By Jonathan S. Tobin
(JNS) This week it was reported that federal election filings revealed that J Street had received a $1 million donation to its political super PAC from the PAC controlled by billionaire George Soros. Like AIPAC—its far larger and more influential rival that speaks for a rough consensus of the pro-Israel community—it is now directly involved in the business of funding candidates. However, in their case, they are working to help those who bash the Jewish state, like recently defeated Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), rather than those who seek to support its positions and security.
That Soros would be pitching in on behalf of J Street is no surprise. Using his foundation and own political PAC, he’s the country’s largest political donor pouring millions into races throughout the country, both to help “progressive” Democrats win congressional seats and to elect district attorneys who don’t believe in prosecuting criminals. He’s also the person who helped bankroll J Street when it was starting up.
Democrats and others on the left who benefit from his largesse falsely decry any criticism of the impact of his massive donations as anti-Semitism. That’s a disgraceful attempt to silence their opponents as well as undermine the battle against actual Jew-hatred. More to the point, that disingenuous argument is also a good way to distract from the way Soros funds a wide array of groups who share common goals. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to connect the dots between those that receive money from Soros to see how one of those goals is to undermine the State of Israel.
As it happens, at the top of J Street’s agenda this week is a campaign to orchestrate American opposition to Israel’s efforts to shut down organizations that act as front groups for a terror organization—the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). It should come as no surprise that among those funding these groups is Soros’s Open Society Foundation, a fact that was documented nearly a decade ago by NGO Monitor and which also recently reported about the groups’ employees being part of a terror cell.
These NGOs masquerade as advocates for civil-society causes that are supposedly focused on improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians. International groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that are rallying behind these groups targeted by Israel for their ties with the PFLP also traffic in lies about Israel being an “apartheid state.” They also support the Palestinian “pay to slay” program that funnels cash to terrorists and their families as a reward for injuring or killing Israelis and Americans. The Israel Defense Forces had already designated these groups as terror supporters last fall, but they followed up this week with raids on their offices that have generated outrage among the usual suspects who seek to delegitimize everything done to defend the Jewish state against those who are working to destroy it.
These international groups are playing a key role in the U.N. Human Rights Council kangaroo court Commission of Inquiry that is tasked with smearing Israel as having committed “war crimes” and “apartheid.” That effort has been tainted by anti-Semitism and open bias against Zionism and the rights of the Jewish people.
The impact of the money Soros spreads across both political and philanthropic networks on the left has naturally afforded the ideas he supports a hearing in the counsels of the Biden administration that is largely staffed, especially at the lower levels, with left-wingers who support intersectional theories about Israel being an oppressor. That’s why it is equally unsurprising that the U.S. State Department has been expressing skepticism about Israel’s actions against the PFLP-linked groups. The fact that the Americans are demanding more information even after acknowledging that the Israelis had given them evidence to back up the charges indicates that the views of the intersectional left that Soros has been funding is undermining U.S. confidence in Israeli intelligence.
That brings us back to J Street. It continues to claim that its slogan of “pro-Israel and pro-peace” allows it to better reflect the opinions of the majority of American Jews who are liberal than centrist groups like AIPAC. But the guerilla campaign that it continued to wage against the Jewish state’s policies, even during the last year when it was ruled by a multi-party coalition that included factions that share many of the lobby’s positions, showed that it has continued to move closer to the stands of the anti-Zionist groups with which it competes for the support of left-wingers who are alienated from Israel.
Taking a step back from the battles being waged by political insiders that seek to influence congress, it’s possible to see that J Street is just one element in a global alliance of left-wing groups with very different images and priorities but united by two elements: Soros’s money and hostility to Israel.
To point out this connection is not to portray the hedge-fund billionaire as a puppeteer pulling the strings of all these groups as part of a grand plan. There is no reason or evidence to think that there is any direct cooperation or coordination between all of those who take his money.
Still, it’s worth recalling that there was a time when the connection between the left-wing lobby and Soros wasn’t fully understood. In its first years of existence, the group denied that it was taking the leftist billionaire’s money. It’s never been clear exactly why they did so, but for years, that was its position. Indeed, though it came into existence at the end of 2007, when I debated Steve Masters, the chair of the national advisory board of J Street in April 2010 at a Philadelphia-area event, he outright denied that Soros’s money was involved. At the time, I said something to the effect that while I didn’t think it mattered who was giving them their money, they had better be telling the truth about it.
Within months, the fact that it had been the Hungarian-born hedge-fund operator turned philanthropist and political activist whose enormous wealth had bankrolled J Street’s startup became public knowledge when reporter Eli Lake broke the story in The Washington Times. But, as the liberal magazine The Atlantic reported, J Street then began to pretend that they had always been transparent about the funding. This was, as The Atlantic put it, at best, a matter of “half-truths and non-truths.” To state it more bluntly (and as Masters’s statement to me proved), it was a flat-out lie.
Since then, J Street moved on from that dismal episode. With the help of friends in the liberal mainstream media, it has prospered, though never coming close to achieving its goal of supplanting AIPAC as the leading voice of American Jewry. Even after Soros’s massive donation to its PAC, J Street is still way behind AIPAC in the fight for the hearts and minds of Americans.
Yet the fact that it continues to take large sums from the same source that is pouring cash into the coffers of those terror-tainted Palestinian NGOs is not only relevant but raises the question as to its true purpose. It also casts further doubt on both ends of its slogan since fellow recipients of Soros’s generosity are neither pro-Israel nor a force for peace. To the contrary, it’s increasingly obvious that J Street is merely one arm of a vast network of left-wing groups that, while not always conspiring together, are all working on behalf of the same vile anti-Israel cause.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.