}

J Street Playing Dodgeball With The Truth… Again

Tax forms obtained by The Washington Times reveal that Mr. Soros and his two children, Jonathan and Andrea Soros, contributed a total $245,000 to J Street from one Manhattan address in New York during the fiscal year from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. The contributions represent a third of the group's revenue from U.S. sources during the period. Nearly half of J Street's revenue during the timeframe — a total of $811,697 — however, came from a single donor in Happy Valley, Hong Kong, named Consolacion Esdicul.


J-Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, in an interview with Moment magazine last March, was direct in his denial of Soros funding: “We got tagged as having his support without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Well we all know that was a lie ever since the story broke that Soros and his family have provided over a quarter of a million dollars to JStreet. From Wikipedia based on the Washington Times story: Confidential IRS documents obtained by The Washington Times in 2010 showed that George Soros had been a donor to J Street since 2008. The approximately $750,000 from Soros and his family, together with donations from Hong Kong-based businesswoman Ms. Consolacion Esdicul, amounted to about 15% of J Street’s funding since establishment.

But I held my tongue.

I received and email this week from JStreet’s so-called “Rabbinic Cabinet” which continues the same mantra of denial that there was anything wrong with Ben-Ami denying funding from Soros, and playing with semantics.

Now that he has Rabbis covering for him, it gets personal.

Soros is not the main issue – Soros’s is a known entity, without Zionist leanings etc., and he is known to support openly AND covertly those issues he feels strongly about. [Like Prop. 19 in Cali legalizing pot.]

At issue are the immense hubris of Jeremy Ben-Ami and his use of disingenuous practices which harm the Jewish people and Israel.

First he lies about where the money comes from. Then he denies it was a lie. Then he cries foul, and complains that he and JStreet are the target of a smear campaign. I mean you should read the stuff that they publish, as if they are in a totalitarian country being maligned, mistreated, and marginalized, in an attempt to silence them forever. It’s pathetic.

Ben Ami lied to us about Soros’s money, has not fully apologized for it, and is committed to an ongoing game of dodgeball and semantics.

What else is he not telling us the truth about? Remember J Street creates polls that show support for their mission, and these polls are churned out by a company run by their own vice-president. They even paid him and his company 100k for that polling info.

That was last year’s lie. What’s next?

33 Comments

  1. Kung Fu Jew

    10/26/2010 at 4:33 pm

    At issue are the immense hubris of Jeremy Ben-Ami and his use of disingenuous practices which harm the Jewish people and Israel.

    I presume Yonah means the peace process.

  2. themiddle

    10/27/2010 at 1:11 am

    I doubt that he means the peace process since Rabbi Yonah supports the peace process.

    Why are you deflecting the main point of this post, which is that an outfit that has taken a prominent spot in the community of Jewish organizations in the US, but has done so in a manner that has at times been antagonistic of Israel and supportive of its enemies and detractors, has lied – not merely obfuscated or contrived to keep hidden, but outright lied – about their sources of funding.

  3. ck

    10/27/2010 at 8:59 am

    Sigh. The story is simply that JStreet got bad advice and dropped the ball. They should simply have admitted that they got money from Soros and zehu. Big deal!

    I also want to note, Rabbi, that your insinuations regarding Soros’ wartime record are interesting. Can you tell me more about Soros’ “sketchy Holocaust -era activities” given that he was what, 12 in 1944 when the Nazis occupied Hungary? What possible sketchiness could he have gotten himself into?

    As for his critiques of Israel, his opinions, which I don’t share, are far more nuanced than his critics portray them as. And his donations to Jewish organizations are a fraction of those he makes to non-Jewish philanthropies but they still exist. See this article in ejewish philanthropy ie $60,000 to NY Federation, $1 million to ORT, 3-1 matching grants to organizations like Birthright Israel, Synagogues, Yeshivas etc.

    So yeah. JStreet fucked up. They should jusyt have admitted the donation and it would have been a forgotten issue by now. George Soros is not some foaming at the mouth anti-Israel crazy. He has an opinion, and it might be seen as somewhat provocative, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal.

  4. Kung Fu Jew

    10/27/2010 at 9:31 am

    The left has Soros; the right has Moskovitz, Adelson and the rest. And it’s not like J Street did something illegal. Like, say, stealing classified U.S. documents. That was AIPAC.

    This is just hay-making from the right. And as typical, which CK points out, there is no issue here unless we invent a villain that doesn’t exist.

    • themiddle

      10/27/2010 at 3:10 pm

      Um, I actually don’t care that the money is from Soros. I care about the lack of integrity on the part of J Street. They received half their funding in 2008 from an unknown foreign donor. How do we know it’s not Saudi money? Just asking? I mean, they denied they got Soros money for a very long time and quite explicitly, so how can they be trusted?

      And it’s not as if J Street’s intentions are all that clear. To remind everyone, their student organization refused to include the words “pro-Israel” in their group’s self-description. And here is a recent video showing one of J Street’s founders, Daniel Levy, essentially saying the creation of Israel was a mistake but one he accepts because it came so soon after the Holocaust:

      KFJ, when did AIPAC steal classified US documents? Are you quoting IRMEP bullshit?

