BY: Adam Kredo
June 6, 2014 3:37 pm
The liberal fringe group J Street is facing renewed questions over its purported dishonesty to journalists and editors after one of its top campus officials penned an op-ed that was so thoroughly riddled with factual errors that a leading Israeli publication was forced to delete the piece and apologize.
Jacob Plitman, the president of J Street U’s National Student Board, recently attacked several pro-Israel groups in an editorial published by the Times of Israel (TOI). However, TOI editors quickly removed the piece after at least four major factual errors were discovered, according to an explanation of the incident provided to the Washington Free Beacon by sources close to the incident.
This is not the first time that J Street has come under fire for misleading reporters and editors at major publications.
J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami triggered a press backlash when he attempted to spin former Atlantic reporter Chris Good as part of a 2010 damage control campaign surrounding liberal billionaire George Soros’ financial involvement in the group.
Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg, who has supported J Street, published multiple pieces criticizing the group, including for trying to “wildly” spin reporter Good.
Ben-Ami so thoroughly distorted information he provided to the Atlantic that Good himself published a follow-up piece outlining the “half-truths, non-truths, and ambiguities from J Street.”
The more recent example of J Street’s effort to distort the facts in the press comes in the form of Plitman’s TOI editorial, which sought to discredit the Jewish campus fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) and Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
Plitman’s factually inaccurate essay, insiders say, has once again eroded J Street’s diminishing credibility with leading reporters and editors in Israel and Washington, D.C., many of whom have been “openly mocking” J Street.
“J Street’s press efforts have always been kind of amateurish, but in the last year they’ve gotten much worse,” said one senior official with a Washington-based pro-Israel group. “Experienced reporters will never trust them again on account of all the past lying, but even when they’re not lying they can’t get taken seriously.”
“There was a particular day earlier this year when the journalists in town started openly mocking J Street’s press team for trying to convince reporters that the organization was responsible for blocking Iran sanctions,” said the source. “Now it turns out that J Streetcan’t even be trusted to publish their own material without forcing editors to issue humiliating retractions. This incident illustrates exactly why no one in the world of journalism wants to work with these guys.”
Plitman, upset that J Street had been rejected from the Jewish community’s leading umbrella organization, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, of which AEPi is a member, criticized the fraternity over ties to CUFI, one of the nation’s leading pro-Israel organizations.
“Apparently AEPi’s Israel-related work now extends to financial support for pro-settlement Christian groups,” Plitman wrote.
However, CUFI has never received any funding from AEPi, which told the Free Beacon that the fraternity “does not have any financial relationship in place with CUFI, nor have there been any such discussions.”
“Any statement that indicates otherwise is completely false,” the AEPi spokesman told the Free Beacon.
Plitman also wrote: “Adam Milstein, the speaker of the 2011 AEPi National Convention, is a real estate mogul sitting on the boards of a virtual pantheon of right-wing organizations including the Hasbara Fellowship … and even the pro-settlement evangelical group Christians United for Israel.”
But Milstein is not on CUFI’s board, according to a full list of CUFI board members.
Plitman additionally refers to CUFI as a “pro-settlement evangelical group.” However, CUFI does not take a position on Israeli settlements, a point emphasized by the group’s founder in a 2010 op-ed.
Plitman also inaccurately quoted a student member of CUFI’s campus organization.
He quotes that student as saying: “CUFI is great in that we have materials and all of that. But as leaders on our campuses, (Israel Amplified can provide us) these things—funding, grants, scholarships, resources, materials, and video—anything you need.”
Plitman edited and altered the full quote to create a false impression in his piece, according to the full quote:
And then, how to get resources! That was probably my favorite part. There were so many people there willing to help. They want you to call them when you get home. They want to support you. It’s great that I know I can get help from all these different organizations. CUFI is great in that we have materials and all of that. But Israel Amplified opens it up a step further. As leaders on our campuses, we can apply for all these things—funding, grants, scholarships, resources, materials, and videos—anything you need to take different angles depending on whom you’re talking to.
The litany of errors forced CUFI to express concern to TOI editors, who later removed the article and put in its place a message that states: “This post has been removed by TOI for editorial reasons.”
TOI editors did not respond to a Free Beacon request seeking further information about the incident.
CUFI spokesman Ari Morgenstern told the Free Beacon that his organization privately expressed their concerns to TOI.
