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What will $11 million buy you in London?


A guest post by AKUS

In Washington, $11 million buys you your own lobbying organization opposed to Israel’s government and gets you access to the White House and Congress. That is the amount that J Street has raised since 2008. But now, serious questions have arisen regarding the sources of some of that money and the purposes of some of the donors.

I refer, of course, to the expanding scandal surrounding J Street and its slippery director, Jeremy Ben-Ami , a person deeply involved with many of the organizations central to the campaign to delegitimize Israel.

It has emerged, thanks to investigative reporting in the Washington Times, that J Street had received substantial support from financier George Soros. Soros is widely regarded as intensely opposed to Israeli government policies and is a known supporter of many of the organizations opposed to Israel’s government. The Times article cited Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor’s director, in a New York Post op-ed before the J Street controversy broke:

“In the Middle East, for example, [Soros] Open Society Institute exclusively supports advocacy groups that campaign internationally to undermine the elected governments of Israel — organizations such as Adalah, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Gisha and Yesh Din.”  (Adalah is opposed to Israel’s very existence, incidentally).

According to the Washington Post, which has largely avoided the issue, the source of the Washington Times’ information was J Street’s tax records:

“The liberal group’s Web site suggested that J Street had received no funding from George Soros, the wealthy philanthropist who serves as a bete noire for many conservatives. It also said that donors were “primarily individual Jewish Americans” and that it “accepts no funding from foreign governments or from foreign organizations.”

“But confidential tax records mistakenly made public by the Internal Revenue Service seemed to undermine those characterizations – causing a major public relations problem for the fledgling group, which has enjoyed regular access to the White House and senior Obama administration officials.”

According to the Times article, widely regarded as authoritative and even cited in the Washington Jewish Week, a paper which appears to be sympathetic to J Street:

“The backdrop for the brouhaha is Ben-Ami’s repeated denials that Soros had a role in founding the dovish pro-Israel lobby and strongly implying that he continued to have no role.”

It is, apparently, technically correct that Soros was not one of the founders. However, once the organization was founded, the tax records revealed that J Street received massive funding from the Soros family and associates – a small matter that Ben-Ami neglected to point out, under cover of the technicality that Soros was not one of the initial funders of the organization:

“Tax forms obtained by The Washington Times reveal that Mr. Soros and his two children, Jonathan and Andrea Soros, contributed a total $245,000 to J Street from one Manhattan address in New York during the fiscal year from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009.”

Jeremy Ben Ami, J Street’s executive director, said in an interview that the $245,000 was part of a $750,000 gift from the Soros family to his organization made over three years. Mr. Ben Ami also said that in this same period he had raised $11 million for J Street and its political action committee.”

The story does not end there – rather, it continues down the murky paths of international finance to a Philippine woman resident in Hong Kong. Again, according to the Washington Times:

“The contributions represent a third of the group’s revenue from U.S. sources during the period. Nearly half of J Street’s revenue during the timeframe — a total of $811,697 — however, came from a single donor in Happy Valley, Hong Kong, named Consolacion Esdicul.”

So who is Consolacion Esdicul? According to the Washington Times:

“When asked about Ms. Esdicul, the Happy Valley, Hong Kong based donor of nearly half the group’s revenue for the 2008 to 2009 fiscal year, Mr. Ben Ami said she gave J Street the money in multiple wire transfers at the urging of William Benter, a Pittsburgh-based philanthropist and the chief executive officer of Acusis, a medical services firm.”

And who is William Benter? Well, according to reports, such as J Street Unmasked, the truth becomes even stranger:

“Of the $1.6 million received in contributions for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, $811,697 came from a mysterious Hong Kong woman of apparently Philippine background named Consolacion “Connie” Ediscul, who has been explained as “an associate” of an heretofore rather unknown William (Bill) Benter, who has been described – and most likely rightly so as the “most successful sports bettor in the world.”

Benter actually styles himself as Chairman & International CEO of Acusis (not CEO) and it may come as little surprise given the Philippine connection that the Acusis website states:

“Acusis is different than other transcription services because we offer US, India and Philippines based transcriptionists and editors.”

Benter and a former colleague, Alan Woods, apparently made fortunes by betting on horse races in Hong Kong using proprietary software they developed to evaluate the horses’ qualities and handicaps.

Meanwhile, back in Washington (I’ll get to the Guardian in a moment), J Street seems to be laboring under some handicaps of its own making.