  5. ck

    10/27/2010 at 12:27 pm

    Look, I hate it when douchebags like Richard Silverstein attribute all kinds of Machiavellian machinations to philanthropists like Sheldon Adelson or Michael Steinhardt or even cute little Lyn Schusterman. None of these people are breaking laws with their giving and it’s their money. They can spend it how they like – furthermore, the bulk of their philanthropy goes to really good causes. OK so George Soros is not a Republican. That’s his right! The dude’s philanthropic scope is truly breathtaking! So he made some contentious comments about Israel. So he campaigned actively against George Bush. I’m Israeli. I’m a Zionist. I promise you, we can handle it. The venom aimed at Soros is intellectually dishonest. It’s bullshit. I’m not going to sit idly by while Republican style Tea Party-esque talking points are being passed off as Torah Mi Sinai. What next? Obama as a crypto Muslim hell bent on destroying America by turning it into a Stalinesque Socialist dictatorship? Governed by the Koran no less?

    We have much more important things to worry about, trust me.

  6. Kung Fu Jew

    10/27/2010 at 4:18 pm

    TM, all of this is hypocritical — can I please have a list of all of AIPAC’s donors so I can determine if they’re “known” or “unknown” please? Great, thanks.

    J Street’s intentions are perfectly transparent. Their positions are written in crystal clear language on their web site and the same documents are handed down to every lay leader inside. How do I know? I ran the NYC team and I am presently on the National Advisory Council, thankyouverymuch. This carping about secret motives is too conspiracy theory-esque for grown-ups.

    And really, you’re doffing J Street U because of a change in slogan? In slogan? Really? Some grand proof that is.

    As for David Levy, he’s an Israeli who was personal advisor to then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and one of Israel’s carefully-selected negotiators. So if you’re looking for people who aren’t allowed to have opinions different from yours, then you’ve barked up the wrong tree. Jesus, what a witchhunt you’re on.

    And like I said, it wasn’t J Street staff that broke American anti-espionage law. J Street’s crime so far is representing the left-wing to the tune of 160,000 supporters.

    • themiddle

      10/27/2010 at 11:42 pm

      J Street’s motive are so transparent that they lie about donors.

      I’m not a defender of AIPAC and as far as I’m concerned they should show their donor list as well. I bet they don’t receive mysterious foreign funding, though.

      The change in slogan is quite meaningful when the student wing of a “pro-Israel” movement can’t bring itself to agreement to include the term “pro-Israel” in its self-description.

      Daniel Levy could have been Barak’s secret lover for all I care. What he says is unbelievable.

      And AIPAC broke no espionage laws and neither did its two employees, so please refrain from making accusations of that nature. Seriously. Of all the things you said here, this was inexcusable.

  7. ck

    10/28/2010 at 2:12 am

    KFJ: The case against the AIPAC staffers was dismissed. Criminalizing that sort of activity would have meant that 3/4 of the people on Capitol Hill would have to be indicted. Please don’t resort to tactics that you would find repugnant were they to be used against you. Having constructive debates is good, lets all try to make sure they are based on substance and not ideological talking points, ok? Ok!

  8. Rabbi Yonah

    10/28/2010 at 2:13 am

    CK – I really have no bone to pick about Soros in this piece and so have redacted my reference to him. It distracted you from the real point – that J Street president lied, and continues to lie, and fails to apologize for misleading everyone.

  9. Haim Watzman

    10/28/2010 at 4:22 am

    Over the top, R. Yonah. For a more nuanced view, see the excellent piece in the Jerusalem Report, jpost.com/Jeru....

  10. Kung Fu Jew

    10/28/2010 at 8:13 am

    Yonah — Please redact the entire post because you’re abjectly wrong:

    He apologized a whole month ago in a statement posted to J Street blogj, sent to media and emailed to J Street’s list:

    I accept responsibility personally for being less than clear about Mr. Soros’ support once he did become a donor. I said Mr. Soros did not help launch J Street or provide its initial funding, and that is true. I also said we would be happy to take his support. But I did not go the extra step to add that he did in fact start providing support in the fall of 2008, six months after our launch.

    And in the Forward two weeks ago:

    Ben-Ami took full responsibility for not revealing in public the fact that Soros has been providing funds to J Street. He issued a statement carrying this message as the press and right-wing blogs were already in a frenzy of criticism…

    Based on the amount of false statements you’ve already retracted and others now proven false, you, rabbi, are at worst lying to your readership or, at best, a bad blogger for not checking your sources. Take your pick.

    You have maligned two men in this post — Mr. Soros and Mr. Ben-Ami — neither of whom are guilty of what you accuse them of. Were you not a rabbi, I would expect less. But quite honestly, I expect more of community leaders and even more of spiritual leaders.

    You, rabbi, owe these two men an apology for your un-rabbinical lashon ha-ra, as well as to all of us in J Street who you accuse of seeking to harm Israel.

  11. Kung Fu Jew

    10/28/2010 at 8:48 am

    CK and TM — I mispoke, for while the case against the two AIPAC staffers was dismissed, Lawrence Franklin was sentenced to 12 years in jail for passing those documents to AIPAC.

    Yet AIPAC’s two staffers did pass those documents on to Israel and AIPAC fired them both.

