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Critics of the two academics countered that the pro-Israeli lobby should be allowed to make its case to government just like any other interest group, and that characterisations of Jewish lobbyists as "well-funded" and "powerful" were liable to play into the hands of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.
The team behind J Street do not necessarily buy into the Walt-Mearsheimer analysis, but they do believe that America's current policy tilts too strongly towards Israeli right-wingers, and is in the long-term interests neither of Israel nor the US.
"The most pro-Israel thing any American politician or policy maker can do is help to bring about a two-state solution and a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and her neighbours," says Mr Ben-Ami.
Its political fundraising sister group - J Street PAC, for political action committee - will raise money and donate to sympathetic politicians.
The group is billing itself as a counterweight to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the most prominent Jewish lobbying organisation in the US.
J Street says Aipac does not reflect the liberal views of a large number of its existing donors, let alone the mainstream of Jewish-American opinion.
In 2006, academics Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago caused a storm when they published an article arguing that groups like Aipac had pushed US foreign policy in a pro-Israeli direction often against America's national interests.
Although Aipac have not publicly commented on J Street's launch, they are - perhaps unsurprisingly - not thought to be particularly supportive of the new group's aims.
Nor are they concerned that they will lose their pre-eminent position within the Jewish-American community.
"I believe that Aipac has very broad support and will continue to enjoy it," Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, of which Aipac is a member, told the Washington Post newspaper.
Financially, J Street is certainly unlikely to pose a threat to Aipac.
Its first-year budget of $1.5m (£750,000) will be no match for Aipac, which has an endowment of more than $100m (£50m), over 100,000 members and 18 offices around the US.