J Street's Muslim Money
1:04 PM, Aug 14, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
From the very beginning, J Street's strategy has been to claim that it would represent a very large and very underserved segment of American Jewish opinion -- a moderate middle that has somehow been marginalized by groups like AIPAC. Yet it seems this mythical group of Jews who were heretofore unable to speak for themselves are either unable or unwilling to support an organization like J Street all on their own. They need a little help from their Muslim friends:
The J Street political action committee has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as from several individuals connected to organizations doing Palestinian and Iranian issues advocacy, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
What's really troubling is this defense from J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami:
"It would be a very big mistake for pro-Israel organizations to apply a religious or ethnic litmus test for support for Israel from other Americans. I don't think anybody checked to see whether [Pastor] John Hagee was Jewish before he was invited to keynote the AIPAC conference," he said. "I don't think we should be banning Christians, I don't think we should be banning Muslims, I don't think we should be banning Arabs from finding a way to support Israel, to support its right to exist and to support a program that is designed to secure the future."
Ben-Ami noted that J Street, as with APN and other Jewish groups, doesn't solicit donations from Muslims and Arabs, but he said that in any case, "Our views are not a reflection of our donors. Our donors are supporting our views."
First off, J Street focuses far more of its energy on purging the pro-Israel community of people like Hagee than it does on any other single issue. The group spearheaded a campaign last summer to get John McCain to renounce Hagee's support over statements Hagee had made which were bizarre, but not anti-Israel. From the J Street document put out at the time: "J Street has made a central element of its agenda demonstrating that John Hagee and the Christian Zionists who follow his preaching are not true friends of Israel." So does Ben-Ami think we should be banning Christians who support Israel? Yes, he absolutely does. He just doesn't think we should be banning Muslims who don't support his Israel -- because they share his views on the conflict.
More than that though, it's that last bit from Ben-Ami that reveals what an unprincipled hack he really is. "Our views are not a reflection of our donors. Our donors are supporting our views." You know who that reminds me of? John McCain. When pressed -- by J Street -- to distance himself from Hagee, he said of Hagee, like others who had endorsed him, "They support my views. That does not mean that I support..." their views.
Ben-Ami would go after Hagee when it suited him, even though Hagee is one of Israel's greatest friends in this country, but when Ben-Ami gets caught taking money from Arabs -- from people who really are "not friends of Israel" -- he's just being tolerant of other views. It's shameless. But the hypocrisy of using the Hagee example and then resorting to the exact same defense McCain's used when they drummed up that very controversy in the first place -- well, that's a kind of shamelessness you rarely get to see in a year without an election.