The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council, is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out. America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.
On the whole, however, many of the formal policy pronouncements seem acceptable, or at any rate harmless, to supporters of Israel. That is the outside of the onion. Once we penetrate a layer past that, the picture changes dramatically.
The middle layers
The first signs of trouble become apparent when one examines the makeup of JS’s “Rabbinic Cabinet.” It seems that some 80 out of 600 members of this Cabinet are identified with groups of the anti-Israel extreme left wing. One notable Cabinet member was David Mivasair, not only a rabbi but also, simultaneously, a Christian clergyman in Vancouver. This Rev. Mivasair went on YouTube to declare that the Hamas missiles directed at Sderot were perfectly appropriate, given the (presumed) fact that some of those firing such missiles were (probably) displaced Palestinians from Sderot. After these pronouncements by the Reverend Mivasair received publicity on this and other blogs, he withdrew the YouTube video, and also, now, can no longer be found as a Cabinet member of JStreet.
There are close relations between JStreet and the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement that wishes to punish Israel. The last JS Conference organized a special session to discuss the issue, inviting the BDS leaders to explain themselves. It seems that a good portion, perhaps a majority, of the JS delegates approved of BDS. NGO-Monitor has provided a comprehensive analysis of JS’s ties to the anti-Israel Left.
I have an acquaintance who strongly supports JS, but supports also, he says, the security of Israel. I asked him why, if JS is so much for Israel, it attracts so many foes of Israel as members and Rabbinical Cabinet dignitaries. “Well,” he opined, “those people — with whom I in no way agree — see JS as the place where the action is.” And just what kind of action would that be ? My friend here gave voice to more than he realized.
Whatever the relationship between its anti-Israel wing and the leadership of JS, it is revealing how the cynical Rabbi David Saperstein, speaking for the JS leadership, explained its refusal to endorse BDS: “Successful strategy and tactics need to consider not only the theoretical decisions you take but the practical impact of those you choose.” In other words: I agree with you folks, but, come on, don’t scare away the useful innocents. The rabbi would have been right at home at the Waldorf conference of 1949.
The inner layer: where the money is
The world knew nothing about the inner core of JStreet until last September, when Eli Lake of the Washington Times published figures that he obtained from a leaked Schedule B, IRS Form 990 that covers contributions to JStreet for the fiscal year 7/1/08 to 6/30/09. (The actual forms — extremely important — were first put on the internet by Ben Smith) These figures are the only reliable information about JStreet’s money. JS’s website gives other figures from time to time, partial at best, but there is no way to verify these; in the matter of moneys received from George Soros, for example, JS’s representations have been shown to be outright lies.
Now, in the only fiscal year for which we have reliable data, JS reported to the IRS that it received a total of $1,616,311 in contributions. Of this total, $1,405,197, or 87%, was contributed by 21 persons, each responsible for a contribution of at least $5000. The remainder, viz. $ 211,114, was donated in sums each less than $5000. Ben-Ami has said that JS has 10,000 contributors, which, if true, would mean that the average contribution, from the average JS supporter and not counting the top twenty-one, amounted to just $21.16.
Just who are these twenty-one angels of JStreet ? Are they the average, well-meaning, liberal American Jews that JS claims to represent ? Not quite. Not by a longshot.
As it turns out, the family of George Soros, the international currency manipulator and convicted insider-trader, is responsible for a total of $245,000, or just over 15% of JS’s income. JS has consistently lied about its Soros money (see link three paragraphs above). But at least the world knows a little something about Mr. Soros. He doesn’t approve of Israel very much, but he has never called for its destruction. The same cannot be said with any certainty about that outsized elephant in this room: Ms. Consolacion Esdicul, citizen of Hong Kong apparently of Philippine background, who was kind enough to contribute $811,697, fully fifty percent of JS’s income in this particular year.
Here is the list of the twenty-one large JS contributors in the sequence shown on Schedule B:
Nothing at all is publicly known about Ms. Esdicul or her motives. The explanation offered by JStreet is laughable on its face: Ms. E. is a friend of a friend of JStreet. (Nobody in that chain is said to be Jewish). The suggestion that it is Arab or Iranian money that is being transmitted here from Hong Kong has, at the very least, the virtue of believability. It is the Islamist world, after all, that has an interest in trying to sabotage the overwhelming solidarity of American Jews with Israel.
In any case, he who pays the piper calls the tune. So whoever or whatever lurks behind Ms. Esdicul determines what this group does and why. Those well-meaning American Jewish liberals who get invoked by Mr. Ben-Ami, even though they may pay $21.16 a shot for a piece of the action, can be no more than the useful innocents in this shadowy movement.