  12. themiddle

    10/28/2010 at 12:26 pm

    They passed the same information at the same time to the White House and to the Washington Post. They did so right after Franklin gave it to them and it was never shared with AIPAC. AIPAC fired them because there was so much fire coming at them from a certain federal agency that they realized they would soon become unable to execute their mission as a PAC (as an aside, I deplore the fact AIPAC dumped these two guys!).

    So you see, there was no espionage. There was a little Jew-getting witch-hunt by a certain federal agency which, if you’ll notice, keeps arresting Jewish men by entrapping them with promises that they are actually providing information to Israel, even when Israel is not involved.

    In the Franklin case, they were able to malign AIPAC for 2 years in the press and destroy the lives of these two men for a number of years, not to mention their careers, over nothing. Literally over nothing. What was done to these men was a crime, and Franklin, by the way, told a reporter that when he was grilled by this agency’s investigators, there were strong overtones of anti-Semitism. Do a search for Franklin Rosen in our search box to get a link.

    In other words, KFJ, maybe you should be trying to apologize deeply for maligning two innocent men who were made to go through hell because they are Jewish and supporters of Israel in somebody’s little project intended to weaken AIPAC and harm Israel.

    Now, since you’re an organizer for JStreet, I am not surprised to see you follow suit in attacking AIPAC for espionage and its former employees of dual loyalty or false loyalty to the US, it’s a damn fine tactic. It’s just, like so many other J Street tactics, extremely unhelpful to Israel.

    Yonah has nothing for which he should apologize. Jeremy Ben Ami lied openly about the Soros funding and J Street plays dirty pool as you’ve shown here.

  13. Kung Fu Jew

    10/28/2010 at 4:53 pm

    To Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman: I am sorry that I just asserted you had broken the law. I was wrong. You did not. If I could give you back your jobs, I could. Whatever anti-Semitism you found at the hands of the federal government is a deep shame upon a country that has received and given so much between it and its Jewish citizens.

    I await Rabbi Yonah’s apology calling Ben-Ami unrepentant, since the evidence to the contrary has been in circulation for over a month. Yonah’s redacting of words against George Soros is sufficient on the latter case, but some kind words would yet go a long ways.

  14. Rabbi Yonah

    10/29/2010 at 12:01 am

    Kung Fu Jew – I will not apologize to Ben Ami, JStreet, or to you, who I love as a fellow Jew.

    Your so called apology is doublespeak:
    Ben Ami: “accept responsibility personally for being less than clear about Mr. Soros’ support once he did become a donor”

    That is NOT an apology. He has never issued one, nor is one on record.

    Being “less that clear” is doublespeak for “lying”

    I have not said one word of Lashon hora about Ben Ami, a public figure, whose comments are public. I have commented on his statements, actions and interviews as they appear in the media. This is not lashon hara.

    Just because you disagree, or are mad, doesn’t make it wrong for me to say it.

    J Street continues to send misleading emails to its supporters, to rabbis, and to the community.

    J Street still relies on surveys conducted by a member of its staff, while claiming they are reliable.

    J Street has lost the ear of the white house because they killed Obama’s support amongst the Jews with their lies and misinformation that they peddled to Rahm & Co

    must I continue? Is it not evident that they will lie to get money and influence?

  15. Kung Fu Jew

    10/29/2010 at 7:32 am

    First, rabbi, that apology seems to be recognized by everyone except you and the rabid right, as all the predictions of J Street’s demise have been disappointed. J Street has seen no significant loss in support, funding or access in Washington. Please cite any source that says the Obama administration doesn’t listen to J Street. From the Forward:

    “People see it as an aberration, not as a pattern,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, referring to Ben-Ami’s post-Soros image in political circles. “Usually you get one free pass for things like this.” Saperstein, who was also involved in initial talks that led to the creation of J Street, said he did not sense any concerns on Capitol Hill or in the administration about dealing with Ben-Ami or with J Street.

    But more importantly, J Street and Ben-Ami need not apologize to you for anything because you’ve given neither money nor support nor trust to it from the day it was founded. Apologize? To you? You made no investment. No, I expect J Street will never be palatable to you because it stands for what you oppose: a meaningful peace process where Israel and Palestine both keep their agreements and the US is a fair arbiter between their interests. Until J Street becomes the ZOA, it need not look to you for anything but proxy demands that really argue for J Street to cease to exist.

    At the end of the day, rabbi, you can just say, “I don’t like J Street.” You don’t have to find excuses in tax forms and trumped up lies to just say it as many times as you like. Really, we know those aren’t the real issues.

  16. Kung Fu Jew

    10/29/2010 at 7:56 am

    If you’d like to delve into Jim Gerstein’s polling data, then it gets an hekhsher from JTA’s Ron Kampeas who dismisses the bunk about Gerstein being a biased pollster.

  17. Tom Morrissey

    10/29/2010 at 12:55 pm

    Ben-Ami should quit because he’s created, at the very least, an appearance of impropriety and hasn’t stemmed the damage to J Street. After all, when you’ve lost Jeffrey Goldberg, everyone else in the left-liberal mainstream will write J Street off and dismiss its policy positions, as this discussion illustrates.

    J Street’s time has come and, in all likelihood, gone.

