MAEL: Unpacking J Street's 'Myths and Facts' Page

J Street suffers from one major problem- an inability to tell the truth. Again and again the organization misleads both the public and its constituents on matters of policy, funding, and co-sponsorship. In its attempt to ignore the film the J Street Challenge and other critics, J Street often relies on its 'Myths and Facts' page, even claiming that "the Myths and Facts page offers a more comprehensive address of the film’s catalog of spurious allegations."

The fact that the leftist lobby group has a need for such a page should be cause for concern in itself. The Orwellian contents on the page only confirm the widespread concern that J Street misrepresents the truth. Rather than address any of the issues that J Street's critics has raised, the George Soros-funded group resorts to double-speak to "diffuse" the situation. Here are four such examples of J Street's public relations spin, with J Street's "Myths and Facts" followed by commentary:

Number 1:

MYTH: J Street’s president called Jewish organizations a “multi-headed hydra."

FACT: On one occasion, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami referred to the organized Jewish establishment as a “multi-headed hydra.” He was trying to make the point that the Jewish community is not monolithic, but in fact has a diverse pantheon of organizations.

How exactly could footage be a "myth"?

J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami did call Jewish organizations a "multi-headed hydra." This isn't a myth- J Street even admits that it happened "on one occasion." Why he said it is entirely irrelevant. But even the justification is a lie. Ben-Ami was clearly making the point that the Jewish community is indeed monolithic – the term he used was “monopoly” – and is out to get him. “This monopoly, this many-headed monopoly has been trying to squash us.”

Number 2:

MYTH: J Street is funded by a donor from Hong Kong.

FACT: Some press reports have noted a large contribution on our 2009 tax return from a resident of Hong Kong named Consolacion Esdicul. The explanation for this is straightforward: Bill Benter, a philanthropist and political activist from Pittsburgh, is a major supporter of and contributor to J Street. He is a generous donor to a range of causes related to his hometown, national politics and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a passionate advocate for peace.

As we were launching J Street, Benter committed to contribute and to help raise substantial funds for the effort should we get it off the ground. One contribution he helped raise was from Ms. Esdicul, a business associate from Hong Kong, where he lives for part of the year and has business holdings.

The Esdicul contribution represents a significant portion of the one tax filing that was leaked – and seems high when viewed in isolation – but it represents only a small percentage of the money raised by all aspects of J Street since it was launched.

Again, J Street attempts to frame the donation as irrelevant, small and notes that it "seems high when viewed in isolation." The "Myth" section proves that the "Fact" is just that. A fact.

Number 3:

MYTH: J Street sponsors and engages with anti-Israel activists

FACT: J Street seeks to widen the pro-Israel conversation and encourage open debate in our community.

Wrestling with conflicting ideas is a long-standing Jewish tradition, and we abandon that tradition at our peril. We disagree with the tendency of organizations in the Jewish community to welcome only those viewpoints with which they agree. We welcome debate with activists from across the political spectrum because we are confident that our ideas offer the best protection for Israel’s democracy and Jewish character, while the best way to combat bad ideas is to debate their merits in the light of day.

J Street does sponsor and engage with anti-Israel activists like Sam Bahour and anti-Israel groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. Whether or not J Street believes these relationships to be beneficial is entirely irrelevant- they host anti-Israel activists. The next "Myth and Fact" is another such example.

Number 4:

MYTH: J Street U co-sponsored a pro-BDS panel at Smith College

FACT: J Street and J Street U have stated their clear opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and J Street U has played a central role on campuses across the country in opposing BDS.

In March, 2014, J Street U at Smith College was asked to co-sponsor a panel on BDS with Students for Justice in Palestine. The panel was originally set to include Miri Talmon, a professor of Israel Studies and Israeli consulate-recommended speaker who has argued strongly against BDS. J Street U agreed to cosponsor the event, believing that it provided a good opportunity for the campus to air different perspectives regarding the boycott movement.

Unfortunately, Talmon decided to withdraw less than 24 hours before the event, and J Street U was not notified of the change in program. As a result, the panel only featured pro-BDS speakers--a missed opportunity for the pro-Israel community to publicly refute the case for boycotting Israel.

What happened at Smith underscores why its not enough to simply “boycott the boycotters.” The only way to defeat BDS is to bring to light the case against it, to prove that it’s a dead-end for both Israel and the Palestinians.

Continuing with the theme of having the "fact" prove that the "myth" is true, J Street yet again mishandles their attempt to lie. Whether the organization intended to do so or not, it co-sponsored a pro-BDS panel at Smith College, as it openly admits in the 'Myth' section. 

If the 'Myths and Facts' page is any indication, J Street is nothing more than a deceitful organization attempting to manipulate public opinion through the use of well-executed PR. The myth is that they will continue to get away with tricking a naive and innocent public. The fact is that mainstream America recognizes the disingenuous organization for what it is and its leftist bully tactics.