J Street now under fire for Goldstone aid

By Nathan Guttman, October 7, 2010
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Richard Goldstone, seen in Gaza, reportedly had help arranging meetings from the dovish Israel lobby J Street

Richard Goldstone, seen in Gaza, reportedly had help arranging meetings from the dovish Israel lobby J Street

The dovish Israel lobby J Street is facing even more criticism in the US following claims the group had been involved in arranging meetings for Judge Richard Goldstone on Capitol Hill.

This report, published in the Washington Times, comes only a week after the paper revealed that J Street has been receiving donations from billionaire George Soros, a fact that had previously been denied by heads of the lobby.

According to the new report, J Street staffers had helped arrange meetings for Judge Goldstone with congressional aides on Capitol Hill when he visited Washington. Judge Goldstone, who headed the UN Human Rights Council's inquiry committee examining the 2008 Gaza war, was widely condemned by the organised Jewish community for what groups saw as a biased and anti-Israel report.

The exact role that J Street played in arranging meetings for Judge Goldstone remains vague and there is no indication that the group was a significant force in facilitating Judge Goldstone's Washington visit. However,
J Street leaders once again seemed to get entangled in a web of contradicting statements.

In an interview with the Washington Times, former MK Colette Avital, who was J Street's liaison in Israel, said she resigned from her post because of the group's involvement with Judge Goldstone.

She later disavowed this statement and denied ever knowing anything about Judge Goldstone's visit to Washington. But the newspaper posted on its website an audio recording in which Ms Avital said the opposite.

The latest press reports about J Street have triggered a wave of criticism of J Street, mainly from its critics on the right but also from the Jewish mainstream. Reporter and columnist Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic magazine asked: "Will J Street even be around in its current form in coming days?"

On Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky from Illinois, who is one of 60 candidates to receive endorsements from J Street's sister group J StreetPAC, issued a statement saying she was "extremely disappointed that J Street wasn't up front" about their funding.

Despite the criticism, last week J Street completed a series of meetings with top US congressional and administration officials who deal with Middle East issues. The meetings were viewed by the group as an indication of their clout in Washington policy circles.

Last updated: 5:25pm, October 7 2010