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
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.