'The Israel lobby is changing, with newcomers like J Street challenging the right-wing representation and there is talk of resentment in Congress of AIPAC these days but this is no slouch of a lobby by any stretch of the imagination, and taking them on directly will cost any politician significant political capital right now.' --Robert Gentel
Robert, I attended J Street's first annual Conference in D.C. October 25-28 and was very encouraged by it.
1500 progressive Jews and a few others [I'm a Boston Irish other :-) ] filled the meeting rooms and plenary sessions with standing room only crowds and many sitting on the floor. The loudest applause lines were those that spoke of:
"opening up the band of 'acceptable' debate re Israel/Palestine",
a fair and just settlement for Palestinians,
strong support for Obama's efforts for a two-state settlement including PRESSURING Israel and the Palestinians.
[ the AIPAC position of course is to never push Israel on anything but merely to endorse whatever they do and give them whatever they ask for!]
A panel of congressmen discussing their resistance to pressure and threats by the Israel Lobby (to vote a certain way ) drew several standing ovations.
One, Rep, Bob Filner told of losing, " ...$250,000 in campaign contributions per election cycle" for a position, he once took that defied the Lobby.
The lone Republican, on that panel (Rep. Charles Boustany, R-LA) was introduced as the only republican who had not withdrawn from the J Street Conference and received a thunderous standing ovation. In the final weeks leading up to the conference, AIPAC and its minions initiated a blistering , defamatory attack on J Street distorting its positions as anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. Twelve members of Congress who were to be 'Honorary Hosts' of the 10-27 'Gala Dinner' withdrew at the last minute under this pressure.
The good news is that ONE HUNDRED FORTY-EIGHT DIDN'T WITHDRAW.
The president's National Security Advisor, also received a standing O when, after being introduced and welcomed, he said that The Obama Administration intended to be at all of J Streets future conferences,
10-28 was 'Lobby Day' in which 700 J Street members (myself included) descended on Capitol Hill to meet with Members and/or staff to ask them to take a public stand endorsing President Obama's Peace initiative and the precept that it was ok to push both sides to reach a settlement.