Was J-list in the service of J-Street?

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Even in Israel, the Daily Caller’s “Journolist” exposé has received its share of attention.  The Jeremiah Wright and Sarah Palin email threads were less interesting to Israelis than the Journolist discussion of whether to report on the Islamist background of the Ft. Hood Texas shooter.

The Israeli press didn’t get into the details of Spencer Ackerman’s thuggery of attacking conservative pundits as “racistsand his aggressive call “to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. … In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window….”

Pro-Israel consumers of the news as well as the many members of various pro-Israel media watchdogs such as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) and HonestReporting, would undoubtedly want to see the publication of the Journolist discussions on Israel, Netanyahu’s election, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and the Goldstone Report.

Will those threads confirm their deeply held suspicions of media bias against Israel?

The evidence so far indicates that many members of Journolist support the Middle East policies of a Washington organization named J Street.  The supposedly “pro-Israel” J Street is a relatively new leftist lobby, PAC and educational foundation that calls itself “Obama’s blocking back” and takes positions critical or outrightly opposed to Israeli defense policy, the Netanyahu-led government, the Cast Lead operation, sanctions against Iran, and the interdiction of the Turkish IHH flotilla en route to Gaza.  Indeed, a survey of a couple dozen purported members of the J-List shows many of them to be vocal fans of the upstart J Street lobby.

That shouldn’t be too surprising considering that an Englishman named Daniel Levy, one of J Street’s founders, is listed on the J-List rosters.  So is Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films who sits on J Street’s Advisory Council.

Spencer Ackerman, the designer of the “call-them-racists-and-throw-them-through-a-window” strategy, proudly described J Street’s birth thus:

“Beginning today, a band of liberal Jews intends to transform the terms of the American debate over Israel — among the most delicate, controversial and combustible topics in politics.  Two young, leading liberal Jews — Jeremy Ben-Ami and Daniel Levy — plan to unveil the first-ever…”

On YouTube, Ackerman can be heard at a J Street event decrying the “injustice visited by Israeli Jews on Palestinians for 40 years.”

Brooklyn College professor Eric Alterman, and Journolist member, praised J Street in a New York Times op-ed and a Le Monde Diplomatique podcast interview.

J-List member Marc Ambinder promoted J Street from his editor’s perch at Atlantic.

Time Magazine’s Joe Klein wrote,

“J Street [is]… a liberal Israel-advocacy group that has been under vicious assault from right-wing Jewish extremists.

“[J Street’s director Jeremy] Ben-Ami seems perfectly mainstream reasonable to me. You wonder what the fuss has been all about.”

The Journolist’s Matthew Yglesias thought so highly of J Street that the organization lists at least four of his articles on their press links.  In 2008 he wrote, “Here’s an exciting development — J Street, a new, progressive, Israel- and Mideast-focused organization has launched.”

Penn State blogger Michael Berube wrote of J Street, “It ain’t perfect, but this whole J Street thing seems to be a start.  More of them and less of AIPAC, please.”

The Washington Monthly’s David Drum praised the launch of J Street in 2008, “Well, the journey of a thousand miles etc. etc. Good luck to ’em. God knows AIPAC could use the competition.”

Ezra Klein was the founder of the Journolist listserv.  Of all of J Street’s sycophants, it’s difficult to find a bigger one.  “I’m glad to welcome J Street to Washington,” Klein wrote.  “With 1/100th AIPAC’s budget, the organization is not likely, as some are hoping, to prove a quick counterweight to the existent Israel Lobby  I’ve added myself to J Street’s list, and I think you should too.”

He followed that with an Op-Ed in Ha’aretz entitled, “Israel is well-served by J Street.”

Writing in the Boston Globe about “The New American Jew on Israel,” J-Lister Jesse Singal lashed out at the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s refusal to meet with a J Street congressional delegation that included a boycott-supporting U.S. church group.  In fact, the Foreign Ministry offered to meet with the congressmen, but the uncompromising, confrontational, press-seeking response was in effect “all of us or none of us.”

Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reported at length and glowingly about a J Street poll on American Jewry. He ignored the disturbing fact that the self-serving poll was conducted by a firm owned by J Street’s founding vice president.  Stein also reported disapprovingly on the “targeting” of two “progressive” foreign policy groups, J Street and the National Iranian American Council.  “Like NIAC,” Stein complained, “much of the attacks on J Street have been through guilt by association.”

Another J-Lister is Michael Tomasky of the British Guardian.  In October 2009, Tomasky published two paeans to J Street after attending its national conference in Washington.

But, one may — or even should — ask, what’s wrong with this J-List/J Street confluence of opinion? Isn’t it likely that like-minded people have similar opinions?

The problem with the J-Listers is the evidence that some do not hesitate to promote their biases in the media while censoring and distorting the opinions of their opponents.

The Journolist includes some of Washington’s best political reporters, but while praising J Street, not a single one has investigated the organization’s funding, the identity of its organizational decision-makers, the ties to George Soros and his various organizations, the motives of the Saudi power-brokers, officers of a pro-Iranian lobby, and members of Washington’s Arab lobby who contribute to J Street.  Add to that list the recent contribution from the producer of the anti-American, anti-Semitic Turkish film, Valley of the Wolves.

J Street’s critics do not call for the examination of the leadership or funding of any other organizations on the American left such as the Israel Policy Forum.  The IPF’s leadership and funding are visible and not hidden, but J Street’s leadership, board, and funders are shrouded in mystery.

Evidence suggests that the Journolist group actually mobilized to protect J Street.  After the publication of an article of mine in Pajamas Media raising questions about J Street, Spencer Ackerman (of divert-attention-by-yelling-racist and throw-them-through-a-window infamy) launched a broadside against me.  True to his thuggish prescription, he screamed “racist,” and threatened me physically in his blog.

The yappings of a pissant like Ackerman are inconsequential, but within a day, 10 more writers and bloggers – at least half of them known J-Listers — joined in to what looked like a lynching.  [See “Did I Get Journolisted?” by this author.] And it appears that they succeeded in deterring other reporters and editors from investigating numerous questions about the supposedly “pro-Israel” J Street.

A left-wing – or right-wing – press grouping armed with a political agenda can evolve into a dangerous cabal against democratic values.  Similarly, a well-heeled Washington-based lobby that hides its leadership’s identity while seeking to weaken the strong U.S.-Israel relationship is a danger to Israel and Middle East stability.  When the two groups work in tandem, watch out.

Lenny Ben David served as a senior diplomat in the Israeli Embassy in Washington.  Today he is a public affairs consultant.  He blogs at www.lennybendavid.com.

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