J Street, the Goldstone report and Stephen Walt, all in one post

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Last week I wrote about the silence of pro-peace process groups in response to the UN’s Goldstone Report on the Gaza war, which earned pretty much universal  condemnation from the major pro-Israel groups and inspired some of Israel’s defenders to trot out the Blood Libel charge.


Now they’re starting to respond; first out of the box is J Street, the year-old lobby and political action committee.   Not surprisingly, J Street treads carefully – responding to Goldstone without saying much, while trying to turn the  conversation back to the group’s core mission.


Executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami said that J Street “agrees with Israelis, such as Minister Isaac Herzog, that some of the concerns with the report would have been better addressed had the Israeli Government cooperated with the investigation in presenting its own findings,” and urged the creation of an “independent state commission of inquiry to investigate the accusations, something Israel has done on several occasions in the past.”


That sounds a lot like J Street doesn’t dispute the major findings of the report but doesn’t want to get into a big hassle about it.


But Ben-Ami adds that “J Street strongly condemns Hamas for its actions both before and during the Gaza war – actions which the report says may amount to crimes against humanity.”


And then he goes on to imply the whole thing is almost beside the point:


“Israelis, Palestinians and the international community led by the United States must focus on forging a better future – beginning with this week’s trilateral meeting hosted by President Obama…A two-state solution, achieved in short order, is the best alternative for Israel to ongoing insecurity and endless rounds of investigations and international opprobrium.”


Meanwhile, as Atlantic blogger Jeff Goldberg pointed out,  J Street got a dubious and possibly unwelcome endorsement over the weekend when Harvard academic and Israel lobby critic Stephen Walt wrote that while the pro-Israel lobby is working with Bibi Netanyahu to thwart President Obama’s Mideast peace plans,  “The good news is that there is a new pro-Israel organization, J Street, which is committed to the two-state solution and firmly behind Obama.”


Given Walt’s reputation in the Jewish world – and with Goldberg, who wrote that Walt “makes his living scapegoating Jews” – J Street can’t be happy with his praise.


As usual, Walt got some things right in his Washington Post  op-ed but simplified everything to make it tidily conform to his central thesis that the pro-Israel lobby undermines U.S. national interest by pressuring U.S. presidents to do the bidding of Israeli governments not interested in peace. It’s odd that a scholar who criticizes the pro-Israel lobby for making complex situations black and white does exactly the same thing when it suits his purposes.


Read it here and let me know what you think – unless you think that the Israel lobby is an evil conspiracy or that Walt is a vicious Jew hater.  It is possible to have a discussion about his arguments without resorting to that, you know. 

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.