Commentary Magazine


Topic: J Street

J Street in Trouble for Smearing Israel

Last time Israel launched a defensive war in Gaza, J Street called for superpower intervention to restrain the IDF. The position put the ostensibly “pro-Israel” organization firmly on the other side of the Israeli government and three-fourths of the Israeli public, and at least in tension with the Palestinian Authority’s “it’s Hamas’s fault” position. But they’re still “pro-Israel” because their parents told them they could be anything they want when they grow up.

This time around, J Street partisans have settled on a less robust advocacy, mostly contenting themselves with catechisms about how “the majority of… Palestinians recognize that a two-state solution is the only means to achieve true peace and security.”

Still, two problems.

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Last time Israel launched a defensive war in Gaza, J Street called for superpower intervention to restrain the IDF. The position put the ostensibly “pro-Israel” organization firmly on the other side of the Israeli government and three-fourths of the Israeli public, and at least in tension with the Palestinian Authority’s “it’s Hamas’s fault” position. But they’re still “pro-Israel” because their parents told them they could be anything they want when they grow up.

This time around, J Street partisans have settled on a less robust advocacy, mostly contenting themselves with catechisms about how “the majority of… Palestinians recognize that a two-state solution is the only means to achieve true peace and security.”

Still, two problems.

First, multiple different polls with multiple different questions have confirmed that of course it’s not the case  the majority of Palestinians embrace a two-state solution. Wishing doesn’t make it so. Second, J Street tried to stack even their minimal advocacy with an outrageous lie about anti-Palestinian Israeli atrocities. Via blogger Challah Hu Akbar, who caught the smear almost immediately:

J Street has released a statement on the recent rocket attacks against Israel’s southern communities and the IDF response. In this statement, J Street says… “Israel Defense Forces… have killed over a dozen Palestinian civilians.” This is an utter lie. Prior to Sunday, Israel had successfully killed 16 terrorists, who were either active in the Popular Resistance Committees or Islamic Jihad, and no civilians. Unfortunately, two civilians were killed on Sunday.

Challah then went on to list each and every terrorist who had been killed, complete with pictures and links to most of their online martyr bios. Martyr bios. While genocidal Palestinian groups were glorifying their cretins’ battlefield demise, J Street was calling those terrorists civilians. Apparently, they’re so incompetent they can’t even toe the Palestinian line correctly.

In fairness, J Street later deleted their false smear. But that hasn’t stopped Israeli outlets from painstakingly cataloging how everyone except the organization seemed to know the dead terrorists were in fact dead terrorists (the notable exception being EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who also seemingly didn’t know). And it hasn’t stopped Israeli MK Otniel Schneller from blasting the group:

“At a time when a million Israeli citizens have been living in bomb shelters for four days and four nights, have not gone to school or work and anxiously await the next siren, the terrorists firing on them are getting encouragement and support, not just from Iran and Hezbollah, but also from the left-wing Jewish American organization J Street,” Schneller said in the Knesset plenum on Tuesday. “The anti-Israel and anti-ethical statement of J Street should serve as a warning for Israeli politicians and left-wing activists, including members of my party, against supporting and identifying with J Street, as they have done in the past,” he added.

Schneller, by the by, turns out to be a Kadima MK. The forecast for former PM Ehud Olmert’s keynote at J Street’s upcoming conference is getting awfully frosty.

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Why Has J Street Defended Media Matters?

Back when the “Israel-Firsters” controversy first started to get picked up by major newspapers, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami spoke to the Washington Post and defended Media Matters and Think Progress staffers who used the dual-loyalty charge.

“If the charge is that you’re putting the interests of another country before the interests of the United States in the way you would advocate that, it’s a legitimate question,” he told the Post.

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Back when the “Israel-Firsters” controversy first started to get picked up by major newspapers, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami spoke to the Washington Post and defended Media Matters and Think Progress staffers who used the dual-loyalty charge.

“If the charge is that you’re putting the interests of another country before the interests of the United States in the way you would advocate that, it’s a legitimate question,” he told the Post.

Ben Ami is obviously no stranger to controversy, and by now he’s probably used to catching flack from the Jewish community. But the public condemnation in this instance was so swift and forceful that Ben Ami felt the need to rush out a clearly-panicked apology and weak clarification of his comments just hours after the article was published.

“I agree that the use of the term ‘Israel Firster’ is a bad choice of words. The conspiracy theory that American Jews have dual loyalty is just that, a conspiracy theory and must be refuted in the strongest possible way,” conceded Ben Ami, before urging the American Jewish community to stop debating the subject and focus on other issues.

The whole quote-and-recantation dance wasn’t exactly a surprise, considering J Street’s unlucky history with public relations. But the comments Ben Ami made to the Post were so wildly tone-deaf, so offensive, so far-off from reality – and in an interview he had no real obligation to give – that it was hard to imagine why he would ever make them in the first place.

So why do it? The Daily Caller reports on a funding overlap between J Street and Media Matters that raises one intriguing idea:

A source told The DC that [liberal philanthropist Bill] Benter donated to Media Matters, at least in part, so the liberal organization could bring MJ Rosenberg on board as its foreign policy voice.

Rosenberg has become a lightning rod for questioning the loyalty of American supporters of Israel by calling them “Israel-Firsters,” and for taking other radical positions. Alan Dershowitz, the liberal Harvard Law School professor, has denounced him in a series of recent interviews and articles, saying that Rosenberg’s rhetoric and ideas are similar to what neo-Nazi and pro-Hezbollah websites offer.

Bill Benter is the wealthy horse-better who helped financially prop up J Street when it was first getting off the ground. He also reportedly solicited over $800,000 in J Street contributions through a mysterious Hong Kong frontwoman named Consolacion Esdicul.

J Street didn’t return a call for comment about its current association with Benter today. But if Benter did specifically fund MJ Rosenberg’s position at Media Matters, it raises questions about whether this connection had anything to do with Ben Ami inserting himself into the controversy and initially defending Rosenberg’s indefensible dual-loyalty smears. Of course, J Street is the only group that would have the answer to that, and until they respond to requests for comment, it’s impossible to know for sure.

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J Street Spin Can’t Obscure Obama’s Jewish Vote Troubles

The left-wing J Street lobby has failed to gain much traction on Capitol Hill in its four years of existence. So it was hardly surprising that it would attempt to gain some publicity on the eve of the annual conference of AIPAC, the organization it once hoped to supplant. The group released a memo by its pollster Jim Gerstein that, it claims, debunks the notion that President Obama is in any danger of losing his stranglehold on the Jewish vote this fall.

Gerstein’s numbers and analysis are, however, merely a rehashing of much of what we already knew about the Jewish vote. It also largely mischaracterizes the debate about the issue. No one is disputing that Obama or any Democrat with a pulse will get a majority of Jewish votes in 2012. But neither is there much doubt that there is much chance that he will not get the same 78 percent of Jewish support that he got in 2008. The question is, after three years of distancing himself from Israel and engaging in disputes with the Jewish state, how big will be the drop off this year? The jury is obviously still out on that, but Gerstein’s assumption that it will not be much seems unfounded. Equally unreliable, as well as telling, is his argument that few Jews vote on the basis of U.S. policy toward Israel. Given the all-out charm offensive that the Obama administration has been directing toward Jewish voters in the last few months — which will reach another crescendo today as President Obama addresses the AIPAC Conference — it would seem the White House has a different view of the question than its J Street idolaters.

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The left-wing J Street lobby has failed to gain much traction on Capitol Hill in its four years of existence. So it was hardly surprising that it would attempt to gain some publicity on the eve of the annual conference of AIPAC, the organization it once hoped to supplant. The group released a memo by its pollster Jim Gerstein that, it claims, debunks the notion that President Obama is in any danger of losing his stranglehold on the Jewish vote this fall.

Gerstein’s numbers and analysis are, however, merely a rehashing of much of what we already knew about the Jewish vote. It also largely mischaracterizes the debate about the issue. No one is disputing that Obama or any Democrat with a pulse will get a majority of Jewish votes in 2012. But neither is there much doubt that there is much chance that he will not get the same 78 percent of Jewish support that he got in 2008. The question is, after three years of distancing himself from Israel and engaging in disputes with the Jewish state, how big will be the drop off this year? The jury is obviously still out on that, but Gerstein’s assumption that it will not be much seems unfounded. Equally unreliable, as well as telling, is his argument that few Jews vote on the basis of U.S. policy toward Israel. Given the all-out charm offensive that the Obama administration has been directing toward Jewish voters in the last few months — which will reach another crescendo today as President Obama addresses the AIPAC Conference — it would seem the White House has a different view of the question than its J Street idolaters.

