that a two-state solution may be the only way to preserve Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jews…Certain to provoke strong reactions from supporters and detractors, this is a must-read for anyone with a stake—or even an interest—in this difficult issue.”—Kirkus

“Argues for nuance rather than rigidity… Most important, Ben-Ami rejects the luxury of pessimism, the laziness of giving up on Israeli-Palestinian peace. His idealism consists not in idealizing Israel (or vilifying it) but of working to make it a better place.”—Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect

"Jeremy Ben-Ami has articulated a clear-sighted, important argument for why it is time to rewrite the 'rulebook' that governs the conversation on Israel. Time is running out on a two-state solution. Ben-Ami issues a clarion call for more focused, determined U.S. efforts to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians before it is no longer possible. A refreshing, must read for anyone who wants to understand the dilemmas facing American Jewry as it wrestles with what its role should be in Israel’s future.”—Janine Zacharia, former Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Washington Post

"A New Voice for Israel is a must-read for every Jew who, like me, struggles with balancing her devotion to the state of Israel with her moral and political values.  Before being inspired by Mr. Ben-Ami's example, I had become one of his ‘Generation Oy,’ my discomfort with right-wing Israeli governments and even more conservative American Jewish organizations alienating me from the country itself. Jeremy Ben-Ami has provided me with a blueprint on how to be a Zionist in the twenty-first century, without compromising my commitment to human rights and democratic values."—Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road and Bad Mother

"This seamless blend of Israeli history, American/Jewish politics, family memoir, and J Street's vision culminates in a rousing call for change in the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A New Voice for Israel is both a compelling personal narrative and a must read for all who care about peace and security in the Middle East."—Letty Cottin Pogrebin, former president, Americans for Peace Now and author of Deborah, Golda and Me

“Ben-Ami speaks with honesty and trenchancy about how American Jews think, hope, and organize. He shows why a democratic Israel needs peace, indeed, that democracy is a peace process without end. A New Voice For Israel, in its disarmingly truthfulness, explains why J Street is not only changing Americans politics but Jewish identity as well.”—Bernard Avishai, the author of The Hebrew Republic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230112742
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/19/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeremy Ben-Ami is the founder and president of J Street, an advocacy group and political action committee that is both pro-Israel and pro-peace. Ben-Ami has been profiled in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, CQ Weekly, and The New York Times. During his 25-year career in government, politics, and communications, Ben-Ami has served as President Bill Clinton's deputy domestic policy adviser, and as national policy director on Howard Dean's presidential campaign, and has helped run numerous political campaigns, including one for mayor of New York City. He also started the Israeli firm Ben-Or Communications while living in Israel in the late 1990s. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

1) FRESH NEW VOICE IN THE ISRAEL DEBATE: Jeremy Ben-Ami represents a new, moderate Jewish voice in the Israel conversation, and an alternative to the longstanding AIPAC, for Congressmen and other political figures that support the state of Israel but privately worry that their support cannot be unconditional. His peace-seeking approach centers on his concern for Israel’s future and safety, as well as America’s interests in the area, both of which he feels are imperiled by the current hard-line stance.

2) HIGH-PROFILE, CONTROVERSIAL COVERAGE: Ben Ami and J Street have garnered a lot of press attention in their short existence, including profiles in the Atlantic, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Just last month they circulated a petition backing the construction of the “Ground Zero mosque” after the Anti-Defamation League came out against it, and garnered 10,000 signatures. They have detractors as well as admirers; but their controversial policies and tactics are adding a new layer to an old conversation, and this book will become the centerpiece of their platform.

3) WIDE NETWORK, MARKETING SUPPORT: Ben Ami and his organization are very active in communicating with the public, and they will ramp it up even more when the book is available. They message regularly on Twitter and Facebook, where they have 10,000 fans. They also hold an annual conference, growing every year, with speakers from both sides of the debates; past conferences have garnered a great deal of media attention.

4) ISRAEL IN THE HEADLINES: The Israeli-Palestinian question has taken center stage recently, due to an unusual wave of sympathy and protests for the Palestinian cause from academics and public figures. Recent events in Israel have focused even more attention on it than usual, not least the controversial Gaza flotilla incident. Events like this, or at least the public perception and reaction to them, are what worry Israel’s supporters, and they look to Ben-Ami as a voice of moderate, common-sense leadership.

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