J Street Criticizes Gaza Strikes

Israel's airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza are detrimental to prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, according to pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group J Street, which is calling for diplomatic intervention by the U.S. and other nations.

"Respecting Israel

J Street emerged in 2008 as a major player in the Israel lobbying scene, founded with a liberal, pro-peace bent. Through its hefty fundraising in the 2008 election cycle, the group has come to rival the more conservative American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a traditional lobbying powerhouse in Washington.

AIPAC, by contrast, has voiced ardent support for Israel's strikes on Hamas in recent days, calling on Congress and the Bush administration to "stand firmly with Israel as it strives to defend itself against a renewed assault by Hamas terrorists."

J Street posted a petition to its website over the weekend to "stop the violence in Gaza," calling for a "meaningful ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel and lifts the blockade of Gaza." So far, the group says the petition has drawn 12,500 supporters.

J Street is calling for immediate diplomatic intervention by the U.S. and other members of the Middle East Quartet (comprised of the U.S., United Nations, European Union, and Russian Federation). An immediate ceasefire, it says, is in the interest of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans.

"The United States, the Quartet, and the world community must not wait -- as they did in the Israel-Lebanon crisis of 2006 -- for weeks to pass and hundreds or thousands more to die before intervening. There needs to be an urgent end to the new hostilities that brings a complete end to military operations, including an end to the rocket fire out of Gaza, and that allows food, fuel and other civilian necessities into Gaza," the group said in a statement posted to its website.