I just finished writing a story on J Street’s disastrous week and the possible consequences of the revelation it’s leaders lied for two years about George Soros’ contributions – consequences on Capitol Hill, in voting booths and in the Jewish communal world.
In looking the story over, I was particularly struck by one quote from my old friend Doug Bloomfield, once the legislative director of AIPAC, now a columnist for – gasp – Jewish newspapers.
Doug agreed that J street, by being less than truthful about ongoing contributions by the controversial financier from late 2008 on, badly damaged its credibility on Capitol Hill and put at risk some of the members of Congress who accepted its support – a cardinal sin in the lobbying business.
As he loves to say, the worst wounds in politics are generally self-inflicted.
But Doug made another point I hadn’t considered.
The ongoing, over-the-top opposition to J Street by so many Jews on the right – and even some Jewish leaders seen as centrists – may ultimately help limit the damage caused by the group’s inexplicably ham-handed actions on Soros.
J Street will “probably be saved by enemies who greatly overstate their case,” he said. “That hysteria is part of what put J Street on the map in the first place , and overreaction of those same enemies may save them from more damage.”
Good point, and we’re already seeing some of that.
J Street isn’t just wrong on the issue of the best route to peace for Israel, these critics say, it’s anti-Israel, it’s comprised of self-hating Jews, it’s a shill for a president who is determined to punish an Israel he despises and an apologist for Islamic terrorists.
And George Soros isn’t just a very rich guy who’s pretty far on the left and lacks warm fuzzies about Israel but a vicious Israel hater and probably an anti-Semite to boot.
We’ve heard this stuff since J Street was created in 2008, and if anything it’s just gotten more extreme in the past year. It’s a good bet it’ll be ratcheted up still further in the wake of the new revelations.
Such rhetorical overkill plays well with a lot of Republicans and with the Jewish right – but among Democrats it could very well produce a sympathetic backlash for a group that acted really stupidly by lying about Soros’ donations – but will be seen by many progressives as the victim of extremist rhetoric from the right despite that.
And lest we forget, the Jewish right remains a small minority in a community that clings to the center and the left with remarkable tenacity.
A lot of supporters may be really unhappy with how J Street left friends out on a limb by dissembling about Soros – but they may rally to the cause if the over-the-top attacks mount.
Seems to me the smartest strategy for J Street opponents right now would be to stand back and offer only quiet tsk tsks with little "I told you so" winks, and put a plug on extreme rhetoric about the group.
Judging by what I’m hearing today, many aren’t getting the memo, and J Street could be the big beneficiary of their triumphal hysteria..