One of the main fallacies in Gerstein’s memo seems to be his assertion that the Republicans are unlikely to do better in 2012 with Jewish voters than they did in their 2010 midterm landslide. Gerstein rightly says that the Democrats held most of the Jewish vote in 2010 even as they were getting slaughtered nationally. But the 2010 ballot was largely a referendum on Obama’s domestic policies like ObamaCare that were far more popular among Jews than among the general population. The presidential vote this year will provide pro-Israel Jewish moderates and Democrats an opportunity to register their dismay at Obama’s attitude toward Israel prior to his re-election campaign. Though he attempts to ignore data that contradicts his predictions, such as the Pew Research Study that showed a dramatic decline in Jewish affiliation toward the Democrats in the last four years, the administration’s obvious concern about the Jewish vote this year belies Gerstein’s false optimism on this score.

Gerstein is right when he says that Democrats retain the almost blind loyalty of a majority of American Jews. As I write in my feature in the March issue of COMMENTARY, “Jews, Money and 2012,” there is virtually nothing Obama could do or say in the next eight months that would cause him to get less than 50-60 percent of the Jewish vote. But the difference between that base line and the 78 percent he got in 2008 is very much up for grabs. Though those numbers may not be enormous, contrary to Gerstein’s argument, they are enough to make a difference in a number of crucial states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

President Obama’s fortunes are on the upswing due to slightly better economic numbers and the fallout from a bitter Republican primary battle. But it’s a long way to November, and the standoff with Iran and the president’s willingness to back up his talk on the nuclear question with action, will have a major impact on the Jewish vote this year. The potential for a significant drop off from Obama’s 78 percent — especially if the GOP nominates a candidate not identified with the Christian right — is something that more realistic Democratic sources than J Street and Gerstein are right to take very seriously.

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Media Matters’ Worst Nightmare?

If you’ve been keeping up with Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, you know he’s recently been battering President Obama for his association with the anti-Israel group Media Matters. While Dershowitz is a Democrat who supported Obama in 2008, he’s demanded the president cut ties with the left-wing media watchdog group, whose writers have made anti-Semitic remarks.

Today, Dershowitz took it a step further, promising to turn the issue into an election matter during an interview with WABC’s Aaron Klein (via BuzzFeed):

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a leading Democratic lawyer who takes a hawkish line on Israel, has declared a personal war on the liberal group Media Matters, which has branched out into sharp criticism of Israel.

“Not only will [the Media Matters controversy] be an election matter, I will personally make it an election matter,” Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School, told WABC’s Aaron Klein today. …

“I don’t know whether President Obama has any idea that Media Matters has turned the corner against Israel in this way,” he said. “I can tell you this, he will know very shortly because I am beginning a serious campaign on this issue and I will not let it drop until and unless [writer and activist MJ] Rosenberg is fired from Media Matters, or Media Matters changes its policy or the White House disassociates itself from Media Matters.”

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If you’ve been keeping up with Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, you know he’s recently been battering President Obama for his association with the anti-Israel group Media Matters. While Dershowitz is a Democrat who supported Obama in 2008, he’s demanded the president cut ties with the left-wing media watchdog group, whose writers have made anti-Semitic remarks.

Today, Dershowitz took it a step further, promising to turn the issue into an election matter during an interview with WABC’s Aaron Klein (via BuzzFeed):

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a leading Democratic lawyer who takes a hawkish line on Israel, has declared a personal war on the liberal group Media Matters, which has branched out into sharp criticism of Israel.

“Not only will [the Media Matters controversy] be an election matter, I will personally make it an election matter,” Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School, told WABC’s Aaron Klein today. …

“I don’t know whether President Obama has any idea that Media Matters has turned the corner against Israel in this way,” he said. “I can tell you this, he will know very shortly because I am beginning a serious campaign on this issue and I will not let it drop until and unless [writer and activist MJ] Rosenberg is fired from Media Matters, or Media Matters changes its policy or the White House disassociates itself from Media Matters.”

Dershowitz launched his campaign today with a column denouncing Media Matters’ use of the term “Israel Firster” in the New York Daily News. The law professor has successfully battled left-wing anti-Israel groups in the past, including J Street. Here’s what Dershowitz had to say about J Street during a debate with its president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, last year:

“The reason you have to attack me is very simple: I am J Street’s nightmare. Let me tell you why. Because I am a liberal Democratic Jew who strongly opposes the settlements, who strongly favors a two-state solution, who supports Obama, who supports Hillary Clinton, who supports Petraeus, but who does not support J Street. You have to create the illusion that everybody against J Street is a member of the right, and is part of the Sarah Palin-Rush Limbaugh group. And you can’t explain me.”

A vocal campaign against Media Matters, especially if it includes other prominent Democrats in the Jewish community, could cause major problems for Media Matters and increase pressure on Obama to distance himself from the group.

But it will also be a test of whether Democrats are willing to call out anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing within their own ranks. After former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block criticized Media Matters staffers for making anti-Semitic comments late last year, the Truman Institute cut its association with him, claiming Block was trying to shut down “honest debate.” Will Democratic Party institutions side with Dershowitz on this issue? Or will they continue to stay silent on the uncomfortable but very real Israel problem at Media Matters?

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J Street’s Ben-Ami: Dual-Loyalty is a “Legitimate Question”

This morning, the Washington Post’s Peter Wallsten followed up on never-ending controversy about the Center for American Progress’s anti-Israel bloggers, and what it means for the Obama administration’s close ties to the think tank. (Incidentally, I wrote about this topic yesterday for the New York Post as well.)

According to WaPo, the scandal has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the administration – the White House’s Jewish community liaison reportedly told the Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper that the situation at CAP was “troubling,” adding “that is not this administration.”

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This morning, the Washington Post’s Peter Wallsten followed up on never-ending controversy about the Center for American Progress’s anti-Israel bloggers, and what it means for the Obama administration’s close ties to the think tank. (Incidentally, I wrote about this topic yesterday for the New York Post as well.)

According to WaPo, the scandal has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the administration – the White House’s Jewish community liaison reportedly told the Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper that the situation at CAP was “troubling,” adding “that is not this administration.”

The article is worth reading in full, but this quote from J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami tucked all the way at the end of the piece was particularly interesting:

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a left-leaning voice on Israel issues, said he had no problem with “Israel-Firster.”

“If the charge is that you’re putting the interests of another country before the interests of the United States in the way you would advocate that, it’s a legitimate question,” Ben-Ami said.

Ben-Ami added that Jewish groups “should tread lightly” when they make accusations of anti-Semitism. “Because when they do need to use that word, people won’t take you seriously,” he said.

J Street has pretty much vanished from the scene during the past year, so it’s mystifying why Ben-Ami would want to reenter the picture with a quote like that. He must have realized the problem, because later today he walked it back on his website (or, rather, he acknowledged that the term “Israel-Firster” was offensive and immediately demanded everyone change the subject).

But Ben-Ami’s argument that accusations of anti-Semitism are being used too loosely is becoming standard fare on the left. Glenn Greenwald wrote something similar in his own piece on the CAP scandal today:

[S]mearing those with policy disagreements as anti-Semites has become a leading tactic in these precincts. And the prime purveyors are those who have anointed themselves as the guardians and arbiters of the term, and have thus done more to dilute and trivialize it than any actual anti-Semites could ever dream of achieving. It’s the classic Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome: if you scream “anti-Semite” in order to prohibit perfectly valid ideas from being expressed, then nobody will listen or care when you scream it in order to highlight its genuine manifestations. …

So this smear campaign not only threatens to suppress legitimate debate about crucial policy matters in the U.S., but it also is aimed at the reputations and careers of numerous young liberal writers who have done absolutely nothing wrong.

If Greenwald doesn’t think any of the CAP or Media Matters comments were offensive, that’s fine. But calling criticism of the writing a “smear campaign” is simply inaccurate, since CAP officials and the writers themselves have already conceded some of the remarks crossed the line.