Let me start with one of the Guardian’s former favorite sons, Dicky (Richard) Silverman. There is none as vicious as a spurned lover, as those who remember Dicky’s diatribe against Matt Seaton will recall from the time when Seaton struck him from the list of approved contributors to CiF.  Now Dicky – at his blog – has a go at his former love, J Street:

Washington Times Smears J Street Over Soros Gifts

“Before I begin this post let me make a few disclosures.  I once thought very highly of J Street.  I don’t anymore.  I think it’s a useful organization, but little more than that.  At one time, I believed it would be an independent progressive voice for a just Jewish approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict.  Instead, it has become a Jewish rooting section for the Obama presidency and its Middle East agenda or as Jeremy Ben Ami has proudly put it: ‘Obama’s blocking back.'”

Oh, dear. But it gets worse – J Street’s support, which in any event I think has been overstated, is evaporating.

It turns out that J Street was behind Goldstone’s visit to Capitol Hill and now, according to the Washington Times:

Colette Avital — a former member of Israel’s parliamentt, from the center-left Labor Party and until recently J Streets liaison in Israel — told The Washington Times that her decision to resign her post with J Street earlier this year was a result in part of the group’s “connection to Judge Goldstone.

The Times claims that the Jewish group falls from favor at White House and that “Revelation about funding sources prompts distancing from J Street”. Unfortunately for J Street, Mr. Soros has had some nasty things to say about American policy in the Middle East, and Mr. Obama does not approve.

Strangely enough, the Guardian has been silent about all this. The British newspaper has followed J Street’s anti-Israeli activities with breathless admiration, piling on at every opportunity with articles by Jewish writers. Even Tomasky, not a Jew, lent a hand. Running a search for “J Street” on the Guardian’s website turns up 31 articles since 2008 that mention J Street.  There is not one in the period after the Washington Times story broke despite the Guardian’s normal penchant to rush to print anything it can find about Israel. Well – anything negative, of course.

As it happens, just a few days before the Washington Times story broke, the UK’s Jewish Chronicle revealed that British left plans own Israel lobby: “The face of Israel advocacy in the UK could be changed by a group of young activists who plan to start a new campaign organisation inspired by the liberal American lobby group, J Street … Others involved include Guardian and JC columnist Jonathan Freedland.” Rachel Weisfield, a “key figure in the initiative”, has said:

“No-one has said ‘I am going to fund this organisation, or be on its board’… but there is lots of interest.”

If $11 million in Washington buys you access to the White House, I will eagerly await the Guardian article from Weisfield and Freedland explaining whether $11 million in London will buy access to No. 10 Downing St., and where the money they intend to raise comes from.  But in the meantime, the Guardian, which normally would have been all over this “initiative”, seems to have decided to remain “shtum”. A wise decision, under the circumstances.

98 replies »

  1. Adam Levick:

    “No, I didn’t initially know what the word פעימות meant. But, I’m sitting here at a a bar in Jerusalem and the bartender told me that the word means heart or pulse.”

    So if you don’t know anything about the פעימות how can you portray yourself as an expert about the events leading up the the start of the Intifada in 2000 ?

    I also note your admission that your Hebrew is poor. Without any criticism of you whatsoever, you are limited in your access to information about current and past events, political and social, that subtly influence the decisions and actions of today’s leaders. The פעימות are a good example. You lack the ability to “read between the lines”. The fact that you are sitting in a bar in Jerusalem gives you no advantage over someone sitting in a bar in NY or London. I speak from my own personal experience and decades of observation of many עולים חדשים.

    Again, this is not criticism – it’s just a process that every immigrant to any country goes through. My comparison of you to Seth Friedman is limited to this aspect only. If you have read my many comments posted on his articles you would know that I have repeatedly criticised him strongly for his lack of historical background and perspective.

  2. Poor FullOfCrap. Israelinurse, Akus, and Peter have all made him look like an incompetent fool, yet he concentrates his arrogance upon Adam.

    That makes him not only incompetent, but a bully as well.

  3. IsraeliNurse:

    “It’s a pity, MTC, that your commitment to the true meaning of democracy is apparently not as enthusiastic as your commitment to your right to voice your opinion.”

    I’m curious to know how you have arrived at this conclusion, since I specifically stated above that I never question the “loyalty” of anyone that I strongly disagree with, which is one of the fundamentals of democracy.

    “There is a hell of a difference between foreign organisations donating to existing projects which are in line with government policy and those which donate to projects designed to undermine the state.”

    You seem to be contradicting yourself. Is any project not “according to govt policy” automatically one that “undermines the state” ? I assume that when Rabin and Barak were in power, you criticised the Moskovitches who donated money to projects that were obviously not govt policy.

    “There is room for a very broad spectrum of opinion within the discussion, but that stops when it steps outside the Zionist framework.”

    I assume you mean outside your personal narrow definition of what the “Zionist framework” means. In that case I can only conclude that “your commitment to the true meaning of democracy is apparently not as enthusiastic as your commitment to your right to voice your opinion”.

