WASHINGTON - After months of denial, leaders of the pro-Israel organization J-Street have been compelled to admit their activities are partly funded by Jewish billionaire George Soros who, in his own words, refuses to be part of activities in support of Israel.
The pro-peace organization was founded in 2008 as a counterweight to the rightward-leaning AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) lobby. At the time, there were rumors that the group was supported by Soros, a Holocaust survivor originally from Hungary, but J-Street denied this stridently – and for good reason.
Soros has been strongly critical of the US and Israel. In Jewish circles in America he is considered a controversial figure, especially since his interview with the New Yorker 15 years ago, in which he stated he did not want to be part of any activity in support of Israel, even if he did not deny Jews' right to have their own state.
Keeping his connections with J-Street a secret worked in his interest, because J-Street has repeatedly declared itself to be pro-Israel and pro-peace. On its website the organization denies that Soros is its main funder, stating that Soros did not found J-Street and that he has publicly stated his wish to avoid being involved as such involvement may work against the organization.
However, on Friday the Washington Times revealed that Soros and his children donated $245,000 when J-Street was founded, and later contributed a further half million dollars. This report plus others that appeared in its wake compelled J-Street's President Jeremy Ben-Ami to confirm that Soros was among those funding the organization. He also clarified that Soros does not stand behind J-Street.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted Soros' spokesman who said Soros had never made a secret of his contributions to J-Street. Soros believes J-Street contributes significantly to the political debate about the Middle East in the US, the spokesman said, adding that Soros supports the organization financially but has no say in its policies and is not involved in its day-to-day management.
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