J Street echoes Iran’s best friend in Washington

J Street echoes Iran’s best friend in Washington

Trita Parsi, NIAC founder and executive director (Photo credit: Flickr
Trita Parsi, NIAC founder and executive director (Photo credit: Flickr

If the National Iranian American Council does not lobby directly on behalf of the ayatollahs ruling Iran, it strives to soften the regime’s image. CAMERA’s forthcoming Special Report, “The National Iranian American Council: The Islamic Republic’s Best Friend in Washington,” demonstrates that NIAC was founded to offset the political influence of pro-Israel American Jews in general and AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in particular.

How is it then that the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J Street echoed NIAC’s glee over survival of the Iran nuclear weapons deal in Congress? After Senate Republicans, joined by four Democrats, failed to end debate and bring a resolution of disapproval to a vote early in September, NIAC founder and executive director Trita Parsi exulted on Facebook:

“Huge victory for a new foreign policy centered on diplomacy rather than military threats. The defeat and humiliation of AIPAC is now undeniable. They chose war over peace, Netanyahu over Obama and bullying over reason.”

J Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami, whose organization also backed the agreement, sounded the same note softly. He said, “It used to be that AIPAC could deliver votes in a situation like this by emphasizing the political cost of going against them. That no longer works as well as it used to, with Democrats in particular who recognize that the majority of their supporters in the Jewish community support this deal.” That meant, Ben-Ami asserted, “the days of AIPAC being able to present itself as the sole voice of American Jews on these issues are over.”

Never mind Parsi’s Pat Buchanan-like slander that opponents of the Iran deal were war mongers. Ignore Ben-Ami’s straw man that AIPAC presents itself “as the sole voice of American Jews” on Israel. From the American Jewish Committee to the Zionist Organization of America, pro-Israel Jews in the United States have various, sometimes opposing, organizational voices. But as the broadest-based, most influential such group, AIPAC has been targeted by NIAC and J Street.

Parsi was a 25-year-old Iranian academic living in Sweden when, in 1999, he presented a paper, co-authored by Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi, at a conference in Cyprus organized by the Iranian government and the Center for World Dialogue. The document advocated an Iranian lobby to counter AIPAC. A previous Parsi group, Iranians for International Cooperation, opposed economic sanctions against the mullahs and threats of military action against their nuclear efforts.

In 2009, Parsi and J Street’s Ben-Ami co-authored “How diplomacy can succeed with Iran,” a Huffington Post commentary opposing U.S.-led sanctions against the mullahs for their illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Parsi spoke at a J Street conference. NIAC board member Genevieve Lynch has been a significant donor to J Street.

During last year’s Israel-Hamas war, Harvard University Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz noted the group’s withdrawal from a communitywide Stand With Israel Rally organized by the Boston Jewish Federation. Dershowitz argued that it — and the anti-Israel, pro-boycott, divestment and sanctions speakers at J Street events — revealed hypocrisy behind the group’s demand for “big tent” pro-Israel activism.

Guilt by association can be unfair. But in the case of its NIAC political bedfellow, J Street begs to be known by the company it keeps.  

Eric Rozenman and Sean Durns are, respectively, director and media assistant in the Washington office of the 65,000-member Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).