JERUSALEM – J Street, the supposedly pro-Israel, pro-peace political action committee and lobbyist group, is actually backed by a controversial far-left clearinghouse financed by billionaire George Soros, WND has learned.
J Street claims to be pro-Israel, yet it has faced mounting criticism for its policies and advocacy that many argue is harmful to the Jewish state.
J Street’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, is himself deeply tied to the controversial group, the Tides Center, which is heavily financed by Soros.
Ben Ami served at a radical-led marketing firm that helps to craft the public relations strategy for Tides grantees, including MoveOn. The firm, Fenton Communications, also has represented Soros himself as well as the billionaire’s Open Society Institute.
Tides documentation reviewed by WND shows the group provided a $50,000 grant to the “J Street Education Fund” for the fiscal year of 2010. J Street’s main website is listed in association with the Tides grant.
According to tax filings, the J Street Education Fund is a nonprofit arm of J Street. The fund’s stated mission is to “promote meaningful American leadership to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically through the use of coalition building, mobilizing public opinion online, engaging younger Americans and amplifying the public’s voice.”
It was not immediately clear how much J Street’s educational arm depended on the Tides donation since the nonprofit’s tax filings for 2010 were not made public. In 2009, however, the J Street Education Fund posted total assets at $573,233.
The discovery that it accepted a donation from the Tides Center serves as yet another connection between J Street and Soros.
J Street previously denied it received significant funds from Soros until the Washington Times reported in September 2010 that J Street had received $245,000 from Soros and his children in 2008, and another $500,000 in subsequent years – altogether, about 7 percent of the $11 million that J Street says it has taken in since its 2008 founding.
In a now removed section of the “Myth and Facts” page of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street.”
In what some charged was a misleading statement, J Street claimed about Soros funding: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization.”
In a March 2010 interview with Moment magazine, Ben-Ami directly denied Soros funding altogether: “We got tagged as having his support without the benefit of actually getting funded!”
After the Washington Times piece, Ben Ami accepted “responsibility personally for being less than clear about Mr. Soros’ support once he did become a donor,” Ben-Ami said in the statement.
Now WND’s revelation about Tides Center funding to J Street may open new avenues of concern about the Israel lobby group, including Ben Ami’s personal ties to Tides and its marketing partner, Fenton Communications.
J Street is further connected to tides through Hadar Susskind, vice president and managing director of Tides’ Washington, D.C., office. Prior to joining Tides, Susskind served as vice president of policy and strategy at J Street.
Moveon.org, ACORN Occupy Wall Street
Tides functions as a money tunnel where major leftist donors provide large sums that are channeled to hundreds of radical groups. One prominent Tides donor is Soros.
Tides recently has been closely linked to Occupy since the anti-Wall Street movement’s inception. The Tides-funded Adbusters magazine is reported to have come up with the Occupy Wall Street idea after Arab Spring protests toppled governments in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The Adbusters website serves as a central hub for Occupy’s planning.
The Tides-funded Ruckus Society has been providing direct-action training to Occupy protesters as well as official training resources, including manuals, to Occupy training groups. Ruckus, which helped spark the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, was also listed as a “friend and partner” of the Occupy Days of Action in October.
Another grantee of Tides is MoveOn.org, which has joined Occupy.
Tides also funds hundreds of other far-left causes. It was a primary financier to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which was implicated in massive voter fraud.
Ben Ami himself is connected to some of these Tides-sponsored radical groups. Until he founded J Street, he served as senior vice-president of Fenton Communications, an extremist-led outfit that crafts the public relations strategy of Tides grantees and has been closely tied to Occupy, as well.
Fenton Communications helped to craft Moveon.org’s infamous attacks on Gen. David Petraeus.
Fenton has been behind the public relations strategies of a who’s who of far-left causes, organizations and activists, from representing Health Care for America Now to crafting strategy for a litany of anti-war groups. Fenton also has represented Soros himself and the billionaire’s Open Society Institute.
Fenton, which works closely with Tides, first made its name representing communist dictatorships in the 1980s.
Fenton Communications was founded in 1982 by David Fenton, an activist who served as a photographer for Bill Ayers’ domestic Weather Underground terror group.
