Lenny Ben David is right…UPDATED


In fairness, I should have included these sentences from his piece I linked to in my earlier post:

Clearly, while Biden and Netanyahu were making up, in the White House a decision was made to apply Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s famous strategy for crisis management:

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, and what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you didn’t think you could do before."

The 1,600 Jerusalem apartments would become the anvil on which the administration would forge a pliant Israel. The message would have to be amplified, and for the White House, the pro-Obama, purportedly pro-Israel J Street was a perfect vehicle.

(He makes the point in a comment to my post, under "roc" and on his website, I*Consult.)

It mitigates against my thesis in the first post that Lenny, in a Pajamas Media recast of the March U.S.-Israel "crisis, is using Walt-Mearsheimer techniques to smear J Street as overly influential.

Mitigates, but I don’t think it negates it; nor does it exonerate his piece of dark conspiracy theories that are awfully similar to the ones propagated around the web about the "lobby."

He paints a picture, by citing White House visitors logs, of J Street as at least a partner in this enterprise.  Jeremy Ben-Ami is calling on March 11 and then again on the 12th to set a meeting! The boys need to consult!

A) Such meetings are routine during crises; Lenny, who has the logs, does not bother to tell us how often Howard Kohr, Jason Isaacson, Jess Hordes, any number of pro-Israel officials, came and went on those days.

B) The knowledge that the meeetings cand calls took place, therefore, adds up to bupkiss without an accurate idea of what the content was.

C) Although anyone who’s worked this town long enough can guess. "We’re going to roll out this policy, we’d like you to support it/not to oppose it too vocally." "Fine, although we have a problem with x and y, and we can’t carpet that over." "X is fine, but can you go easy on the y?" "We can put y in a way that sounds supportive." (Mental chits are made.).

D) The J Street ads and mailers Lenny cites are consistent with J Street’s message — what evidence is there that they were written at the behest of the White House? Or that the White House did anything at Jeremy’s behest?

Lenny isn’t going to let this one go, which is fine, because beating beneath his berating are some good story ideas. He says:

It’s sad and probably a case of nonfeasance that journalists like yourself never ask who funds J Street, who founded it, who sits on its executive board, who makes the decisions at the organization. Who decided, for instance, to oppose Iranian sanctions, and then one day reverse positions and support them?

I know who founded it — I broke the story of the secret meetings that led to its founding. I broke the goddamn story of its founding too. We looked into who funds J Street’s political action committee (the easiest thing to check, because the records are so readily accessible), and honestly, it wasn’t that interesting or enlightening.

But like I said, there are the kernels of good story ideas here — but only if we apply them evenly, fairly, across the Jewish communal board. Witchhuntia, this ain’t.

So who’s on the various pro-Israel boards and who funds them? Good question,* but for all the groups, and we just don’t have the resources right now to do that investigation (although I’d love to lead it with Jacob when we do.) Non-profits are not required to name funders, but there are other, more circuitous ways of tracking this. *Names of board members are easy to track, but what I think Lenny is referring to here is not just lists, but profiles, with political affiliations, etc.

And who makes J Street’s decisions? Jeremy mostly, I can tell you from my cumulative experience with the group. Which actually is another interesting, broader story — the relationship executive directors have with their boards. Some guide the board, some defer to the board, some have a give and take. (Jeremy is in the first category, is my impression.) The story here is how community policy is often driven by a handful of forceful personalities.

And J Street changed its mind on sanctions for a bunch of reasons, but mostly because it tied its star to a powerful, influential (and Jewish as it happens) congressman, Howard Berman, and he changed his mind. This is as Washington as it gets.

So, you want these stories? Can I get one of those icons in here that rolls its eyes — up, to the right a little, at that green "donate" button?

UPDATE: Lenny shares the visits by the other machers. Jeremy does, indeed, win the Obama White House stakes:

To answer your question about others who visited the White House, it appears that Kohr visited 4 times (Chanukka Party with 500+ people), Jason 3 or 4 times (once with 2100 people for a welcoming ceremony) and Jess wins with 8 visits which included the Chanukka party and a hate crimes conference.

Mr. Ben-Ami is listed with 14 visits.

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