His claim that critics of CAP and Media Matters are looking to collect “scalps” or ruin reputations also strikes me as paranoid nonsense. The criticism over the past month hasn’t been focused on the writers themselves, but on the ideas CAP has started channeling into the mainstream.

These weren’t ideas CAP bloggers personally invented, or even necessarily realized the anti-Semitic connotations. But they’re concepts steeped in anti-Jewish tropes that have grown increasingly prevalent on the left in recent years. It would be wrong to let these ideas go unchallenged, simply because they’re being voiced by people who don’t necessarily have bad intentions.

When Zaid Jilani told me he didn’t realize the connotation behind his “Israel-Firster” comments, I believed him, and still do. I know and like some of the writers at CAP, and while I don’t agree with them on Israel, they’re not anti-Semites.

But I strongly disagree with Greenwald. Suggesting that American supporters of Israel are disloyal citizens is not a “perfectly valid idea.” Claiming that AIPAC is marching the U.S. into war with Iran on behalf of Israel is not a “perfectly valid idea.” And characterizing Israel as an apartheid state is not a “perfectly valid idea.” These notions are false and offensive, and saying so publicly doesn’t mean you’re “prohibiting” free discussion. People who honestly believe those conspiratorial ideas about the Israel lobby and dual-loyalty – who aren’t just repeating them without considering the meaning behind them – have plenty of extremist right-wing and left-wing outlets to push their message out. An influential Democratic think tank should not be one of them.

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Birthright Confusion Caps Off Worst Week Ever for J Street

If 2010 was a bad year for J Street, 2011 looks like it’s shaping up to be even worse. In the past week, the organization has been denounced by its most prominent supporter in Congress — Rep. Gary Ackerman — and by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.

And now J Street is facing another problem. A few days ago, the group announced it would be sponsoring a Birthright trip to Israel and posted a sign-up page for the program on its website. But now Birthright is denying it was ever involved with the trip:

A Birthright official told Haaretz that about three months ago they were approached by “The Israel Experience,” one of the trip providers, with this idea, but said that they are not interested in trips dedicated to a specific political experience. “Since then we didn’t have any requests from them,” he said. “And then we saw to our astonishment the press release of J Street that they are “leading the trip” — there is no such thing in our practice. We had no direct contact with J Street, no formal request was submitted.”

However, J Street disputes Birthright’s account of the situation. According to Moriel Rothman, president of J Street’s student arm, which reportedly organized the trip, Birthright had initially approved the program.

“[W]e are deeply troubled by Birthright’s abrupt decision to cancel our trip,” said Rothman. “Revoking this previously-approved opportunity, planned in concert with accredited Birthright trip organizer Israel Experience, sends exactly the wrong message to our community and to our students. And it is a painful message to receive.”

A series of e-mails obtained by Haaretz appears to partially back up J Street’s version of the story. The correspondence reportedly shows that J Street had submitted a proposal to an accredited Birthright trip organizer, who responded that the draft was “perfect.” However, it’s unclear from the article whether the trip was ever officially approved:

The pro-Israel lobby submitted to Haaretz email correspondences between an official from The Israel Experience and a J Street Campus representative, which show that JStreet sent the draft regarding the announcement of the trip for approval – and they received it. The Israel Experience official defined the draft as “perfect.” So it seems that the miscommunication occurred somewhere between “Birthright” and one of the trip organizers.‬

So what happened? Was there a missed communication somewhere between the trip organizer and Birthright leadership? Or did Birthright initially approve the program and then back out under outside pressure? At this point, it isn’t clear, and multiple requests for comment from Birthright over the past few days have not been returned.

If 2010 was a bad year for J Street, 2011 looks like it’s shaping up to be even worse. In the past week, the organization has been denounced by its most prominent supporter in Congress — Rep. Gary Ackerman — and by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.

And now J Street is facing another problem. A few days ago, the group announced it would be sponsoring a Birthright trip to Israel and posted a sign-up page for the program on its website. But now Birthright is denying it was ever involved with the trip:

A Birthright official told Haaretz that about three months ago they were approached by “The Israel Experience,” one of the trip providers, with this idea, but said that they are not interested in trips dedicated to a specific political experience. “Since then we didn’t have any requests from them,” he said. “And then we saw to our astonishment the press release of J Street that they are “leading the trip” — there is no such thing in our practice. We had no direct contact with J Street, no formal request was submitted.”

However, J Street disputes Birthright’s account of the situation. According to Moriel Rothman, president of J Street’s student arm, which reportedly organized the trip, Birthright had initially approved the program.

“[W]e are deeply troubled by Birthright’s abrupt decision to cancel our trip,” said Rothman. “Revoking this previously-approved opportunity, planned in concert with accredited Birthright trip organizer Israel Experience, sends exactly the wrong message to our community and to our students. And it is a painful message to receive.”

A series of e-mails obtained by Haaretz appears to partially back up J Street’s version of the story. The correspondence reportedly shows that J Street had submitted a proposal to an accredited Birthright trip organizer, who responded that the draft was “perfect.” However, it’s unclear from the article whether the trip was ever officially approved:

The pro-Israel lobby submitted to Haaretz email correspondences between an official from The Israel Experience and a J Street Campus representative, which show that JStreet sent the draft regarding the announcement of the trip for approval – and they received it. The Israel Experience official defined the draft as “perfect.” So it seems that the miscommunication occurred somewhere between “Birthright” and one of the trip organizers.‬

So what happened? Was there a missed communication somewhere between the trip organizer and Birthright leadership? Or did Birthright initially approve the program and then back out under outside pressure? At this point, it isn’t clear, and multiple requests for comment from Birthright over the past few days have not been returned.

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Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Blasts J Street

It looks like the feud between Michael Oren and J Street has been re-opened after the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. took a shot at the organization during an interview with the Daily Caller. Oren seemed specifically annoyed over J Street’s e-mail-blast attack on Rep. Gary Ackerman last week:

“They claim they’re pro-Israel,” he said, providing a less than ringing endorsement of the George Soros-funded organization. “They are calling for Israel to be condemned in the Security Council for the settlements and they are condemning some of our best friends on the Hill. So they can call themselves what they like.”

The relationship between Oren and J Street has been rocky from the beginning. The ambassador turned down an invitation to speak at the group’s first conference in 2009, and he also referred to J Street’s views as dangerous to Israel’s security. But they appeared to mend relations last winter, based on a series of mutually fawning media interviews and private discussions. In February, Oren claimed that J Street had moved “much more into the mainstream” and said that “[t]he J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving.” The ambassador even held a private meeting with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami in April.

But Oren’s statement to the Daily Caller is a sure sign that J Street is on the outs with the embassy again.

Probably sensing this, J Street took a desperate measure this afternoon. You know things have hit rock bottom if Ben-Ami starts apologizing:

Too often, we descend to the level of those with whom we disagree and our campaigns and actions become too personal.

This happened last week with Congressman Gary Ackerman, when we reacted sharply to statements regarding J Street to which we objected. We may disagree with him over policy matters at times — but he and we share important larger goals for the United States, Israel and the Jewish people. Our discussions with him and with all those with whom we may disagree at times should be conducted with respect.

So allow me to apologize for the tone of our email on Friday.

Oren began mending his relationship with J Street after the group appeared to be gaining influence with members of Congress and Obama administration officials. But in less than a year, J Street has lost any political clout it once had, and the embassy doesn’t have much of a reason to work with it anymore.

It looks like the feud between Michael Oren and J Street has been re-opened after the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. took a shot at the organization during an interview with the Daily Caller. Oren seemed specifically annoyed over J Street’s e-mail-blast attack on Rep. Gary Ackerman last week:

“They claim they’re pro-Israel,” he said, providing a less than ringing endorsement of the George Soros-funded organization. “They are calling for Israel to be condemned in the Security Council for the settlements and they are condemning some of our best friends on the Hill. So they can call themselves what they like.”

The relationship between Oren and J Street has been rocky from the beginning. The ambassador turned down an invitation to speak at the group’s first conference in 2009, and he also referred to J Street’s views as dangerous to Israel’s security. But they appeared to mend relations last winter, based on a series of mutually fawning media interviews and private discussions. In February, Oren claimed that J Street had moved “much more into the mainstream” and said that “[t]he J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving.” The ambassador even held a private meeting with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami in April.

