Is this lobby really 'pro-Israel'? We are all about to find out

By Shmuel Rosner, October 7, 2010
George Soros: donor

George Soros: donor

The facts are not all known at this point in time, but there's enough to make the case that J Street - the relatively new, dovish, "pro-Israel, pro-peace" Jewish lobby - might be in big trouble. In the past couple of days, four troubling facts were revealed about J Street's activity.

It got money, a lot of money, from billionaire George Soros - a man with questionable credentials to say the least when it comes to supporting Israel. The organisation lied about it, pretending not to get money from him, until it was forced to surrender the truth by the Washington Times. It also got a lot of money from a woman no one knows in Hong Kong, and lied about that too. An Israeli member of the group had claimed that J Street was helping Judge Goldstone of the infamous Goldstone report to get meetings on Capitol Hill; and someone must also be lying about this too.

J Street is in trouble. Over the past week, many commentators - generally supportive of its contribution to "the debate over the future of Israel", as one of them put it - seemed to be shocked and dismayed by this barrage of revelations.

But there were important nuances in this generally unified response. Some were more dismayed by the lies, others more troubled by the actions.

It is an important distinction: those disappointed by the lies will probably get over it. They can be lured back into J Street universe by excuses, apologies and the healing power of time.

Those thinking that the problem is the action - money from Soros, toying with Goldstone - are probably lost for J Street. Those are the people who will now be convinced that this organisation might be pro-peace - but it is not pro-Israel. Not in the sense most Americans (and vast majority of Israelis) interpret it.

Thus, the next weeks and months will be revealing. If J Street loses many of its supporters, this will ironically vindicate J Street's claim that most of the activists behind it were truly friends of Israel. If it doesn't lose many, the opposite will be proven. It will mean that J Street crowd has no problem with a Soros-mandated policy, with a sympathetic-to-Goldstone activity. And counting such things as "pro-Israel" is a stretch, and really makes the term "pro-Israel" meaningless.

Of course, what should really bother J Street managers at this point is not the crowd. Having fewer supporters is a problem, but not one that will destroy the organisation. What they should worry about - these are experienced people, so they probably do - is the response in Congress to recent revelations. Will this make J Street radioactive to legislators? Will we see a declining number of lawmakers and politicians signing their letters, joining their events, coming to their briefings?

One might argue that most congressmen and congresswomen will not be dismayed by bad policies or by lies. Supporting bad policies and lying to people is part of the daily routine of their profession. However, there is one thing politicians really hate. They hate surprises that might make them vulnerable to attacks. And the last two weeks all but made it certain that such attacks are to be expected - and very soon.

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010