Thursday, November 25, 2010

Your J Street Factsheet

From NGO Monitor
November 23, 2010

·     Founded in 2008 in opposition to AIPAC, J Street calls itself “pro-Israel, pro-peace”; claims to support a peaceful, two-state solution, and aims to “redefine… what it means to be pro-Israel.”
·     Consists of three independent organizationsJ Street, a 501(c)(4) registered lobbying group; JStreetPAC, a political action committee that donates to candidates; and J Street Education Fund, a 501(c)(3).
·     Also launched the website, “dedicated to fighting smears on President Obama’s sensible policy in the Middle East.”

·     On Israel’s Gaza policy (February 4, 2010): “due to Israel’s policy of severely limiting passage of essential goods and materiel through its crossings, the suffering in Gaza continues. We believe this policy is strategically unsound, harms Israel’s security, and exacts an unacceptable toll on innocent Palestinians. It offends American humanitarian values, and is collective punishment that violates international law.”
·     On Gaza War (December 2008): “While this morning's air strikes by Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza can be understood and even justified in the wake of recent rocket attacks, we believe that real friends of Israel recognize that escalating the conflict will prove counterproductive, igniting further anger in the region and damaging long-term prospects for peace and stability... only diplomacy and negotiations can end rockets and terror... We call for immediate, strong diplomatic intervention by the United States, the Quartet and allies in the region to negotiate a resumption of the ceasefire...” (emphasis added)
·     In February 2010, J Street co-sponsored a congressional mission to Israel with Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). CMEP’s website features the “KAIROS Palestine Document,” which explicitly promotes BDS. CMEP also quotes Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, referring to the document as “a word of hope in a time of pessimism that could lead to despair.”
·     On the “Free Gaza” Flotilla (June 15, 2010): Directly opposed “letters to the President now circulating in the House regarding the Gaza flotilla” that J Street claimed expressed “a simplistic statement that supports Israeli policy and actions.” J Street encouraged “more nuanced views” that acknowledged the “impact” and “gravity” of the “present closure of Gaza on the civilian population.”
·     J Street supports the UN-Goldstone “war crimes” indictment:
o        Washington Times investigation revealed J Street’s role in facilitating meetings between Judge Goldstone, author of the UNHRC report about the 2009 Gaza War, and members of Congress.
o        The Washington Times also reported that J Street Israeli liaison Colette Avital (a former Labor Party MK and Consul General in NY) resigned, in part, “because of the group’s connection to Judge Goldstone.”
o        Refused to support House Resolution 867, “Calling on the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration” of the Goldstone report. J Street was concerned, in part, that the resolution did not consider the suffering caused by “both the military operation and the ongoing blockade of Gaza” and that it did not acknowledge that “the Commission’s original mandate was adjusted by Judge Goldstone himself and accepted by the Human Rights Council to include a focus on the conduct of both sides.”
·     Iran Sanctions
o        Opposed sanctions, claiming that preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons “will best be realized through diplomatic engagement.” A later statement (July 2, 2009) recognized that “it is very likely that Iran’s nuclear program and support for terror against Israel will continue,” but “diplomatic engagement remains the most likely road to success.”
o        In October 2009, J Street declared that it “does not oppose the imposition of sanctions per se.”
o        However, in December 2009 Ben-Ami expressed support for the passage of Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, recognizing “Iran’s continued defiance of the international community.”
·     J Street U vs. Israel
o        J Street’s student branch removed the phrase “pro-Israel” from the organization’s slogan, in order “to avoid alienating students.” Individual affiliates were also permitted to replace it with “pro-Israel, pro-Palestine.” Ben-Ami claimed that this was a marketing decision.
o        In November 2010, J Street and J Street U organized a “number of events around the country featuring UNRWA’s Gaza Director John Ging.” (See factsheet on Ging’s role in political warfare targeting Israel.)
·     The 2009 J Street conference hosted a panel of “progressive” bloggers, including hard-core anti-Zionists Max Blumenthal and Helena Cobban. Ben-Ami explained, “I’m not giving them any approval whatsoever, and there’s no sanction to their beliefs...I’m not going to say, ‘No you can’t eat lunch together.’”

Affiliations with politicized Israeli NGOs
·     Ben-Ami is the founder of an Israeli firm, Ben-Or Consulting, whose clients include Jimmy Carter, New Israel Fund (NIF), and a number of leading groups involved in politicized campaigns, such as BimkomPhysicians for Human Rights-IsraelYesh Din, Keshev, OCHA, and Amnesty-Israel.
·     Representatives from the following Israeli organizations participated at J Street’s 2009 conference include: NIF, Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), B’TselemBreaking the Silence, and Rabbis for Human Rights. Some of these groups also receive funding from Soros’ Open Society Institute.
·     NIF sent emails promoting the 2011 J Street conference and offering discounts to NIF supporters.

Funding controversies:
o        In September 2010, media reports revealed that J Street “secretly received” donations worth $750,000 from George Soros, founder of the Open Society Institute, and his family.
o        Previously, Ben-Ami had implied that J Street did not receive support from Soros, dismissingreports to the contrary. After the donation was exposed, Ben-Ami apologized, saying that his comments had been “less than clear” and “misleading.”
o        Half of J Street’s funding in 2008-2009 came via a $811,697 donation from Consolacion Esdicul, a mysterious businessperson from Hong Kong and friend of another J Street supporter Bill Benter. Ms. Esdicul’s involvement and motives have still not been revealed.
o        Funders of J Street’s Political Action Committee include directors of the National Iranian American Council and the Arab American Institute; a lawyer who represented the Saudi embassy in Washington; a former foreign agent for Saudi Arabia, and former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, Ray Close (reported to have worked for the former head of Saudi intelligence).

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