Max Blumenthal follows up on his post the other day revealing that J Street refused to have non-Jews debate the issue of boycotting Israel. Jeremy Ben-Ami is the head of the liberal Zionist organization.
“I think it is essentially important that this discussion not just be an intra-Jewish affair,” [JVP's Rebecca Vilkomerson] stated [to J Street]. Vilkomerson proposed scheduling a debate between Ben Ami (or someone representing J Street) and [Omar] Barghouti, the intellectual author of BDS and one of its most articulate advocates, when he arrived in the States this April for his book tour.
Ben Ami responded as follows (I redacted the email addresses and personal banter):
From: Jeremy Ben-Ami
Date: Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 7:07 AM
Subject: RE: BDS debate?
To: Rebecca Vilkomerson
My apologies for taking so long to get back to you. Obviously not an easy question – and not a lot of bandwidth at the moment for me to really engage people in discussion of a complex question related to after the conference!
As a general matter, I am open to participating in discussions of strategies for ending the conflict that would include me and someone who favors the use of BDS tactics.
I am not particularly likely to do that in a frame that is about the tactics themselves or even framed as being about the BDS movement. I’m really open to how to frame it, I just don’t think it advances the ball for a broad enough community for it to be simply ‘about BDS issues.’
I also am most likely – given J Street’s mission within the Jewish community – to do such discussions with others in the Jewish community such as yourself – though again I don’t rule out a discussion with Omar or other Palestinian activists. Our discussion as J Street in my mind is less with them – because they can choose whatever tactics they want, but within the Jewish community about how we run our communal conversation around these difficult questions.
Finally – again as a general matter I’d consider it a home run to do such a discussion including someone who thinks we’re both wrong and who thinks that any of our efforts to change Israeli policy constitute de-legitimization…
Ben Ami’s email was provided to me by Rebecca Vilkomerson. “Jeremy [Ben Ami] asked me to forward on exactly what he wrote because he believes this will clarify that his policy is not racist,” she told me.