By Symi Rom-Rymer
In advertising the November debate between Alan Dershowitz and Jeremy Ben-Ami, the 92nd St. Y framed it as a discussion over Israeli policy, Iran, and military vs. diplomatic strategies in the Middle East. Yet it turned out to be a debate not so much about foreign policy, as a fight for the right to represent the Jewish community. A clash between the old and the new. Who has the right to speak for American Jews? Can that right extend to more than one group? And most importantly, (at least to Dershowitz) who has earned that right?
There was, of course, the requisite tussling over J Street’s branding and each of their positions on Iran but the real flashpoint erupted around J Street’s very existence. Despite its successes in its first 18 months, including being named as “in” on the Washington Post’s “What’s In and What’s Out for 2010” list, Dershowitz dismissed it is a small and unimportant organization. Instead, he magnanimously offered to fold J Street into AIPAC, thus preserving its position within and without the Jewish community. Furthermore, he made it clear that AIPAC deserves this distinction because it “has been the standard, traditional organization”—in other words, it has been around longer. Continue reading