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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

J Street: Avram Burg's 'pro-Israel' lobby

One of the big news items in the 'progressive' Jewish community today is the founding of "J Street," which describes itself as "a political action committee and lobbying group aimed at dislodging what [Jewish liberals] consider the excessive hold of neoconservatives and evangelical Christians on U.S. policy toward Israel."
The group is planning to channel political contributions to favored candidates in perhaps a half-dozen campaigns this fall, the first time an organization focused on Israel has tried to play such a direct role in the political process, according to its organizers.


The lobbying group will be known as J Street and the political action group as JStreetPAC. The executive director for both will be Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former domestic policy adviser in the Clinton White House.

"The definition of what it means to be pro-Israel has come to diverge from pursuing a peace settlement," said Alan Solomont, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser involved in the initiative. In recent years, he said, "We have heard the voices of neocons, and right-of-center Jewish leaders and Christian evangelicals, and the mainstream views of the American Jewish community have not been heard."

Solomont is a top fundraiser for the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), but the organizers include supporters and fundraisers for both Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Many prominent figures in the American Jewish left, former lawmakers and U.S. government officials, and several prominent Israeli figures, as well as activists who have raised money for the Democracy Alliance and MoveOn.org, are also involved.


"The genesis of this is really the frustration on the part of a very substantial portion of the American Jewish community that despite the fact that there is broad support for a peace-oriented policy in the Middle East, there doesn't seem to be the political will to actually carry it out," Ben-Ami said. "We have not been effective at transmitting the message that there is political support for these positions in the American Jewish community and their allies."
Color me unimpressed. Solomont is the brother of an elementary and high school classmate of mine and was the Treasurer of the Democratic party during the Clinton administration. I've never regarded him as more than a money guy - not a serious thinker. I'm even less impressed with the presence of fundraisers for uber-liberal MoveOn.org. I am also surprised to see no direct mention of a role for George Soros; he and the Clinton campaign have been behind a similar organization to this one for nearly two years.

But I promised you Avram Burg in the title of this post, and the credit for uncovering that connection goes to my friend Noah Pollak.
J Street places near the top of its list of supporters someone named Avram Burg, who may not ring a bell to many Americans, but who is notorious in Israel. Burg advocates, among other things, the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state; recommends that Israeli parents secure foreign passports for their children; and compares Israel today to late 1930’s Germany. When asked during the call why someone like Burg is affiliated with J Street, the group’s proprietors downplayed and misrepresented the man’s radicalism. It is difficult to imagine how the J Streeters believe their organization will be taken seriously as a pro-Israel lobby at the same time they advertise the endorsement of a figure like Avram Burg.
Burg's name should ring a familiar bell to readers of this blog: It's been just two weeks since he appeared in New York before a group of emigrants from Israel. I would call Burg a lot of things these days, but a Zionist would not be one of them.

Read the whole thing.


Soccer Dad has some very pertinent comments on this story here.


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