For the two weeks before Tuesday night’s J Street gala dinner, controversy swirled around the 160-member congressional host committee for the event. A number of members got inquiries about their inclusion on the committee (which didn’t require their attendance at the dinner) from the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, and other critics of J Street attacked the organization as out of the mainstream — leading more than a dozen host commitee members to take their names off their list.
But two of the biggest congressional names who were in attendance Tuesday night weren’t even on the host committee. House Foreign Affairs Commitee Chairman Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Commitee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) were two of the 44
close to three dozen members of Congress who dined at the 18-month-old organization’s first conference. Others in the crowd included Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and Rep. Debbie Wassserman Schultz (D-Fla.) spoke at a closed-press VIP reception before the dinner began. Former Carter national security adviser — and noted Israel critic — Zbigniew Brzezinski — also was there.
The event itself was sort of a mini-version of the famed AIPAC policy conference banquet, with 800 in attendance compared to AIPAC’s some 7,000. There was a (shorter) roll call of members of Congress in attendance, dinner and lots of speeches.
One thing that was different was the head-scratching decision of The Washington Note’s Steve Clemons to do some schtick. He came out to introduce speaker Chuck Hagel while wearing a Biden mask, and proceeded to do what seemed like an endless, not particularly good impression of the vice president (in reality, it couldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes.) I’ve since discovered — although it probably wasn’t clear to anyone in the room Tuesday night except readers of Clemons’ blog and really avid Chuck Hagel followers — that the mask was an inside joke, a reference to a Halloween stunt two years ago in which Hagel showed up at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wearing a Biden mask and a sign saying "Vote for Me!"
In his speech, Hagel, who retired earlier this year from the Senate after 12 years, said that the United States’ "support for Israel need not be, nor should it be, an either-or proposition that dictates our relationships with our Arab allies and friends."
"The U.S. has a long and special relationship with Israel, but it must not come at the expense of our Arab relationships. That is a false choice, and not in the interest of Israel or the U.S. This is a much used distortion that plays to the single issue benefits of certain groups."
The evening also included a tribute to one of J Street’s co-founders, New York lawyer Victor Kovner, and one surprise — a video message from Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Jordan’s King Abdullah touted the Saudi peace initiative in a video address to the J Street conference.
In his brief pre-recorded message, the king congratulated J Street and touted the 2002 Saudi plan as offering a path for Israelis and Arabs to pursue peace.
"We must find a new way forward," Abdullah said. "I welcome efforts like yours."
After the jump, the full J Street-provided list of members of Congress who attended the gala:[[READMORE]]
1. Rep. Jason Altmire (PA-04)
2. Rep. Brian Baird (WA-03)
3. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
4. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
5. Rep. Howard Berman (CA-28)
6. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
7. Rep. Lois Capps (CA-23)
8. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32)
9. Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-11)
10. Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09)
11. Rep. John Conyers (MI-14)
12. Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53)
13. Rep. Bill Delahunt (MA-10)
14. Rep. Donna Edwards (MD-04)
15. Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05)
16. Rep. Bob Filner (CA-51)
17. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (TX-20)
18. Rep. John Hall (NY-19)
19. Rep. Deborah Halvorson (IL-11)
20. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12)
21. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15)
22. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
23. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)
24. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24)
25. Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-09)
26. Rep. David Loebsack (IA-02)
27. Rep. Betsy Markey (CO-04)
28. Rep. Eric Massa (NY-29)
29. Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-04)
30. Rep. Jim Moran (VA-08)
31. Rep. Scott Murphy (NY-20)
32. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
33. Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04)
34. Rep. John Olver (MA-01)
35. Rep. Tom Perriello (VA-05)
36. Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
37. Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02)
38. Rep. Jackie Speier CA-12)
39. Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-21)
40. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
41. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)
42. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20)
43. Rep. Peter Welch (VT)
44. Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03)