Thursday, October 22, 2009

J Street Drama


In a recent post, Noah K. referred to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's "snub" of J Street, reported by Ha'aretz's Natasha Mozgovaya. To express the matter with a little more precision: Oren is refusing to personally attend an upcoming J Street conference, opting to send more junior representatives. In an apparent response, Tsipi Livni, Kadima chairwoman and head of the opposition in the Knesset, sent a note commending the new organization for its conference.

The Driving Change, Securing Peace conference, set for October 25-28, is, I think, J Street's first major public event. General James Jones, the National Security Advisor to the President, will be there as will Martin Indyk and a number of Congressional representatives. But the conference has not yet been able to attract many other senior political figures. It looks very interesting though. J Street has the potential to energize a young, intelligent and engaged base of left-of-center supporters, who will surely make up the next generation of American Jewish leaders. The trick will be to go from being merely a "voice" or a "forum" to making a difference in House and Senate races and in policy decisions by the White House.

Currently, J Street is supporting the reelection of Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee, 9th District), a member of the Progressive Caucus. Rep. Cohen faces a potentially tough, racially-charged contest for reelection in November 2010. Although he easily beat his Democratic opponent in the last election, despite a smear campaign, he will be running against a former Memphis mayor, who has pledged to make the contest for the predominantly African-American district one of "race, representation, and power." Cohen's embrace of J Street, it appears, may have cost him AIPAC's support.

Some readers might remember Cohen from his appearance on the Colbert Show:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District - Tennessee's 9th - Steve Cohen
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

1 comment:

Noah K said...


Thank you for that -- and sorry I just now read it. It is more interesting to see the situation in the context you provide. However, I think you are understating the "snub" and overstating the importance of a rather arbitrary relationship to an American politician, this Cohen of Tennessee. You have to see the Oren refusal in the light of all these other American politicians who declined to participate. Most notable is that John Kerry, who I think we would both agree is an "important figure" withdrew after having been listed as one of the keynote speakers! As for Jones and Indyk, they are obviously powerful guys -- the former is the national security advisor! Politico lists all this: