A Jblogger Conference Call with Rep. Israel
|Yesterday, I participated in a Jblogger teleconference with Rep. Steve Israel (D) of NY. The conference was organized through the effort of the NJDC blog (the blog of the National Jewish Democratic Council).|
Other participants included:
Holly from The Moderate Voice
Judith Weiss from Kesher Talk
Van Wallach from Kesher Talk
Mik Moore from Jspot
David Honig from The Daily Pulse
Steven Weiss from Canonist
Jennifer Siegel from Forward's Campaign Confidential
Rep. Steve Israel began with a summary of his own background of Jewish activism, and went to over a number of his current initiatives in Congress.
They include a discussion of church-related matters and his energy plan, which would provide an alternative to our current dependence on foreign oil.
Rep. Israel emphasized his hawkish views on security matters, initial support of the war in Iraq, and support of Israel and its current actions. At the same time, he made clear his dedication to protection of civil rights. As an example, he talked about the current controversy over religious coersion in the armed forces. Apparently, many Jews, Catholics, atheists, and others are being threatened with eternal damnation if they don't convert - by their chaplains. In fact, that's one of the issue Congressman will be discussing with his evangelical colleagues.
He also supports the current immigration bill, stating that his position is if you can get Ted Kennedy and John McCain to agree on it, you should go for it.
With regards to the foreign policy, Rep. Israel stated that this administration mistake was to use only hard power without using soft power. By soft power, he explained, he meant becoming independent of the foreign oil, and using this independence to sanction such countries as Iran, if they refuse to cooperate in security-related matters. Secondly, Rep. Israel underlined the importance of long-term post-war reconstruction and developing a modern-day "Marshall Plan" for the region, to insure that the young people there had an incentive to invest in their countries rather than in terrorism.
He argued against getting into heated debates with the most vitriolic and anti-Israel of the left-wing blogosphere, instead placing importance of changing the minds of those, whose views aren't yet entrenched. As an example, Congressman explained his own role. He joined the "blue dogs" - 37 mostly Southern Congressmen, and in the course of their interaction, did his best to pursuade them of the importance of foreign aid to Israel. Many Southern states have limited budgets, and those Congressmen are facing a job of pursuading their own constituencies why it is in their interests to continue aiding Israel monetarily.
Finally, Rep. Israel made clear the importance of getting to know one's representatives and senators on a more personal level and to familiarize oneself with their background and views. He encouraged the participants to contact his own office in case any more one-on-one discussions are needed and also encouraged us to visit his blog.
I, for one, thought that the conference was a very useful experience, and hope to participate in future conference calls.