The left-wing Israel lobby J Street has welcomed the retraction of war crimes charges against the Jewish state by the author of a 2009 U.N. report.
The lobbying group had helped facilitate meetings between members of Congress and Richard Goldstone, the author of the report accusing Israel of targeting Palestinian civilians in its 2008-2009 war with Hamas in Gaza.
“J Street welcomes Judge Richard Goldstone’s op-ed in The Washington Post this weekend and his conclusion, based on evidence from Israel’s investigations into allegations of misconduct in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, that ‘civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy,’ ” the lobby’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said in a statement.
J Street neither opposed nor supported any part of the Goldstone Report, including the charge about targeting civilians.
But The Washington Times reported in September that the group helped facilitate some of the judge’s meetings on Capitol Hill in 2009 as he sought to lobby against a congressional resolution condemning his report.
In a statement to The Times, Mr. Ben Ami said J Street “reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone,” believing it to be “a good idea for him and for members of Congress to meet personally.”
He said his group “declined to play a role in hosting, convening or attending any of the meetings.”
In an interview, Mr. Goldstone told The Times that his Hill visit was the idea of Open Society Institute President Morton Halperin and that he was accompanied to many of the meetings by New America Foundation senior fellow Daniel Levy, who also arranged a lunch on his behalf.
Mr. Halperin and Mr. Levy are two of J Street’s co-founders, and Mr. Halperin remains vice-chairman of the group’s board of directors.
Mr. Goldstone told The Times, however, that he was unaware that J Street itself had made inquiries on his behalf.
Former Knesset member Collete Avital, J Street’s former Israel liaison, told The Times that the group’s “connection” to Mr. Goldstone, among other things, compelled her to sever any formal affiliation with the group.