  18. Kung Fu Jew

    10/29/2010 at 1:30 pm

    What damage? J Street is about to finish raising $1.5 million this election cycle for their candidates, more than any other pro-Israel PAC. There are now grassroots Locals in three additional cities as of this week, taking us to nearly 40 committees around the country. They will continue hiring more staff this year.

    Over? It’s just beginning, people.

  19. Rabbi Yonah

    10/29/2010 at 1:42 pm

    Kung Fu
    You cannot handle any criticism of J Street, it is a Sacred Cow for you, and it does not wrong. So you lash out at me, labeling something I am not. Using poling data you generated is bad practice at best, misleading, and detrimental to their own cause. Don’t you get it? J Street has done more harm to the peace process than that any good.

    Yes, I don’t like J Street, because they have used manipulation, dishonesty, and divisiveness to achieve their aims.

    You think that if the Palestinians and the Israelis sat down tomorrow and signed a peace deal, and a truce, and all hostilities ended, that Ben Ami would take up gardening? You believe that J Street’s mission is about peace, really and truly? Then the minute there is peace they will disband?

    Of course not. They will have the next fish to fry on Israel’s back.

  20. themiddle

    10/29/2010 at 4:13 pm

    “No, I expect J Street will never be palatable to you because it stands for what you oppose: a meaningful peace process where Israel and Palestine both keep their agreements and the US is a fair arbiter between their interests. ”

    I didn’t realize J Street is hounding the Palestinians over their violations of agreements with the Israelis.

    I copy the following from the current – and obviously very recently updated – J Street FAQ page:

    Myth:
    J Street’s funding comes from Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans, representatives-of/lobbyists-for the Saudi government and/or other Arabs who, by their past statements, are clearly identified as anti-Israel.

    Fact:
    J Street has thousands of donors, large and small. We don’t know the religious or ethnic backgrounds of all of them, but we do know that they are primarily individual Jewish Americans. J Street accepts no funding from foreign governments or from foreign organizations.

    Again, a quick review will show that nearly all our top donors are leading American Jewish philanthropists and political activists.

    Yes, a tiny portion of J Street’s support comes from non-Jewish Americans (including some Arab- and some Muslim-Americans, as well as some Americans of other backgrounds). J Street, in fact, welcomes support from all Americans who believe in assertive U.S. diplomacy to resolve the conflicts in the Middle East and the establishment of two states living side by side in peace and security.

    As a primarily but not exclusively Jewish organization, J Street believes that support from non-Jews for our pro-Israel positions is actually extremely helpful to Israel – and helps ensure a long-term base of support for Israel’s security.

    Since Consolacion Esdicul who gave $800,000 to J Street in one contribution – more than all of the Soros contributions combined – is neither a Jewish or non-Jewish American and she is indeed a “top donor” for J Street, then is this a lie on their site, KFJ?

    Myth:
    Is it true that J Street U, your campus arm, has dropped the term pro-Israel?

    Fact:
    No. J Street U never did any such thing. J Street U is and will always be a pro-Israel organization. J Street U is pro-Israel in a way that doesn’t have an anti. We are very cognizant that favoring a Palestinian state is a pro-Israel position – so we can be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. When these erroneous press reports first came out, J Street U issued a number of statements reaffirming our commitment to being pro-Israel and our belief that the single most pro-Israel position on can take is a commitment to achieving a two-state solution in the near term. You can view them on our website here and here.

    Sneaky obfuscation there. Here is our coverage of what really went on here: jewlicious.com...

    Myth:
    Right-wing bloggers continue to assert J Street is somehow “tied” to Saudi Arabia

    Fact:
    J Street receives no funding from any foreign government or agent – Arab or otherwise. J Street has no formal association with any other organizations – Arab or other.

    Nearly all of J Street’s funding comes from Jewish Americans who seek peace and security for Israel and the whole Middle East. A small percentage of J Street’s funding comes from non-Jewish Americans who share our desire for peace and security for all people in the Middle East and support the right of the Jewish people to a secure and democratic home in Israel.

    Sure, like Consolacion Esdicul.

    Myth:
    Liberal financier George Soros founded and is the primary funder of J Street.

    Fact:
    George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization.

    J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.

    Um, so Jeremy Ben Ami would be pleased if funding came from Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder.

    Sounds like a lawyer wrote that in such a way that it reads as if Soros isn’t a funder at all, but without coming right out to say he isn’t a funder.

    One can only ask if J Street is capable of integrity at this point.

    And you’ll forgive me KFJ, because I believe you mean well, but you’re being used by people whose intentions are far from benign. Why else would they need to lie or obfuscate or cover up?

  21. Kung Fu Jew

    11/1/2010 at 1:07 pm

    Rabbi Yonah, no, actually I think I just know the facts and you’re just a hostile outsider looking in. What’s odd is that I’m sure you share 90% similar politics as J Street — two states, security for Israel, viability for the Palestinian state, an end to the settlement enterprise, a cessation of violence by Palestinians, and regional stability at large.

