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Did I Get ‘Journolisted’?

After writing an expose of J Street, I was the target of character assassination from Journolist members — including a violent threat from Spencer Ackerman.

by
Lenny Ben-David

Bio

July 22, 2010 - 2:36 pm

This week, the Daily Caller published transcripts from the Journolist, a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists. Among other things, the transcripts show a coordinated effort to bring a halt to articles and analyses about Barack Obama’s decades-long relationship with his pastor, radical Chicago preacher Jeremiah Wright.

According to the Daily Caller:

At several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate.

One “journalist” wrote to his colleagues:

In my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC [the leading newshound on the Obama-Wright relationship] and this idiocy in whatever venues we have.

Also according to the Daily Caller:

Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. … What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. … In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

I was not surprised by the account.

Reading the report, I realized Ackerman and his friends used this same strategy against me, attacked me as a racist, and attempted to put me through the plate-glass window because of my exposés on the supposedly “pro-Israel” lobbying organization J Street.

All of a sudden, at the end of October 2009, a pack of howling bloggers started nipping at my heels, accusing me of racism. I had written for PJ Media a fact-filled exposé about J Street’s founders, and about some of the contributors to the J Street PAC who were well-known pro-Saudi, Palestinian, Arab-American, and pro-Iranian activists. I added a few State Department Arabists for good measure.  How could this group call itself “pro-Israel?” I asked.

Immediately, a torrent of condemnations hit from some of Israel’s strongest critics and from J Street advocates (I prefer “J Street-Walkers”):  Spencer Ackerman, Andrew Sullivan, Daniel Luban, MJ Rosenberg, and Max Fisher. Lara Friedman from Americans for Peace Now also weighed in.

They focused on my naming someone with an Arab surname from the Arab-American Institute who contributed to J Street’s PAC. Typical of other contributors, I pointed out that her affiliation with one of the premier Arab lobbies in Washington was nowhere to be found in the Federal Election Committee public records.

Their responses were brutal:

Ben David is a cowardly racist … East German Stasi spook, believes everyone with Arab blood in their veins is The Enemy,  Joe McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, etc …

Spencer Ackerman even issued a threat:

Lenny Ben-David, you and I will meet someday, face to face. I hope it comes very soon. I promise you it will be an unforgettable experience.

MJ Rosenberg endorsed the threat, saying:

If there’s anything left of him.

It was an amazing, likely coordinated attack. “My God! You’re radioactive,” a staffer from a real pro-Israel organization told me.
After reading the Ackerman strategy to attack those who sought to expose the Obama-Wright connection, it’s very clear the same tactic was deployed to protect J Street. Serious Washington reporters who can smell J Street’s type of fraud from a mile away have avoided investigating the outfit, originally called “the Soros project” in its early life. Several reporters have material on a Turkish donor to J Street’s PAC who was thrown off of the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008 when they learned he was involved in the production of the anti-American, anti-Semitic film Valley of the Wolves.

But not a word has been written.

They’ve seen the FEC data on an eccentric “Wyoming Latin teacher” who gave the PAC $36,000 this year — the largest contribution ever given to J Street’s PAC.

But not a peep.

It takes one click on the FEC site to see that leaders of the Arab-American and pro-Iranian lobby are still making major contributions. But no one has challenged J Street to publish its board of directors or its major contributors.

Clearly, I had stepped on some very sensitive toes, and the journothugs didn’t like it. Therefore, to not be a victim of their thug tactics, I ask that you all read my original column that lit their fuse.

In October, I responded publicly to the Arab-American activist who was the supposed victim of my racism: 

My reference to your involvement with J Street has nothing to do with your ancestry, or even you personally. Your name could be Golda Meir as far as I’m concerned.  Your friends who label me a racist are only attempting to deflect attention away from the questions raised about J Street and its lack of transparency.

What I find disturbing about J Street is the deception surrounding it. One donor signed federal documents saying he is “not working” and living in Orlando when he’s actually a Palestinian billionaire from the West Bank. You are registered in the PAC as a “consultant” for USUS, not for the Arab American Institute. These disclosures have nothing to do with ethnic background. Why do Saudi employees and partners — “WASPS,” I presume — like lawyer Nancy Dutton and former CIA station chief Ray Close give to a “pro-Israel” organization? Why would life-long Arabist diplomats? Or activists in Muslim centers around the U.S., centers which identify with the Muslim Brotherhood? Or Genevieve Lynch, an officer in the Iranian-American lobby, give $10,000-plus to J Street’s PAC?

Already, some journalists are challenging or dismissing the Daily Caller’s exposé. The test of good journalists will be if they actually investigate the “Journolist” allegations, stiffen their backbones, and start investigating J Street.

The writer served as a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington. Today he is a consultant on public affairs and blogs at www.lennybendavid.com.
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