J Street had a tremendously successful conference this week – and one may wonder how such a fringe organization had such a successful event. With 2,800 participants including Vice President Joe Biden, multiple members of Knesset, including Israeli opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich, and even Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi and others, clearly J Street’s profile increased this week. They continued succeeding in the political arena.
One of the reasons this extremist organization is so successful is they give a damn about perception, and public relations. While their founder previously owned a PR Agency, today, J Street gives a damn about and spends money on Public Relations. Visiting Israelis (including a group of Israeli Reporters) were flown 1st class to the conference and stayed at top hotels. And this group of Israelis can’t turn down an all expenses paid trip apparently (Even Hanegbi, the son of ultra-nationalist Geula Cohen.).
J Street offers good looking, well spoken representatives who understand messaging and how to make their events seem fun. This comes of course in sharp contrast to American Jewish right-wing organizations who don’t seem to have a member under the age of 75, and speak as if they are talking strictly to the choir.
Jeremy Ben Ami, J Street’s President recently noted that they are spending $1 Million on their campaign “aimed at bringing Jewish Americans to endorse a two-state solution for the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.” As one who has been involved in right-of-center American Jewish organizations for more than 20 years, I can’t remember any campaign that far reaching which the right has ever conducted.
J Street is so far out of the American Jewish consensus – with viewpoints opposing sanctions on Iran by the U.S. Congress; support for the U.S. administration’s demand to freeze construction in Jerusalem – and so much more. As Ambassador Michael Oren has noted, J Street “is a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government; it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.” Their board members have met with Hamas.
These American Jewish left-wing extremists are very successful despite the fact that they represent a tiny portion of world Jewry. Their prominence in public discourse creates a tyranny of the minority because they understand how vital public relations is.
The great Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky once asked “What interest can the Jewish nation have in individuals whose supreme pride consists in the fact that they have renounced their own people?”
While J Street is bad for Israel, their PR campaigns and public awareness advocacy programs are successful because they allocate time and money to PR and relationships – which more in the real Pro-Israel community should learn from and emulate.