One of the most curious formulations presented in the JTA article that Jennifer referenced is the claim put forward by Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs that J Street had helped “suck the wind out of anti-Israel divestment efforts by presenting a credible left-wing, pro-Israel alternative.” Gutow said the group had been praised by “a number of the JCPA’s constituent network of local community relations councils” for its work on this issue.
In order to understand this statement, one has to understand that a great many, if not most, local Jewish community-relations councils have historically been the preserve of hard-core ideological liberals within the organized Jewish world. So it is not surprising that in this largely leftist bastion there would be many who identify with a group whose main purpose is to act as a Jewish cheering section for Obama-administration pressure on Israel.
But the notion that J Street has played much of a role in channeling leftist energy away from all-out anti-Zionism into the allegedly more productive stance of saving Israel from itself via U.S. pressure seems to be more a matter of the group’s spin cycle than anything else. While J Street was formed as something of a Jewish rump of leftist MoveOn.org activism, the idea that the organization spent any time or energy combating the divestment movement is pure fantasy. One would have thought that an organization that billed itself as being “pro-Israel” as well as “pro-peace” would have taken the lead in opposing anti-Israel hate around the country, but that was never J Street’s priority or even a minor aspect of its activity. Nor is there any evidence that there has been any shift in allegiance on the part of anti-Israel activists from those backing divestment and opposing the Jewish state’s very existence to J Street, as Gutow contends.
From its first day, J Street’s focus has always been on undermining AIPAC and usurping that umbrella group’s function as the voice of the Jewish community on Israel in Washington. But the group has spent the past two years busily burning bridges with mainstream pro-Israel liberals by opposing Israeli self-defense against Hamas in Gaza and defending the lies of the UN’s Goldstone Commission.
Its loss of influence in Washington predates the revelations that its leaders have consistently lied about their sources of financial support. Indeed, the Obama administration’s decision to embark on a “charm offensive” with the Jewish community in the wake of its disastrous attempts to pressure the Israeli government over Jewish rights in Jerusalem earlier this year illustrates that the White House knows that J Street is a Potemkin Village whose attempts to overturn the community’s pro-Israel consensus have been an utter failure. Moreover, contrary to Gutow’s assertions that the general disgust being expressed about J Street’s lies about George Soros are merely “legalisms,” they are indicative of a mendacity that extended beyond accounts of its finances to its policy prescriptions.
As for the manner in which some in the organized community have made nice with Soros, the explanation for this is not exactly a mystery. Numerous Jewish organizations have been trying to get in Soros’s good graces for many years for the same reason they flatter any potential wealthy contributor: they covet his money. That he has consistently stiffed them and instead given his money to Israel-bashers like Human Rights Watch and a leftist front group like J Street merely renders their obsequiousness embarrassing but hardly surprising.