Two years ago, when I first condemned J Street’s anti-Israeli agenda, I tagged George Soros, the billionaire Hungarian born currency speculator, as one of its major sponsors. Yet J-Street founder and executive director Jeremy Ben Ami, on repeated occasions, adamantly denied this. He even said that he wished that Soros was a funder adding that “we got tagged as having his support without the benefit of actually getting funded.”
It has now been disclosed that some $750,000, amounting to almost a third of J-Street’s 2008-2009 US revenue, was provided by Soros.
After being exposed as an outright serial liar, Ben-Ami tried to weasel his way out of his shameful behavior by “accepting responsibility for being less than clear” about J-Street funding.
In fact Soros and J-Street make a perfect match. Soros has proudly proclaimed “I am not a Zionist, nor am I a practicing Jew.” He believes that Israel is largely responsible for anti-Semitism. Much of his venom is concentrated on AIPAC, and he has consistently been attacking all-pro Israeli institutions. He also calls for the recognition of Hamas. His “Open Society Institute” pours vast funds into organizations whose prime objective is to undermine elected governments of Israel. Only last month ago, he contributed a record $100 million towards Human Rights Watch, the purportedly human rights watchdog, which no longer bothers to disguise its blatant bias and hostility towards Israel.
For its part, J-Street condemned Israel for its Gaza offensive against Hamas, describing it as “a disproportionate response.” It refused to identify “who was right and who was wrong” proclaiming that “we recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly of right and wrong.” It not only refused to condemn the Goldstone Report, but facilitated meetings between members of Congress and Judge Goldstone. It even resurrected the anti-Semitic charge of dual loyalties, warning Jews that by “one sided support of Israel,” they “risked alienating the American public and would be condemned for displaying greater loyalties towards Israel than the US.” It repeatedly slandered AIPAC depicting it as an extremist right-wing body ignoring the fact that it had backed the policies of all Israeli governments, including dovish administrations preceding Netanyahu.
More recently, J-Street called on its supporters to bombard the IRS with complaints that contributions promoting social welfare causes over the green line, including the major settlement blocs and Jerusalem, represented a breach of US law and should be investigated.
There are left wing groups like Meretz and Peace Now who oppose Israeli settlement policies with no less vigor than J-Street. But what primarily differentiate them from J-Street are not its views but its actions. J-Street insists that it knows better than Israelis what is good for them, and employs the obscene analogy of parents required to impose “tough love” on drug addicted children, to justify lobbying the Obama Administration to force Israel to make unilateral concessions to the Palestinians which undermine its security. It also funds Congressional candidates with track records of hostility to Israel policies. It is surely classic Orwellian double-talk for an organization which lobbies foreign legislators to oppose Israel policies, to define itself as “pro-Israel.”
To top it off, J-Street was also exposed for having received donations and support from Arab and pro-Arab individuals and organizations.The donors include Genevieve Lynch a former participant of the US Iranian National Council who also serves on the J-Street finance committee; Judith Barnett a former registered agent for Saudi Arabia who also serves on the J-Street Advisory Council; and Nancy Dutton a former attorney for the Saudi Arabian embassy who donates to J-Street’s political action committee which finances anti-Israeli congressional candidates.
It was also disclosed that a mysterious Hong Kong donor, “Consolacion Esdicul,” whose identity was concealed, provided $800,000 (about half the total annual J-Street income). When Ben Ami was asked to identify the Hong Kong contributor, he declined saying “Bill Bester solicited her.” Bester is apparently not Jewish, and in view of Ben-Ami’s reluctance to elaborate, there is odium about this contribution. Unconfirmed rumors suggest that it is either clandestine Saudi money or a back channel concealing additional Soros funding. If one combines this extraordinarily contribution from a shadowy Chinese source with that of Soros it is difficult for J-Street to deny that the bulk of their budget emanates from either anti-Israeli or other tainted sources.
How will the lack of transparency, shameless lies and the disclosure that J-Street was clandestinely being funded by a pathologically anti-Israeli Jew like Soros impact on the organization?
It is likely to suffer, but its core support will probably continue supporting it. The real test will be whether the American Jewish establishment will wake up and marginalize this organization from the mainstream instead of bringing it into “the tent.”
The core support of J-Street today is based on two groups. The most reliable are the hard line anti-Israeli elements who cynically promote the “pro-Israel” tag in order to maximize their campaign against the Israeli government. They include a strong element of virulent anti-Zionists willing to collaborate with any groups including Arabs and extreme anti-Zionist leftists in order to undermine the Jewish state. They usually come out of the closet and are identified at J-Street conferences. For obvious reasons the leaders seek to divert media attention from these elements who demonize and seek to delegitimize the Jewish state.
The other group represents the bulk of rank and file followers. Many are confused liberals with little Jewish background who Ben Ami once described to the New York Times as being primarily intermarried youngsters who attend “Buddhist Seders.” Some are genuinely angered when accused of providing support to those seeking to destroy the Jewish state and maintain that they are partaking in constructive dissident activity which they believe remains within the framework of pro-Israel activity. They are in many respects, reminiscent of the Jewish fellow travelers during the Cold War. They too, were muddled liberals being manipulated by hard core communists into supporting bogus peace festivals and indulging in pro Soviet activities which unquestionably furthered the interests of the “Evil Empire.”
For a time, these groups were also tolerated by the Jewish establishment. But when the evidence of Soviet duplicity and anti-Semitism became overwhelming, they were isolated from the mainstream.
Today it is utterly preposterous to define a group like J-Street which describes itself as Obama’s “blocking back” in Congress and seeks to undermine support for the government of Israel as being “pro-Israel.” Nobody seeks to deny J-Street its right of freedom of expression. The left-liberal media will undoubtedly continue promoting the organization which seeks to provide a pseudo Jewish seal of approval on the Obama administration’s one sided pressures against Israel.
However with these recent revelations, American Jewish leaders will hopefully expose them as a marginal anti-Israeli group artificially created by the largesse of Soros and dissociate them from the mainstream of the committed Jewish community which remains strongly supportive of the Jewish State.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post