Since it was founded in 2008, J Street has attracted many supporters within the American Jewish community and on college campuses. The documentary film “The J Street Challenge” explores the phenomenon of J Street, examining and debating J Street’s message and its leaders.
The film presents J Street’s mission and related actions through speeches by J Street leaders and supporters. J Street believes that it is in Israel’s existential interest to make peace with the Palestinians, and that peace can only come through the creation of a Palestinian state. To achieve a two state solution, Israel must make painful territorial concessions. J Street believes that American foreign policy must take an assertive approach in pressuring Israel and the Palestinian to achieve peace. According to J Street, Israel is mostly to blame for the lack of peace because of its unwillingness to give up land necessary for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. J Street’s lobbying efforts have focused on Congress, the U.S government and on the American Jewish community, especially on college campus and within Jewish institutions. These lobbying efforts are mostly designed to put pressure on the Israeli government.
The film presents comments and analyses from noted academics and writers who have challenged J Street’s mission and tactics. These critics assert that J Street disproportionally blames Israel for the lack of peace and ignores the vicious hatred and incitement promoted by the Palestinian leadership. J Street also seems to ignore the historical context of the conflict, with ongoing hostility and existential threats to the Jewish State from neighboring countries. The critics also question the appropriateness of a political lobby that wishes to circumvent the Israeli electorate and the country’s democracy by seeking to have the U.S government impose a solution. In pursuing its political agenda, J Street has divided the Jewish community and weakened communal support for Israel.
The film investigates the background of J Street and its founders, J Street’s organizational funding, and its alliances with organizations and individuals who are known to be hostile to the Jewish state.
“J Street Challenge” adds an important voice to the American Jewish debate about the American Jewish community’s role in dealing with the Arab-Israel conflict.
Although some organizations have tried to deny J Street a voice in the community, J Street’s proactive outreach has been very successful in allowing it to present its view in synagogues and Jewish community centers. Jewish leaders have always valued the exchange of views and vigorous debate within the community, with the understanding that no one had a monopoly on the truth and the community greatly benefits from a diversity of views and discussions.
As Jeremy Ben- Ami, founder and Executive Director of J street, has correctly noted:
“In keeping with our tradition, we should work through our differences with respect, vibrant discussion, and open dialogue.”
It is in this spirit that “The J Street Challenge” was produced. The film’s goals are to enlarge the discussion, to educate the community about the challenges it faces both from within and from without.