WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Hundreds of Jewish activists from J STREET visited Congressional offices on March 1 to talk about Israel and the settlements and to present a pro-peace agenda against the dominant views of the pro-settler, pro-occupation American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The visits followed J Street’s second major convention with 2,300 representatives from all over America giving voice to Jews who want an end to the settlements on the West Bank and a viable peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Jon Basil Utley reports on the recent convention of J Street, the third largest organization of Jewish activists in the United States in “J STREET Offers An Alternative to AIPAC,” an article just released at antiwar.com. Founded just three years ago, J Street already has 200,000 members, chapters in 30 states and on 50 college campuses. Sixty members of Congress and 84 rabbis attended the final banquet where Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg introduced the keynote speaker.
Speakers included author Peter Beinart, Dennis Ross, Special Assistant to President Obama, Tom Dine, former executive director of AIPAC, long time liberal activist Kathleen Peratis, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of TIKKUN, and a blue chip list of Jewish and non-Jewish political leaders. See program at http://jstreet.org/j-street-conference-sessions.
Utley described several panels at the second annual convention including such topics as “Is The Settlement Enterprise Destroying Israel’s Democracy?” and the “Struggle to Protect Democracy” inside Israel, which featured several Israelis including Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Israel’s ACLU. A concurrent major theme of the conference was about the struggle inside Israel between mostly Reform Judaism and the Likud-ultra-Orthodox settler alliance which now runs the government. For example, they now want sex-segregated public buses and 27% of Israeli children already attend religious schools with no teaching of science, math or history, but only biblical studies.
Daniel Ben Simon, a member of the Knesset, elaborated on the fight inside Israel between those with Western and humanist values against those trying to turn Israel into a religious state.
J STREET founder, Jeremy Ben-Ami deplored how Israel’s government was bringing about “international isolation and the loss of Jewish values,” which Utley found to be “a constant theme of speakers on the various panels.”
Congressmen speaking at the J Street conference thanked the organization “for giving those concerned for Israel’s long-term viability another position than AIPAC pro-occupation and settlement expansion promotions.”
“J Street argues that what is going on inside Israel needs the light of day and full debate in America’s Jewish community, that the issues are vital to Judaism, and that the consequences will affect the long-term interests of Israel and America,” Utley concludes. See entire article at http://original.antiwar.com/utley/2011/03/06/j-street-offers-alternative-to-aipac/