A congressional delegation to Israel organized by the pro-Palestinian group J Street managed to attract only four fringe members of the House of Representatives despite recent efforts to proclaim J Street's political strength and relevance.
The delegation led by J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami included donors to the organization and spent six days in Israel meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials and activists. The congressional delegation consisted of Reps. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Hank Johnson (D., Ga.), Raul Grijalva (D., Ariz.), and Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.). All except Johnson are members of the House Progressive Caucus. None sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Details of the February trip were provided to the Free Beacon by sources in the Israel Defense Forces and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Lee, a former Black Panther volunteer, was the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to use force against terrorists after the Sept. 11th, 2001, attacks. At the time Lee said, "We must not rush to judgment," and warned, "Let us not become the evil that we deplore."
Johnson sought formal congressional punishment of Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) for his "You lie!" outburst during President Barack Obama’s 2009 address to a joint session of Congress. If Wilson went unpunished, Johnson said, "We will have people with white hoods running through the countryside again."
Johnson achieved his greatest notoriety in 2010 when, during a congressional hearing, he told the admiral in charge of the U.S. Pacific Command, "My fear is that the whole island [of Guam] will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize."
Grijalva, according to GovTrack, is the single most left-wing member of Congress. (Lee is ranked as the second-most liberal.) Grijalva, who in college was a leader of several radical Hispanic groups, favors United Nations monitoring of United States elections and blamed the Gabby Giffords shooting on Sarah Palin.
A dozen J Street donors traveled with the delegation. They included Atlanta attorney Larry Auerbach; Michael Berger, listed as a "Congressional Caucus $10,000+" donor; Elizabeth Evans; and Nathan Cogan, a retired English professor and progressive activist in Portland, Ore., who is listed as a "National Leadership Circle $1,800+" donor.
Tom and Sarah Pattison are listed as "Ambassador’s Club $5,000+" donors to J Street, with the latter listed as chair of J Street Davis-Sacramento. Pattison was previously involved in a thwarted attempt to promote the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement inside the local Jewish community.
Other travelers included several members of J Street’s National Finance Committee ($10,000+ donors, who also contribute $5,000 per year to JStreetPAC-endorsed candidates), including Jeff Pozmantier, proprietor of the blog www.bumpspot.com; Daniel Cedarbaum, past president of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation and current member of the J Street Advisory Council; Margie and Mark Zivin, leaders of J Street Chicago and proprietors of the blog "beyondzerosum."
One of Obama’s top fundraisers and a cofounder of J Street, Victor Kovner, joined the trip with his wife, Sarah, a prominent member of pro-abortion groups. Victor Kovner held Obama’s first Manhattan fundraiser of the 2012 cycle at his West 67th Street penthouse, raking in more than $600,000.
Victor Kovner received J Street’s "Pursuer of Peace" award at J Street’s inaugural conference in 2009 and delivered an acceptance speech largely devoted to attacking Jews who live beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Israel "has human values we treasure, even if they become somewhat obscured from time to time," he admitted. He added, "So-called settlers may be citizens of Israel. … But they do not reside in Israel. They live in another land. And the name of that land is Palestine."