As political crisis loomed in the nation’s capital, Swampscott residents Mark Mulgay, Deborah Nathan, and Peter Nathan traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the J Street national conference as part of a delegation of over 150 pro-Israel pro-peace activists from the Greater Boston area, and over 2,800 from across the United States, Israel, and beyond.
Peter Nathan of Swampscott said the conference, entitled “Our Time to Lead,” drew contributions from well-educated and informed individuals from all sides of the Israeli political spectrum, from the Palestinian political and non-profit arena, as well as a senior advisor to the secretary general of the Arab league.
"I left Washington DC with the renewed sense that one can
support and love Israel but still fight for peace," said Peter, a J Street Organizing Committee member. "I came away from
the conference even more informed that a 2 State Solution is the only
inevitable solution and that the time for this is now, for the future
of the region and the generations to come.
"My personal belief is that political activism through J Street is extremely important. We need to press our politicians to do everything they can to bring about a resolution of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians
and achieve the outcome of a 2 state solution -- two states for two
peoples living side by side in peace and security.
"At the same time I believe it is important to support grass root initiatives, which is why I am involved in Artsbridge, a non-profit that works with Israeli
and Palestinian youth by providing a safe environment that cultivates
creativity, voice, respectful listening and dialogue in order to
empower today's youth to become leaders and change-makers in their
Our Time to Lead was the largest gathering of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement ever. Throughout the four-day conference, which took place September 28-October 1, attendees engaged with political and opinion leaders, policy makers and academics to address the central question of how best to mobilize support for US leadership to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nine hundred students attended, including 90 from Brandeis, Clark, Harvard, and Tufts.
The event featured major policy addresses from political heavyweights including Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Justice Minister and chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni, who argued forcefully for the resolution of the conflict through the achievement of a two-state solution. In addition to Livni, seven Members of Knesset from six political parties spoke at the conference, including representatives from the ultra-Orthodox Shas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. Other notable speakers included US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and civil rights icon Representative John Lewis.
Swampscott resident Mark Mulgay, North Shore Liaison to the J Street Boston Steering Commitee, said of the wide range of views shared by conference speakers: ʺFew organizations have the strength, courage, or maturity to present speakers who may represent perspectives that differ from its own. But then again, J Street is uniquely confident in the strength of its convictions and feels that we can learn a lot from conversing with those we may disagree with. Political movements often serve as an echo chamber in which one can hear exactly what one wants to hear. To J Street's credit, it encourages people to listen to and understand what is outside the box.ʺ
The conference came at an especially critical time, as the Obama administration forges ahead with recently renewed negotiations to achieve a two-state peace agreement within nine months. Vice President Biden, coming straight from a meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivered a rousing keynote to thousands of attendees, saying “"This very moment may offer the best opportunity for peace."
On the final day of the conference, over 900 J Street supporters fanned out over Capitol Hill for 250 Congressional meetings to urge our Representatives and Senators to get behind the peace talks. Even though congressional energy was devoted to urgently addressing the first day of the federal government shutdown, Representatives Kennedy, Tierney, Tsongas, and Senators Warren and Markey nevertheless took the time to meet directly with J Street delegations, indicating their concern for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
J Street also announced that it was launching the 2 Campaign, a one million dollar national advertising initiative to demonstrate broad American Jewish support for the two-state solution.
“We’re going to build that Great Constituency for Peace that Secretary of State Kerry has called for,” declared J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “We’re going to explain what it means; we’re going to be upfront about the sacrifices and the tough decisions – but also about the tremendous rewards both Israelis and Palestinians will reap from peace.”The campaign will start by gathering tens of thousands of signatures backing the parameters of a peace agreement and the compromises both sides must make to get there. From there, it will build outwards to demonstrate the growing constituency for peace in dozens of town hall meetings, educational programs across the nation and outreach to Congress.
J Street is the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans fighting for the future of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. J Street believes that Israel's Jewish and democratic character depend on a two-state solution, resulting in a Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace and security. (www.jstreet.org) J Street Boston, with over 12,000 supporters in the greater Boston area, is the local home for pro-peace, pro-Israel engagement and advocacy. (www.jstreet.org/boston / firstname.lastname@example.org)