by Aaron Klein
December 26, 2011
JERUSALEM – J Street, the supposedly pro-Israel, pro-peace political action committee and lobbyist group, is actually backed by a controversial far-left clearinghouse financed by billionaire George Soros, KleinOnline has learned.
J Street claims to be pro-Israel, yet it has faced mounting criticism for its policies and advocacy that many argue is harmful to the Jewish state.
J Street’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, is himself deeply tied to the controversial group, the Tides Center, which is heavily financed by Soros.
Ben Ami served at a radical-led marketing firm that helps to craft the public relations strategy for Tides grantees, including MoveOn. The firm, Fenton Communications, also has represented Soros himself as well as the billionaire’s Open Society Institute.
Tides documentation reviewed by KleinOnline shows the group provided a $50,000 grant to the “J Street Education Fund” for the fiscal year of 2010. J Street’s main website is listed in association with the Tides grant. According to tax filings, the J Street Education Fund is a nonprofit arm of J Street.
The fund’s stated mission is to “promote meaningful American leadership to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically through the use of coalition building, mobilizing public opinion online, engaging younger Americans and amplifying the public’s voice.”
The discovery that it accepted a donation from the Tides Center serves as yet another connection between J Street and Soros.
J Street previously denied it received significant funds from Soros until the Washington Times reported in September 2010 that J Street had received $245,000 from Soros and his children in 2008, and another $500,000 in subsequent years – altogether, about 7 percent of the $11 million that J Street says it has taken in since its 2008 founding.
In a now removed section of the “Myth and Facts” page of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street.”
In what some charged was a misleading statement, J Street claimed about Soros funding: “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.”
In a March 2010 interview with Moment magazine, Ben-Ami directly denied Soros funding altogether: “We got tagged as having his support without the benefit of actually getting funded!”
After the Washington Times piece, Ben Ami accepted “responsibility personally for being less than clear about Mr. Soros’ support once he did become a donor,” Ben-Ami said in the statement.
Now KleinOnline’s revelation about Tides Center funding to J Street may open new avenues of concern about the Israel lobby group, including Ben Ami’s personal ties to Tides and its marketing partner, Fenton Communications.
J Street is further connected to tides through Hadar Susskind, vice president and managing director of Tides’ Washington, D.C., office. Prior to joining Tides, Susskind served as vice president of policy and strategy at J Street.
Moveon.org, ACORN Occupy Wall Street
Tides functions as a money tunnel where major leftist donors provide large sums that are channeled to hundreds of radical groups. One prominent Tides donor is Soros.
Tides recently has been closely linked to Occupy since the anti-Wall Street movement’s inception. The Tides-funded Adbusters magazine is reported to have come up with the Occupy Wall Street idea after Arab Spring protests toppled governments in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The Adbusters website serves as a central hub for Occupy’s planning.
The Tides-funded Ruckus Society has been providing direct-action training to Occupy protesters as well as official training resources, including manuals, to Occupy training groups. Ruckus, which helped spark the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, was also listed as a “friend and partner” of the Occupy Days of Action in October.
Another grantee of Tides is MoveOn.org, which has joined Occupy.
Tides also funds hundreds of other far-left causes. It was a primary financier to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which was implicated in massive voter fraud.
Ben Ami himself is connected to some of these Tides-sponsored radical groups. Until he founded J Street, he served as senior vice-president of Fenton Communications, a marketing outfit that crafts the public relations strategy of Tides grantees and has been closely tied to Occupy, as well.
Fenton Communications helped to craft Moveon.org’s infamous attacks on Gen. David Petraeus.
Fenton has been behind the public relations strategies of a who’s who of far-left causes, organizations and activists, from representing Health Care for America Now to crafting strategy for a litany of anti-war groups. Fenton also has represented Soros himself and the billionaire’s Open Society Institute.
Fenton, which works closely with Tides, first made its name representing communist dictatorships in the 1980s.
Fenton Communications was founded in 1982 by David Fenton, an activist who served as a photographer for Bill Ayers’ domestic Weather Underground terror group.
Davis Fenton used the Tides Center to set up Environmental Media Services in 1994. Tides reportedly originally ran EMS’ daily operations.
David Fenton serves on the board of numerous Tides-funded groups, while his firm represents more than 30 Tides Center grantees.
Fenton Communications came under new scrutiny after KleinOnline published a series of exposés tying it to Occupy Wall Street, including evidence indicating one of Fenton’s senior employees represented the anti-Wall Street march past millionaires’ homes in New York in October.
After KleinOnline’s report, Fenton denied it represented the Occupy movement. Fenton’s Chris Potter denied the firm was working for Occupy, claiming his group was doing a “favor” for a friend in New York by helping with recent publicity.
However, KleinOnline reported last month on Fenton’s further ties to Occupy through Beth Bogart, who has been widely quoted in the news media as helping to run the movement’s press relations department in New York and other cities.
Not mentioned in most media accounts is that Bogart, formerly known as Beth Bogart Fenton, is co-founder of Fenton Communications.
An example of the close public relations relationship between Fenton and Tides, meanwhile, is the Social Venture Network, which was established and operates as a project of the Tides Foundation, while its strategy is represented by Fenton. SVN’s board has included Tides’ founder Drummond Pike as well as Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink.
Another group, September Eleventh Families For Peaceful Tomorrows, is an anti-war organization founded by individuals who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The group’s campaign was coordinated by Fenton while the group was funded by Tides.
Also represented by Fenton is the Win Without War group, which was funded by Soros and Tides.
Ben Ami’s former employer, Fenton in 2009 spearheaded a major campaign to end Israel’s naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Fenton Communications reportedly developed a communications action plan for an 18-month campaign, known as the Al Fakhoora Project, aimed at delegitimizing Israel’s naval blockade while garnering support for the Hamas-led government and the people of the Gaza strip.
Newsmax last year reported Fenton signed contracts for the project worth more than $390,000 with Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the wife of Qatar’s ruler, as well as a separate foundation she chairs.
J Street’s GOP attack on Israel
In a Washington Post opinion piece last week entitled, “What ‘pro-Israel’ should mean,” Ben Ami attacked Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates for “unqualified support for Israeli government policy and unprecedented backing for Israeli settlement beyond the pre-1967 Green Line.”
Ben Ami urged lawmakers to ensure that Israel “proactively take[s] bold, even risky, steps to establish a state of Palestine based on the pre-1967 lines with land swaps.”
Unnoted by Ben Ami is that Israel already evacuated the Gaza Strip only to have Hamas take control. Ben Ami also failed to note that the Jewish state multiple times offered the Palestinian Authority a state on most of Gaza, the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem with no counter offer from the PA.