Is House Goldstone resolution a jab at J Street? And an Israel Project poll on the Gaza report

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Is  the traditional pro-Israel lobby trying to paint J Street, the newish pro-peace process lobby and political action committee,  into corner with its nonbinding House resolution condemning the UN’s Goldstone Report?

That question was posed by a veteran pro-Israel lobbyist who called yesterday and suggested the timing and tone of the resolution condemning the report on this year’s Gaza war, which is expected to pass later today,  was meant to put the new pro-peace process group on the spot.

How so?

Even some dovish lawmakers who don’t particularly like the wording of the resolution, cooked up and pushed hard by the pro-Israel lobby  are convinced the UN report is hopelessly biased against Israel – more a polemic than a genuine investigation.  Many will swallow their reservations and vote “yes” because of that perception.

And J Street’s leaders, at their recent conference, condemned the “process” that resulted in the report.

With J Street fighting claims by the right that it isn’t really pro-Israel, the group couldn’t very well have come out in direct opposition to the report. But with its left-of-center core constituency,  “they couldn’t support it either, at least not without demanding big changes,” this observer said.

That awkwardness produced some obvious confusion in the group’s response to the full-court press for passage by major pro-Israel groups.

An initial statement said J Street “is unable to support House Resolution 867 regarding the Goldstone Commission report on Operation Cast Lead,” and suggested changes that would make it acceptable

A revised version issued later on Friday said almost the same thing, but with a different, more positive twist: J Street “supports passage of a resolution by the U.S. Congress calling for the United States to oppose and work actively to defeat one-sided and biased action in the United Nations when it comes to Israel and the Goldstone Report…We are not urging members of Congress to oppose H. Res. 867.  We are urging thoughtful amendment of the Resolution before passage.”  (Read the full statement here).

My own guess is that the timing of the resolution had more to do with the intensifying worldwide debate over Goldstone than with a deliberate jab at J Street.

But I’d also have to say none of the major Jewish leaders is weeping salt tears over the discomfort their resolution has  probably caused at J Street headquarters.

Also on the Goldstone front: yesterday The Israel Project,  those hyperactive and poll-happy pro-Israel spinners, sent out a release with this headline: “New Poll Shows Americans Reject UN Report Accusing Israel of War Crimes.”

Cool: I can just picture millions of Americans reading the voluminous report and the reams of newspaper stories, blogs, press releases and statements commenting it, maybe discussing it with their neighbors over the back fence or writing letters to their members of Congress about the House resolution condemning the UN report as “irredeemably biased.”

But wait: just after saying the poll “shows Americans have significant doubts about the findings of the report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council accusing Israel of war crimes” comes this line: “Most Americans (88 percent) are unaware of the report.”

But at least there’s this: of the 12 percent who ARE familiar with the report, 50 percent disagree with its conclusions, 29 percent agree.

And there’s this question: “ As you may know, last month the UN Human Rights Council released a report, the so-called Goldstone report, on its findings about the conflict in Gaza last winter. Had you heard about the Goldstone report? The report accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, though accusations against Israel were more serious. Based on what you have heard about the Goldstone report, do you agree or disagree with the findings?”

Of those who knew abot the report, 50 percent disagreed with its findings; of those who didn’t know about it 30 percent disagreed.

I’m sure this is good news, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Read the TIP release and look at their inevitable Power Point presentation here.

And while you’re at it, JTA’s Ron Kampeas has been dissecting the debate over the Goldstone report with his customary thoroughness; here’s just one example.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.