    If you differ in our path to achieve it, then you could write a post about that. Instead, you posit that either leadership, donors or volunteers aren’t Jewish enough, or aren’t patriotic enough, or whatever. It’s clear you don’t really care about financial transparency, otherwise you’d demand the same of all the other PACs and 501c4s in the Jewish community getting money from right-wing racists or, as CK pointed out, the money so-called self-haters like Soros give to the UJA-Fed of NY. That’s not what you really care about. It’s just an excuse to hate on J Street. Far from sacred cows, I think you both are picked and pre-determined your Amalek. Never mind the real threats to the Jewish state out there, but nothing seems to gall you more than Jews who would disagree with you en masse. Nearly 1,000 rabbis, to bring the point back to Rabbi Yonah’s original post.

    To Rabbi Yonah’s question about J Street being truly out for peace, then the answer is absolutely YES. While I hope that J Street will stay after peace is achieved (we need its voice on lost of middle east issues), the premise within is that J Street has one singular focus: a peace agreement.

    I know or have met nearly everyone on the lay and staff leadership, often through other professional duties I have. I live and breathe in a wide network of progressive Israel supporters which existed for decades before J Street did. Now to see them all in leadership roles (and to see myself among them) makes me incredibly proud of what we have built together.

    And to TM’s wild Halloween stories about being pawns of a well-financed cabal out for regional domination is, well, borrowing too closely from anti-Semitic tropes to be political reality.

    If integrity is what matters, then J Street barely been around long enough to make the number of lies, political missteps and obfuscations that every major Jewish organization has made. Both TM and Rabbi Yonah would do well to just explain they don’t like J Street’s positions instead of pretending to care about kosher political donations, integrity and communal agreement.

    Guys, just cut the crap and be honest. That’s all I’m suggesting to the readers of this debate.

  22. themiddle

    11/1/2010 at 3:44 pm

    “And to TM’s wild Halloween stories about being pawns of a well-financed cabal out for regional domination is, well, borrowing too closely from anti-Semitic tropes to be political reality.”

    Wait! I quoted from J Street’s own website and challenged their claims with facts. Do you know different facts? Do you know the meaning of these facts? Is it really me who is being dishonest or the organization with an FAQ page that contains more holes than Swiss cheese?

    J Street is waging a war against established Jewish and non-Jewish groups that are pro-Israel. This war doesn’t help Israel in any way, it weakens it. That’s the problem I have with J Street. It’s the same problem I have with so-called “progressives” who claim moral superiority over the rest of us even as they often join Israel’s enemies in the propaganda wars. Weakening Israel will not lead to peace.

  23. Kung Fu Jew

    11/1/2010 at 4:38 pm

    TM — And what do you aim to prove with these silly leads, even though I can fisk them all? That J Street is more full of foreign, non-Jewish money than other pro-Israel groups? That fisking a single web page is grand, sweeping proof of a lack of leaderly integrity? That’s why I look above the factoid bantering.

    But now we’re getting somewhere — you admit that you don’t care about fiscal transparency, you just don’t like J Street’s strident line against established pro-Israel groups. It must understandably gall you that J Street is the fastest growing Jewish organization in America.

    Which we can and should talk about. But don’t pretend it’s about “integrity.”

    • themiddle

      11/2/2010 at 1:27 am

      First of all, it certainly is about integrity. Just as I hold AIPAC in contempt for abandoning their former employees when they were unfairly charged with serious crimes, I hold J Street in contempt for lying about their donors. Lying about donors also indicates lying about goals, since the connection between donors – especially big donors – and their donation recipients often includes numerous discussions that assure the donors that their money is going to an organization which is aligned with their views, values and goals.

      Second, when a foreign, unknown donor gives more than Soros to a group such as J Street, which is an American lobbying and political action group, then one has to ask why foreign money is needed and what the objectives of this foreign money are in influencing American policies towards Israel.

      Third, J Street still has to prove itself as an organization that is supportive of Israel. Criticizing Israel for the Gaza blockade, for example, really doesn’t make for a great impression when I go to visit Sderot and around every corner there are these concrete shelters intended to provide Sderot residents protection from the way Gazans play Russian roulette with their lives. In light of that, J Street still has a great deal to prove with respect to its goals regarding Israel. Outright falsehoods on their website and press statements suggest similar false premises in their lobbying efforts and generally undermine their credibility and raise serious questions.

      Fourth, why should I be surprised that it’s growing? We’re talking about the organization lying, so it is very possible that many who join it simply don’t know the truth. After all, until a couple of weeks ago, a key figure in J Street’s history was hidden from the public with lies and obfuscation.

      Fifth, just to highlight why it’s critical for any organization to have integrity, I will just point out to you that since I know that J Street lies about its funding sources, as shown in my second last comment, I therefore do not believe their statement that they are “the fastest growing Jewish organization in America.” It’s in their interest to inflate these numbers, and just as they use a polling firm that raises serious conflict questions and undermines the credibility of any surveys they generate, they may be exaggerating about the speed of their growth. The thing is that you wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t know whether they are, because it’s easy to lie about those things and more important, because J Street has now been caught in a number of public lies so nothing they say can be trusted.

      Instead of getting angry at Jewlicious authors, you may wish to direct your anger, criticism and motivation towards J Street’s leadership so that they make every effort possible to plug the serious leak in their boat and straighten its course.

