Ackerman Breaks With J Street – A Sign of Trouble Ahead for Dovish Lobby?

By Nathan Guttman

  • Print
  • Share Share

J Street has lost one of its key supporters in Congress, as New York Democrat Gary Ackerman announced he is disassociating himself from the group because of their stance on condemning Israel’s settlement activity in the UN General Assembly.

Now, while it is true that J Street’s power in Congress isn’t judged by one member’s decision to take their endorsement or by another who gives it up, Ackerman is a special case.

First, he is a leading Jewish voice in Congress. Ackerman’s annual deli-style fundraiser event on Capitol Hill brings together pretty much every Jew who has anything to do with politics in this town. And his New York district – New York’s 5th – is about as Jewish as it gets, ranking among the 10 most Jewish districts in the nation.

Second reason for concern – Israel. Gary Ackerman is one of the top authorities in the House on all things relating to Israel. He chaired the subcommittee on Middle East (and will now be the ranking Democrat on it) and has strong ties with leaders from Israel and Arab countries. Ackerman is the kind of congressmen J Street really needs – mainstream, knowledgeable, credible with the Jewish community.

And there’s a third reason why loosing Ackerman is bad news for the dovish lobby – he is great with words. And this means that you don’t want to get on his wrong side, because then Ackerman can easily whip up a press release which includes phrases like this to describe J Street’s approach to the UN vote: “It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

To be fair, J Street did issue a response which argues, among other things that Ackerman did not understand the group’s nuanced approach to the issue. But whatever the reason is, J Street is now without Gary Ackerman, which leaves them low on Jewish congressmen, especially from large communities such as New York.

Here are a few things to look for in the coming weeks that can help assess J Street’s direction:

•The group’s second national conference is coming up next month. This is a good opportunity to look at who will be on the congressional welcome committee and compare it to last year. Bigger list means bigger support.

•Who will be the administration official to speak at the conference? Last year former national security adviser James Jones promised that the Obama administration will send a representative to each conference. Interesting to see who it will be.

•Another indicator – the media. A year ago J Street was the hottest story not only in the Jewish but also in the national press. Will it get the same media-hype?

And of course there is the question of the Israelis. Ambassador Michael Oren and J Street already kissed and made up for last year’s snub, but will he come to a conference of a group that does not oppose condemning Israel in the UN on the settlement issue?

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: J Street, Gary Ackerman

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.