(photo credit: Associated Press)
US Jewish billionaire investor George Soros, who is known for his support of
leftwing causes and occasional criticism of Israel, is a major J Street donor,
it emerged on Friday.
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Tax forms obtained by The Washington Times’ Eli
Lake revealed that over the past three years, the Budapest-born Holocaust
survivor and finance guru has given $750,000 to the organization.
The revelation was followed by accusations that the advocacy
group, which sees itself as a left-wing alternative to the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee, had mislead the public about its relationship with the
For years J Street had repeatedly denied having any
connection with Soros.
Under a section called “Myths and facts” on J
Street’s Web site, the organization posted a statement that seemingly implies it
never received money from Soros.
“George Soros did not found J Street. In
fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J
Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would
be used against the organization,” the J Street statement read. “J Street’s
executive director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased
to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder
should he wish to support the effort.”
Earlier this year in an interview
with Moment magazine, J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami denied
receiving funds from Soros.
“We got tagged as having his support, without
the benefit of actually getting funded!” Ben- Ami was quoted as saying.
Street spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick told the The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that
Ben-Ami’s quote in Moment magazine was taken out of context and referred to the
initial stages of the creation of J Street.
“We never denied that Soros
gave us any money,” she wrote in an e-mail. “c4 donors are supposed to remain
private by law (to protect their privacy) and the IRS illegally released the
Schedule B part of our 990 that lists them. No c4 discloses its
Contributions to organizations registered under section
501(c)(4) of the US tax code cannot be deducted from taxable
Spitalnick said that donations from Soros made up about 7 percent
of J Street’s annual budget.
“The most important thing to do is put this
in the context of the $11.2 million the J Street family of organizations has
raised from over 10,000 donors in the last 2.5 years,” Spitalnick
Soros, 80, has often been criticized by Jewish organizations for
his comments on Israel. For instance, in 2003 he gave a speech in which he said
Israel and US policies fed anti- Semitism. He recently pledged $100m. to Human
Rights Watch, which has been accused by its founder Richard Bernstein as being
biased against Israel.
At the same time he gave $1m. to World ORT, a
Jewish educational organization.
The Washington Times report also
revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman
named Consolacion Esdicul.
According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated
$811,697 over three years.
Asked if J Street had conducted a background
check on Esdicul, Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process
by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.
She added that
funds from Esdicul were solicited by Bill Benter, a J Street supporter from