David Fenton used the Tides Center to set up Environmental Media Services in 1994. Tides reportedly originally ran EMS’ daily operations.
David Fenton serves on the board of numerous Tides-funded groups, while his firm represents more than 30 Tides Center grantees.
Fenton Communications came under new scrutiny after WND published a series of exposés tying it to Occupy Wall Street. One of its senior employees represented the anti-Wall Street march past millionaires’ homes in New York in October.
After WND’s report, Fenton denied ties to the Occupy movement. Fenton’s Chris Potter denied the firm was working for Occupy, claiming his group was doing a “favor” for a friend in New York by helping with recent publicity.
However, WND reported last month on Fenton’s further ties to Occupy through Beth Bogart, who has been widely quoted in the news media as helping to run the movement’s press relations department in New York and other cities.
Not mentioned in most media accounts is that Bogart, formerly known as Beth Bogart Fenton, is co-founder of Fenton Communications.
An example of the close public relations relationship between Fenton and Tides, meanwhile, is the Social Venture Network, which was established and operates as a project of the Tides Foundation, while its strategy is represented by Fenton. SVN’s board has included Tides’ founder Drummond Pike as well as Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink.
Another group, September Eleventh Families For Peaceful Tomorrows, is an anti-war organization founded by individuals who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The group’s campaign was coordinated by Fenton while the group was funded by Tides.
Also represented by Fenton is the Win Without War group, which was funded by Soros and Tides.
Ben Ami’s former employer, Fenton in 2009 spearheaded a major campaign to end Israel’s naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Fenton Communications reportedly developed a communications action plan for an 18-month campaign, known as the Al Fakhoora Project, aimed at delegitimizing Israel’s naval blockade while garnering support for the Hamas-led government and the people of the Gaza strip.
Newsmax last year reported Fenton signed contracts for the project worth more than $390,000 with Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the wife of Qatar’s ruler, as well as a separate foundation she chairs.
J Street’s GOP attack on Israel
In a Washington Post opinion piece last week entitled, “What ‘pro-Israel’ should mean,” Ben Ami attacked Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates for “unqualified support for Israeli government policy and unprecedented backing for Israeli settlement beyond the pre-1967 Green Line.”
Ben Ami urged lawmakers to ensure that Israel “proactively take[s] bold, even risky, steps to establish a state of Palestine based on the pre-1967 lines with land swaps.”
Unnoted by Ben Ami is that Israel already evacuated the Gaza Strip only to have Hamas take control. Ben Ami also failed to note that the Jewish state multiple times offered the Palestinian Authority a state on most of Gaza, the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem with no counter offer from the PA.
At Camp David in 2000, PA Leader Yasser Arafat walked away from talks, instead launching his intifada, or terror war, against Israeli civilians.
Soros himself recently spelled out his formula toward Israel in a Washington Post op-ed concerning the revolutions in the Middle East, which many say have been favoring the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties.
In the piece last February, entitled “Why Obama Has to Get Egypt Right,” Soros recognized that if free elections were held in Egypt, “the Brotherhood is bound to emerge as a major political force, though it is far from assured of a majority.”
He stated the U.S. has “much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy” in Egypt.
Soros singled out Israel as “the main stumbling block” in paving the way toward transition in the Middle East.
“In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks,” he wrote.
Israeli ambassador: ‘J Street opposes all our policies’
J Street brands itself as pro-Israel. It states on its website it seeks to “promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.”
But the group also supports talks with Hamas, a terrorist group whose charter seeks the destruction of Israel. The group opposes sanctions against Iran and is harshly critical of Israel’s anti-terror military offensives.
The Israeli government has been distancing itself from J Street. When its ambassador, Michael Oren, refused to attend the annual J Street dinner in 2010, Israeli embassy spokesman Yoni Peled told the Jerusalem Post his government has some “concern over certain [J Street] policies that could impair Israel’s interests.”
At a December 2009 breakfast, Oren reportedly described J Street as “a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.”
Earlier this month, the Jewish student union at the ultra-liberal University of California, Berkeley, decided to deny membership to J Street’s collegiate division.