J Street Under the Searchlight

The faux “pro-Israel” outfit is down—and out?

J Street, the American Jewish advocacy organization that describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace”—clearly implying that other pro-Israel organizations are not pro-peace—is in hot water these days. Washington Times reporter Eli Lake has revealed that J Street has been lying—big-time—about its funding. Then, in a follow-up report, Lake revealed further J Street lies about its connection with Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the infamous Goldstone Report.

Lake’s first story on September 24 disclosed that J Street—in direct contradiction to a longstanding claim on its website—had received generous funding, to the tune of $750,000 over three years, from controversial financier George Soros and his family. Moreover, J Street had received a total sum of $811,697 from a mysterious donor in Hong Kong named Consolacion Esdicul, who in turn was solicited—J Street claims—by a non-Jewish, American horse-race bettor named Bill Benter.

J Street, of course, had good reason to cover-up its support from Soros, whose “views”—if one can dignify them by calling them that—on Jewish and Israeli matters put him outside the discourse of decency. In 2003 Soros, who is of Hungarian Jewish background, said in a speech that:

There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that. 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. I can’t see how one could confront it directly.

Saying that Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism is, of course, in itself classic anti-Semitism. Then, in a notorious New York Review of Books article in 2007, Soros blamed the U.S. and Israeli governments as well as the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby for the lack of Israeli-Palestinian peace while asserting that Hamas was a constructive force and the key to attaining peace.

As for Lake’s subsequent September 29 piece on J Street, it’s a veritable riot of disclosures.

Lake begins by quoting Colette Avital, former Israeli left-wing parliamentarian and for a time J Street’s liaison in Israel, saying one of the reasons she resigned from J Street was its connection with Goldstone, including helping him make appointments on Capitol Hill. Lake then quotes J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, saying J Street had merely “reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

Yet it turns out that Morton Halperin, longtime Washington insider and a senior officer at J Street, hand-delivered a personal letter from Goldstone to members of Congress, and that J Street cofounder Daniel Levy accompanied Goldstone to several meetings with legislators.

Moreover, Colette Avital went on to deny any J Street connection with Goldstone even though the Times has the audio recording where she clearly states otherwise.

All this despite the fact that Goldstone, like George Soros, is considered morally outside the pale among Israelis and Israel-supporters of widely varying views. The Goldstone Report, which Goldstone wrote for the virulently anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, accuses Israel of war crimes in the 2009 Gaza war on the basis of Hamas-approved interviews in Gaza. Israel’s dovish president Shimon Peres said the report “makes a mockery of history” and “gives de facto legitimacy to terrorist initiatives.” The U.S. Congress by a vote of 344 to 36 “call[ed] on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration” of the report.

None of this surprises those who have been sharply critical of J Street since it started gaining traction with the advent of the Obama administration early in 2009. Taking positions on Israel-related matters that are outside the Israeli mainstream—like opposing the campaign against Hamas in Gaza, opposing sanctions on Iran, and even writing approvingly of last May’s Turkish anti-Israel jihadist flotilla—is one thing. Taking such positions while proclaiming ad nauseum one’s devotion to Israel—and pushing the U.S. president to shove “solutions” down Israel’s throat that are opposed by its government and people—is another.

Again, all this makes sense when one considers that, as commentator Isi Leibler notes, J Street has also been

exposed for having received donations and support from Arab and pro-Arab individuals and organizations [including] a former participant of the US Iranian National Council who also serves on the J Street finance committee; …a former registered agent for Saudi Arabia who also serves on the J Street Advisory Council; and…a former attorney for the Saudi Arabian embassy who donates to J Street’s political action committee which finances anti-Israeli congressional candidates.

A certain odor wafts up from J Street, and it’s not one of virtue and probity.

How hard has the organization been hit by what should be decisive blows to its reputation? The Washington Times further reports that, under the impact of the Soros-funding scandal, the Obama administration appears to be distancing itself from J Street. Even liberal journalists have turned critical of the outfit, including liberal Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg who doubts its continued existence and laments that “what is going on here is inexplicable, and terribly dispiriting to people who thought that J Street was going to make a useful contribution to the debate over the future of Israel.”

Inexplicable, and dispiriting, if J Street’s galling arrogance toward Israel as an autonomous country didn’t particularly disturb you in the first place.