  24. Kung Fu Jew

    11/2/2010 at 10:19 am

    Oh, I agree integrity is important. But you don’t. If you cared about integrity, you would apply these selectively-chosen principles to all organizations, which you haven’t and aren’t and won’t because it would mean pulling out all the power from beneath the establishment pro-Israel lobby. (I’d love to see how far you get in banning foreign contributions and non-Jewish donors from the Israel lobby.)

    And I’m not angry at Jewlicious authors, I’m correcting ignorance and pushing back against short-sighted opportunism. I also enjoy popping shallow talking points, particularly the misleading ones you’ve so eagerly, naively swallowed.

    If you want to bicker about the facts, then here’s the response to each of your tempests in a tea cup:

    (1) As reported in The Atlantic and elsewhere, the gift from Consolacion Esdicul was raised by J Street supporter Bill Benter, in a calling-in-my-favors that is typical of the American political machine. If you’re upset about that, then you have only (a) the American political system to blame and (b) your ignorance about the American political system. (Again, I’d love to see how far you get in banning foreign contributions and non-Jewish donors from the Israel lobby.)

    (2) Veteran Washington reporter Ron Kampeas gave Gerstein’s polls a hekhsher. It’s helpful that polling data is typically made public so it can be verified, so once again, you’re just unfamiliar with the tachles of how this field works. Otherwise, why would we have any reason to trust Frank Luntz’s polling? Or AJC’s, RJC’s or AIPAC’s for that matter.

    (3) Furthermore, that Gerstein (the head of a provider of services to J Street) sits on J Street’s board is (again) standard nonprofit practice. There is nothing wrong unless Gerstein receives undue benefits from board membership like being paid many times more what his poll data is worth. “Conflict of interest” means a chance to profit personally. But that is obviously not your concern.

    (4) As far as financial growth, now that those legally-protected tax returns are illegally shared with the world, any doubt about J Street’s growth is confirmed. The tax documents of the 501c3 and the PAC are already public record, as is common practice and required by law, respectively. Doubt: all gone.

    None of your accusations stands up to scrutiny and are, ultimately, a reflection of your distance from how pro-Israel lobbies of any political stripe operate. They also betrays you to all reading a single-minded ire against J Street. All your high-flying language about trust and integrity is dismissible because even before these mini-bites of fodder existed, you and Yonah were already J Street haters.

    From my view, you’re just a sore loser.

  25. themiddle

    11/2/2010 at 3:25 pm

    What’s an Israel lobby?

  26. themiddle

    11/2/2010 at 4:44 pm

    1. The information about Ediscul’s generosity coming through Benter who was calling in a favor may be a true story. The person who told the story is Jeremy Ben Ami, who lied about Soros being a funder. What makes you think that in two years from now when some enterprising reporter figures out what the Ediscul money is about, Ben Ami won’t admit to misleading everybody as he did with Soros?

    The fact you don’t even question any part of this strange contribution is amusing.

    2. Gosh, I hope Kampeas never makes a mistake. Thank god he found everything kosher at J Street. What he actually says about Gerstein and his role at J Street is, “…as far I can make out, it’s straight up: A cold-call phone survey of 400 Jews, drawn from a voter file. It’s margin of error is 4.9 percent.”

    From this we learn two things. What you call a “hekhsher” is actually nothing more than a passing guess based on a cursory consideration of the issue. Second, Kampeas makes mistakes such as misspelling “its.” Not a big deal, we all do it, but I think you understand, don’t you, that he’s just a person, not God.

    Fyi, I don’t trust any polling completely and take polling results with serious skepticism in general because there are many factors that can end up skewing a survey. The best factor for skewing a survey or poll, however, is the one where the pollster is directly connected to the organization which he’s polling.

    Tachles, KFJ, I understand polling extraordinarily well and am surprised that you accept poll results from somebody who has every interest in having those results support his organization and its activities.

    3. Just because board members often get business from their company/non profit/group, it does not mean that conflicts don’t exist. On the contrary, many safeguards need to be in place in these types of situations. For example, because of the close relationship between the board member and the enterprise, he might charge more for his services – confident that he will get the work anyway – than he would an unaffiliated client. In this case, the close relationship hurts the organization. Or, in the other direction, the board member might offer the company, which is now his client, superior rates and services relative to his other clients. For example, he might ensure that polls end up favorable to the organization’s goals. Here the relationship helps the client, but may hurt others such as the unwitting public reading a poll created by an advisory board member who wants to push the agenda of his organization.

    I’m not saying this happened. I’m just saying that it’s a strong enough possibility that many questions are raised and should be raised.

    4. Maybe you don’t know this, but J Street is a 501(c)4 organization which is how it kept its books secret. The information isn’t public, except for what Eli Lake reported when he broke the Soros funding story. In fact, allow me to put this all into perspective for you. Here is a reporter from the Atlantic:

    Here’s how the conversation went: In listing J Street’s biggest donors, Ben-Ami identified Benter, telling me Benter had raised and given “at least $800,000 in the first two years…specifically [Benter] has secured roughly $800,000 in support from associates in the prior two years.” Dorf phrased it thusly: that the $800,000 was “raised and given by [him] and from associates including in Hong Kong.”

    J Street later confirmed that $811,697 came in payments over the years all from one donor, Esdicul, solicited by Benter.

    That was from this article about J Street’s lies:

    theatlantic.co...