But Oren’s statement to the Daily Caller is a sure sign that J Street is on the outs with the embassy again.

Probably sensing this, J Street took a desperate measure this afternoon. You know things have hit rock bottom if Ben-Ami starts apologizing:

Too often, we descend to the level of those with whom we disagree and our campaigns and actions become too personal.

This happened last week with Congressman Gary Ackerman, when we reacted sharply to statements regarding J Street to which we objected. We may disagree with him over policy matters at times — but he and we share important larger goals for the United States, Israel and the Jewish people. Our discussions with him and with all those with whom we may disagree at times should be conducted with respect.

So allow me to apologize for the tone of our email on Friday.

Oren began mending his relationship with J Street after the group appeared to be gaining influence with members of Congress and Obama administration officials. But in less than a year, J Street has lost any political clout it once had, and the embassy doesn’t have much of a reason to work with it anymore.

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The Definition of ‘Anti-Israel’

Last week, Steve Clemons organized a contingent of foreign-policy officials and commentators to send a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. to support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

It included many prominent critics of the Israel — Peter Beinart, Chas Freeman, and Andrew Sullivan, to name just a few.

Based on their well-documented eagerness to condemn Israel whenever possible, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin referred to the group as “Israel-bashers” – prompting an angry response from Clemons and setting off a debate about the meaning of “pro-Israel,” according to Ben Smith:

The group J Street has been waging, and mostly losing, a political fight with more hawkish allies of Israel over the meaning of the term “pro-Israel,” and today another Washington skirmish erupts on the topic. …

There are two fights underway at the moment: One is defining the politically acceptable space in Washington for debating Israel policy; the other is the push by Bill Kristol and his allies to identify support for Israel explicitly with the Republican Party. That latter effort, ironically, has some of the same goals of the former, which would like to see the Democratic Party soften its hard line.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Smith’s assessment. I highly doubt that any Israel supporters on the right want to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue, especially since pro-Israel views are widespread throughout both political parties. As we saw from the midterm elections, it’s politically suicidal for candidates to take anti-Israel stances — regardless of party affiliation — because those are positions that most of the public disagree with.

As for Clemons’s protestations at being called anti-Israel, I have several comments.

Being critical of settlement construction is not an inherently anti-Israel position. But the tone of the argument and the way it’s framed and presented is a good indicator of whether someone is a friend or foe of the Jewish state.

Calling on Israel to halt settlement construction within the framework of peace negotiations — like in a statement from the Quartet — is one thing. Overturning years of precedent by joining together with enemies of Israel, as they grandstand and demonize the Jewish state in an international public forum, is appalling and would be a disgraceful way to treat any ally. Read More

Last week, Steve Clemons organized a contingent of foreign-policy officials and commentators to send a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. to support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

It included many prominent critics of the Israel — Peter Beinart, Chas Freeman, and Andrew Sullivan, to name just a few.

Based on their well-documented eagerness to condemn Israel whenever possible, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin referred to the group as “Israel-bashers” – prompting an angry response from Clemons and setting off a debate about the meaning of “pro-Israel,” according to Ben Smith:

The group J Street has been waging, and mostly losing, a political fight with more hawkish allies of Israel over the meaning of the term “pro-Israel,” and today another Washington skirmish erupts on the topic. …

There are two fights underway at the moment: One is defining the politically acceptable space in Washington for debating Israel policy; the other is the push by Bill Kristol and his allies to identify support for Israel explicitly with the Republican Party. That latter effort, ironically, has some of the same goals of the former, which would like to see the Democratic Party soften its hard line.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Smith’s assessment. I highly doubt that any Israel supporters on the right want to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue, especially since pro-Israel views are widespread throughout both political parties. As we saw from the midterm elections, it’s politically suicidal for candidates to take anti-Israel stances — regardless of party affiliation — because those are positions that most of the public disagree with.

As for Clemons’s protestations at being called anti-Israel, I have several comments.

Being critical of settlement construction is not an inherently anti-Israel position. But the tone of the argument and the way it’s framed and presented is a good indicator of whether someone is a friend or foe of the Jewish state.

Calling on Israel to halt settlement construction within the framework of peace negotiations — like in a statement from the Quartet — is one thing. Overturning years of precedent by joining together with enemies of Israel, as they grandstand and demonize the Jewish state in an international public forum, is appalling and would be a disgraceful way to treat any ally.

That’s the entire point of the resolution before the Security Council. It’s meant to single out and scapegoat Israel for the delays in the peace process. In reality, there are many obstructions to the negotiations — the biggest ones coming from the Palestinian side — and neither Clemons’s letter nor the Security Council resolution mentions any of them.

What else can that be called except bias?

If Clemons seriously wants to see the end of settlement-building, I can’t imagine a worse way to go about it than by supporting a UN resolution. Historically, more progress has been made on curbing settlement construction when the U.S. has lobbied Israel privately (e.g., the secret agreements under Sharon and Bush). And I fail to see how humiliating one of our closest and most loyal allies in front of the world will help bring about further progress on peace negotiations.

The UN resolution demonizes Israel, unfairly scapegoats Israel and undermines peace negotiations. If that’s not anti-Israel, then what is?

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More Ethics Troubles for J Street President

It looks like the left-wing “pro-Israel” group J Street can now add “self-dealing” to its growing list of scandals. Documents obtained by the Washington Times reveal that the group paid at least $56,000 to Ben-Or Consulting, an Israeli firm co-owned by J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. This discovery isn’t as juicy as some of the previous ones — it’s hard to top lying about taking money from George Soros and aiding congressional visits for Judge Richard Goldstone. But it certainly confirms the group’s aversion to ethics and truth-telling:

“Even if it’s technically legal, it gets very messy when you have these sorts of deals going on because, if you’re going to benefit on the other end of it, be it 100 percent or 5 percent, it raises questions about objectivity and the arms’ length in the transaction,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator.

“If you want your organization to use a particular company, ideally there would be a clean break one way or the other. So you would either sell off your interest in that company or step down from the board during the period of time when this is going so that there would be no question as to what’s going on in the boardroom.”

Ben-Ami co-founded the firm more than a decade ago but left in 2000. He still owns 15 percent of the company, which is clearly not a trifling portion. And while there’s no indication that his actions were illegal, there’s also no denying that Ben-Ami had a financial interest in the decision to use Ben-Or Consulting. Even if he doesn’t currently collect dividends (which the Times was unable to confirm), he still has a financial stake if and when the company gets sold.

Obviously, it wouldn’t be a J Street scandal without some amusingly evasive double-talk from Ben-Ami, who told the Times that “as a token of my role as a co-founder, we left 15 percent of the shares of the firm in my name — an agreement that has no financial implications for me personally, for J Street or for the firm.”

Seriously? No financial implications? Maybe he should have coordinated that response with Ben-Or Consulting, which pretty much contradicted Ben-Ami’s claim. “[Ben-Ami] would receive 15 percent of the proceeds if the firm is ever sold,” a spokesperson from the firm told the Times.

It also looks like Ben-Or Consulting has some notorious Israel-bashers as clients. The company’s website boasts that it represents former president Jimmy Carter, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Yesh Din — all of which accuse Israel of promoting “apartheid” policies. But these are also just the clients that Ben-Or lists publicly. J Street is conspicuously absent from the list, so it wouldn’t be shocking if we learned that the names of some other clients were withheld as well.

It looks like the left-wing “pro-Israel” group J Street can now add “self-dealing” to its growing list of scandals. Documents obtained by the Washington Times reveal that the group paid at least $56,000 to Ben-Or Consulting, an Israeli firm co-owned by J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. This discovery isn’t as juicy as some of the previous ones — it’s hard to top lying about taking money from George Soros and aiding congressional visits for Judge Richard Goldstone. But it certainly confirms the group’s aversion to ethics and truth-telling:

“Even if it’s technically legal, it gets very messy when you have these sorts of deals going on because, if you’re going to benefit on the other end of it, be it 100 percent or 5 percent, it raises questions about objectivity and the arms’ length in the transaction,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator.

“If you want your organization to use a particular company, ideally there would be a clean break one way or the other. So you would either sell off your interest in that company or step down from the board during the period of time when this is going so that there would be no question as to what’s going on in the boardroom.”