  4. Gentle Zionist:

    “yet he concentrates his arrogance upon Adam”

    Arrogance ? If you would bother to reader the comments above, you would see that Adam commented on the question of whether “Bibi ruined the peace process between 96-99”, yet he admits that he knows nothing about the “pe’imot”, which were one of the central issues during that period.

  5. Gentle Zionist:

    I assume that you have read the thousands of comments that I have posted on CiF, many of which skewer the CIF faithful for their abysmal lack of knowledge about Middle East and British history. I don’t recall seeing any comments of yours of CiF about my “arrogance” so please refrain from criticising me here when I point out similar errors and omissions.

  6. MTC

    You somehow conveniently forgot to address all arguments regarding your extremely onesided accusations of Netanyahu being the single “destroyer of the peaceprocess” concentrating on one word – “פעימות”.

    Netanyahu didn’t act in a vacuum. I would like to remind you the role of the Palestinians, Arafat and the stupid politics of the Israeli left.

    Comparing Adam Levick to Freedman is laughable attempt to distract the thread – the only similarities that both of them are relatively new immigrants with limited knowledge of the Hebrew language. Freedman knows nothing (or pretends to know nothing) about the history of the I/P conflict in general and Israelis in particular ranting about us without the slightest attempt to support his crap with facts while Levick is very well informed on the subject and supports everything what he says with well researched material sticking to the present reality and not the fairytales of taxi-drivers like Freedman.

    Anyway J-street’s crooked behaviour has nothing to do with Bibi, Adam Levick’s Hebrew and the politics of the nineties. They help to destroy any possibility of peace at the present lying about their real goals and enablers -they are fighting against the democratically elected government of Israel. Their ranks include some of the most vicious american haters of Israel like Richard Silverstein and Philip Weiss. Do you seriously consider these “pro-Israeli”?

  7. MTC – even when Rabin and Barak were in power there was no government policy amounting to not building in territory taken in the Six Day War, so your argument does not hold water.

    The ‘Zionist framework’ mentioned above means a Jewish state in Israel. Within that, there is plenty of room for discussion on how that state should look. Outside of that, are the one-staters and worse.

    Unfortunately, there are some people today both inside and outside Israel whose loyalty to the concept of Jewish self-determination can and must be called into question and that has nothing whatsoever to do with the current government. Many if not most of the NGOs which work tirelessly for the abolition of the Jewish state were just as active under previous governments.

    J Street was formed in April 2008 – a full 11 months before Bibi and Lieberman got their current positions and at a time when Olmert was offering the Palestinians a state of their own on a silver platter. We all know that Abass didn’t even have the courtesy to reply to that offer.

  8. Peter:

    “You somehow conveniently forgot to address all arguments regarding your extremely onesided accusations of Netanyahu being the single “destroyer of the peaceprocess” concentrating on one word – “פעימות”.”

    I try to keep my comments as short as possible so I apologize if I do not reply to every single sentence in the comments posted by others. I never said that Netanyahu was the”single destroyer” of the peace process. The story is much more complicated, as I have implied in my questions to Levick as to whether he is familiar with the”pe’imot” or whether he has read Dennis Ross’ lengthy book. My criticism of Levick is that he is simplifying the argument through his admitted lack of historical knowledge. The discussion is about Bibi 1996-99 and I don’t see any need to post the entire history of the Middle East every time a specific subject is discussed.

    “Comparing Adam Levick to Freedman is laughable attempt to distract the thread – the only similarities that both of them are relatively new immigrants with limited knowledge of the Hebrew language. ”

    Isn’t that exactly what I said ??

    “Freedman knows nothing (or pretends to know nothing) about the history of the I/P conflict in general and Israelis in particular ranting about us without the slightest attempt to support his crap with facts while Levick is very well informed on the subject and supports everything what he says with well researched material”.

    I assume that you have seen the many critical comments that I have posted on Seth Friedman articles (I’m proud to claim that my criticism has driven him to post hysterical rants on several occasions). Levick admits that on this subject he is not “well informed” so I will continue to criticize his lack of knowledge the same way I will continue to criticize Friedman or others (read my comment at 3:01 am).

    “they are fighting against the democratically elected government of Israel.”

    That’s a Likud slogan from the Bibi 96-99 period, which they immediately forgot as soon Barak formed a “democratically elected government” in 1999. Sorry, but my ‘historical perspective’ prevents me from discussing this statement seriously 🙂

    “Their ranks include some of the most vicious american haters of Israel like Richard Silverstein”

    Silverstein is the biggest twat on the internet. His TikkunOlam blog has to be the most infantile one devoted to I/P. I have had mind-boggling exchanges with him – the man is sick! On the other hand, I am wary in general of attempts by public organsations like J-Street to restrict membership because of differences of opinion. Hopefully he will realize that he has nothing in common with the vast majority of members and will look for another venue to spread his hatred.

