Debating J Street and Soros


What’s the fallout for J Street after acknowledging that it has been receiving major funding from George Soros — and fudging the facts about doing so?

The reporter who broke the story, Eli Lake of The Washington Times, has a story headlined "Jewish group falls from favor at White House":

The White House appears to be distancing itself from the liberal advocacy group J Street that it once embraced as its envoy to the U.S. Jewish community after disclosures that nearly half the group’s funding for 2008 came from a single Hong Kong donor.

White House spokesman Thomas Vietor declined to comment when asked on Monday if the White House would continue its past practice of inviting J Street’s leaders to take part in conference calls with senior White House officials and to other White House events, and whether senior Obama administration officials would take part in future J Street conferences.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones, President Obama’s national security adviser, was the keynote speaker at J Street’s inaugural convention in 2009. At the convention, he said: "You can be sure this administration will be represented at all future conferences."

Feels like a stretch. Let’s see what happens the next there is a conference call or a J Street convention.

Along the same lines, Jennifer Rubin of Commentary seems to be jumping the gun in suggesting that the Jewish establishment has somehow shifted over all this. Judging from Lake’s article (which is the one Rubin points to), we’re at the same place we’ve always been: Malcolm Hoenlein (head of the Conference Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization) thinks J Street is bad — and has the guts to say so publicly; Rabbi Steve Gutow (of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs) disagrees — and he has the guts to say so:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group.

Mr. Ben Ami has not said he lied. He did, however, state in a note to supporters on Sunday: "I accept responsibility personally for being less than clear about Mr. Soros’ support once he did become a donor."

Mr. Hoenlein said "this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house."

"I certainly think it was wrong that they did not talk about Soros from the beginning," said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

"I don’t think this is the end of J Street, though. From my experience, they have been very helpful. When the divestment campaign was in full swing at Berkeley, J Street weighed in effectively in opposition to the effort to get the university to divest from Israel," he said.

UPDATE: A source associated with J Street tells me 80 of the group’s leaders met Tuesday with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, and officials at the State Department.

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