By Lenny Ben-David
You’d think the purported "pro-Israel" J Street would have learned its lesson. After the revelation of once-denied contributions from George Soros and $811,697 from a mysterious Philippine woman from Hong Kong, last month J Street’s Political Action Committee accepted campaign contributions from individuals who most certainly are not "pro-Israel."
In August 2009, the Jerusalem Post first reported, "Muslims, Arabs among J Street Donors." Among the donors, the Post article revealed, was "Genevieve Lynch... a member of the National Iranian American Council board. The group has also received several contributions from Nancy Dutton, an attorney who once represented the Saudi Embassy in Washington."
Well, in the 2010 election cycle these women are back along with some other unusual donors.
According to records filed with the US Federal Election Committee on October 20 and October 21, J Street recorded hundreds of donations from Americans of all sorts, most Jewish and some Muslim. But several names jumped out from the 2,100 pages.
Lynch, the NIAC board member and a member of J Street’s Finance Committee, is listed contributing $10,000 in October. At one point last year, J Street and NIAC leaders worked together to block anti-Iran sanctions measures proposed by Congress. Belatedly, J Street changed its position and supported sanctions.
Nancy Dutton earmarked last week $250 for the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak. Her late husband Fred served as a Saudi foreign agent in Washington for 30 years. (During the 1982 AWACS debate he was believed to be responsible for the line, "Reagan or Begin?" which strongly suggested American Jews’ double loyalty.) After Fred’s death, Nancy picked up the pricey Saudi gig.
The Saudi connection is also seen in contributions made last month to J Street’s PAC by Ray Close, now of Princeton, NJ. For many years Ray Close’s address was in Saudi Arabia where he was the CIA’s station chief for 22 years. Later, he went to work for Saudi intelligence bosses. Close’s son Kenneth is registered at the Justice Department as a foreign agent, working for Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, the author of the Saudi "peace plan."
Perhaps reflecting today’s state of Israeli-Turkish relations, a Turkish American from Chicago, Mehmet Celebi, contributed $440 last month to J Street’s PAC. One prominent Jewish leader in Chicago vouches for Celebi as a friend of the Jewish community. Nevertheless, the former fundraiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign was booted off when the campaign learned he was involved in the production of a virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic film in Turkey called "Valley of the Wolves."
Another new name on the J Street PAC’s list of contributors is M. Cherif Bassiouni, a well-known professor of law at DePaul University. Bassioni is also an unlikely candidate to contribute to a purported "pro-Israel" organization. Several years ago he complained in an article in the Harvard International Law Journal, "A large segment of the world population asks why Israel''s repression of the Palestinian people, which includes the commission of ‘grave breaches’ of the Geneva Convention and what the customary law of armed conflict considers ‘war crimes,’ is deemed justified, while Palestinians'' unlawful acts of targeting civilians are condemned? These are only some contemporary examples of the double standard that fuels terrorism."
The fact that Lynch, Close and Dutton are repeat contributors to J Street suggests that the upstart lobby’s activities meet their approval and that J Street solicits their contributions.
Only because of an IRS fluke last month the world was provided with J Street’s IRS 990 form with the Consolacion "Connie" Esdicul of Hong Kong contribution of $877,697. Reporters have still not uncovered the background of the mysterious woman nor her motive to be involved with J Street in what may be a possible money-laundering scheme.
The question that probably should be asked is not what drives these people to contribute to J Street, but what is the true nature of the J Street vehicle onto which they jumped on board and what is its true destination?
Lenny Ben-David served as a senior diplomat in the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC. Today he is a public affairs consultant. He blogs at www.lennybendavid.com.