  9. MindTheCrap

    I assume that you have read the thousands of comments that I have posted on CiF, many of which skewer the CIF faithful for their abysmal lack of knowledge about Middle East and British history. I don’t recall seeing any comments of yours of CiF about my “arrogance” so please refrain from criticising me here when I point out similar errors and omissions.

    You perhaps wouldn’t recognise me on CiF either. The reason why I, and presumably others to, are patient with you is because I appreciate your fighting alongside me to defeat the Israel haters and other associated social rejects on CiF threads. (I don’t wish to expand as I don’t want to put out any information which would aid the above perverts).

    However, your disgust with Bibi and his ‘associates’ is affecting your judgement on this site. You should take a deep breath, stand back and calm yourself.

    You and I are fighting for the same thing on CiF. JStreet is not fighting for the same thing at all. Many of their members are on record as dismissing a Zionist Israel. They belong to the radical irrational left and should be exposed as such. They do not have much support in US Jews many of whom totally despise them for their now being exposed agenda.

    They have sold themselves as something that they are not. They deserve to be despised.

  10. MTC

    “they are fighting against the democratically elected government of Israel.”

    That’s a Likud slogan from the Bibi 96-99 period, which they immediately forgot as soon Barak formed a “democratically elected government” in 1999. Sorry, but my ‘historical perspective’ prevents me from discussing this statement seriously 🙂

    It can be a LIkud slogan but at the present it is true. The fact that the Likudniks forgot about this when Barak was the premier doesn’t question the validity of its correctness.

    Levick admits that on this subject he is not “well informed” so I will continue to criticize his lack of knowledge the same way I will continue to criticize Friedman or others

    That Adam Levick isn’t familiar with the “peimot” idea doesn’t mean that he is not well informed. I have the feeling that he was only a child in the middle of the nineties, and the subject is absolutely irrelevant today especially in connection with foreign NGOs. I repeat: The Palestinian terror, the leaderships of Arafat and the stupidity of the Israeli left pushed Bibi in the prime minister’s seat.

    Anyway again – this is nothing to do with the present role of J-street.
    BTW J-street is well within its right to fight the Israeli government policy even if the government is democratiacally elected. I did it myself in the nineties. The difference that I was here in Israel as ancitizen of this country and naturally knew that me and my family have to bear the consequences of my activity together with the millions of other Israelis. J-street does it from the sidelines without any potentially negative personal consequences.

    I am wary in general of attempts by public organsations like J-Street to restrict membership because of differences of opinion.

    Generally speaking this is true, but there is a limit. Would you accept to be in the same organisation with him? I don’t because “the differences of opinion” as you called it is too great and unbridgeable, not to speak about my selfrespect.

  11. Peter:

    “The fact that the Likudniks forgot about this when Barak was the premier doesn’t question the validity of its correctness.”

    Except that the Likud supporters went as far as to question the constitutional right of the opposition to topple a government in a no-confidence motion, in which case you can “question the validity of its correctness”.

    “J-street does it from the sidelines without any potentially negative personal consequences.”

    So does Irving Moskovitch.

    “That Adam Levick isn’t familiar with the “peimot” idea doesn’t mean that he is not well informed.”

    The “pe’imot” were not an “idea” – they were a central issue in the public debate about the Oslo process between 96 and 99. You can legitimately argue about the extent of the influence they had on subsequent events, but you can’t ignore them. Sorry, but anyone who admits that he is totally unaware of this issue simply cannot make a definitive statement about the causes of the Intifada with regards to the influence of the policies pursued by the Bibi government.

    “I repeat: The Palestinian terror, the leaderships of Arafat and the stupidity of the Israeli left pushed Bibi in the prime minister’s seat.”

    I have no arguments with you here, but we are discussing post-96, not pre-96. Bibi had a specific platform and the voters gave him a mandate to carry it out. What did he do and what were the consequences ? You can’t discuss the consequences without knowing what he did (or in the case of the “pe’imot” – what he didn’t do).

    “Would you accept to be in the same organisation with him?”

    Good question. Let’s assume that he joins my synagogue tomorrow – should I quit ? I like my synagogue so why should I suffer. Can a synagogue refuse membership because of political beliefs ? Or should I wait until he gets tired of being ignored and takes the hint.

  12. Mite:

    “The reason why I …. are patient with you ….”

    Which is worse – condescending or arrogant ?

  13. MTC

    Except that the Likud supporters went as far as to question the constitutional right of the opposition to topple a government in a no-confidence motion, in which case you can “question the validity of its correctness”.