Ben-Ami co-founded the firm more than a decade ago but left in 2000. He still owns 15 percent of the company, which is clearly not a trifling portion. And while there’s no indication that his actions were illegal, there’s also no denying that Ben-Ami had a financial interest in the decision to use Ben-Or Consulting. Even if he doesn’t currently collect dividends (which the Times was unable to confirm), he still has a financial stake if and when the company gets sold.

Obviously, it wouldn’t be a J Street scandal without some amusingly evasive double-talk from Ben-Ami, who told the Times that “as a token of my role as a co-founder, we left 15 percent of the shares of the firm in my name — an agreement that has no financial implications for me personally, for J Street or for the firm.”

Seriously? No financial implications? Maybe he should have coordinated that response with Ben-Or Consulting, which pretty much contradicted Ben-Ami’s claim. “[Ben-Ami] would receive 15 percent of the proceeds if the firm is ever sold,” a spokesperson from the firm told the Times.

It also looks like Ben-Or Consulting has some notorious Israel-bashers as clients. The company’s website boasts that it represents former president Jimmy Carter, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Yesh Din — all of which accuse Israel of promoting “apartheid” policies. But these are also just the clients that Ben-Or lists publicly. J Street is conspicuously absent from the list, so it wouldn’t be shocking if we learned that the names of some other clients were withheld as well.

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Israel’s Critics Cry About Being Repressed … from Their Usual Soapbox at the New York Times

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.” Read More

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.”

What is his proof? Because left-wingers who tried to disrupt a speech being given by Israel’s prime minster were “dragged out” of the auditorium where Netanyahu was trying to speak in New Orleans. Never mind that if someone tried to do that to President Obama, he’d be arrested. What else? Because one synagogue in Massachusetts decided not to host a J Street leader. Shocking. Want more? Cohen claims that AIPAC, a vast group with across-the-board support from American Jews, won’t debate J Street, a small group largely funded by financier George Soros (though the group spent years inexplicably lying about Soros’s role in propping up this Potemkin organization) that is dedicated to supporting American pressure on Israel. Even worse, the young Jew whose story Cohen tells is getting some negative feedback from friends about his J Street activities. Isn’t that awful?

The truth is, despite promoting itself as the liberal alternative to AIPAC, a stance that ought to make it popular due to the fact that most Jews are liberals, J Street has little grassroots Jewish support. That’s because it has systematically taken stands on Israel’s right to self-defense and the nuclear threat from Iran that strike most Jews as being outside the pro-Israel consensus. But far from being silenced, J Street is the darling of a mainstream media that has consistently promoted it, especially in places where Israel’s supporters have trouble making their voices heard. Like the opinion pages of the New York Times.

But Cohen did get one thing right. He notes in passing that the administration’s latest attempt to pressure Israel failed because “President Barack Obama had virtually no domestic constituency” for his policy. This is absolutely true. The vast majority of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, support the Jewish state and oppose twisting its arm in this manner. That they hold to this belief despite the constant drumbeat of attacks on Israel, such as those by Cohen, his Times colleague Nicholas Kristof, and Peter Beinart, speaks volumes about how marginal J Street still is.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Soros Is No Good Guy, but Beck’s Holocaust Remarks Are Dead Wrong

There has been a lot of criticism of George Soros on COMMENTARY’s blog. The financier has bankrolled a great many left-wing groups and candidates. He wrongly views the United States, his adopted country, as “the main obstacle to a stable and just world order.” His ambivalence toward the state of Israel is also well-known. Indeed, despite the fact that he is well-known for his philanthropy, the only Jewish cause this Hungarian-born Jew is associated with is J Street, the left-wing lobbying group that seeks to build support for crippling American pressure on Israel. Throw in a career filled with tawdry episodes of currency manipulation and insider trading, and it isn’t a pretty picture.

But even George Soros does not deserve some of the opprobrium heaped upon him by Glenn Beck this week. Beck has devoted much of his TV and radio programs in the past few days to detailing Soros’s sins. But instead of sticking to the issues and rightly flaying him for the stands he has taken and the bad causes he supports, Beck painted him as a teenage Nazi collaborator on his Nov. 10 show.

Read the rest of this Web exclusive here.

There has been a lot of criticism of George Soros on COMMENTARY’s blog. The financier has bankrolled a great many left-wing groups and candidates. He wrongly views the United States, his adopted country, as “the main obstacle to a stable and just world order.” His ambivalence toward the state of Israel is also well-known. Indeed, despite the fact that he is well-known for his philanthropy, the only Jewish cause this Hungarian-born Jew is associated with is J Street, the left-wing lobbying group that seeks to build support for crippling American pressure on Israel. Throw in a career filled with tawdry episodes of currency manipulation and insider trading, and it isn’t a pretty picture.

But even George Soros does not deserve some of the opprobrium heaped upon him by Glenn Beck this week. Beck has devoted much of his TV and radio programs in the past few days to detailing Soros’s sins. But instead of sticking to the issues and rightly flaying him for the stands he has taken and the bad causes he supports, Beck painted him as a teenage Nazi collaborator on his Nov. 10 show.

Read the rest of this Web exclusive here.

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RE: Reaction to J Street

I and others criticized Ron Kampeas for asserting that Richard Goldstone, who was chaperoned around Capitol Hill by the J Streeters, was/is not regarded as “Uncle Evil” in Israel. He offers a strange apology/retraction:

I based my perception on Israeli coverage at the time of the attempt by South African Zionists to keep Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and from conversations I had with Israelis then. That burst of sympathy might well have receded and the aftereffects of the Goldstone report might prove more durable. My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.

Really?! What level of sympathy did Goldstone ever attain in Israel, and on whom does Kampeas rely for insights into Israeli public opinion? So then his own views on Goldstone are not representative of either American Jewry or Israeli public opinion. Good to know. He concludes with this: “My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.” I have no idea whom he is referring to. But it’s apparent that he’s rather lonely on the leftward limb he’s crawled out on.

Jeffrey Goldberg (who I’ve been rather tough on of late) has, unlike Kampeas, stopped donating his services to the Soros Street defense fund. He writes:

J Street should stop lying to reporters. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, is spinning madly these days, trying to convince his supporters that this scandal is the product of a right-wing conspiracy. It is not — the scandal flows from a series of decisions made by J Street to cover-up facts it deemed unpalatable. Let me put this another way: If it were discovered today that AIPAC, J Street’s nemesis, received more than $800,000 from a Hong Kong-based “business associate” — Ben-Ami’s words — of a prominent horse bettor, the people at AIPAC would be undergoing, by tomorrow, a journalistic colonoscopy like they’ve never experienced.

But then AIPAC does not have to rely on secret, foreign donors. AIPAC, after all, actually represents a large segment of pro-Israel Americans. And it also shares the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis concerning Goldstone.

I and others criticized Ron Kampeas for asserting that Richard Goldstone, who was chaperoned around Capitol Hill by the J Streeters, was/is not regarded as “Uncle Evil” in Israel. He offers a strange apology/retraction:

I based my perception on Israeli coverage at the time of the attempt by South African Zionists to keep Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and from conversations I had with Israelis then. That burst of sympathy might well have receded and the aftereffects of the Goldstone report might prove more durable. My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.

Really?! What level of sympathy did Goldstone ever attain in Israel, and on whom does Kampeas rely for insights into Israeli public opinion? So then his own views on Goldstone are not representative of either American Jewry or Israeli public opinion. Good to know. He concludes with this: “My larger point was about self-inflicted wounds — how overkill can turn those who might sympathize with your view against you.” I have no idea whom he is referring to. But it’s apparent that he’s rather lonely on the leftward limb he’s crawled out on.

Jeffrey Goldberg (who I’ve been rather tough on of late) has, unlike Kampeas, stopped donating his services to the Soros Street defense fund. He writes:

J Street should stop lying to reporters. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, is spinning madly these days, trying to convince his supporters that this scandal is the product of a right-wing conspiracy. It is not — the scandal flows from a series of decisions made by J Street to cover-up facts it deemed unpalatable. Let me put this another way: If it were discovered today that AIPAC, J Street’s nemesis, received more than $800,000 from a Hong Kong-based “business associate” — Ben-Ami’s words — of a prominent horse bettor, the people at AIPAC would be undergoing, by tomorrow, a journalistic colonoscopy like they’ve never experienced.

