J Street in a tough spot over Soros funding revelations
09/25/2010 - 18:45
James Besser

You gotta wonder why people in politics lie when the things they're lying about will inevitably come to light.

On Friday the Washington Times revealed and the group confirmed that J Street, the two-year-old pro-peace process group, has benefited to the tune of $245,000 in 2008 from billionaire financier George Soros and $500,000 since then – even as the group was vehemently denying claims from its angry detractors that it was connected to Soros.

I was one of the many journalists who asked the question – and received in return something significantly less than the truth. Okay, it was a lie.

Why this is stupid: there's no way this information wasn't going to come out.

There's no way this revelation, coming after two years of denials, will not be seen as confirmation in the minds of many that J Street is what its detractors say – a group that is something less than pro-Israel.  The critics, it turns out, were right about Soros; isn't that going to fan suspicion they were right about other things, as well?

There's no way this isn't going to make the politicians supported by J Street and those who may be considering accepting its endorsement incredibly nervous. Instead of  providing protection for the politicians they supported, J Street essentially hung them out to dry - not by accepting Soros money, but by lying about their connection to the controversial philanthropist.

And there's no way this doesn't sow mistrust among commentators and reporters who write and speak about J Street, and who were repeatedly misled by its officials. J Street sought to create a climate of trust with a press corps that was being spun heavily by its opponents; this news undoes a lot of that effort.

I don't happen to think Soros is the devil incarnate; his philanthropy has done a huge amount of good in the world. He has become a favorite whipping boy of the far right, and a lot of that has seeped into the general political culture.

I don't think he's anti-Israel, either – but there's little question his views on Israel are outside the mainstream that J Street claims to represent.

JTA's Ron Kampeas wrote that J Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami and the J Street board “kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.”

Bad move, guys. When you're under siege, you don't give your adversaries the ammunition they need to breach your walls. That, it seems to me, is exactly what J Street did here – not by accepting Soros' money, but by repeatedly lying about it. Its opponents must be exulting.

 

Comments

Unfortunately, you were one of J Street's defenders and enablers. Why were others able to uncover J Street PAC's Arab-American donors, or its Soros ties? Too many journalists, including from the Jewish Week and JTA, fawned over J Street.

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