    Correct. And is this fact relevant to J-street? If yes then how?

    “J-street does it from the sidelines without any potentially negative personal consequences.”

    So does Irving Moskovitch.

    If you compare J-street with Moskowitz then you must be disgusted by them more than me, he was a very serious troublemaker and a fanatical far right nobody with a lot of money. But Moskowitz had a huge advantage; he didn’t lie about himself and his intentions.

    I have no arguments with you here, but we are discussing post-96, not pre-96. Bibi had a specific platform and the voters gave him a mandate to carry it out.

    No. We are discussing here J-street’s role and moral qualities. You started to accuse the anti J-street crowd with Likud sloganeering. If you want to discuss the Likud’s role in Israeli politics in the Bibi years you can’t leave out the events leading to their rise to power in ’96.

  14. Peter:

    The only connection of these issues with J-Street are the questions of “loyalty”, the right to hold different opinions in a democratic environment and the right of foreigners to influence events in other countries. These are fundamental questions whose answers should not be dependent on political affiliations. Unfortunately I see a lot of inconsistency and political expedience in many of the answers posted above.

    “If you want to discuss the Likud’s role in Israeli politics in the Bibi years you can’t leave out the events leading to their rise to power in ’96.”

    I can leave it out because I think that there is virtually no disagreement about the reasons why the Likud was returned to power in 1996. If you you want to discuss the “events leading to their rise to power in ’96” can we do it without discussing the events leading to Labour’s rise to power in 1992, which in turn would require an in-depth discussion of the 1st intifada, the Gulf War and the Ofra Haza-Yardena Arazi rivalry ? There’s no end to this.

  15. My closer interest in Israel started in 2000 so a lot of the posting here is beyond my knowledge.

    Is the following a reasonable précis of Netanyahu’s progress 1996-1999?

    Prime Minister Netanyahu, 1996-1999:

    As the peace process deteriorated following Rabin’s assassination and Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli targets increased, Netanyahu’s hard-line increasingly appealed to Israelis. But Netanyahu also moved to the center as he campaigned for prime minister, accepting the Oslo accords and toning down his rhetoric against Arabs.

    Using slick, American-style campaign ads and message discipline, he won and signed two agreements ostensibly furthering the peace process: The Hebron Agreement of 1997 ceded 80% of the West Bank city of Hebron back to Palestinians (20% remained occupied by troops and a Jewish settlement).

    The Wye River Agreement of 1998 promised further withdrawals from the West Bank. The apparent pragmatism, coaxed and pressured out of Netanyahu by U.S. President Bill Clinton, contrasted with Netanyahu’s skilled foot-dragging and obstructionism while he lifted the freeze on settlement activity in the West Bank.

    In effect, Netanyahu managed to scuttle the very agreements he signed, earning disdain from the Clinton administration and losing face with the Israeli public. An old commander, Ehud Barak, defeated him for prime minister in 1999.

    http://middleeast.about.com/od/israel/p/me090210.htm

  16. MTC

    The only connection of these issues with J-Street are the questions of “loyalty”, the right to hold different opinions in a democratic environment and the right of foreigners to influence events in other countries. These are fundamental questions whose answers should not be dependent on political affiliations.

    I agree with one conditions. Any political party, political organisation, NGO, even philatelist club expecting my active participation or silent support must declare its intentions and must be open about its any other affiliations and especially about its financial supporters.
    I repeat: My problem with J-street is not only their politics – I think that they are doing a lot of damage to Israel and the Israelis but it is their right. (Naturally to counter their activity is my unalienable right) The problem is their dishonesty and the identity of some of the fellow travellers. Why should they be loyal to Israel? They are not Israelis…
    But they shouldn’t have tried to fool the world that they are our supporters when they are not.

  17. Ariadne:

    “… ostensibly furthering the peace process … ”

    “… promised further withdrawals from the West Bank. The apparent pragmatism …. contrasted with Netanyahu’s skilled foot-dragging and obstructionism while he lifted the freeze on settlement activity in the West Bank.”

    Are you sure that your precis refers to 1996-99 ? lol

    La plus ca change …….

  18. MindTheCrap

    I realise that this subject is not aimed my understanding but you have obfuscated further.

    Why don’t you present your précis of his progress?

  19. Once again, you are back to Bibi and not JStreet. I don’t think that you realise yourself just what a fixation you have about him.

    Get past it.

  20. What a remarkable variety in MtC/FoC’s arguments:

    “Bibi … Bibi … Bibi … Lieberman … Bibi … Bibi … Bibi …”

  21. Peter:

    “I agree with one conditions. Any political party, political organisation, NGO, even philatelist club expecting my active participation or silent support must declare its intentions and must be open about its any other affiliations and especially about its financial supporters”.

