Sunday, October 17, 2010

That's Rich Or, Mead on J Street

Walter Russell Mead on J Street (and more).

First there's this: is always a bad idea for the presidents of public policy institutions to repeatedly attempt to mislead the public about the sources of their funding, and that is particularly true when they are working on hot button issues like the Middle East. Resignations are normally the correct response to screw ups this big and this ugly, and the organization’s failure so far to demonstrate that it considers this breach of the public trust to be a deeply serious matter is not a good sign.

But then this:

That said, I fail to see why anybody, especially a liberal and predominantly Jewish organization, would find it necessary to conceal a financial relationship with George Soros. While some of Soros’ political stands are controversial, his is a well-known and well-respected name in liberal philanthropy...Given that Soros and J Street have many ideas in common, it is hard to see why the organization should act as if the relationship is a dark and dirty secret. If J Street thought for whatever reason that a political association with Mr. Soros was inexpedient, the group should not have taken his money.

And now the punch-up:

Getting back to J Street, its real problem isn’t the money. It isn’t the policy positions (which range from reasonable to blockheaded in my view, but that is true of most policy institutes). It isn’t even the dubious quality of its ethical judgment as revealed by its deliberately misleading statements about the sources of its support. The problem with J Street is its core theory of the case, and the business model the organization bought into. J Street fundamentally misreads the politics of America’s Middle Eastern policies, and as a result it is essentially irrelevant to the real debates that will decide what America will do in the region.



But if J Street is right, it is also irrelevant. Non-Jewish Americans aren’t listening to AIPAC because they are prepared to give “the Jews” whatever they want when it comes to Israel policy. Still less do they worry that defying AIPAC will bring down the awesome power of “the Jews” on their heads. They listen to AIPAC because they believe it is a reliable advocate for the approach to the issue they want American policy to take. A sturdy majority of non-Jewish Americans support Israel for reasons that have nothing, repeat nothing, to do with the generally more liberal and nuanced views of American Jews...

...The problem with J Street is not that it is ashamed of its donors and that its Hong Kong offshore donor, in particular, is a mysterious and shadowy figure. The problem is that it is wasting its donors’ money — and its staff’s time.

Read the whole thing.


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