J Street's Been Lying About J Street
How can someone in good faith, and with good intentions, possibly donate a dime to this organization?
12:40 PM, Sep 28, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
The liberal lobbying group J Street, which has operated under the pretense of being pro-Israel, has really taken a hit in the last week. Eli Lake of the Washington Times uncovered that, despite J Street’s longstanding insistence to the contrary, the group has received significant funding from financier George Soros and his children. Additionally, the same report revealed that J Street received $811,967, from a woman named Consolacion Esdicul, a resident of Happy Valley, Hong Kong and an associate of Bill Benter, a hugely successful international gambler.
J Street's embattled chief Jeremy Ben-Ami
In other words, to borrow a phrase from J Street’s executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami, the lobbying group accepts money from “foreign nationals.”
So it’s no wonder that the White House is now taking moves to distance itself from the foreign funded lobbying group, as reported by Eli Lake in today’s Washington Times. There’s another angle here, also: President Obama has previously distanced his stance on Israel from George Soros’s views on that subject. The real question is, why didn’t the White House do their due diligence before National Security Adviser Jim Jones attended J Street’s annual conference last year which was apparently funded, at least in part, by a foreign national?
Over the weekend, Ben-Ami took to his group’s website – and cross-published the same post on the Huffington Post website – to respond. Here, in part, is what he said:
This is a pretty pathetic statement—but several things stand out. First, when Ben-Ami says that Soros’s money constitutes “just over 7 percent of the total funds raised by the J Street family of organizations,” is he including the money raised from outside donors specifically for political candidates? Because if that’s the case, then it becomes clear that this 7 percent, or $750,000, actually constitutes a far greater percentage of J Street’s operating budget than Ben-Ami is letting on. It’s the same deal with J Street’s Hong Kong financier Esdicul, who gave even more than Soros. Doesn’t this donation actually make up a much larger percentage of J Street’s operating budget?
Don’t expect Ben-Ami to be particularly forthcoming.
Second, Ben-Ami says that “nearly all such entities in the United States” do “not reveal names of donors.” But most groups that don’t want to disclose their funders do two things that J Street did not do. First, these groups simply don’t talk about their funders, rather than flat-out lie about who is funneling money into the group. And second, these other groups do not make the lazy mistake of misfiling their forms with the Internal Revenue Service – and then, in turn, blame the IRS for their stupid mistakes.
What J Street has displayed – never mind their approach to Israel for a second, though we’ll get back to that – is that it is willing to pursue their goals by whatever means necessary, regardless of ethics.
Fortunately, members of Congress are catching on. Again, here’s Lake’s piece today:
This, of course, isn’t exactly how J Street wanted these revelations to play out. When the liberal lobbying group got wind that their lies would be revealed in print, they hustled to find someone to write a favorable story—the task fell to Chris Good of the Atlantic. He wrote, more or less, the piece they wanted (see here). But even Good realized he had been played, after the Washington Times report had been published, and quickly blew out J Street for “Half-Truths and Non-Truths About Its Funding.”
Ben-Ami blames his critics for these bad news stories – but that’s his way of failing to take full responsibility for his dishonesty. Despites his claim to the contrary, not taking responsibility is exactly what his statement is about.
Toward the end of his statement, Ben-Ami writes:
This is a totally bogus claim. He isn’t “accepting responsibility,” he’s blaming J Street’s self-inflicted wounds and his own personal failings on his critics. In reality, it’s J Street that’s been lying about J Street.
So, the question, assuming one favors peace, Israel, and honesty, is this: How can someone in good faith, and with good intentions, possibly donate a dime to this organization?
I think many supporters of Israel would heartily agree that a liberal, pro-Israel group in Washington, D.C. could be helpful. But, let’s not forget, that’s exactly what AIPAC is – a liberal, pro-Israel group in Washington. But the difference between AIPAC and J Street is that the former actually supports Israel.