Some pro-Israel groups in U.S. criticize airstrikes

washington | Four dovish pro-Israel groups criticized Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza and called for U.S. efforts to end the violence.

J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and Israel Policy Forum all issued statements defending Israel’s right to strike Hamas installations in Gaza, but said that such actions would be counterproductive and damage Israel’s security in the long run. They all also called for intervention by the United States and the international community to restore a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

“While [the] airstrikes by Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza can be understood and even justified in the wake of recent rocket attacks, we believe that real friends of Israel recognize that escalating the conflict will prove counterproductive, igniting further anger in the region and damaging long-term prospects for peace and stability,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, said in a statement.

In addition, J Street started a petition calling for “immediate and strong U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to urgently reinstate a meaningful ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel and lifts the blockade of Gaza.”

J Street was citing 14,000 signatures collected as of Dec. 29, according to the organization’s online director, Isaac Luria.

Brit Tzedek’s executive director, Diane Balser, said that she saw the statements as a “step” in forging “greater momentum” for a stronger alternative Jewish voice on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “My hope would be to coordinate more and more,” she said, particularly with the Obama administration.

Ben-Ami, though, said he didn’t think J Street and other like-minded groups would have much impact on any kind of congressional reaction to the Hamas operation when the House and Senate return to work next week. “I would be shocked if what came out of Congress was anything but a ringing endorsement of Israel,” he said.

Indeed, one of the most prominent of the 41 candidates endorsed this fall by J Street’s political action committee, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), released a statement strongly backing Israel’s decision and making no mention of American intervention.

The director of the Israel Policy Forum’s Washington office, M.J. Rosenberg, said the emergence of J Street could add a new dynamic to the work of dovish pro-Israel groups.

“Because they raised money for people’s campaigns, they have a different position vis-á-vis members of Congress,” he said, compared to a organization like IPF, which focuses on providing information and lobbying.

But Rosenberg said that while seeing four groups issue somewhat similar statements draws additional attention to their viewpoint, he downplayed a suggestion that it represented the first salvo of a more forceful effort to spread that message. “What we’ve been doing is the same,” he said. “The difference is the situation is worse” and “efforts might intensify because this is so bad.”

Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, questioned the dovish groups’ positions and rejected J Street’s statement that “there is no military solution to what is fundamentally a political conflict.”