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Peeling Off J Street's Invisibility Cloak: What Today's NY Times Magazine Won't Tell You

There is no street in Washington named for the letter  “J,” but that hasn’t stopped a group of critics of Israel from forming the “J Street” lobby. It’s like J. K. Rowling’s invisible Platform 9 ¾ at the King’s Cross Station. Befitting a Harry Potter character, J Street performs acts of illusion and deception such as cooking its polling data and presenting it as scientific truth.  The “pro-Israel” J Street PAC has cloaked dozens of PAC contributors as plain citizens, when they are actually Arab-American, Palestinian, Islamic, and pro-Iranian activists. All the while, J Street hides the names of its directors and has never explained who makes its controversial decisions.

The adoring media audience gasps with uncritical wonderment at the amazing show of prestidigitation carried out so far by the upstart lobby. The  J Street appreciation society was expanded today with a lengthy piece in the New York Times.

Breaking out of the media trance, a Jerusalem Post reporter recently revealed that the organization maintains a “finance committee” consisting of “50 members -- with a $10,000 contribution threshold.”  It’s members include, according to the report, “Lebanese-American businessman Richard Abdoo, a current board member of Amideast and a former board member of the Arab American Institute, and Genevieve Lynch, who is also a member of the National Iranian American Council board.”

The latest conjurer is Zahi Khouri, who contributed to J Street PAC this summer. The unfortunate man is listed in Federal Election Committee records filed by J Street as “not employed” and living in Orlando, Florida.

Open the New York Times of September 9 to the Op-Ed section, however, and learn that he is the “chief executive of the Palestinian National Beverage Co.” The Times could have gone on to describe Khouri as a director of the Palestinian Development and Investment Company (PADICO) and CEO of Paltel, the Palestinian telecommunications company and cellular service provider.  He also writes that he lives in the West Bank, [cue violins] having “left a comfortable life on Park Avenue in Manhattan” to open his Coke franchise.

In his New York Times article, Khouri decries Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s attempts to achieve an “economic peace” between the Palestinians and Israel. He dismisses the seven percent growth projected for the West Bank, fails to mention the crippling corruption that has plagued the Palestinian Authority, and ignores the Palestinian terrorism that wracked the West Bank and Gaza economies and forced Israel to build security barriers to protect its citizens. When the previous Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, offered almost all of the West Bank and sections of Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority’s Abu Abbas rejected the deal. But Khouri the conjurer lays the blame for the stalemate at Netanyahu’s feet.

In all fairness -- and presumably with a straight stage face -- Khouri told the Jerusalem Post that “he donated to the J Street PAC because ‘I believe that they are sincere about being pro-Israel and they are sincere about being pro-peace. And AIPAC I consider an enemy of Israel rather than a friend of Israel because they're not helping it to achieve peace.'"  Khouri’s definition of peace, of course course, is not widely accepted, certainly not by Israelis and friends of Israel in the U.S.

Other JStreet PAC contributors include an “attorney” whom J Street doesn’t reveal as a board member of the hyper-critical-of-Israel Human Rights Watch, a “teacher” who was actually a founder of an Islamic school in Virginia, a “housing specialist” who is the national co-chairman of Middle East Network of United Methodists, another serial defamer of Israel, a Washington lawyer who actually works for the Saudi Embassy, and many more.

Does the Sphinx answer another riddle?

On July 13, J Street was invited to meet with President Obama as part of a delegation of national Jewish organizations.  Some eyebrows should have been raised again when it was invited to a small meeting of Jewish organizations with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak in Washington on August 17. Perhaps it’s logical that President Obama’s favorite Jewish organization would be invited by an Egyptian leader seeking to score points with the White House.

But a closer look at J Street’s supporters may explain how it got its ticket to the show.  The organization has several prominent Egyptophiles on its board of advisors and among its financial supporters.

The Jerusalem Post recent exposé revealed that the head of the Egyptian desk at the State Department, Nicole D. Shampaine at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, contributed $1,000 to J Street’s political action committee last year.

Sitting on J Street’s advisory council are a couple of former U.S. ambassadors to Egypt, and one of them, Robert Pelletreau, was also registered at the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent for Egypt, working for the firm of Afridi, Angel & Pelletreau.

Another J Street advisor, Judith Barnett, once served as the deputy assistant secretary of commerce for the Middle East and Africa. Upon leaving government service, she set up her own consulting firm and affiliated with the international PA Consulting Group, where she worked for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade. In her own words, she “created Egypt, Inc., a major initiative to increase trade and investment for the Ministry … which included a worldwide assessment of Egypt’s commercial services for its companies, a commercial website, and a series of national outreach programs in the U.S.”

After writing a sycophantic piece in the Washington Post in 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.”], Ms. Barnett went on to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for Saudi Arabia, as well.

So it should be no mystery why J Street was invited to meet with President Mubarak. Would that the organization have such prominent advocates for another Middle East country, one called Israel.