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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Soros revealed to be major J-Street donor

09/25/2010 12:52

Amid accusations of mis-characterization of ties, J-Street website reveals George Soros has donated money to organization.

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Billionaire George Soros known for his support of liberal causes and occasional criticism of Israel is a major J-Street donor, it emerged Friday.

Tax forms obtained by the Washington Times' Eli Lake revealed that over the past three years the Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor and finance guru has given $750,000 to the organization.

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The revelation was followed by accusations that the advocacy group which sees itself as a leftwing alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee had mislead the public about its relationship with the controversial philanthropist.

For years J-Street had repeatedly denied having any connections with Soros.

Under a section called "myths and facts" on J-Street's Web site the organization posted a statement which seemingly implies it never received funding 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 Ben Ami denied receiving funds from Soros.

"We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!” he was quoted as saying.

J-Street spokesperson 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 Email. "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 donors."

She emphasized 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 added.

Soros 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 $100 million to Human Rights Watch, an organization which has been accused by its founder Richard Bernstein as being biased against Israel. At the same time he gave $1 million 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 gave $811,697 over a three year time frame.

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 supporter of J-Street's from Pittsburgh.

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