    In other words, after being caught lying about Soros, Ben Ami provided further false information to The Atlantic’s reporter who then wrote this article: theatlantic.co...

    As you can see in that article, Benter is described by Ben Ami as a key donor to J Street. Caught in the lie, thanks to Eli Lake, J Street then has to update The Atlantic that, well, they “misspoke.” Actually, it wasn’t Benter’s money, it was some Asian woman from Hong Kong that nobody has ever heard of. She gave half of the money J Street raised two years ago.

    So now let’s explore your comments:

    And I’m not angry at Jewlicious authors, I’m correcting ignorance and pushing back against short-sighted opportunism. I also enjoy popping shallow talking points, particularly the misleading ones you’ve so eagerly, naively swallowed.

    …..
    Again, I’d love to see how far you get in banning foreign contributions and non-Jewish donors from the Israel lobby


    None of your accusations stands up to scrutiny and are, ultimately, a reflection of your distance from how pro-Israel lobbies of any political stripe operate. They also betrays you to all reading a single-minded ire against J Street. All your high-flying language about trust and integrity is dismissible because even before these mini-bites of fodder existed, you and Yonah were already J Street haters.

    From my view, you’re just a sore loser.

    What talking points are we discussing here? I don’t read anybody’s talking points. I do my research and provide it to you, dear reader. In this case, you have been unable to refute everything that has been thrown at you. I’ve provided you with J Street’s own FAQ page with its blatant misinformation and misdirection and all you can do is suggest that I’ve swallowed talking points.

    I’ve written against J Street, I’ve written against the new Emergency Committee and I’ve written attacks on AIPAC. I haven’t written against the ZOA, but I don’t like them much either. So it’s hard to know which other “pro-Israel lobbies” I’m supporting here against J Street. Do you know?

    In any case, none of these organizations, contrary to your suggestion need any foreign funding and I doubt they get any. It’s J Street that got funding from an unknown person from Hong Kong. Some of us suspect they also got funding from other places, but who knows?

    Instead of making silly comments about me, you might want to simply assume that I don’t support J Street because I don’t believe they are helpful to Israel and in fact damage it, don’t support them because their students refused to include “pro-Israel” in their self-description, don’t support them because they have facilitated and given cover to many Democrats who have chosen to become critical of Israel and in doing this J Street has now created a very bad situation for Israel in which for the first time ever you see support for the Jewish state begin to be divided along party lines. I don’t like J Street because I believe they have been cagey from the beginning, highly antithetical to other pro-Israel groups, highly critical of any supporters of Israel who are not of the wacko Left (oops, I meant “progressives”) and they have now been shown up as liars. Liars. Liars. Liars. What’s worse is that instead of owning what they did, they send out emissaries such as you to defend them.

    Well, you’ve done a mediocre job thus far. It’s not your fault. Really. You’d find it much easier if you were working for an organization that had been truthful.

  27. Kung Fu Jew 18

    11/2/2010 at 11:45 pm

    1. I trust Jeremy Ben-Ami and the J Street leadership because I know them personally and know the kind tzuris they go through in building this organization to be all it can be. The kind of hackery you posit here is just par for course.

    2 and 3. If there was a substantial reason for concern about Gerstein, then an objective criticism would have been raised against every poll conducted by a partisan group, such as AJC’s annual survey, the RJC’s political polls, and The Israel Project’s research.

    4. You are embarassing when you try to educate me about how J Street functions. J Street is actually three legally-separate enterprises with three separate boards: a 501c3 (J Street U, J Street Local), a 501c4 (under question here) and a PAC. As to the funding, you have yet to answer my question: What does all this prove? That J Street can’t do it’s job as providing the loving but critical voice against an ocean of Israel-can-do-no-wrong orgs?

    Your positions are xenophobic and paranoid, drawing up requirements for funding that you don’t demand of ALL Jewish groups. Please, lead a pledge drive that ALL 501c4 organizations submit ALL their donors for public scrutiny AND return all non-Jewish, non-domestic contributions. Without that, your entire case is a house of cards. You assert that other groups don’t need foreign funds, but the fact is the opposite is true. But unlike you, I don’t make ridiculous demands.

    Lest I remind you, Ben-Ami already apologized. So again, you’re beating a dead horse. Yonah made the mistake of saying Ben-Ami and J Street were unrepentant, which is lie. Yonah is a LIAR LIAR LIAR. By repeating that J Street is a cabal of foreign-dominated funders out to destroy Israel, you too are a LIAR LIAR LIAR. (These third-grade debate tactics you started feel kind of gratifying.) Instead, Yonah hides behind you who can do 30 seconds of Google research although who still doesn’t understand these matters and still can’t get perspective.

    And J Street didn’t send me, because they have paid people for that job. I do this because I care about my community, dislike opportunistic haters like yourself and Yonah, and think it’s fun.

  28. themiddle

    11/3/2010 at 2:00 am

    1. It’s tough to build any organization or business. There are always challenges, competition, critics, etc. Is this hurting Ben Ami financially? He is paid for the interesting work he gets to do and he also gets to have an impact – an outsized one, I might add – on the political landscape in the US and even on the diplomatic front. Please spare us the violins about how tough it is for him.

