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Why Does J Street Attract the Friends of Saudi Arabia?

Exposing the tip of the iceberg, er, the tip of the sand dune.

by
Lenny Ben-David

Bio

October 5, 2009 - 12:18 am
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In August, the Jerusalem Post revealed that J Street’s political action committee received contributions from Arab-, Iranian-, and Muslim Americans. State Department officials, a Palestinian billionaire, and board members of the discredited Human Rights Watch and the Iranian lobby were also listed in the files of the Federal Election Commission. Faced with the evidence, J Street’s director Jeremy Ben-Ami responded, “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,” he said.

Give me a break. That tent may have come directly from the Saudi king’s compound in Riyadh or Jidda. Research into J Street’s backers indicates a Washington cadre of paid Saudi agents, sycophants, and factotums. There are not many in that bunch who would be “willing to be considered pro-Israel.”

Consider the following PAC supporters or members of J Street’s advisory council:

  • Nancy Dutton, widow of Fred Dutton, the long-time Saudi foreign agent, served as the Saudi Embassy’s attorney in Washington. As late as August 2008, news accounts identified her as the Saudis’ lawyer.  She donates to J Street’s political action committee.
  • Judith Barnett serves on J Street’s Advisory Council and donates to the J Street PAC. In fact, she was one of the very first of a handful of contributors to the J Street PAC after its formation in December 2007, according to the Federal Election Commission. She is clearly a believer in the “EMILY” political axiom: “Early money is like yeast, because it helps to raise the dough.”

A former deputy assistant secretary of commerce for the Middle East and Africa during the Clinton administration, Barnett worked for several Arab countries after she left office. After writing a toady piece in the Washington Post in early 2004 about the changing role of women in Saudi Arabia [“I found … that the role of Saudi women is changing far more quickly than most in the West realize.”], Barnett registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for Saudi Arabia. According to the Justice Department files, Barnett signed a contract to work with the PR firm, Qorvis, with whom the Saudis have a mega-buck contract to improve their post 9/11 image. Her contract ended a year later when security concerns prevented her from bringing a delegation of American women to Saudi Arabia.

In 2002 and early 2003, Qorvis popped up in the headlines when  it was revealed that the agency had established a bogus “pro-peace” organization, the “Alliance for Peace and Justice,” which promoted the Saudi peace plan and slammed Israeli settlements. Qorvis had arranged for dozens of radio spots to be broadcast across the U.S. without divulging who was really behind the ads. In 2004, Qorvis’ offices were raided by the FBI for foreign agent violations.

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