“We don’t publicly discuss such conversations with journalists so I won’t characterize their reaction, but I will say generally that CUFI communicated to the Times of Israel our concerns with the rampant errors in Plitman’s piece,” Morgenstern said.
“Facts are very important to understanding the conflict in the Middle East and differences of opinion about that conflict here in the U.S.,” Morgenstern added. “You can’t make up facts and edit quotes to suit your political purposes. This entire op-ed rests on a series of errors. Adam Milstein does not sit on our board, CUFI has never received any funding from AEPi, and we have never lobbied in support of Israeli settlements.”
CUFI executive director David Brog said that J Street continues to undermine its credibility and erode what little support it still has in the pro-Israel world.
“J Street keeps telling everyone that all they want is a seat at the table to promote their views,” Brog told the Free Beacon. “But instead—from their first days until yesterday—they’ve been far more focused on launching false attacks against Christians United for Israel and other pro-Israel organizations.”
“Why aren’t they out there making this case instead of devoting all of their energy to attacking those of us who do?” Brog asked.
J Street declined to estimate the amount of its remaining credibility when asked by the Free Beacon.
The TOI controversy was highlighted by college student Daniel Mael, one of several pro-Israel college students who have taken to regularly sparring with J Street.
Observers further noted that the escalating battles between college students and JStreet were in contrast to the minimal attention that major Jewish organizations have been paying to the left-wing group since its application to join the mainstream Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was denied a few weeks ago.
The D.C.-based insider told the Free Beacon that J Street had become like “the Bad Boy crew in Hit ‘Em Up,” an apparent reference to a May 1996 song with that title by hip hop artist Tupac Shakur.
The song played a central role in the East Coast–West Coast hip-hop rivalry of the 1990?s. In it Mr. Shakur denigrates his former friend Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.), as well as Mr. Smalls’ colleagues in Bad Boy Records, by among other things declaring: “I don’t even know why I’m on this track / You all n***s ain’t even on my level / I’m going to let my little homies / Ride on you b***h-made *** Bad Boys b***s.”
Other political insiders have also taken note of what they called J Street’s lack of credibility.
“On the Hill we value people who can bring us helpful information or perspectives we don’t otherwise get,” said one former chief of staff to a senator. “J Street does neither. They are all emotion and high hopes. They are an irrelevance to all but a fringe blinded by ideology.”
THE J STREET ENIGMA
Recently I attended a group discussion where the topic was, “should J Street be included in the umbrella group of ‘major American Jewish organizations’ and be invited to participate in pro-Israel events.” Those who argued in favor of J Street’s inclusion did so ostensibly in recognition of its purportedly large membership within the liberal Jewish community. Few at that meeting openly defended J Street’s principle political agenda. I was vociferous in my opposition to its inclusion and basically termed J Street as a Jewish “Trojan horse,” with a very malicious and insidious anti-Israel agenda. Someone at the discussion countered that J Street does oppose BDS – the pernicious movement particularly prevalent on college campuses, seeking Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. I argued that J Street openly supports the BDS movement. I was wrong…technically. J Street doesn’t support BDS…officially. It does however openly march in solidarity with many notorious anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups, many of which do call for BDS. It would be counter-productive for J Street to openly express its support for BDS as it would likely undermine its raison d’être, i.e. masquerading as a pro-Israel group whilst simultaneously undermining Israel’s political position – if not ultimately its outright dissolution as a Jewish state.
An astute political observer recently commented that “J Street is to Zionism what Jews for Jesus is to Judaism.” The decision of whether to accept J Street as a bona fide pro-Israel group would be similar to deciding whether our politically innocent, naïve, “Goldilocks” students who attend our universities are better served facing the naked “wolf” or a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” One of J Street’s most effective recruitment arms is their subsidiary organization called “J Street U” which essentially is J Street on campus. Today’s illiberal college campuses offer ripe pickings for groups like J Street where pro-Israel groups are often shouted down or indeed shut down in an environment increasingly hostile to Israel. It is specifically in college sponsored events where J Street has been open in its support of notorious pro-Palestinian anti-Israeli, pro BDS groups such as “Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP),” “Breaking the Silence,” and “Faculty for Israeli Palestinian Peace,” among many others.
