During this week’s first J Street conference in Washington DC -- a US-based, "pro-Israel and pro-peace" Israel lobby group that aims to widen the debate over the Middle East -- an older woman stood up in a session titled "What does it mean to be pro-Israel?" and said: "I have the right to speak out when my tax dollars are backing Israel." She argued that Jews have a responsibility to shape American policy toward the region, especially when the Jewish state occupies the Palestinians with Washington’s approval.
In many ways J Street’s conference was a watershed moment. The group’s aims are conventional -- a two-state solution and establishment of "Jewish, democratic state" alongside a viable Palestinian nation -- but the wide variety of (mostly Jewish) attendees were not content to simply accept strict boundaries of debate. Zionists, students, pensioners, 1948 Jewish fighters, anti-Zionists and Nazi hunters congregated -- more than 1500 people showed up -- desperate to engage the key issues of the age.