    Fair enough, but that’s hardly the point, which is what I tried to say in my reply to AKUS at 10:18 AM : Let’s assume that J-Street cleans up its act regarding finances and throws out the Silversteins. You still have a large organisation of young, educated and involved American Jews that are pro-Israel but support policies that are roughly parallel to those of Meretz or Kadima, i.e. the Opposition. The vast majority of these members are not involved with the fundraising and organisation of J-Street and if they are bothered by these issues they will leave the group and take their political beliefs to another organisation, i.e. the fact that J-Street is a problematic organisation has nothing to do with the fact that a large body of young, educated and involved American Jews are opposed to the policies of the current government. Any steps specifically aimed at destroying J-Street in order to solve the “problem” totally misses the point. If this government thinks that the ‘Opposition’ beliefs of these people are wrong, then attacking the organisation is no more than a classic example of of ‘killing the messenger’ and will accomplish nothing. The proper way to go about it is to engage them and try to explain to them where they are going wrong.

    The govt is shortsighted by failing to realize that these people will be moving up the community ladder and in 10-20-30 years they will replace the current crop of American Jewish leaders. I think that J-Street is generally more involved in the community than its British counterpart – JOV.

    In summary, your criticism of J-Street may be correct, but it doesn’t change reality.

  22. FoC, just curious – have you fully disclosed the nature of your relationship with J-Street?

  23. Gentle Zionist:
    I liked the phrase “smidgeon of duplicity” you included in your post when referring to former MK Colette Avital’ declared positions concerning JStreet.

    I read Ron Kampeas’ article and readily see where you get your tendency to see nuances, conjectures, innuendoes and insinuations as Gospel Truth. Kampeas’ screed is overflowing with nods and winks of this kind but it all adds up to one big zero.

    I repeat: to all those labelling JStreet a nefarious organization on the basis of inept public relations, either come up with concrete proof of wrong-doing or shut up!

  24. MTC,

    re: “So if you don’t know anything about the פעימות how can you portray yourself as an expert about the events leading up the the start of the Intifada in 2000 ?”

    What does this even mean? You may have some good arguments against Bibi, and his handling of the “peace process” but what does the fact that my Hebrew is poor have to do with anything. How isn’t this merely an ad hominem attack.

    And, yes, living in Israel, and being committed to raising my family here, does give me more credibility than those living abroad. My family and I will have to live with the consequences of any potential peace deal. I’ll have to live with the rockets being fired into W. Jerusalem neighborhoods, the Knesset, and Ben Gurion airport, if the city is divided and (like in Gaza) Hamas takes control of this newly acquired Palestinian territory.

    Similarly, folks safely in Washington DC, like J Street, also won’t have to live with the consequences of the decisions they’re trying to force on Israel.

    Tell me, what will you say if the Palestinians are given the West Bank and E. Jerusalem as their sovereign state – and then, at some point in the future, Hamas takes control and Israel (my country) then has to live with the consequences of hostile terrorist entities on their Northern, Southern, and Eastern Border? What will you say? Will you admit then that you were wrong? Of course, your acknowledgement of error will be, by that point, little consolation to a nation surrounded on each side with terrorists who openly desire their destruction.

  25. Adam Levick :

    “How isn’t this merely an ad hominem attack.”

    I specifically said twice that my comments were not intended as criticism. What is your problem ?

    “And, yes, living in Israel, and being committed to raising my family here, does give me more credibility than those living abroad. Me and my family will have to live with the consequences of any potential peace deal. ”

    And so will Seth Friedman. Does that give him more credibility in your opinion?

  26. MTC

    Let’s assume that J-Street cleans up its act regarding finances and throws out the Silversteins.

    Not good enough. They have to explain the reason why they tried to hide the identity of one (or more) of their well known anti-Israeli donors declaring themselves “pro-Israeli” at the same time.

    You still have a large organisation of young, educated and involved American Jews that are pro-Israel but support policies that are roughly parallel to those of Meretz or Kadima, i.e. the Opposition.

    They are very warmly welcome. (The policies of Meretz and Kadima are pretty far from each other – I would say from Meretz to Kadima).

    Any steps specifically aimed at destroying J-Street in order to solve the “problem” totally misses the point.

    Not at all. Exposing the crookedness of J-street could pave the way to make a honestly pro-Israel lobby whose aim is to influence Israeli politicts from the left.

    If this government thinks that the ‘Opposition’ beliefs of these people are wrong, then attacking the organisation is no more than a classic example of of ‘killing the messenger’ and will accomplish nothing. The proper way to go about it is to engage them and try to explain to them where they are going wrong.