The history of J Street’s fluency with grossly anti-Israel positions was evident as far back as the Gaza War in 2008 when J Street failed to differentiate between terrorists killing innocent Israeli civilians in Sderot to Israel’s restrained and morally correct response in attacking those terrorists. J Street dismissively asserted that the IDF airstrikes would only “deepen the cycle of violence in the region.” According to many sources including ZOA, J Street did support the egregiously biased Goldstone Report notwithstanding J Street’s circuitously denial on its website. That UN-sponsored “report” (later recanted by its author) falsely accused Israel of “war crimes” in its defensive actions against HAMAS-led Gaza called “Operation Cast Lead.” The ZOA also notes that Rabbi Eric Yaffe, the former head of the American Jewish Reform movement – and an avowed liberal on almost all other matters – was roundly booed at a J Street conference where he expressed opposition to the Goldstone Report. I am enclosing links to two articles dealing with J Street’s support of BDS and other similar anti-Israel activities; one from the Jerusalem Post called “Will the real J Street stand up…for Israel?” http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/Will-the-real-J-Street-stand-up-for-Israel-347625 and a second article from the ZOA newsletter entitled ZOA Report: J Street – Siding with Israel’s Enemies. http://zoa.org/2013/04/10196411-zoa-report-j-street-siding-with-israels-enemies/
The age-old adage of “follow the money” is specifically revealing in unraveling J Street’s true nature and intentions. It is well known that J Street is a beneficiary of the largesse of the Israel-hating, Jewish born, George Soros. In an excellent documentary called the “J Street Challenge,” which is shown at events throughout the country, additional light is cast on J Street’s financial underpinnings. Parenthetically, the film has many notables offering their opinions and insights including; Alan Dershowitz, Caroline Glick, Daniel Gordis, Andrea Levin (founder of CAMERA), Richard Landes, Ruth Wisse, and others. Toward the end of the film clear evidence is provided – and not disputed by J Street’s founder, Jeremy Ben Ami – that J Street receives funding from an organization run by a woman with very close ties to the Iranian government as well as funding directly from the government of Qatar. Qatar’s emir also employs semi-stealth tactics towards the advancement of his Islamist agenda with direct support of many anti-Israel NGO’s and, of course, ownership of another Trojan horse called Al Jazeera. I urge everyone to seek out and see this well-produced and extremely important film.
The Breitbart organization lists J Street’s other donors and supporters in an article I am enclosing called “Sherrod Brown’s anti-Israel extremism means big donations for J Street.” http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/07/31/sherrod-brown-s-anti-isreal-extremism-meana-big-donations-from-J-StreetArticle%20Page
The following is excerpted from the Breitbart article because it encapsulates and enlarges much of what’s written above.
… Here is how rabidly anti-Israel J Street is:
*The J Street PAC received funds from the Saudi Arabian embassy’s attorney, Nancy Dutton.
* J Street joined with National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and opposed congressional efforts to impose sanctions on Iran. (J Street Director Ben Ami had the gall to lie in the Knesset and say that J Street had never opposed sanctions against Iran.)
* J Street PAC repeatedly took contributions from Mehmet Celebi, of Chicago. The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign dropped Celebi in 2008 when it learned he produced Valley of the Wolves, a viciously anti-American and anti-Semitic Turkish film.
* J Street joined with Churches for Peace in the Middle East, which supports the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) efforts against Israel’s sponsorship of a visit to Israel in February 2010. (emphasis mine)
* Morton Halperin, one of five directors of J Street, wrote a letter defending the false Goldstone report which savaged Israel over Operation Cast Lead, and J Street helped set up meetings for Goldstone on Capitol Hill.
* Daniel Levy, Ben-Ami’s partner in the formation of J Street, stated at a conference in Abu Dhabi that “the creation of Israel” was “an act that was wrong.”
* J Street welcomed BDS lobbyists to its national conference, where BDS ran a session on the boycott of Israeli products.
* J Street lobbied the US Congress against a resolution that condemned the blatant incitement in Palestinian school books and Palestinian media.
In conclusion, while it may be true that J Street does not support the BDS movement in its official position statements on its website, in practice the J Street movement is in near total congruency with the BDS movement and the organizations which support it. It is a dangerous organization specifically because of its title and its deceptively alleged “peaceful mission.” It’s not what they say… it’s what they do. Forgive my use of another cliche, but “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…” J Street is decidedly a duck. There is nothing enigmatic about it. It should therefore not be granted quarter within organizations which legitimately support Israel as the only Jewish state on this planet.
Englewood New Jersey