Publicly, Morrie Amitay, the old Aipac hand and founder of the pro-Israel right-wing Washington PAC, has had vaguely negative things to say about J Street in the Jewish press. But largely he’s been circumspect in his criticism. Just garden variety sniping around the edges. But now Amitay has circulated a secret memo (no longer secret of course) to Israel lobby organizations in which the gloves are off. Jerome Kaufman, ZOA’s national secretary has reproduced the memo (which I’m displaying here just in case Morrie gets cold feet and tells Kauffman to take it down) on his blog.
Here are some of the most outrageous and scurrilous attacks:
J Street was formed to give a political voice to the more established “blame Israel first” groups, such as – Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek V’Shalom and the somewhat less critical Israel Policy Forum. To no surprise, J Street’s creation was heralded as a “much needed, important new development” by American Arab lobbyist and fanatical Israel critic, James Zogby of the Arab American Institute.
Isn’t it interesting that one of the most respected U.S. political pollsters, Jim Zogby, becomes a “fantatical Israel critic.” Actually, Zogby’s views are fairly centrist especially for an Arab-American.
Notice the lack of documentation in the following passage:
A large number of J Street PAC endorsed members of Congress have some of the poorest Israel/Middle East related voting records in the House. Accordingly, many are also among the 33 House Members in the 110th Congress Pro-Arab “Hall of Fame” as determined by the virulently anti-Israel, “Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.”
“A large number” meaning which ones and how many? “Poorest record” according to whom? Again, “many” are in the Hall of Fame without specifying which ones and how many. While WRMEA is certainly on the left regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict calling it “virulently anti-Israel” speaks volumes about the partisan ideological blinders with which Amitay views this issue. It says very little that is useful or accurate about WRMEA’s views.
Amitay attacks J Street’s “bi-partisan” credentials noting it endorsed only a single Republican candidate. Actually, the Republicans are lucky J Street could find one of their own palatable enough to endorse. The problem isn’t that J Street doesn’t want to endorse Republicans. The problem is that Republican Congress members are so in the pocket of people like Amitay that there are almost none willing to take an independent view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The real stunner in this memo is the following passage revealing that J Street-endorsed candidates will automatically be viewed as treif by Amitay’s well-funded PAC:
As a matter of policy, the Washington PAC has decided not to contribute to Members of Congress and candidates who accept endorsements by J Street PAC. We hope that truly pro-Israel political contributors will do likewise.
I doubt any of J Street’s candidates were ever going to get any Washington PAC money. But the kicker is Amitay’s closing line in which he urges every other “pro-Israel” political donor to boycott these candidates. It isn’t often that the Israel lobby raises the curtain Oz-like to reveal the backroom machinations. Usually they prefer to conceal their power behind the velvet curtain and keep the fist in the velvet glove. But here, Kauffman has done us the favor of lifting the curtain just a bit to see how Jewish pro-Israel politics is played.
Despite the fact that Amitay has stridently right-wing views about Israel and U.S. politics, I don’t imagine he’d want it known that he’s in cahoots with such extremist groups as ZOA. I should think he’d prefer to be seen as more even-handed in his public persona. Or maybe he just doesn’t give a crap if anyone knows about it.
In case you were wondering how much the J Street candidates were missing, Washington PAC claims it has raised $3 million since 1981 which would work out to roughly $260,000 for every two-year election cycle (probably slightly less since that doesn’t account for organizational expenses). Not a large amount, but not inconsiderable either.