Analysis: A Call from the other side of the Street

The launch of J Call, bolstered by the support of the charismatic Bernard Henri Levy, will increase speculation about the prospects for a similar organisation here.

Rumours have been circulating for months of moves to set up a British equivalent to J Street, the alternative Israel lobby that changed the political landscape of American Jewry two years ago.

There was a swell of interest in the appearance of Daniel Levy, from
J Street's advisory council, at last year's Limmud conference, where he spoke on "pro-Israel advocacy in the era of urgent de-occupation".

If there is now talk of a British
J Street, it is largely reflective of the reticence of the organised Zionist left here over the past decade. Groups like British Friends of Peace Now or Meretz UK, whose director Daniel Zylberstajn quit last week, have been muted, if not dormant.

Instead, Zionist doves have largely channelled their energy into philanthropy rather than politics, supporting human rights in Israel through charities like the New Israel Fund or promoting Israeli-Palestinian coexistence groups.

But the stagnation of the peace process and the return to power of Bibi Netanyahu, allied to Avigdor Lieberman's ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, has led some to wonder whether the time has come for a fresh political initiative.

A British J Street would be pitched between the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Leadership Council - which don't publicly criticise Israel - and groups such as Independent Jewish Voices, widely regarded as outside the Zionist camp.

A British group might well be more of an umbrella body, co-ordinating smaller ones and holding the occasional meeting, rather than fully-fledged campaigners lobbying politicians on a day-to-day basis.

    Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010