Monday, October 11, 2010
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By Barry Rubin
I have been writing about how J Street is an anti-Israel group pretending to be a liberal pro-Israel group while the truth has been shielded by the mass media. I pointed out how it had worked with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s lobby last year to try to block sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
A typical front group is one in which leaders use false claims to win followers who would never support the organization if they understood its true nature. In other words, those actually leading and guiding J Street are seeking to destroy the American Jewish support base for Israel. Many of the individual members have good intentions and no idea that this is so. Well, now they have the evidence.
J Street lied in claiming not to have received large-scale funding from George Soros, the billionaire financier for left-wing and anti-Israel causes. There are other really shady things going on to conceal where their money comes from. It is possible the group broke the law by using money from a resident of Hong Kong to support American political candidates.
Now, too, it has come out that it wanted to organize the Capitol Hill visit of Richard Goldstone, author of the extremely flawed anti-Israel UN report on the Gaza Strip. As a result, Colette Avital, a Labour Party politician, has resigned as the group’s representative in Israel. By the way, J Street is once again lying but the conversation about Goldstone is on tape. Incidentally, Avital also denied telling the reporter anything about Goldstone. The tape also shows her to be a liar.
Indeed, Jeremy Ben-Ami is so inept that while denying they actually helped Goldstone confirmed they were ready to do so: “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”
There is another, broader story here, however, that is extremely important. Indeed, it applies to virtually every other issue foreign and domestic for the United States.
How could a man whose only personal involvement in the Middle East was as a paid Arab, anti-Israel lobbyist (for a firm which since he left is the public relations’ agency for the pro-Hamas Gaza flotilla) portray himself as leader of a pro-Israel group with no mass media outlet pointing out this contradiction? How could a group which for most of its existence never took any pro-Israel stand–and even then took only minor steps to the contrary–be lauded in the mass media as something it wasn’t? How could a group loaded with anti-Israel activists portray itself as the opposite?
This is not to say there weren’t many well-intentioned people who joined, supported, or sympathized with this group thinking it was a liberal, dovish, but still pro-Israel organization. But that, too, is the point. If they had been informed properly by the media they never would have done so.
Why did the truth have to be discovered by an intrepid, hard-researching blogger, Jeff Dunetz; a reporter for a small conservative newspaper, the frequently scooping Eli Lake here and here; and another tireless hero working independently, Lenny ben-David, see here and here and here.
Answer: because the mass media is out to lunch on anything that makes a certain side of the political spectrum look bad.
Just as with the story on an extremist, racist minister in a Chicago church with a famous parishioner, the background and qualifications of that parishioner for holding the world’s highest office, and many other stories, most of the mass media has let people get away with murder (to use the popular expression) as long as they have the right political credentials. They wrote (or didn’t write) stories and slanted them on the basis of their personal political stances rather than based on professional ethics of fairness, balance, and honesty.
There’s another old expression about whether a tree falling in a forest with no one around makes a sound. Of course, we know due to scientific instruments, that it does.
But what if a tree falls in a forest and millions of people see television programs and read newspapers with headlines like: “No Tree Falls in Forest,” “Forest Doesn’t Exist,” “Right-Wing Conspiracy Theorists Claim Tree Falls in Forest, Ha! Ha! Ha! How Could Anyone Be So Stupid,” and “All Scientists in World Agree: No Tree Falls in Forest.” OK, one more because I can’t resist: in the British mass media, “If Tree Fell In Forest It’s All Israel’s Fault!”
This is the situation we face today. Indeed, it is even worse. We live in a world in which Time Magazine can have a cover story one week inveighing against “Islamophobia” (isn’t prejudice awful?) and the next week evince antisemitism by claiming Israelis don’t want peace because they’re making a lot of money.
Thus, large elements of the mass media don’t merely not report or distort some stories, they actively preach hatred toward certain groups. Graham Greene coined a phrase by writing there were “torturable” and “untorturable” classes. We now have “acceptable-to-slander-and-hate groups” and “groups-against-which-the-merest-reportage-is-a-hate-crime.”
We are long familiar with this regarding the treatment of Israel. What has been the big surprise in recent years is to find that such practices have spread across the board to scores of other issues. It was often said that the treatment of Israel was a warning sign, that Israel was a canary in a coal mine. We are now long past that point. In retrospect, the unfair treatment of Israel in the media seems more like a pilot project.
Still, while extraordinarily low figures can be cited for trust in the mass media by the public, there are huge numbers of people who do believe what they are being told by it. What is the way out of this mess? Some of it is technological, the rise of the Internet, the variety of cable television and Internet-distributed radio. All of these things, though, can be used for the same purpose.
One of my best-educated readers, after looking only at J Street’s own site, concluded that it was just a regular liberal group. Make no mistake: There is a difference between the radical left and liberalism. That’s precisely why left-wing forces create front groups that seem to be liberal: to fool people who would recoil if they knew the true views and aims of the radical left, as well as its current tendency to sympathize or even support the world’s biggest threat from the radical right: Islamism.
The solution is this: As long as liberty remains then the news sources that prove more accurate, showing predictive capacity and better explaining the facts, will win out. Moreover, the very boldness of the Islamists and Western radicals exposes them. In 1848, Karl Marx concluded the “Communist Manifesto” what might be called the founding document of the ideological revolutionary left:
“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”
Well, today if you do a little digging–and at times translation–the Islamists do proclaim their views and goals. And if you do some more digging so do their radical Western allies, even if they pretend to be liberals, which they aren’t.
It’s just that most of the mass media doesn’t report these things. But we will.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, who founded J Street after leaving a promising career as an openly anti-Israel lobbyist to be a covert one, has been so shaken that he wrote, “Reports of our demise…are greatly exaggerated.” I don’t think J Street will disappear–it has too much money (including from Soros and other anti-Israel sources) to vanish. It just will have no influence on Capitol Hill and very little on any but fringe elements in the Jewish community.
That’s quite a fall from a group practically created with Obama Administration support as a Trojan Horse to wean American Jews away from strong support for Israel. But the Obama Administration, following a friendlier policy toward Israel, doesn’t need J Street either.
James Besser of the New York Jewish Week notes:
“There’s no way this isn’t going to make the politicians supported by J Street and those who may be considering accepting its endorsement incredibly nervous. Instead of providing protection for the politicians they supported, J Street essentially hung them out to dry…by lying about their connection to the controversial philanthropist.
“And there’s no way this doesn’t sow mistrust among commentators and reporters who write and speak about J Street, and who were repeatedly misled by its officials….”
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.