The Conspiracy

College Students Flood J Street Conference [J Street 2012]

The J Street U table at last year's J Street conference. Credit: David AM Wilensky.

Of the 2,500 attendees of J Street’s “Making History” Conference, a lot of them are skipping class.

About 650 students, 24 percent of the conference’s attendees, turned out in droves for the movement’s third national conference in Washington, D.C. (500 were at last year’s conference). Just to break that up for you, that’s:

  • 125 universities,
  • 24 states and
  • five different countries.

Israel advocacy on campus will be a major part of the discussion this weekend as nearly every time block has a subject relevant to college students. J Street U board members, student leaders and executives pepper the agenda, discussing “Telling Your Story to Make an Impact,” “The Future of Pro-Israel” and “The Next Generation: How Young Israel Activists and Young American Jews are Transforming Zionism and Pro-Israel Advocacy.”

But before any of that happens, March 24’s opening plenary featured a parade of students announcing the presence of 33 chapters of J Street U, the campus branch of the dovish pro-Israel lobby. Shortly thereafter, author Amoxs Oz,  Yerucham Mayor Michael Biton and activist Stav Shaffir applauded J Street’s mission for representing the majority of Israeli public opinion.

“You, J Street, are the only ones brave enough … to have this difficult conversation with us,” Biton said.

As is to be expected, when you gather a bunch of liberal Jews in one room, there’s going to be excitement over criticism of the pro-Israel right, who, according to speakers, shut down conversation and don’t have the answers to solving the peace process.

Oz had this zinger to share:

I’ve been traveling in America for 45 years, once or twice a year, to Jewish communities and campuses and for 45 years they were always trying to hush me by telling me that, ‘Well, in Israel you may you’re your differences but here in America we opt to be united.’ My answer is: United by all means, absolutely. Let us all be united, but why unite under the militant, hawkish, extremist manner of AIPAC? … There is more than just one way to be a good Jew. There is more than just one way to be a good Zionist.

At the end of the day, speakers, particularly J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, hoped attendees would leave the conference more energized to help solve what Oz called the Israeli-Palestinian “tragedy” with a “Chekhovian solution.”

“As a Jew,” Ben-Ami said. “You’re simply not allowed to throw up your hands and walk away.”

Follow editor @DavidAMWilensky, D.C. Bureau Chief @Zachary_Cohen and web editor @renaissanceboy for regular updates and insight on J Street U in the nation’s capital.

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2 Older Responses to “College Students Flood J Street Conference [J Street 2012]”

  1. Tourlai
    March 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Rep. Allen West: J Street is Pro-Palestinian Jewish Organization
    West: ‘I take a man at his word when he says he wants to kill me, I ain’t suicidal.’
    By Rachel Hirshfeld

    In a statement published on his Facebook page, Congressman Allen West called the politically Left-leaning JStreet a “Pro-Palestinian Jewish Organization.”

    “Today on Capitol Hill there are lots of J-Street (Pro-Palestinian Jewish Organization) representatives, of course several have recognized me and wanted to chat,” he stated. “I just have to shake my head when these citizens ask me to believe in Iran and support a two-state solution. When I ask them if there is a willing peace partner on the other side, they respond by saying yes. When I ask them how does one negotiate with leaders who do not even recognize your existence, they respond with, you have to believe in them. Well, looks like I will have to save these people from themselves. I take a man at his word when he says he wants to kill me, I ain’t suicidal.”

    Rep. West is known to be a great friend and steadfast supporter of the Jewish state and has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to ensuring the safety and security of the State of Israel. His recent statement came in response to the organization’s policy conference, which took place from March 24 through March 27 in Washington, D.C.

    Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared as the key-note speaker at the conference, while Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, represented the American administration.

    While the dovish organization prides itself on being “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel,” many prominent Jewish leaders have distanced themselves from the organization for, what are often seen as, its anti Israel policies.

  2. Tourlai
    April 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    I’d like to add the following link:
    In this link, Israel’s deputy ambassador has some harsh words to say about J-Street.

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