But then AIPAC does not have to rely on secret, foreign donors. AIPAC, after all, actually represents a large segment of pro-Israel Americans. And it also shares the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis concerning Goldstone.

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“Count the Lies”

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: “They’re Doing the J Street Jive”

Given the recent revelations regarding the J Street/George Soros connection, Noah Pollak’s April 2009 COMMENTARY article, “They’re Doing the J Street Jive,” seems particularly apt and timely:

In December 2008, two weeks before Hamas abandoned the six-month lull in its rocket war against Israel, the founder and executive director of the new lobbying group J Street delivered a message via YouTube to potential supporters. Appearing in a crisply pressed pale blue button-down, Jeremy Ben-Ami offered a personalized explanation for why, eight months earlier, he had launched a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization that hoped to change the way the United States government dealt with Israel. In an earnest, confessional style, Ben-Ami explained that in past years,

I felt that I didn’t have a voice in American politics when it came to Israel and the Middle East. . . . When I came back [from living in Israel in the late 1990’s] and I told people that I favored a Palestinian state, that I was a supporter of peace, and in recent years when I’ve said that I don’t think it makes sense for us to militarily attack Iran, I was told that I was insufficiently pro-Israel. Well, I’ll tell you, I find that unacceptable. I don’t find it Jewish. I don’t find it American to not allow people to express alternative opinions, and I certainly don’t find it to be pro-Israel. . . . I’ve decided that I had to speak out.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Given the recent revelations regarding the J Street/George Soros connection, Noah Pollak’s April 2009 COMMENTARY article, “They’re Doing the J Street Jive,” seems particularly apt and timely:

In December 2008, two weeks before Hamas abandoned the six-month lull in its rocket war against Israel, the founder and executive director of the new lobbying group J Street delivered a message via YouTube to potential supporters. Appearing in a crisply pressed pale blue button-down, Jeremy Ben-Ami offered a personalized explanation for why, eight months earlier, he had launched a self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization that hoped to change the way the United States government dealt with Israel. In an earnest, confessional style, Ben-Ami explained that in past years,

I felt that I didn’t have a voice in American politics when it came to Israel and the Middle East. . . . When I came back [from living in Israel in the late 1990’s] and I told people that I favored a Palestinian state, that I was a supporter of peace, and in recent years when I’ve said that I don’t think it makes sense for us to militarily attack Iran, I was told that I was insufficiently pro-Israel. Well, I’ll tell you, I find that unacceptable. I don’t find it Jewish. I don’t find it American to not allow people to express alternative opinions, and I certainly don’t find it to be pro-Israel. . . . I’ve decided that I had to speak out.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

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J Street’s Dead End

Easy prediction: the revelation that J Street has been underwritten by George Soros, who has used the anti-Semitic canard that Jews cause anti-Semitism, and a mystery woman from Hong Kong, and that it has lied about its Soros connection, will spell the end of J Street. It might limp along, but its days as a player – or wanna-be player, more precisely – are over. The Jewish press has excoriated it. Mainstream Jewish leaders are doing the same. Eli Lake, who broke the initial  story of the Soros connection, reports:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group. … Mr. Hoenlein said “this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house.”

More important, it has become politically radioactive. The White House wouldn’t comment on Soros Street or whether it will enjoy the same cozy relationship it did when it concealed its Soros ties. Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Eric Cantor turned up the heat:

In an interview Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and House minority whip, said: “The White House needs to disassociate itself from J Street, denounce J Street and cut off all ties.”

Mr. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, added that “I am hopeful this revelation will now cause people to begin to ignore what they say. They are not reflecting the mainstream position of the pro-Israel community in America, nor do I think they help benefit the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

J Street’s beneficiaries, like Rep. Steve Cohen, are offering a nominal defense, but it’s hard to see others throwing themselves on Soros’s grenade.

Joel Pollak, who is running against J Street endorsee Jan Schakowsky, is calling on his opponent to give back the Soros money:

Jan Schakowsky is one of the top recipients of campaign cash from J Street, the far-left organization that opposes Israel at every opportunity. It turns out that J Street has taken $750,000 from George Soros, despite the earlier denials of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. And J Street took even more money–almost half of its budget–from a foreign donor in Hong Kong. The organization has lost any credibility it may have had.

Thus far this election cycle, Schakowsky has received tens of thousands of dollars from J Street–close to $50,000, according to OpenSecrets.org, and perhaps twice as much in reality. J Street has made me their #1 target in the 2010 election, because I have taken on their leaders and their misguided policies–and also because I received the endorsement of Alan Dershowitz, whom J Street attacks, among other Jewish leaders. … In February, Jan Schakowsky boasted: “I’ve been a supporter of J Street since its inception.” In June, she thanked J Street for its money. Today, it’s time for her to cut her ties to J Street and give back the cash.

How long before others do the same?

J Street operated under the guise that it was a legitimate grassroots, pro-Israel organization. Its positions have demonstrated that it is anything but pro-Israel. The Soros revelation demonstrates that it is not a genuine expression of  “liberal Zionism” (we’ll leave discussion of that oxymoron for another time). If Democrats are really concerned with the influence of shadowy money in politics, cutting ties and returning the dirty Soros Street loot is the best way to prove their concern for the health of our democratic process. And you don’t need a law that tramples on the First Amendment to do it. Just give back the cash.

Easy prediction: the revelation that J Street has been underwritten by George Soros, who has used the anti-Semitic canard that Jews cause anti-Semitism, and a mystery woman from Hong Kong, and that it has lied about its Soros connection, will spell the end of J Street. It might limp along, but its days as a player – or wanna-be player, more precisely – are over. The Jewish press has excoriated it. Mainstream Jewish leaders are doing the same. Eli Lake, who broke the initial  story of the Soros connection, reports:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group. … Mr. Hoenlein said “this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house.”

More important, it has become politically radioactive. The White House wouldn’t comment on Soros Street or whether it will enjoy the same cozy relationship it did when it concealed its Soros ties. Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Eric Cantor turned up the heat:

In an interview Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and House minority whip, said: “The White House needs to disassociate itself from J Street, denounce J Street and cut off all ties.”

Mr. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, added that “I am hopeful this revelation will now cause people to begin to ignore what they say. They are not reflecting the mainstream position of the pro-Israel community in America, nor do I think they help benefit the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

J Street’s beneficiaries, like Rep. Steve Cohen, are offering a nominal defense, but it’s hard to see others throwing themselves on Soros’s grenade.

Joel Pollak, who is running against J Street endorsee Jan Schakowsky, is calling on his opponent to give back the Soros money:

Jan Schakowsky is one of the top recipients of campaign cash from J Street, the far-left organization that opposes Israel at every opportunity. It turns out that J Street has taken $750,000 from George Soros, despite the earlier denials of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. And J Street took even more money–almost half of its budget–from a foreign donor in Hong Kong. The organization has lost any credibility it may have had.

Thus far this election cycle, Schakowsky has received tens of thousands of dollars from J Street–close to $50,000, according to OpenSecrets.org, and perhaps twice as much in reality. J Street has made me their #1 target in the 2010 election, because I have taken on their leaders and their misguided policies–and also because I received the endorsement of Alan Dershowitz, whom J Street attacks, among other Jewish leaders. … In February, Jan Schakowsky boasted: “I’ve been a supporter of J Street since its inception.” In June, she thanked J Street for its money. Today, it’s time for her to cut her ties to J Street and give back the cash.

How long before others do the same?

J Street operated under the guise that it was a legitimate grassroots, pro-Israel organization. Its positions have demonstrated that it is anything but pro-Israel. The Soros revelation demonstrates that it is not a genuine expression of  “liberal Zionism” (we’ll leave discussion of that oxymoron for another time). If Democrats are really concerned with the influence of shadowy money in politics, cutting ties and returning the dirty Soros Street loot is the best way to prove their concern for the health of our democratic process. And you don’t need a law that tramples on the First Amendment to do it. Just give back the cash.

