Highlighting Michael Omer-Man's article asking why J Street is so controversial, I said in my last post that I would offer an answer. Omer-Man's answer that it's because J Street is the new kid on the block seems too easy and fails to address the reason J Street is so venomously and irrationally attacked by those on the right.
I'd like to begin by re-framing the question a bit. I think the question in this context essentially asks what is it about J Street that drives the right wingers so crazy. Because other than right wing rage, there isn't a whole lot of controversy about J Street.
So here's my answer: the right wing is more concerned about winning the argument than ending the conflict. The right wing will not be satisfied until every last living creature acknowledges the moral superiority and righteousness of the Jewish people. We are just and the Palestinians live to destroy us. So it doesn't matter to the right wing that the Palestinians have put down their arms, have accepted Israel's right to exist and have absolutely no military capability to destroy the Jewish state. The right wing wants a declaration that Israel is justified in all its actions, whether it's the expulsion of Arabs during the War of Independence or maintaining a 44 year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. To prove their point, the right wingers are only too willing to double down, and continue in this vein - we ain't doing anything wrong, so why stop - until the world acknowledges that Israel had good cause for all its actions. They cannot stomach the idea that Israel, like every other country that has ever existed, is not pure. Because the right wingers have an infatuation (which is different than love) with Israel, they are unwilling or unable to recognize its past sins. Doing so would destroy the idealized Israel they hold dear to their hearts. Israel is good and the Palestinians are bad. Add this to death and taxes. And you better not question it.
Here's the thing. These are not stupid people. They are smart, educated and successful people most of them. They know (or at least suspect) deep down that Israel is not pure, but rather than acknowledge that in any meaningful way, they continue to insist that Israel is pure as if insisting on it will make it true. Arriving at a compromise with the Palestinians, however, necessarily admits that the right will not get their declaration of victory and further implies that they acknowledge Israel's misdeeds. So they resist compromise, cast the conflict in moral terms and assert absolutist positions. (By the way, there are those on the far left that do the same.) For those in the United States it is a comfortable stance to take. They can hold their idealized view of Israel and bask in self righteousness with impunity because they are not being asked to pay the price of the continued conflict.
So getting back to the question of why J Street is so "controversial," the answer is not because J Street is the new kid on the block. And it's not because J Street espouses a two-state solution. But it's because J Street seeks to end the conflict, rather than win the argument. And along the way, J Street has been courageous enough to acknowledge Israel's failings. When the right hears J Street call on Israel to end the blockade of Gaza or to cease settlement activity, the right's anger flares not because J Street is wrong, but because they know J Street is right. Accepting even the legitimacy of J Street, however, is too much for them to bear in the face of what they also "know," i.e., that Israel is right and the Palestinians are wrong. It is this cognitive dissonance that makes J Street so "controversial."