Who speaks for America’s Jews?

Members of Congress signed up by the score when they were invited to this weekend’s “pro-Israel” conference. But then the faxes and emails started to roll in, denouncing the organisers as “Jewish Stalinists”, the “surrender lobby” and terrorist sympathisers.

Some members of Congress scuttled for cover, admitting they had little idea what the organisation behind the conference – an upstart Washington lobby group called J Street, which wants to turn US policy on Israel on its head – stands for…

They predicted that J Street and those who launched it – Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Daniel Levy, a former adviser to Israeli cabinet ministers and one of the authors of the Geneva peace initiative – would be swiftly marginalised as a niche group backed by obscure peaceniks with little influence.

But the organisation opens its first national conference in Washington…with a stamp of legitimacy from a White House that is clearly sympathetic to its view. General James Jones, Barack Obama’s national security adviser and one of his point men on Israel, is to make a keynote speech. About 140 members of Congress have pledged their support, even after others backed away, and former Israeli cabinet ministers and generals will be in attendance…

The Israeli ambassador has refused to attend the conference, while the traditional pro-Israel lobby has accused J Street of being “obsequious to terrorists and hostile to Israel” and a “disreputable pseudo-pro-Israel organisation”…

But in recent years, Aipac, the ZOA and other groups have drawn closer to the hard right in America, particularly the neocons and Christian evangelical organisations, as the conflict in Israel is framed largely in the context of terrorism while hardline governments pay little more than lip service to peace and a Palestinian state.

Levy says J Street was born out of a belief that many American Jews are now alienated from those who claim to speak in their name.

RTFA. Long article with much detail. Nothing I haven’t known or witnessed for years as a civil rights activist, as an activist for peace.

But, the average American voter is as ignorant of the divisions within the Jewish community as is Congress. And whoever lobbies the latter with enough bucks and promises of votes – is good enough as far as Congress is concerned.

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