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NIAC and J Street: Lobbying and Lying

8:44 AM, Nov 16, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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NIAC and J Street might seem at first an odd alliance. J Street is "pro-peace, pro-Israel" and NIAC is pro-engagement, pro-Iran. But J Street isn't all that pro-Israel, and NIAC will take any allies it can find in the fight against sanctions, so few and far between are such organizations in Washington. J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami co-authored an op-ed with NIAC chief Trita Parsi making the (extremely unpopular in the Jewish community) argument against sanctions. J Street invited Parsi to speak at their conference last month. And the two groups have together constructed and embraced a narrative that explains away all the questions about their credibility and legitimacy as the work of the same nefarious right-wing conspiracy.

But follow the money and the tie that binds seems to be George Soros, who provides substantial funding to both groups. Also, Morton Halperin, one of the top men at Soros's Open Society Institute, sits on the boards of both J Street and NIAC. As Ben Smith reported Friday, Soros pays the salary of the NIAC staffer who runs the Campaign for a New Policy on Iran. Documents reveal that J Street participated in the discussions that determined the group's agenda.

And there's another thing the groups have in common: they've both been caught telling their supporters they've taken one position while lobbying behind the scenes for the exact opposite outcome.

Jennifer Rubin notes two examples of this dishonest conduct. J Street declared publicly that it would not lobby against passage of a resolution in the House of Representatives condemning the Goldstone Report. (Neither would J Street support the resolution, of course. The group's position was somewhere between oppose and support.) Yet this blog reported and Morton Halperin has not denied that either he or someone in his office was the author of a letter circulated to members of Congress and signed by Judge Goldstone. J Street, or at least one of its top advisers, was actively lobbying against the resolution and in support of Goldstone.

NIAC gets caught in a similar lie. Eli Lake's Washington Times report details NIAC's campaign to "create a media controversy," in the words of one NIAC staffer, in order to scuttle the appointment of Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy. NIAC failed, but just last week NIAC put on its website a "Myths and Facts" page to set the record straight about the organization's work:

NIAC is not the only organization that is under attack. In fact, almost every distinguished American policymaker, intellectual and administration official that supports Obama's pro-engagement policy in the Middle East is being targeted. This includes:

* Ambassador Dennis Ross - Currently serving in the U.S. National Security Council...

So after trying to kill Ross's appointment in a secret and perhaps illegal lobbying campaign, the group touts Ross on its website as a "distinguished policy maker" who is the victim of neoconservative smears. Now we know that the smears against Ross were being conceived and directed by the staff at NIAC, and all the while NIAC was playing the victim.

Trita Parsi has charmed his way into the very heart of the "progressive left," and no progressive organization has been more easily or completely charmed than J Street. So what is a "pro-peace, pro-Israel" group doing allying itself so closely with a man who is himself so closely allied with a Holocaust-denying regime that daily threatens the existence of the State of Israel? And why is it that neither organization is able to represent in public the views that they so aggressively promote behind closed doors?