    2, 3. We’re not talking about other groups, we’re talking about J Street and its conflicted polling. You are welcome to criticize the conflicts inherent in any other organizations’ polling, but here we are talking about J Street’s conflict. Your argument is “others do it.” My argument is “J Street is not absolved by virtue of the fact that it points the fingers at others and accuses them of malfeasance.”

    4. I only mentioned the 501(c)4 status because you conveniently ignored it in your previous comment and stated, falsely, that J Street’s funding is out in the open. I’m glad you know how J Street is structured.

    What all this proves is exactly what has been said by Yonah and then by me in this discussion: J Street has covered up its funding sources and has been dishonest about them from the start and continues to be even now.

    As for my views being paranoid and xenophobic, you’ll notice I didn’t mention non-Jewish donations to groups that support Israel. That’s because any group based in the US that deals with Israel is a likely candidate to receive non-Jewish donations. I see that as perfectly legitimate. You’ll also be surprised to know that I don’t have a problem with Soros giving money to these organizations. I believe he has every right to do so.

    I also don’t need to be paranoid, every day I see and learn about “progressive” Jews linking up with groups and individuals who are out to hurt Israel. Unfortunately, this has become a commonplace event. When J Street was founded, many of these “progressives” came aboard. For reasons I mention above, I believe the organization harms Israel more than it helps. So this isn’t paranoia. It’s a simple problem of wanting to know who is driving an organization whose primary impact has been to undermine organizations that support Israel (you do recall your false espionage charges against AIPAC early on in this conversation, don’t you?) and that challenges many American positions on Israel that have been key to Israel’s strength. That simple problem has been made into a big one by the discovery of Ban Ami’s lies about J Street’s funding. If everything was fine, why would he lie?

    By the way, Ben Ami has danced around the issue of his lie. All you need to do is read what happened with The Atlantic.

    Here’s how the conversation went: In listing J Street’s biggest donors, Ben-Ami identified Benter, telling me Benter had raised and given “at least $800,000 in the first two years…specifically [Benter] has secured roughly $800,000 in support from associates in the prior two years.” Dorf phrased it thusly: that the $800,000 was “raised and given by [him] and from associates including in Hong Kong.”

    J Street later confirmed that $811,697 came in payments over the years all from one donor, Esdicul, solicited by Benter.

    from: theatlantic.co...

    You see? Lie after lie. And that’s just from looking at one published source. There are others.

    Finally, with all due respect, you have called me xenophobic, paranoid, opportunistic hater, sore loser, ignorant, short-sightedly opportunistic, concocter of wild Halloween stories, hypocritical and a couple of other things I’ve missed. You might, instead of calling me names, simply own up to the fact that J Street lied about its funding and then Ben Ami who had been the key liar in the first place lied again after the funding stories began to come out. J Street brought this on itself and calling its critics all kinds of names instead of addressing the real issue here is only going to make everybody think you guys are still covering up.

  29. Kung Fu Jew

    11/3/2010 at 8:42 am

    1. My point was: haters gonna hate. That’s you. No sense in trying to satisfy your or Yonah’s demands, because what you want is for J Street to close shop or become The David Project. No can do.

    2, 3. You can’t hold up a principle and then not walk the walk. Or if you do, we’ll call you a hypocrite. Which I believe is what you complain about the world doing to Israel, so I would think you’d be pretty tight on that.

    4. You repeatedly miss the basic point: the law protects the donor confidentiality of these individuals. Any equivocations you perceive as “lying” are the further insistence that 501c4 donors have a right to their privacy as protected by law. Under your logic, every 501c4 is “covering up” every day, all day, by not making their donors lists public. And J Street is just one of hundreds of Jewish c4s. Holy cow, an entire industry of liars! You can’t be credible yourself if you’re unwilling to walk the talk.

    You have, essentially, no right to know that information and Jeremy Ben-Ami has no obligation to tell you. I feel Ben-Ami owes the public no apology (certainly not you or others who’ve never given J Street a dime), yet he gave it nonetheless. And it’s obvious that Soros gave the anonymous way because people like our esteemed rabbi here call Soros an anti-Semite, self-hater, et al (but only when he gives to J Street, not the federations).

    I thank the reasonable CK for boiling this down: it was a mistake but it’s not important. You seem to take this as a referendum on the mere existence of J Street. This is a tempest in a tea cup: of limited significance to supporters of J Street and policymakers on Capital Hill, but sparking a frenzy of gleeful self-validation among those who already hate.

  30. themiddle

    11/3/2010 at 2:12 pm

    KFJ, I don’t hate anybody except for terrorists and those who support them, and this isn’t about me. You’re insulting me once again as your defense of this organization. I have no idea why you think that will work, but it won’t. I’m not being a hater, hypocritical, xenophobic, paranoid, opportunistic, ignorant, short-sighted or anything else you’ve proposed.

    I am in disagreement with what J Street is doing. I think, furthermore, that J Street has proven itself to be an untrustworthy organization. In this conversation, I have brought you a number of examples of lies, misstatements and cover-ups by J Street which you have tried unsuccessfully to refute or parry. The facts are such that anybody should be concerned, whether they support or oppose J Street. If you choose to ignore these ills in this organization, that’s your business. I will continue to point out their serious deficiencies – the biggest one being that they are causing harm to Israel.

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