Critics of J Street rebuked the dovish advocacy group on Friday after it emerged
it had considered facilitating meetings between Judge Richard Goldstone and
congressmen.The Washington Times
reported on Thursday that J Street
approached several US lawmakers in November 2009 asking whether they would be
interested in meeting the author of the UN report on the war in Gaza, to ask him
questions on his findings.RELATED:Soros a secret J Street donor since ’08J Street calls to probe US contributions to settlements
J Street founder and director Jeremy Ben-Ami
told The Jerusalem Post
on Friday that his staff had made “two or three” such
phone calls to US politicians and relayed their response onward. However, he
stressed that after those initial inquiries were made, his organization decided
not to become involved because of Israel’s attitude toward Goldstone.
Street did not host, arrange or facilitate Judge Richard Goldstone’s visit,”
Israel strongly condemned the September 2009 Goldstone
Report, which accused it of committing war crimes during the 2008/2009 conflict
with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Most US Jewish organizations, such as the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee,
successfully lobbied Congress to pass a resolution condemning Goldstone’s
However, J Street advocated a nuanced response to the report,
calling it unfair and unbalanced but refusing to denounce it outright. It also
argued, alongside some Israeli politicians, that the Jewish state would have
been better served had it cooperated with the probe.
David Harris, the
executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said on Friday that J
Street’s contact with Goldstone, coupled with last week's revelation that it
received funds from billionaire George Soros, an outspoken critic of Israeli
policies on a number of occasions, undermined its stated mission of supporting
the Jewish state.
“J Street has every right, of course, to express its
viewpoint and lobby in Washington,” Harris wrote in an email. “But it
arrogates to itself the right, from thousands of miles away, to determine what’s
best for democratic Israel.
“In doing so, it espouses positions – e.g.,
ambiguity on the toxic Goldstone Report or prolonged hesitation to support
legislative sanctions against a nuclear-aspiring Iran which seeks a world
without Israel – that can only make one wonder what exactly it means, beyond the
glib tag line, to be ‘pro- Israel.’” Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, an influential
commentator on Israeli and Jewish affairs for The Atlantic
, was even more
critical of J Street in his blog.
“Ben-Ami, its president, might have
felt the need to cover up the involvement of George Soros, because liberal
supporters of Israel know that Soros is unfriendly to the Jewish state, and
some, presumably, would not want to be part of a group that counted Soros as a
prominent supporter,” he wrote. “But on another level, what is going on
here is inexplicable, and terribly dispiriting to people who thought that J
Street was going to make a useful contribution to the debate over the future of
Ben-Ami said in response that the report regarding his group’s
contact with Goldstone was full of inaccuracies. For instance, the
reported that former Labor MK Colette Avital had resigned from
J Street in protest of the said talks between J Street and Goldstone. In
fact, Ben-Ami said, Avital is still working with J Street and the change in her
job description had nothing to do with Goldstone.
Ben-Ami said the
appearance of two unfavorable stories about J Street in the Washington Times
over the past week were part of a concerted effort by the right-wing media to
undermine his organization and its message at a critical period of time in
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.