The self-proclaimed pro-Israel J Street lobby opened its nationwide conference this week, trying to survive a growing tide of American Jews who oppose its anti-Israeli government policies.
Speaking at the opening of its three-day conference this week in Washington, the group's director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, declared that J Street is “defining support for the creation of a Palestinian state as a core pro-Israel position.” He claimed wide backing for its policies despite the boycott of the conference by Michael Oren, the Israel Ambassador to Washington. Also absent were dozens of Congress members, concerned with the organization’s pro-Arab position and its opposition to tougher sanctions in Iran, which is trying to develop nuclear power while threatening to annihilate the Jewish State.
Ben-Ami brushed aside Oren’s boycott by simply declaring that the ambassador made “a serious mistake” because “we do love Israel [and] we do support Israel.”
Among J Street’s partners are the Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (Alliance for Peace and Justice), a group which backs “an end to Israel's occupation of land acquired during the 1967 war and an end to Palestinian terrorism." It campaigned three years ago with Americans for Peace Now to oppose the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism law.
The lobby, largely funded by billionaire George Soros, has gone on the defensive for its views, with its branch on universities officially dropping the claim that it is “pro-Israel."
Former Israel diplomat Lenny Ben-David, writing on his private blog last week, cited Ben-Ami’s having been a senior vice president for Fenton Communications, which signed a contract with a foundation in Qatar to lead an anti-Israeli campaign on American campuses.
“Did you sever your ties with Fenton when you began J Street?” Ben-David asked. “Do you retain any role or holdings in Fenton today? Did you play any role in introducing Fenton to the Qatari agents or play any role in facilitating the contract? Were you aware of the negotiations or the contract signed on March 12, 2009?”
Ben-Ami has not responded.
Ben-David also challenged J Street’s claim that “about five” of its donors are Muslims and Arabs. He wrote, “A partial listing quickly extracted from the U.S. Federal Election Commission shows more than 30 contributors, many with ties to Arab-American organizations.” Previous reports have stated that Arabs and Muslims contribute approximately 10 percent of J Street’s $3 million annual budget.
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