We know about the falling out between the dovish J Street lobby and prized endorsee Rep. Gary Ackerman. Now, after both sides articulated their positions at length (to recap: Ackerman basically said J Street lost its brains, and J Street responded that Ackerman didn’t understand its positions) — it is time to calm down.
And so J Street is apologizing.
In a blog entry posted on J Street’s website, President Jeremy Ben-Ami went to great lengths to explain the context of the apology, saying it was all about avoiding the uncivil tone so prevalent in political discourse. (By the way, Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs have been calling for public conversation on a more respectful level.)
“This happened last week with Congressman Gary Ackerman, when we reacted sharply to statements regarding J Street to which we objected. We may disagree with him over policy matters at times – but he and we share important larger goals for the United States, Israel and the Jewish people. Our discussions with him and with all those with whom we may disagree at times should be conducted with respect.
So allow me to apologize for the tone of our email on Friday.”
Ben-Ami later told the Forward that the decision to issue the apology was made because he and others in the group felt “it was important to recognize that we probably went too far in our choice of language.” He acknowledged, however, that Ackerman will probably not revive his ties with the group even after the apology.
“I don’t think we will see him endorsed by our PAC again because we are not close enough in our views,” Ben-Ami said. He intends to send Ackerman a private letter that will express J Street’s will to maintain an open channel of communication with the New York Democrat.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
J Street Strikes One for Civility