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J Street Unmasked

It’s been a mystery: what sliver of the electorate is J Street representing? Where is the market for virulent left-wing, anti-Israel propaganda disguised as tough love? It is hard to believe there is a significant segment of American Jewry that this group represents. Actually, we now know that J Street, for all intents and purposes, represents the views and is a wholly owned subsidiary of one individual — George Soros, the gazillionaire who seems to think anti-Semitism is caused by pushy Jews. In 2003, JTA had this report:

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.” That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

Eli Lake has the scoop. J Street is not so much a “group” as it is a front for Soros (shouldn’t it really be “Soros Street”?), who has funded J Street to the tune of $750,000 over a three-year period. Lake reminds us of Soros’s background:

Mr. Soros made billions as a hedge fund manager and currency speculator, founding the Quantum hedge fund that, until the early 1980s, was based in an offshore tax haven in the Dutch Antilles Islands. Both his business success and his subsequent charitable giving in support of favored political and social causes have made him a figure of immense controversy both in the United States and around the world.

One of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Mr. Soros gave initially gave money to support Eastern European dissidents at the end of the Cold War, particularly in his native Hungary, through the Open Society Institute.

But during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Soros stepped up his funding of more partisan liberal organizations in the United States, including MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America. He has also strongly criticized U.S. policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Bush administration’ decision in 2007 not to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

So if Soros Street’s line bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Israel’s enemies, you know why.

Soros’s underwriting of the faux pro-Israel group, as Michael Goldfarb aptly documents, directly contradicts the repeated representations of Soros’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, and J Street’s own website. Ben Ami was quickly out spinning that he hadn’t really lied because … well, the explanation is less convincing than “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The usually sympathetic Ron Kampeas wasn’t buying it:

In the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street” as follows: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization. J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.”

In an interview, Ben-Ami denied that the conditional tense of the last sentence, and saying that an offer “remains open” leaves little room to infer Soros had given the group any money. He insisted that the characterization was truthful. “This was not founded by him, he didn’t provide initial funding,” he said. “I stand by the way that is phrased — I still want him to support us more.”

However, in an interview with Moment Magazine in March of this year, Ben-Ami was even more direct in his denial: “We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Ben-Ami said J Street’s board kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.

It was his policy, you see, to lie.

Even odder, about half of Soros Street’s money comes from a mysterious woman from Hong Kong (you can’t make this stuff up). She may be involved in the gambling biz:

The group’s 990 forms … show the group’s single largest contribution, in the odd sum of $811,697 coming from one Consolacion Ediscul of Happy Valley, a Hong Kong suburb. Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her.

It is, to say the least, unusual that a group would get half its budget from a foreigner doing a favor to a business associate.

She is “an associate” of a J Street board member, Bill Benter. The connection? “Happy Valley is the site of a major racetrack, and Benter is “regarded by many of his peers as the most successful sports bettor in the world.”

To be clear, J Street repeatedly has misrepresented its source of funding and is largely supported by a Hong Kong national and a gazillionaire with known anti-Semitic views. Isn’t it about time that J Street stopped being treated as a legitimate “pro-Israel” group? Frankly, any lawmaker who has accepted funding or support should give it back and in the future steer clear of Soros Street.

It’s been a mystery: what sliver of the electorate is J Street representing? Where is the market for virulent left-wing, anti-Israel propaganda disguised as tough love? It is hard to believe there is a significant segment of American Jewry that this group represents. Actually, we now know that J Street, for all intents and purposes, represents the views and is a wholly owned subsidiary of one individual — George Soros, the gazillionaire who seems to think anti-Semitism is caused by pushy Jews. In 2003, JTA had this report:

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.” That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

Eli Lake has the scoop. J Street is not so much a “group” as it is a front for Soros (shouldn’t it really be “Soros Street”?), who has funded J Street to the tune of $750,000 over a three-year period. Lake reminds us of Soros’s background:

Mr. Soros made billions as a hedge fund manager and currency speculator, founding the Quantum hedge fund that, until the early 1980s, was based in an offshore tax haven in the Dutch Antilles Islands. Both his business success and his subsequent charitable giving in support of favored political and social causes have made him a figure of immense controversy both in the United States and around the world.

One of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Mr. Soros gave initially gave money to support Eastern European dissidents at the end of the Cold War, particularly in his native Hungary, through the Open Society Institute.

But during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Soros stepped up his funding of more partisan liberal organizations in the United States, including MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America. He has also strongly criticized U.S. policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Bush administration’ decision in 2007 not to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

So if Soros Street’s line bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Israel’s enemies, you know why.

Soros’s underwriting of the faux pro-Israel group, as Michael Goldfarb aptly documents, directly contradicts the repeated representations of Soros’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, and J Street’s own website. Ben Ami was quickly out spinning that he hadn’t really lied because … well, the explanation is less convincing than “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The usually sympathetic Ron Kampeas wasn’t buying it:

In the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street” as follows: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization. J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.”

In an interview, Ben-Ami denied that the conditional tense of the last sentence, and saying that an offer “remains open” leaves little room to infer Soros had given the group any money. He insisted that the characterization was truthful. “This was not founded by him, he didn’t provide initial funding,” he said. “I stand by the way that is phrased — I still want him to support us more.”

However, in an interview with Moment Magazine in March of this year, Ben-Ami was even more direct in his denial: “We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Ben-Ami said J Street’s board kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.

It was his policy, you see, to lie.

Even odder, about half of Soros Street’s money comes from a mysterious woman from Hong Kong (you can’t make this stuff up). She may be involved in the gambling biz:

The group’s 990 forms … show the group’s single largest contribution, in the odd sum of $811,697 coming from one Consolacion Ediscul of Happy Valley, a Hong Kong suburb. Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her.

It is, to say the least, unusual that a group would get half its budget from a foreigner doing a favor to a business associate.

She is “an associate” of a J Street board member, Bill Benter. The connection? “Happy Valley is the site of a major racetrack, and Benter is “regarded by many of his peers as the most successful sports bettor in the world.”

To be clear, J Street repeatedly has misrepresented its source of funding and is largely supported by a Hong Kong national and a gazillionaire with known anti-Semitic views. Isn’t it about time that J Street stopped being treated as a legitimate “pro-Israel” group? Frankly, any lawmaker who has accepted funding or support should give it back and in the future steer clear of Soros Street.

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J Street Unmasked

The Washington Jewish Week reveals just how far off the path J Street has wandered from its ostensible purpose:

J Street — the self-professed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group — appears to have waded further into domestic waters in recent weeks with the launch of a website assailing “neoconservatives and far-right evangelical Christians” for purporting to speak on behalf of the Jewish community. …

J Street’s website, www.theydontspeakforus.com, purports to expose Bauer and Kristol as far-right extremists who are out of sync with the majority of American Jews by outlining the pair’s views on a range of foreign and domestic policy issues.

Among other topics — such as the Gaza Strip and Iraq war — the site highlights the pair’s stances on gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement and the separation of church and state.

What does all that have to do with Israel? Not much — and it has confused even the Democrats:

“This [J Street] website confuses me,” said Ira Forman, an independent consultant who recently stepped down as the CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “To me, if you are trying to push a pro-Israel, pro-peace message, you want to be non-ideological and nonpartisan. … But when you use these terms [such as gay marriage and others], it’s making Israel a partisan wedge issue. I don’t understand how that helps the central mission of J Street.” (Forman made it clear that he was speaking on his own behalf, and not the NJDC’s.) Added another pro-Israel Democratic operative, who was not authorized by his employer to speak on the record: The website “takes away from some of J Street’s legitimacy as a foreign policy voice when they buttress their arguments with domestic issues.”

“What J Street is saying is people who don’t support gay marriage and who are pro-life are out of the mainstream Jewish community. That is a fact, but it has nothing to do with their support for Israel,” the source said. “Is J Street saying you can’t have an individual who’s pro-life, anti-gay” also be “supportive of the state of Israel?”

OK, so let’s all be clear here. J Street is a leftist group, not a pro-Israel one. And for leftist Jews the mantra is: global warming is killing the planet, abortion on demand must be protected, and Israel is wrong on [fill in the blank]. Once you have that straight, its website and ongoing Israel-bashing make perfect sense. Meanwhile, is it relevant? The reporter seems skeptical:

But if the group is to increase its political clout, it needs to demonstrate that it’s not simply an Obama administration tool, said an official with a pro-Israel organization who agreed to speak only on background. “There is a sense in the pro-Israel community — and there have been complaints — that J Street has not [made] a fair effort to show bipartisanship.”

So far in the 2010 election cycle, JStreetPAC, the group’s political action committee, has distributed nearly $1 million to 60 Democratic candidates and one Republican.

