J Street, the American Jewish lobbying group that opposed Israel’s war against Hamas rocket fire and said the fire could be stopped with a “diplomatic solution,” called Hamas a “government, law and order, and service provider” that must be left in place, and sees Hamas as a peace partner for Israel, is going to be stepping up its grassroots activism in a field operation across America. At the same time, J Street has come under growing scrutiny for its dubious methods, funding, and associations.
Last month on Commentary’s blog “Contentions,” Noah Pollak noted that J Street’s polls — which always come out showing that American Jewry holds the same positions as J Street — are conducted by Washington consultant Jim Gerstein, who happens to have been a J Street vice president. But “you’d never know this from J Street’s staff page or the voluptuous promotion that accompanies the release of a J Street poll. You wouldn’t know it from all the mentions of Gerstein on J Street’s website, in which he is always portrayed as an independent actor.” But why disclose such bothersome details when you’re pushing for the grand cause of peace with Hamas?
Then last week it was revealed that J Street, almost uniquely among American Jewish organizations, receives part of its funding from Arab and Muslim donors, along with at least two State Department officials with Saudi and Egyptian connections and a lawyer who once represented the Saudi embassy in Washington. The Arab and Muslim contributors include members of J Street’s own finance committee as well as Muslim student groups; the latter in particular are not known to be enthusiasts of Israel’s cause. Lenny Ben-David, a former Israeli diplomat and currently an AIPAC staffer, said it “raises questions as to their banner that they’re a pro-Israel organization. Why would people who are not known to be pro-Israel give money to this organization?”
And just this week, an exposé on American Thinker by Matthew M. Hausman highlighted the presence on J Street’s advisory council of people with anti- rather than pro-Israel credentials. They include the founder and the president of another American Jewish group, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, which collaborates with anti-Zionist groups — including the radically anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement — and “refuses to identify itself as pro-Zionist”; the board chair and the CEO of the New Israel Fund, known for funding Israeli Arab groups like Adala, Mossawa, and the Arab Human Rights Association that seek Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state; and, perhaps most egregiously, Robert Malley, who among much else is a known Hamas and Hezbollah apologist and in a recent New York Times op-ed insinuated that Israel’s dissolution as a Jewish state is the only “solution.”
Much of J Street’s duplicity and problematic agenda can be read between the lines in statements by its executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. Asked about J Street’s funding from Arab and Muslim sources, Ben-Ami said (worth quoting despite somewhat dense verbiage):
I think it is a terrific thing for Israel for us to be able to expand the tent of people who are willing to be considered pro-Israel and willing to support Israel through J Street. … We are so clearly pro-Israel, and we are an organization that is grounded in and based in Jewish values and a Jewish desire to support the state of Israel, that if someone wants to choose to do their political giving through us, it’s more a question for them: Do they want to be seen to be giving their money through us? If they do it, that’s the statement they’re making.
You don’t need a graduate degree in psychology to see the “protesting-too-much” nature of this pronouncement. Someone who is genuinely pro-Israel, and certain of it, would never need to hammer home his allegiances so blatantly — and all in the service of claiming that people who are anti-Israel are actually pro-Israel and can prove it by donating to J Street.
Ben-Ami sounded similar notes in his recent exchange of letters with Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman, who criticized J Street for overemphasizing the settlements issue while ignoring the Palestinians’ and Arabs’ rejection of peace with Israel. Ben-Ami said in his reply: “I welcome your response and value the opportunity for civil dialogue within the American Jewish community among friends of the state of Israel.” Again, shouldn’t that be too obvious to need such iteration?
And Ben-Ami — after praising the Saudi “peace plan” that mandates Israel’s total unilateral withdrawal and its inundation with alien Arabs before supposedly obtaining Arab recognition — went on to write:
The sides — left to their own devices — have not proven able to take the final tough steps to close [the] gaps. We know the political constraints facing Prime Minister Netanyahu. President Abbas faces similarly difficult domestic politics.
Yet the answer is not to paper over the differences between the sides, but to resolve them. And that’s where the international community, and in particular the United States, come in. Only a serious, credible, and fair international mediator — namely, the United States — can help to close the gaps and reach a resolution.
There, at least, Ben-Ami’s words reflect J Street’s true agenda — as their website puts it, “to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.” That is, J Street is a lobby to encourage the Obama administration to do something — “end” the conflict — even if the “sides” aren’t ready for it, don’t like the terms, or are being pushed into something against their will.
Regarding the Arab and Palestinian side, for J Street that entails resolutely and “ideologically” ignoring all evidence, however stark — such as the recent Fatah conference in Bethlehem — that they have not accepted Israel and hence are incapable of meaningfully making peace with it. Regarding the Israeli side, it means ignoring and contemptuously dismissing the positions of the elected Israeli government and of a population bloodied, traumatized, and made more skeptical by the dire outcomes of Israel’s recent ventures at peacemaking — a population for which J Street has neither empathy nor respect.
No wonder Jeremy Ben-Ami protests so fulsomely about what a great Jew and friend of Israel he is.