    Correct. But such an opposition if it wants to have the slightest influence on the Israeli electorate must be absolutely honest. If not – and their credibility could be questioned by their opponents – they would cause only damage – exactly as J-street did.

  27. Peter:

    Only two comments :

    95+% of the Israeli electorate has never heard of J-Street and probably knows nothing about Soros’ political views, so I doubt if there has been any influence on the Israeli public, either because of their political views or because of this ‘scandal’. In any case I think that any attempts by such groups to influence the Israeli public (from left or right) would achieve only very limited success.

    “Exposing the crookedness of J-street could pave the way to make a honestly pro-Israel lobby whose aim is to influence Israeli politicts from the left.”

    Which is exactly my point. This new lobby would also be opposed to the current govt and then we would discover that the govts policy of boycotting any opposition is based on ideology only and not the nature of the organisation.

  28. MTC. You can have a left orientated Jewish lobby in the USA for US citizens. That’s part of democracy. But it has to be careful who it incorporates and JStreet seems to have been incorporated by just the people who are themselves questionable in terms of their PRO Israel descriptor.

    Add to that the fact that their main financier is somewhat an unknown BUT, Soros, who is a major contributor, has definite anti Israel/Zionist views, JStreet is a lost cause. Best to have a new organisation unsullied by the type of people who now run JStreet.

    Even better is to use the democracy inherent in Aipac to put your views forward within Aipac. If you have wide support amongst the US Jewish community you will prevail. If you don’t, then accept that you cannot claim to speak as the voice of US Jews. Claiming to be an alternative voice is fine but not that you have massive support unless you do and if you did, you could control Aipac.

    Don’t make the mistake of forming a group who are opposed to this or that Prime Minister. You are not alone in your dislike of Bibi or many, (but not all) of the settlers and the politicians who defend them. However, you and I and others on this thread are fighting a concerted attempt to delegitimize Israel amongst the international community. I suspect that some of JStreet’s members are part of that concerted attempt.

  29. MTC. Have you read the following?

    http://www.mererhetoric.com/2010/10/05/j-street-co-founder-daniel-levy-israel%E2%80%99s-creation-an-act-that-was-wrong/

    If sometimes it seems like Levy doesn’t really think that the modern Jewish State deserves defending, it’s because he kind of doesn’t really think that the modern Jewish State deserves defending. You can be confident on that point because he said so himself – quite definitively – at last May’s Fifth Al Jazeera Forum. Levy was on a panel with Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor-in-chief Abdel Bari Atwan, NAF Strategic Program Director Steve Clemons, surreal Hamas apologist and one-stater Allister Sparks, and accused terrorist Basheer Nafi.

  30. Mite:

    “Add to that the fact that their main financier is somewhat an unknown BUT, Soros, who is a major contributor, has definite anti Israel/Zionist views, …. Even better is to use the democracy inherent in Aipac to put your views forward within Aipac. ”

    Just out of curiosity (since you recommend working through them) I went into the AIPAC web site and saw that they solicit donations:
    http://www.aipac.org/Donate_Now/index.asp
    However I could not find a list of donors anywhere on their site (correct me if I am wrong). So if I were to join AIPIC today, I would have to do so without knowing who ANY of their “financiers” are ! Perhaps Irving Moskovitch is one of their biggest supporters !!

  31. MTC. I don’t know if Moskovitch donates to Aipac. If they said that he didn’t when he did, I would see parallels to JStreet’s misrepresentations and omissions.

    But that is just one bif IF.

    And anyway, you seem to concentrate on personalities that you have a beef with. JStreet seems to be an organisation which misrepresents its basic positions about Israel and is trying to appear to have wide support amongst the US Jewish community.

    I doubt this and suspect the original ‘creators’ of a carefully constructed facade to hide a group of radical Jewish lefties who have adopted the Arab/Palestinian narrative about Israel.

    It is one big CON.

  32. MTC

    Which is exactly my point. This new lobby would also be opposed to the current govt and then we would discover that the govts policy of boycotting any opposition is based on ideology only and not the nature of the organisation.

    The problem is when your opponents are saying that your sister is a sex-worker then not much you could do when they have some photo documents proving her profession. Much better to know that your sissy is a nun then and only then you can deny their opponents’ accusations.
    Naturally they would be opposed by the government but the opposition would be ideological and they couldn’t be accused having hidden agendas.

    95+% of the Israeli electorate has never heard of J-Street and probably knows nothing about Soros’ political views, so I doubt if there has been any influence on the Israeli public, either because of their political views or because of this ‘scandal’. In any case I think that any attempts by such groups to influence the Israeli public (from left or right) would achieve only very limited success.

