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Ron Kampeas Pulls Out of J Street Conference

5:24 PM, Oct 21, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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JTA's Washington bureau chief has become the latest name to disappear from the J Street program in advance of next week's conference. Kampeas was to moderate a panel titled "What does it mean to be pro-Israel?"

When I called Kampeas for comment, he referred me to JTA editor in chief Ami Eden. Eden said that JTA had "started to get a lot of calls about" Kampeas's appearance on the panel. "Some of the people who were calling complained, 'how can he moderate and cover the panel'" at the same time. "To be honest, it's not an issue I usually get complaints about," Eden said, noting that Kampeas has participated in similar events in the past with no objection, but "given the hot button nature of the issue, people started calling up and complaining."

Some of those who called were "concerned we were carrying water for J Street," Eden said. "For sure there were people who have concerns about J Street." While saying repeatedly that he had absolute confidence in Kampeas's ability to maintain his objectivity while moderating a panel at the event, ultimately Eden said it was necessary to be "sensitive to the perception" that Kampeas's participation would undermine JTA's credibility.

With the departure of Kampeas, J Street has now lost five speakers -- the three def poets that they cut for the "use and abuse of Holocaust imagery," Geoff Davis, the Kentucky Republican whose name disappeared from the conference program today and whose office refuses to comment on the matter, and now Kampeas. In addition to the 12 members of Congress who've yanked their support, that's 17 individuals who have either distanced themselves from J Street or have been thrown under the bus by J Street lest they provoke any more controversy. When was the last time a conference saw 17 names dropped from the program in the week before the conference started -- and that doesn't even include the Israeli Ambassador who declined J Street's invitation or Senator John Kerry, who looks likely (but is not certain) to be a no-show.