Yeah, not too bipartisan. (And that one Republican? Why, it’s the longtime Israel critic Charles Boustany.) Meanwhile, it’s not clear J Street is even a tool of the Obami. Since the later went on the charm offensive and dropped the settlement freeze as a precondition for talks, J Street hasn’t even been in sync with the administration. So I’m still stumped: whom does J Street speak for?

The Washington Jewish Week reveals just how far off the path J Street has wandered from its ostensible purpose:

J Street — the self-professed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group — appears to have waded further into domestic waters in recent weeks with the launch of a website assailing “neoconservatives and far-right evangelical Christians” for purporting to speak on behalf of the Jewish community. …

J Street’s website, www.theydontspeakforus.com, purports to expose Bauer and Kristol as far-right extremists who are out of sync with the majority of American Jews by outlining the pair’s views on a range of foreign and domestic policy issues.

Among other topics — such as the Gaza Strip and Iraq war — the site highlights the pair’s stances on gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement and the separation of church and state.

What does all that have to do with Israel? Not much — and it has confused even the Democrats:

“This [J Street] website confuses me,” said Ira Forman, an independent consultant who recently stepped down as the CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “To me, if you are trying to push a pro-Israel, pro-peace message, you want to be non-ideological and nonpartisan. … But when you use these terms [such as gay marriage and others], it’s making Israel a partisan wedge issue. I don’t understand how that helps the central mission of J Street.” (Forman made it clear that he was speaking on his own behalf, and not the NJDC’s.) Added another pro-Israel Democratic operative, who was not authorized by his employer to speak on the record: The website “takes away from some of J Street’s legitimacy as a foreign policy voice when they buttress their arguments with domestic issues.”

“What J Street is saying is people who don’t support gay marriage and who are pro-life are out of the mainstream Jewish community. That is a fact, but it has nothing to do with their support for Israel,” the source said. “Is J Street saying you can’t have an individual who’s pro-life, anti-gay” also be “supportive of the state of Israel?”

OK, so let’s all be clear here. J Street is a leftist group, not a pro-Israel one. And for leftist Jews the mantra is: global warming is killing the planet, abortion on demand must be protected, and Israel is wrong on [fill in the blank]. Once you have that straight, its website and ongoing Israel-bashing make perfect sense. Meanwhile, is it relevant? The reporter seems skeptical:

But if the group is to increase its political clout, it needs to demonstrate that it’s not simply an Obama administration tool, said an official with a pro-Israel organization who agreed to speak only on background. “There is a sense in the pro-Israel community — and there have been complaints — that J Street has not [made] a fair effort to show bipartisanship.”

So far in the 2010 election cycle, JStreetPAC, the group’s political action committee, has distributed nearly $1 million to 60 Democratic candidates and one Republican.

Yeah, not too bipartisan. (And that one Republican? Why, it’s the longtime Israel critic Charles Boustany.) Meanwhile, it’s not clear J Street is even a tool of the Obami. Since the later went on the charm offensive and dropped the settlement freeze as a precondition for talks, J Street hasn’t even been in sync with the administration. So I’m still stumped: whom does J Street speak for?

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Will J Street Weigh Down Its Endorsed Candidates?

Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.

In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.

This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?

Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.

J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.

Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?

J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval?  It’s hard to see why they would.

Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.

In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.

This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?

Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.

J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.

Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?

J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval?  It’s hard to see why they would.

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Haaretz Disses J Street

Sounds like a joke: J Street has become so transparently partisan and so sycophantic when it comes to Obama’s Middle East policy that even the left-leaning Haaretz runs a scathing review of the leftist group. But it’s no joke:

J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby, ran its first television commercial last week in the United States. Watching the ad online (it can be viewed via a link on my own organization’s website, www.rethinkme.org) confirmed my worst suspicions about this new organization, which likes to portray itself as the “real voice” of the mainstream American Jewish community. …

Photos of Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus also appear on-screen, accompanied by the words, “Say ‘yes’ to American leadership. Join the community of ‘yes.’” So “American leadership” in the Middle East is personified by the president, the secretary of state and the new commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. …

This commercial is a classic Democratic campaign ad, pitting the evil Republicans (“the chorus of ‘no’”) against the good guys, the Democrats (“the community of ‘yes’”). For the purposes of the ad, the general has been promoted to the rank of honorary Democrat, despite his reputed Republican voter registration.

As the columnist Michael Lame (founder of a nonpartisan group, Re-Think The Middle East) notes, there are lots of other leftist groups, but J Street is in a class by itself:

J Street is specifically an Obama support group, playing the part of a cheering section for the president to such an extent that the organization could be renamed “Jews for Obama.” It has consistently supported his approach to the Middle East even when most commentators who support a two-state solution have criticized his administration’s tactics and timing. Through the last year and a half of White House bumbling and fumbling over the settlement freeze, J Street never once criticized Obama, Mitchell, Clinton or the entire strategy of talking tough to Israel, coupled with toothless threats and inept performance.

It is not merely that, unlike AIPAC, “J Street will not defend Israel unconditionally” or even that “J Street will defend Obama unconditionally.” It is that J Street continually criticizes Israel on the same grounds as Israel’s international enemies do and often parrots their rhetoric, specifically the assertion that Israel is not equipped or entitled as other democratic states to manage and — if need be — investigate its own national-security operations. Indeed, J Street takes the position that it, and not the elected government of Israel, knows best what is “good” for Israel on everything — from settlements to the flotilla incident.

It is ironic that the left went bonkers when ECI appeared on the scene, accusing the pro-Israel group of “politicizing” Israel policy. That’s rich, given what J Street does:

The main problem here is that J Street tries to turn peace in the Middle East into a proprietary issue of the Democrats, while it vilifies the Republicans as the enemies of peace. … So what’s wrong with J Street? It mixes up its views on the issues with domestic party politics.

Precisely so.

Sounds like a joke: J Street has become so transparently partisan and so sycophantic when it comes to Obama’s Middle East policy that even the left-leaning Haaretz runs a scathing review of the leftist group. But it’s no joke:

J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby, ran its first television commercial last week in the United States. Watching the ad online (it can be viewed via a link on my own organization’s website, www.rethinkme.org) confirmed my worst suspicions about this new organization, which likes to portray itself as the “real voice” of the mainstream American Jewish community. …

Photos of Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus also appear on-screen, accompanied by the words, “Say ‘yes’ to American leadership. Join the community of ‘yes.’” So “American leadership” in the Middle East is personified by the president, the secretary of state and the new commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. …

This commercial is a classic Democratic campaign ad, pitting the evil Republicans (“the chorus of ‘no’”) against the good guys, the Democrats (“the community of ‘yes’”). For the purposes of the ad, the general has been promoted to the rank of honorary Democrat, despite his reputed Republican voter registration.

As the columnist Michael Lame (founder of a nonpartisan group, Re-Think The Middle East) notes, there are lots of other leftist groups, but J Street is in a class by itself:

J Street is specifically an Obama support group, playing the part of a cheering section for the president to such an extent that the organization could be renamed “Jews for Obama.” It has consistently supported his approach to the Middle East even when most commentators who support a two-state solution have criticized his administration’s tactics and timing. Through the last year and a half of White House bumbling and fumbling over the settlement freeze, J Street never once criticized Obama, Mitchell, Clinton or the entire strategy of talking tough to Israel, coupled with toothless threats and inept performance.

It is not merely that, unlike AIPAC, “J Street will not defend Israel unconditionally” or even that “J Street will defend Obama unconditionally.” It is that J Street continually criticizes Israel on the same grounds as Israel’s international enemies do and often parrots their rhetoric, specifically the assertion that Israel is not equipped or entitled as other democratic states to manage and — if need be — investigate its own national-security operations. Indeed, J Street takes the position that it, and not the elected government of Israel, knows best what is “good” for Israel on everything — from settlements to the flotilla incident.

It is ironic that the left went bonkers when ECI appeared on the scene, accusing the pro-Israel group of “politicizing” Israel policy. That’s rich, given what J Street does:

The main problem here is that J Street tries to turn peace in the Middle East into a proprietary issue of the Democrats, while it vilifies the Republicans as the enemies of peace. … So what’s wrong with J Street? It mixes up its views on the issues with domestic party politics.

Precisely so.

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