    If this is so then sadly any lobby group working against the will of the electorate could be and will be painted as an enemy of the nation by the majority and to be frank I’d considered such a lobby group damaging if I were the opposition.

  33. Well, well, well. Now I’ve found JCall.

    A turning point in European public opinion
    by Shmuel Trigano

    A counter petition to JCall’s [JCall is the European JStreet] ‘Call for reason’ shows there is a component of Europeans that challenge the discourse of delegitimizing Israel.

    JCall’s “Call for Reason” several months ago became the opportunity for 11,200 petitioners in Europe, but also the United States and Israel, to advocate a different perspective on the Middle East conflict and Israeli policies. The “Be Reasonable” statement we launched independently, with no institutional support, reveals the existence of a broad-based, profound movement in Jewish and non-Jewish public opinion, which runs completely counter to prevailing media discourse in Europe and even to purportedly representative Jewish institutions. As usual, the French media put a total blackout on what has been the most significant phenomenon emerging from JCall’s declaration, after have lavished attention on the latter, even though it barely managed to collect 7,000 signatures, and this despite heavy publicity and powerful connections in opinion-making circles, including in Israel.

    And later:
    It was as if history had stopped 30 years ago for Peace Now and now for JCall.

  34. Abtalyon, you make three mistakes.

    1. Telling others to “shut up” is neither a valid nor wise comment under any circumstances, for you invite the inevitable and deserved response: Go have intercourse with thyself.

    2. The verdict on J-Street, as upon any lobbying organisation, is in the process of being rendered by
    – the public in both Israel and the USA, where it is unknown
    – the “halls of power,” where its influence is negligible.

    3. The verdict upon J-Street’s supporters is also in the process of being rendered:
    – Avital is out of power and her leftist base in Avodah rejected by the electorate
    – Soros is strongly discredited with the American Jewish community upon any Israeli-related mater.

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/the-fork-j-street

  35. Great quote on the J Street scandal by Jeffrey Goldberg:

    “J Street should stop lying to reporters. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, is spinning madly these days, trying to convince his supporters that this scandal is the product of a right-wing conspiracy. It is not — the scandal flows from a series of decisions made by J Street to cover-up facts it deemed unpalatable. Let me put this another way: If it were discovered today that AIPAC, J Street’s nemesis, received more than $800,000 from a Hong Kong-based “business associate” — Ben-Ami’s words — of a prominent horse bettor, the people at AIPAC would be undergoing, by tomorrow, a journalistic colonoscopy like they’ve never experienced.”

  36. FoC, your ignorance shows.

    J-Street is a legally-defined political action committee, donating directly to candidates, and so is obligated to public disclosure.

    AIPAC is not a political action committee and does not donate to candidates; thus it is under less stringent legal and moral obligation to disclosure.

  37. Gentle Zionist:
    I can’t argue about the legal aspect, but the point of this argument seems to be the moral obligation of disclosure. Why is AIPAC’s moral obligation any different than J-Streets in this respect, particularly in the light of several comments above urging people to join AIPAC. If one argues that the decision whether or not to join J-Street should be based on the political beliefs of its financial backers, then why should we not demand the same information before deciding whether to join AIPAC ?

  38. Several differences, such as:

    1. AIPAC doesn’t give money to government officials. J-Street (and PACs by definition) do. It’s a completely different level of political activity, far more subject to corruption. For this reason, American law and society see great differences in the practical and moral imperatives for disclosure.

    2. PAC donors are seen as a public matter; donors to non-PACs as private.

    3. PAC donors must supply personal information (including affiliation and occupation) and sign disclosure permission. PACs not only can but must make donors a matter of public record. Private organisations and their private donors sign no such permission.

    4. Requiring disclosure of private donors is a violation of the legal and moral principles of the First Amendment. Requiring disclosure of public (PAC) donors is not.

  39. Gentle Zionist:

    I have no argument with you about your summary the legal aspect of the issue. I am looking at this from the point-of-view of Mr. Average non-legal-expert citizen who is being persuaded to join one of either two different organizations: people tell him to join ‘A’ because of troubling disclosures regarding contributions to ‘B’. But then he discovers that information about contributions to ‘A’ is unavailable !!

    Sorry, but your argument reminds me of the “Israel-is-different” Fowke-Principle mumbo-jumbo that we see all of the time on CiF.

    One more point: you say “AIPAC doesn’t give money to government officials. J-Street (and PACs by definition) do. It’s a completely different level of political activity, far more subject to corruption” . Are you saying the Washington lobbies don’t give money to politicians ??? To quote Woody Allen: “I chuckle, I giggle, I guffaw.”

  40. Having lost the argment, FoC is now twisting slowly in the wind. Given his name, let’s not stay downwind.