August 13, 2009
J Street's Arab and Muslim donors revealed
J Street, the lobbying and fundraising group that bills itself as being a pro-Israel advocacy group ( a claim dismissed by many), has Muslims and Arabs as donors as well as people connected to Palestinian and Iranian advocacy, Federal Election Commission filings show..
From the Jerusalem Post:
Additionally, at least two State Department officials connected to Middle East issues have donated to the PAC, which gives money to candidates for US Congress supported by J Street. The organization describes itself as a "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby pushing for more American involvement and diplomacy in resolving the Middle East conflict.Arab and Muslim donors are extremely rare for other organizations that describe themselves as supporters of Israel as J Street does, Jewish leaders at organizations across the political spectrum told The Jerusalem Post. Because most of these other organizations are not PACs, however, US law does not require them to release their donor lists. J Street's non-PAC arm also does not release a complete list of contributors.J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami estimated the amount of Arab and Muslim donors to be a very small percentage -- at most 3 percent -- of the organization's thousands of contributors. But he said that such supporters show the broad appeal of J Street's message and its commitment to coexistence.
Astute observers have been skeptical that J Street claim to be pro-Israel is legitimate. The best analysis of J Street lack of credibility to bill itself as being pro-Israel is found in Noah Pollak's recent article in Commentary Magazine ("They're Doing the J Street Jive"). J Street has supported candidates who have not supported the American-Israel relationship in Congress and, in some cases, can be perceived as being hostile to that relationship. Additionally, J Street has worked to have Congressmen sign onto letters that have raised hackles among many in the pro-Israel community. J street also has links to the George Soros, the billionaire well-known for his anti-Israel activism (he publicly backed out of funding the group -- after taking initiative toward forming it, explaining his name might become a lightning rod -- but he has close associates and employees in key positions at J Street). J Street has steadily increased its footprint in Washington, most recently having been invited by the President to the parley of leaders of major Jewish organizations.
Now J Street is spinning the news regarding its Arab and Muslim donors as a positive sign that J Street has been able to expand the tent of pro-Israel supporters to include Muslims and Arabs . That sounds not very credible when one looks at the bios of some of the more generous contributors:
[S]ome of the contributors play key roles in the organization. The finance committee's 50 members -- with a $10,000 contribution threshold -- include 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 group has also received several contributions from Nancy Dutton, an attorney who once represented the Saudi Embassy in Washington.Smaller donors include several leaders of Muslim student groups, Saudi- and Iranian-born Americans, and Palestinian- and Arab-American businessmen who also give to Arab-oriented PACs.Additionally, Nicole Shampaine, director of the State Department's Office for Egypt and the Levant, gave $1,000 last summer. Lewis Elbinger, who used to serve in Saudi Arabia, gave a combined $150.A State Department legal adviser said there were no laws or codes prohibiting employees from donating to groups doing advocacy work on the policies they are formulating."The State Department ethics rules don't prohibit contributions to lobbying groups," she said.
Memo to Secretary of State Clinton: change the ethics rules at your department. Now. Sometimes the worst scandals involve what is legal.
Also, though not noted in the Jerusalem Post article, the Arab-American Institute was is a group trying to model itself after the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee and was formed and works to increase the political power of the Arab-American community, one not known to be focused on strengthening the ties between America and Israel.
The National Iranian American is all but a de facto Embassy for the Iranian regime.. The president, Trita Parsi, is an apologist for the Tehran regime and has actively promoted the end of sanctions geared towards preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Parsi actually wrote a book castigating the ties between American and Israel . In his book, he takes aim at the so-called Israel Lobby in America and conjures up anti-Semitic conspiracy images while doing so. And a member of the board of his group is a donor to J Street -- which supposedly, if you listen to its leaders and read its material -- lobbies for Israel in America! Needless to say, not a strong sign that J Street is that supportive of the America-Israel relationship. I can hear objections about guilt by association already but... the NAIC is a pro-Iranian group that has routinely worked to weaken American-Israel ties and that is indisputable.
One big donor lives part of the year in the West Bank and says he gives to J Street because he wants to see a Palestine along the 1967 borders, a shared Jerusalem, and a symbolic treatment to the refugee issue.
Some officials note that this may be a smart way for Arab activists to try to influence American policy, because they can do so wrapped up in the shell of a group that can project an image of being a pro-Israel organization to Congressmen less familiar with the reputation of J Street and who do not realize the Arab and Muslim backing for J Street.
In any case, this is one more indication that J Street should be looked upon warily and with a great deal of skepticism when it tries to pass itself off as being a supporter of strong American-Israel ties.