Liberal advocacy group J Street U looks to re-launch at Northwestern

Kelly Gonsalves, Reporter

After months out of commission, a liberal advocacy group hopes to break back on campus with an explosively-titled event: “What the F— is J Street?”

Northwestern’s J Street U chapter, which advocates a two-state solution in the Middle East, dissolved earlier this academic year due to a lack of activity and organization. The group was formerly known as “Yalla,” which means “let’s go” in Hebrew, but four Northwestern students are working to revive the group under the new name.

The group claims to be NU’s only organization dealing directly with the Middle East conflict that officially and ideologically supports both Israeli and Palestinian states.

“In general, J Street is forward thinking in that there are other organizations that get mired in the history and that get mired in ideology over pragmatism,” said Josh Boxerman, one of the four co-founders. “When people on both sides feel that you have a right to the whole thing, then the conflict can never really be solved. It can only be resolved through compromise.”

Boxerman, a Weinberg sophomore, said that the best possible way to facilitate this compromise in the interest of both parties is to have a separate Palestinian state living in peace next to the Israeli state. The borders would be in line with those of the pre-1967 arrangement.

The co-founders said the new J Street plans to spark discussion, learn about the history behind each side’s narrative, and pressure the U.S. government to advocate for a two-state solution.

Regarding other groups on campus deal with the conflict — such as Wildcats for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine — co-founder Tal Axelrod, a former Daily staffer, said  although he is not totally aware of each of these groups’ platforms, he feels the difference in stances are evident in the names.

“Just the names to me sound very one-sided,” the Medill freshman said. “J Street — while the majority of the people I’ll admit are Jewish — we take a very bipartisan approach to this, but while you just hear the names of the other clubs, you don’t really get that sense.”

Despite the possible disagreement in platforms, J Street does have some overlapping ideas with other groups.

This week, Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a number of events for NU’s first-ever Social Justice Week. One of the events, held Wednesday night, discussed interfaith perspectives on the conflict and the concept of “decoupling Zionism from Judaism.”

Although J Street is indeed a Zionist organization with a primarily Jewish membership, co-founder Jeremy Rotner said he believes the idea of Zionism causes a lot of struggle for Jews trying to look at the conflict from a political perspective, while still holding on to their religious belief that Israel is the land of the Jewish people.

“We want to be able to engage in conversation that blends those two attitudes and shows that you can still be a defender of Israel and you can still be solid in your Jewish faith while still fighting for a two state solution,” the Weinberg junior said.